Mastermind: An Interview with David Merrell – Part V

David Merrell founded AOO Events in 1989. As one  the nation’s most respected and sought-after award-winning design and production firms, AOO provides innovative event design, cutting-edge stage and logistics production. The company designs and produces movie premieres, corporate events, private parties and various milestone celebrations throughout the nation and internationally. As a former ISES LA President, Merrell continues his involvement as an industry adviser, expert and advocate. His leadership, achievement and dedication make him a true Mastermind. Continue reading for the details on Merrell’s journey to become an award-winning event designer and producer.

An Interview with David Merrell (Part V)
Founder, AOO Events

By Paula Estes

Q: What do you wish you would have told you then that you know now? I’m sure you have had many

David Merrell


A: I have and I’m trying to think of anything I wish they would have told me and I guess maybe it’s just that there’s no such thing as an overnight success if you want longevity. There is no such thing as an overnight success unless you have the longevity to back it up with a solid business plan and product. If you don’t have that, even if you are a brilliant designer, you aren’t going to last very long.  That was the school of hard knocks for me but I think I should have been a little more patient because I’ve been impatient wondering when am I going to get this success– when am I going to get it? I believe it really took me about 16-17 years to become an overnight success.

Q: What is going on in your industry that you think would make a good article for the ISES Newsletter or blog?

A: I think more people need to have conversations about how to run a business; not just administratively, but from an employee and a price standpoint.

Q: So staffing, revenue forecasting, projected overhead…

A: Like owners conversations–about all the things that you know running the business, from having to be audited to what’s the big deal about insurance. I mean those kinds of things we’re going through and asking on a daily basis. It would be great to have an ongoing conversation on that.

Q: How do you account for staffing? Do you have interns or hire as needed?

A: Well with the economic downturn, we’ve had to drop half our staff and when times were good and business was flowing in if we got busy we’d just say hire another person. We’re definitely looking at that now because when times were flowing it was real easy and you didn’t even worry about it…when the money gets choked off you go “Holy crap look how much overhead I have?”  So we’re trying to be smart. We’re actually becoming more efficient ourselves through the use of software program for production. It’s called Access and because of it, we’re becoming more efficient. We actually brought in a business coach for a retreat to actually talk about issues, like communication, to make us more efficient. At the same time we are looking at the possibility of more freelancers and there is a ton of them out there, but it’s a matter of us learning how to work with them.  It means changing our model a little bit and I believe it can be done. But until we see the economy booming, it’s safer not to.

Q: Are these people you have existing relationships with, you’ve worked with them, would you hire the same people back?

A: Some of my producers I had to let go because of the economy.  I’d bring them back because they already know us and there are some other producers out there who know us pretty well, I mean personally that I can probably hand a book with a little bit of instruction and know I’m going to get a certain process. I’m always looking for new producers but typically they are people who were recommended to me or pursued the hell out of me. This one girl I probably will hire because she been persistent with me for a long time and persistence and consistency always makes your eyes perk up. Well maybe this girl is someone worth it.  Sometimes you have to carve a position out for yourself in a company or carve a position for yourself out with a new client and you gotta make it happen…without being a pest.

Q: What is a typical day like at AOO Events?

A: We’re all working on multiple projects. I work on every project because I’m always looking at everything from a design standpoint but any one project can have any combination of people on it so every morning what we do is we have an office meeting usually about 15 -20 minutes to say ok what are the priorities, what are we doing today so everyone knows what everyone else’s priority is. Right now Nick has a ton on his plate that has to be done by the end of the day so we are actually moving resources around. Through this Access system I mentioned, anyone can pick it up right where Nick left off, if Nick got hit by a bus tomorrow, we would know exactly where he left off and move on so it doesn’t stop. It’s all in the computer system. It’s a very efficient system.

ISES LA would like to extend sentiments of sincerest gratitude to David Merrell  for kicking off the Masterminds Series. An extra special thanks and appreciation to the efforts of Tom Budas, Director or Marketing,  AOO Events.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s