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The 6 Questions with Dave Brown


Dave Brown was one of the first Optima customers I ever met and once he joined the Optima Team we quickly became good friends.

Although we are very different in many ways, (for example; I don’t swim with sharks or across English Channels) we share much in common from family, raising kids, the good Ol’Grateful Dead, making things blue, learning how to decipher Jim Hoffmann’s handwriting and much, much, more.

Probably the one thing we’ve see eye-to-eye on for over 20 plus years is the concept of Customer Centricity, both as a consumer and serving our clients. No question, Dave’s always had my back and the backs of all our customers!

This week I asked Dave Brown of Optima, The 6 Questions

1. Tradeshow industry lore is that we all just fell into tradeshow and once you’re in you never leave. For many people that is certainly true. For others, they leave but a part of them remains.  How did you get into the business?

DB – The easy answer is that I took my first job offer post-graduation to show my parents I was employable and wham – here I am.  The fun answer – me and Phil Barta had each graduated from Beloit College and after a post-graduation internship, Phil and I were heading out to follow the Grateful Dead for the rest of the summer tour in 1991.  However, Phil was offered a job in the former Yugoslavia and it really seemed like a job he should not pass up and that left me stuck in Beloit, unemployed, and with a group of family plus my girlfriend (now wife) telling me it was time to grow up and get a job…  Back to saying yes to the first offer and I was headed to Milwaukee to sell exhibits….

AuthorAnd who inspired you to grow into your Tradeshow career?

DB – My first boss, Bob Schaefer.  Bob was very influential and was willing to devote a lot of time to helping me.  He always looked at the company and client perspective(s) to make fair decisions and recommendations.  What is fair and reasonable for both parties was pragmatic thinking, but had the best interest of all in mind.  I have not thought about him in a few years – thanks for reminding me of the great guy who helped me and took a number of chances on me succeeding.

2. What would you be if you were not in Tradeshow?
DB – A TV weatherman.  I have always been fascinated by the weather and right or wrong, it looks like the easiest job on the planet with little down side.  Predict a sunny day and then it gets cloudy and rains – oh well, its that darn weather…unpredictable and has a mind of its own.  This weeks forecast in Phoenix – 107, 107, 107, 108, and 107 – mostly sunny and tonight’s forecast, dark.  Seems easy…  I have been telling my kids this since they were born – easy job that pays silly money.

3. Without considering the customers you visit, focusing only on the location, what is your favorite city to hang out in for business travel and why?
DB – San Francisco.  I love the city, its food, vibe, customers in the area, and one of my best childhood friends lives there.  I try and stay with my buddy while there so I can enjoy time with great customers, eat well, enjoy the city, and catch up on old times…  win – win all around.

Author4. What experience do you recall as a nightmare when it happened but can sit back and laugh about it now?

DB – Getting some crazy food poisoning or virus after Euroshop in 2011 and the 24 nightmare hours to travel home.  I was “sick” in five countries, three planes, two trains, and passed out in an airport while traveling home.  Once finally home, I collapsed in bed and slept for 18-20 hours.  It was awful at the time, but looking back, I have this mental picture of me laying in the middle of the terminal with people walking around me and nobody ever asked if I was ok or needed help.  I was an invisible sickie who possibly smelled a bit.

5. Do you have any hobbies? How does your hobby influence your industry work and vice versa?

DB – I learned to swim as a toddler and swam competitively through college.  Swimming taught me to channel the drive to win, but more importantly taught me winning FIRST isn’t normal.  A victory could have been finishing a cruddy 5th, but my time might have been a personal best and therefore a victory.  Swimming has influenced my thinking, given me perspective, and shaped my work ethic.  I still swim when I can and love to do open water races – I do not have the time to travel and do all the races I want, but have strung together many a business trip and open water swim event – a handful of them with customers which has been very cool.

6. If you could send a message to yourself day one of your tradeshow career what advice would you give yourself?

AuthorDB – Go back to school and get a degree in meteorology and one day there will be an entire network devoted to the weather – it will be called The Weather Channel and they need people who can talk and use a clicker.  If my advice needed to be tradeshow related, I really don’t have any other than enjoy the ride.  The vast majority of the industry is completely dependent upon the Exhibitor / buyer and they call the shots, so if you are cool with having little control and lots of demands, enjoy it.  If you want control and need to limit the variables… go do something else.  Last message I would send is, don’t skip the Dead shows in Chicago in August of 95 because the ride will end (I still have the unused tickets for the two final Grateful Dead shows that I choose to skip – bummer).

Thanks Dave! I think you would be a better Senator than a weather man.
Next week we read 6 answers from industry maven Jim Hoffmann, international man of mystery!

Have someone that you would like me to ask “The 6 Questions” ?
Send me an email at gcamarato@optimagfx.com

What is The 6 Questions?

A clever friend of mine, we’ll call him Harold Mintz, just to use a name, once hipped me to a trick. Harold explained that whenever he is at a party and the conversation is slow he loosens things up with a question. “What did you go to school for and what are you doing now.” Everybody has a story – Brilliant!

Piggybacking on big H’s idea, I’m running a new blog series titled The 6 Questions. I have some of the icons of our industry, folks you all know, lined up and ready to reveal the how, why and whatever. Our tradeshow industry is packed full of some of the most interesting people. They each have a unique story to share. Thanks for reading!   ~ g

About our Author
Gary Camarato is the Vice President of Marketing & Creative Development at Optima™ and has been in the Trade Show industry since 1992.

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