Balancing the Grind with Daniel Stoten, Executive Chairman at Localsearch

Daniel Stoten is the Executive Chairman at Localsearch, a digital marketing agency headquartered in Gold Coast, Queensland.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role? 

My career actually started in law and finance. I was a solicitor in Brisbane and then the Gold Coast for about a year, but even then, I was running businesses on the side as it’s what I truly loved doing.

As it turns out, being a leader and a business owner was my calling, and I ended up starting a successful telecommunications business before joining with my current business partners of Localsearch in the mid-’90s.

I’m quite proud to say I’ve been in almost every single area of Localsearch possible over the last nearly 29 years. My first hands-on role was as Production Manager in the early days. We were bringing a unique angle to a very monopolised market in those early days, and how we produced our product was a huge part in that.

From production, I went into leading sales and then naturally into the CEO/Managing Director role. I was in that role until 2019 where we formalised the board structure and I took on the role of Executive Chairman. But my role now is really to guide and give a voice to today’s and the future’s leaders. 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday? 

A day in my work life is very varied. I have a very broad spectrum in my life.

My day may start with something as benign as making my daughter launch or even fixing a fence on my farm. 

On the flipside, I can be in a board meeting or challenging captains of industry. Sometimes I may be joining a conference.

It really depends, but I like to go with the flow of where my time is most needed. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

Was there anyone in the last two years who didn’t have to adapt to allow more flexible working arrangements? 

We have digital marketing specialists throughout Australia I keep in regular contact with. This used to mean a more substantial amount of travel, but now means phone and video calls, so it allows me to work from wherever I need to be at the time more.

The flexibility has for certain allowed me to spend more time on my other passions in life, that being my family, rugby and supporting upcomers at my old school, surfing, skiing and my newer hobby of farming. 

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal? 

The currency of work-life balance is a single word — it’s time. As cliché as it sounds, there is no destination. It’s always an effort. You’re always trying to balance it. No one ever walks a straight and narrow path. You just try to cross it as many times as you can.

That’s reflective in trying to create a balance in life and work. There’s always too much good time and too much work at times. It’s difficult and it is a balance.

But the key is understanding time. There is a finite amount of time. That shifts as you get older and you have less of it. It means the currency of things, like money and ego, and currency around ego and resources. At times, you have to spend on those things in order to have time to yourself and to take stock.

Sometimes it means sacrificing things. For me, that was the biggest decision. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life 

I now meditate and am far better at it, which I realise isn’t as big a deal as I thought it was. I think I was over-reaching. I thought I had to be on top of a mountain, shaved head in a gown — and it’s not. And it’s been positive. Meditation has been good.

I’m also more consistent with my surfing!

Something I’ve also done is become mindful of personally jumping into these fanciful, false narratives of people’s lives on social media. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend? 

The only newsletter I genuinely read, other than the Localsearch Digital Newsletter, is The Humanist by The Humanist Society. I’m a devout humanist and have great faith in humanity and in our capacity to do both horrible things to each other, but also wonderfully beautiful things to each other. 

My favourite book of all time is by Harper Lee, and that, of course, is To Kill a Mockingbird. I regularly reread it as it continues to provide me with life lessons.

I regularly read autobiographies, I’m normally reading at least two or three at once. I think reading quietly is important. It’s definitely helped me with my vocabulary over my life.

In the way of podcasts, I obviously have to recommend The Help Me Grow My Business Podcast, sponsored by Localsearch. Even being in the digital media game, I always learn so much from it.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

From a farmer perspective, I love my machinery and tractors. I watch a lot of stuff on tractors and irrigation — I love it. I couldn’t do a lot without my farming equipment. And my surfboards.

In terms of products, gadgets and apps, I use WeatherZone a lot. It’s the only major app I look at quite often, but that comes back to my hobby farming again.

If I’m in a new area, the Localsearch App also comes in handy. I like being able to find whatever I may need — somewhere to eat, someone to fix a car emergency or whatever — and read reviews from actual locals for those services. 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be? 

Firstly, I’d love to read about, even talk to, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins of The Four Horsemen. Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, while Sam Harris is from the philosophy and neuroscience perspective. 

Second would be Russell Brand who is both a comedian and political satirist and allround interesting person.

I love reading about all sorts of people. I love lots of opinions and I’m more passionate about people being able to share an opinion than what the opinion encases. While I don’t consider myself either left or right politically, I have opinions and I take from both. Although I have always felt the best thing the government can do for an individual is get out of his or her way.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Distinguish yourself in the way you run a business and the way you work with clients. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel — don’t overreach with your idea. You don’t necessarily have to think of something someone else hasn’t thought about with your product.

The ‘what’ part isn’t important. The point of difference is the ‘how’ part.

You could go into an industry with such a low threshold of entry, say a furniture removalist, but if you could do it in a manner you got people in in good time, presented well, got back to people in good time and followed up, you would find success I would think much quicker.

Always reverse engineer from the client’s perspective of what’s in it for me!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.