Growth / Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind with Danny Groner, Director of Growth PR at SquareFoot

Danny Groner is the Director of Growth PR at New York-based commercial real estate company SquareFoot, a marketplace connecting businesses with their ideal space.

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

I spent the first part of my career working as a writer / editor in newsrooms. I was always drawn to the media, especially new forms of it. 

When I decided in my late 20s it was time for a switch, I made a seamless move to a mid-size tech company that required someone with my skills to launch and manage for them a partnership program with bloggers.

I had never worked at a company outside of the media industry to that point, but this move proved to be a very good one for me. It’s been nearly a decade since I changed over to marketing, and I proudly work at fast-growing companies to help them grow.

These days, I’m in more of a public relations role. I approach reporters and others with intriguing, original story angles they might be interested in pursuing.

Currently, I’m the Director of Growth PR for a new kind of commercial real estate company called SquareFoot, based in NYC.

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

What I cherish about my role is that it’s very much up to me to shape the workdays. At the start of each quarter, my manager and I agree on an aggressive set of goals to ensure that the work I do echoes and ladders back to the company’s larger initiatives.

Then, it’s my job to go out there and find publications and reporters to tell those stories. That kind of creative problem-solving comes naturally to me, especially because it directly stems back to work I did a decade ago when I was settling on angles myself to write.

There’s a consistency between my work then and what I do now. I spend a lot of my day on Twitter, LinkedIn, and email corresponding with reporters and reading their recent stories. I want to better understand what they’re working on now and what will come next.

The hope is that on some occasions I can offer them someone relevant to interview from SquareFoot. Over the course of the 18 months I’ve worked for SquareFoot, I’ve learned a lot about the commercial real estate world and about the future of office spaces.

With the ongoing pandemic, and so many people working from home, it’s been a busy year for me to represent a company such as this one; people are very interested right now in what the future of work looks like.

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

Yes, it’s very flexible. I can do my job with a computer and a strong WiFi signal. That being said, I vastly prefer to be at the office whenever possible.

There, I can have serendipitous conversations with colleagues I know I need to succeed at what I do, and I can also absorb more nearby discussions taking place.

I can work from home with ease and do a good job, but if I’m in the office among my peers I can elevate what I do to the next level and perform a great job. It’s hardly ever that in a weekly meeting with my team I emerge with the next strong story angle.

More often than not, it comes from a hallway conversation, an accidental run-in. In the office, I can have far more of those types of conversations to educate me than I can when I’m at home on my couch.

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

For me, it’s all about freedom and flexibility. I’ve never been one to watch the clock. I prefer instead to rely on my rhythms to guide me. I’ve had days at 3 pm at work where I feel distracted that I hang it up and head out to the gym to get my energy going again.

Sometimes I log back on later after dinner, other times I wake up early the next day and dive back in. I don’t pay attention to what my colleagues are doing either, as long as they’re available to me when I seek their counsel or their insight. Nobody should keep score of their own or other people’s hours.

How I achieve this goal is simple: I outperform others in my field. I consistently deliver work at a top level, meeting or beating goals. I take that seriously. When you produce strong results, you earn more leeway from your manager and from others.

This system, in my opinion, benefits both employee and employer. Hire self-motivated people, give them the resources and the trust to do well what you ask them to, and get out of their way.

Check in with them weekly to make sure they’re still on track and to find out how else you can help them continue. Managers who grant me all of that enable me to thrive and to grow, too.

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

When the pandemic set in this past Spring, and we all had to head into quarantine, I was worried. As a social extrovert, I get energy from being around other people. In fact, networking, the thing most people dread, is an area of excellence for me.

So when everything shut down and I found myself at home more often than ever, I grew worried. But my wife and I have opted to find the opportunity in the moment, and we’re changing up our routine a bit.

For example, in late August, she ordered a cookbook she wanted to use, and typically that wouldn’t be something that would interest me. Instead, though, we decided that we’d cook our way through it together.

Now, on Sunday evenings, we each choose a dish at our appropriate culinary level and we each solely own creating those dishes. My wife’s selections tend to be the stars of the meal. But I’ve been far more bold in my cooking choices of late – I even made fried rice for the first time the other day.

Everything I’ve made from the cookbook so far turned out how I’d liked. I’m proud to be contributing more toward our delicious dinners than I was before.

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

I’ve been in the same book club for three years with a handful of former coworkers. My favorite novel is Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, a book I wouldn’t have read if not for someone in the group selecting it.

This book club means I read more often and also a richer variety of texts. I haven’t loved every book we’ve read, however I’ve enjoyed every single gathering we’ve had over the years when I get to hear about why books speak to people’s life experience.

I subscribe to 150 podcasts. I listen to 10+ hours of content daily at 2x speed. I don’t catch every word, but I retain enough of it that it’s worth it. My favorite podcasts are about the digital age and what all of this online time means about how we live now and going forward. If I had to choose one to recommend, it would be “Reply All.”

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

It might not be the most creative choice, but I’d say Venmo has been a game changer for me. It’s made it so much easier for me to repay people without it feeling uncomfortable or awkward.

I also like having the ability to express affection for people from a distance by showing them I’m thinking about them in a more significant way than just a text message.

For example, recently neighbors of ours had to go into a two-week home quarantine because their kids had a COVID scare at school, and I was able to sponsor pizza dinner for them by sending the mom $25 with an emoji attached.

They so appreciated being thought of while cooped up at home. Without Venmo, I don’t think I would have slid a check underneath their door.

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

Dr. Anthony Fauci, I’ve come to understand, has the busiest of days yet somehow keeps it all together.

For me, it’s a constant balance on how to get to everything I hope to accomplish while keeping my own sanity in check. Dr. Fauci does a masterful job of it, as far as I’m concerned, at the highest level of leadership.

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

You do you. We have this tendency to model behavior off of others, especially those who seem to succeed most. But recognize that we’re all created differently. Some people do their best work early in the morning, others late at night.

Be the best version of yourself, not an alternative version of someone else. Once you recognize and accept your own skills and also your own shortcomings, you can begin to find your best balance.

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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.