If you’ve ever joined a company with thousands of employees or experienced rapid growth in a smaller one, you’ve likely run into a set of common problems. Often, it’s hard to remember the names of your entire team, and there will be days you scan the cafeteria and only recognize a handful of people amid hundreds of strangers. Successful companies grow, but often at the expense of the culture that was there at the beginning, when things were smaller. And you can just accept that loss. Or you can… well… not. Danny Groner did not.
Danny Groner works at Shutterstock, and has for over 5 years, during which the company grew, and grew. And kept on growing. He worried about its effect on company culture, so one day, energized after meeting a few new people, Danny decided to flip the problem on its head. He dropped his internal thinking that things were better when the company was smaller, and instead challenged himself to meet new people regularly.
It started out as a simple challenge: could he meet one new coworker each workday for an entire month? One person. Every day. Couldn’t be that hard, right? To make sure it was a real conversation, he gave himself a rule: He couldn’t leave conversations with new people until he learned at least one fact about them. He tracked everything in a spreadsheet, with a person’s name, their department, and that one fact. The funny thing was, after a month, he enjoyed it so much he just kept going, continuing the project for nearly a year, stopping only when he hit 200 people.
Danny had a couple secrets. He’d hang out in the office cafeteria break room in late afternoons to up his chances at running into strangers who weren’t busy. After introducing himself, he’d find out who they were, but to get them to share a fact he often asked about their weekend plans. Answers would quickly reveal their favorite hobbies, sports, pets, and family. Whenever he ran into the same people, he’d ask them about those same hobbies and interesting facts noted earlier.
And this spirit of reaching out rubbed off on others. Danny reports a friend telling him about a time he needed a chair to join a larger table of colleagues. He spotted someone at a small table with an extra chair, but as he went to ask “Are you using this? May I take it?” he thought of Danny’s project and instead asked “Hello, do you mind if I join you for lunch?” and ended up getting to know someone new.
200 people in, Danny has abandoned the spreadsheet and the daily urge to hang out in the office cafe, but he still enjoys meeting new employees and maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for new people.
Yes, his company’s grown. Grown and grown and grown, and it would have been easy to bury himself in his work and let the company grow around him. But for Danny, five years into working at Shutterstock, coming into work everyday is now easier than ever, he says. Because he feels surrounded by friends.