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MGAC Impacts: Darrell Groves on Breaking the Rules, Childlike Wonder, and Going 100 Miles an Hour


Darrell with his wife, Beth, his sons, Connor, and Alex, and his daughter, Sophia, at the end of a 4-mile hike while on vacation in Yosemite National Park.

The Impact Blog is a spotlight series that highlights and celebrates the diverse employees that make MGAC tick. Beyond their day-to-day schedules, we want to know how they have a greater impact on their colleagues, their company, and the communities in which they live and work. We want to know what makes them get out of bed in the morning, what led them to their current role, and what they hope their lasting impact will be.

 Today, we get to know Darrell Groves, a Senior Project Manager at MGAC.

MGAC: Hi, Darrell! Welcome to the Impact Blog!

Darrell Groves (DG): Hi, thanks!

MGAC: Tell us about your role here at MGAC.

DG: I’m a Senior Project Manager with the FF&E Procurement team. Generally, what I do is manage FF&E, which is furniture, fixtures, and equipment: gym equipment, outdoor furniture—anything of that nature. It’s a wide scope. We also do a substantial amount of relocation work, getting people from their old spaces into their new ones without missing a beat.

MGAC: And what led you to this role?

DG: I’ve been in the industry for about 20 years, and I’ve always worked on the dealer side (the side that MGAC hires to procure services from). I enjoyed it very much, and I’ve known about MGAC for a while and decided to finally make this switch over to the owner side, with more ability to make an impact and give end users what they’re looking for, rather than just respond to something that somebody’s already done.

MGAC: When did you make the switch over?

DG: I just crossed the three-year mark!

MGAC: Awesome. Did you always see yourself ending up in this industry? 

DG: No! In college, I studied biology and psychology, with a focus on child psychology. While learning that, I determined that my number one focus was actually to be a dad. I took the MCAT, and I did well, but decided that I didn’t want to wait eight, nine, ten years to be able to fully support my family. So, I let that go off to the wayside. I got married directly out of college in 2004 and we had a baby in 2007. I’ve been in furniture since I graduated.

MGAC: So, it sounds like kid Darrell would be surprised by your current job?

DG: For sure! I was always into the idea of adventure, danger, and high stakes, so I think kid me would have expected me to be in medicine or the armed forces or something! But I still do get to apply much of what I learned in college in my job today!

MGAC: Tell us more!

DG: A lot of what I learned in psychology is relevant every day in our field. We talk a lot about how what we do interacts with the physical environment—putting up buildings or buying furniture—but, in reality, we’re helping people get from where they are to where they want to be through space and through these different objects. To do that, you have to interact with a lot of personalities—sometimes a lot of personalities in the same person! So, you have to have certain skills to be able to manage and navigate that.

MGAC: Makes sense!

DG: Yeah, and oftentimes people don’t know exactly what they want. Sometimes what they want and what they need—or what will fit the budget—are misaligned. That’s where we come in. It’s interpreting people’s thoughts and ideas, balancing competing ideas at times, and getting everyone to a moment of being excited to move in and enjoy their new space.

MGAC: So, what’s keeping you busy these days?

DG: Right now, it’s mostly higher education and large corporate clients. We have one higher education project in central DC that’s especially active at the moment. They’re about to start their school year, which is super exciting because you have a lot of really, really smart people coming into a high-profile space right in the center of DC. It’s been so enjoyable to watch them grow into this space. It’s been a huge undertaking to make this move, which makes it all the more exciting to see it all come to life.

MGAC: What kind of challenges do you encounter with projects like this one?

DG: It would definitely be navigating and setting expectations. As I mentioned earlier, people often have expectations that don’t align with their abilities, their financial goals, their logistical needs, and different folks can come to the project with opposite views altogether. And then, of course, most of our clients are new to this world. All of that is challenging, but it’s my job to help guide everyone through the process so we’re all on the same page and moving in the same direction. I love watching a team come together in those moments. That’s how you end up with an exceptional project outcome. It’s a lot of work to get there, but it’s worth it.

MGAC: That’s a great way to look at it. 

DG: Yes! It’s fun, really! Those moments leading up to that end goal can be full of negotiations and a little bit of chaos—and lots of moving pieces. I find that process really energizing, and I think if kid-me saw it in action, he might understand why I’ve come to love this world. People think it’s just dealing with furniture—and it is to some extent—but it’s so much more!

MGAC: What have you learned from your time in this line of work?

DG: That people are amazing. When put in the right position and given the right tools, people will excel. I’ve seen people come together to execute even the most challenging of projects in outstanding ways. A lot of what we do is something that hasn’t been done before, but when backed by a truly amazing team, people surprise you and shine.

MGAC: Absolutely. So, what do you find most rewarding about your work?

DG: Definitely the people. Working within a team and watching everything start clicking. Watching the development of new staff come in and grow and become great at what they do. That’s my favorite thing to see happen.

MGAC: You bring a lot of enthusiasm to your work. Where do you find all of your energy?  

DG: My kids! My passion is my kids. I coach, and I love coaching because kids look at the world with such fresh, exciting eyes. Kids can still see the amazing aspects of things that we as adults have become jaded by or overlook on a day-to-day basis. Kids will notice and be amazed to see that a manhole cover has been moved and the lines don’t line up anymore. That’s just astounding to them; it’s neat. I think if we all looked at things with a little more childlike wonder, the world would be a better place. I also find happiness is contagious, something kids definitely know to be true. If you can always exude a little bit of happiness every day, somebody else will smile. And if they smile once, that will spread, and on and on.

MGAC: So true! How old are your kids? 

DG: They are 12, 14, and 16. There are no free nights, no free weekends. It’s all busy all the time, and it is wonderful. I wish I didn’t have to sleep, so I could do things with them all the time!

MGAC: How do you wind down at the end of the day?

DG: I don’t really! I just go-go-go and drink soda until the cows come home! And at the end of the day, I just lay down and fall asleep in five minutes.

MGAC: That’s a special skill to have!  

DG: Definitely comes in handy! I do have some quiet time when I commute back from work, though. I love to drive and be in the car. I also belong to a motorcycle club. Being on two wheels and just riding is amazing.

MGAC: And how do you start the morning on the right foot?  

DG: I wake up, brush my teeth, and eat bacon. My day usually starts with a good breakfast (“good,” meaning delicious—not necessarily healthy!) From there, I just attack the day!

MGAC: Bacon—we haven’t had that answer yet! How about a favorite book?

DG: Well, I’m less of a rule follower and more of a boundaries guy. If I’m given boundaries, I always stay within them, but I typically find rules can be confining and can start to stifle some creativity for solving problems. So, the business book that probably matters most to me would probably be First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. I like to be out of the mindset that there’s only one way to solve problems, and I really try hard to stay curious, so I resonated with this book.

MGAC: Ok, are you ready for some rapid-fire questions?

DG: Let’s do it!

MGAC: You’re starting your workday. What’s the first thing you do?   

DG: Check my calendar.

MGAC: And the last thing?   

DG: Check my calendar.

MGAC: What is the weirdest thing we might find in your desk or work bag right now?

DG: In my desk, I keep an Ensure drink in case I can’t get to lunch yet and need something in the meantime.

MGAC: What’s your most typed phrase at work?

DG: Let me know if you have any questions. I always encourage questions!

MGAC: What’s your go-to workday lunch?

DG: A Roy Rogers gold rush chicken sandwich.

MGAC: What’s the most-used app on your phone? 

DG: Clash of the Clans.

MGAC: How would you describe your job in five words or less?

DG: Outfitting client environments with furniture.

MGAC: What’s your 2023 work goal?

DG: Deliver exceptional projects!

MGAC: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

DG: Keep your head down. Do the best work possible. Everything else will fall where it needs to fall.

MGAC: What’s an industry trend that you love right now?

DG: Flexible work environments.

MGAC: What are you known for in the office?

DG: Mountain Dew and laughing.

MGAC: What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?

DG: I’ve been to Siegfried & Roy’s house. My dad was part of the magician’s guild, and he ended up at parties at different people’s houses, and this was one of them!

MGAC: Where might we find you when you’re not at work?

DG: With one of the kids, either at a practice, a game, or helping them with a hobby. One son plays Warhammer and stuff like that online. My other son is into sports like football and wrestling, and I’m a wrestling coach. And then my daughter likes to do drama and runs track. If I’m not at any of those things, I’m on a motorcycle, doing 100 miles an hour down the highway as fast as I can, enjoying the wind.

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