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October 01, 2014

Top Desk

Focus, Focus, Focus

by Cindy and Scott Monroe

Click here to order the October 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


As our business has grown over the past several years, there has been one challenge that always seems to rear its head: focus. Even as our teachers and parents often reminded us to “focus, focus, focus” when we were children, still today, as business leaders, the ability to maintain focus in the midst of a growing and thriving business is one of the greatest challenges we face. Focus can be tough for entrepreneurs especially. Our creative desire to find bigger and better ideas creates a perfect environment for distraction if not kept in check. We believe that by being purposeful and minimizing distractions, we can maintain focus on the things that make the most impact and keep us on track toward a bright future.

Cindy Monroe: Purposeful is such an important word to us at Thirty-One that it is one of our 12 core values. We ask ourselves “why?” often. It seems elementary, but how many times have we all gotten deep into an initiative that’s just not working and found ourselves wondering why we started it to begin with? I’ve found that when I’m purposeful from the beginning and plan and get the right people around the table who work together as a team, we can determine ahead of time whether it’s going to become a distraction or not.

We should also constantly evaluate whether or not what we’re in the middle of is still on purpose. We all have to face it. Sometimes our greatest ideas that seem to start out as winners end up losing focus, losing purpose and ultimately getting off track. We have to be honest with ourselves and learn to let some things go or learn to let others be rebuilt. In the tactical execution it’s so easy to get distracted by all of the very important details and find ourselves quickly off-purpose. If you’re feeling bogged down on something in business or life, I want to encourage you to step back and examine it. Is it still purposeful? Are you focused or is it all cluttered with distractions? Are there lots of good things getting in the way of you doing great things? These are all questions we try to ask ourselves every week, and I think they’re questions we should all ask ourselves and our teams daily. Also, as top executives, it’s easy not to realize the amount of energy that executing an idea or initiative takes. Ask your team many times during the project for the amount of time the idea is taking compared to other initiatives or day-to-day core competencies.

Scott Monroe: In photography, there is the concept of depth of field. Many of the most beautiful photos ever shot have a very narrow depth of field. The subject is close and in perfect focus while everything else in the foreground and background are out of focus. It’s easy for us amateur iPhone photographers to want everything in focus but we find our all-inclusive shots, taken from a safe distance, to be distracting and uninteresting.

The same is true for our life and our business. We can have a great story with a lot of different angles and a lot of variety and possibilities. But if we don’t stay close and focused on what truly matters and what truly gets results, then we can easily end up with a very cluttered photo.

Cindy and Scott MonroeCindy and Scott Monroe

Cindy: We also have to work hard to minimize distractions. Distractions can be a lot of things. For entrepreneurs, it can be that next big idea. For business leaders, it can be new programs and incentives that we put in place hoping to get a lift in business. For individuals, it can be well-meaning people really trying to help. All of us get distracted, and I’m certain most distractions start off as good ideas. Focusing purposefully can help remove details that have become distractions.

Scott: One great distraction that seems to come our way a lot in business and in life is that of trying to be someone we’re not. That’s why another of our 12 core values at Thirty-One is authentic. The great English playwright Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” There’s no shortage of great ideas out there, but it’s very difficult for us to always be innovative without becoming like someone else. The question we ask ourselves all the time is, “Is this us? Is this Thirty-One?” The most successful you is the real you. Be honest, no one does you better than you. When we try to be something we’re not, we are only fooling ourselves. Our consumers, distributors and peers all sense when we’re missing it. It’s important to remain purposefully focused on being true to ourselves as people and as a company.

Cindy: Even as top executives, it’s easy to get distracted with who we are supposed to be as individuals and as leaders. We watch other executives, read leadership books and see how different leaders are involved in their sales field, expansions, media/press or on the speaker circuit. Just like business initiatives can be distracting, so can comparisons or a lack of focus on your own role as an executive. Being a young executive, I can admit to the times when I have been confused about my own role. What my executive team needs me to play, what our sales field needs from me, responsibilities in our industry, president organizations and executive groups, and my desire to support board roles for philanthropic causes that I love, all begin to compete very quickly. While juggling all of these roles can be challenging, I think the real threat is getting confused with how to use your true gifts and what your role should be in your company! What are you doing that plays to your strengths and what you love to do? What are you doing out of obligation or that someone else could do better?

Scott: It’s not impossible to maintain focus. If we constantly ask the “why?” questions and remain purposeful, work to minimize distractions and stay authentic, I believe we can find our way to reaching more and more people with the powerful gift direct selling offers: an empowered life where they find financial freedom, and as countless thousands have told us, “Direct selling helped me find me.


Cindy Monroe is Founder, President & CEO, and Scott Monroe is Chief Brand Officer of Thirty-One Gifts.