March 06, 2014
The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling
by Beth Douglass Silcox
Founder and CEO, Thirty-One Gifts
When Cindy Monroe talks about leading by example, she’s all in—or, maybe it’s out. Rather than leading a sales initiative from a posh executive office, she’s out on the floor in a cube like everyone else. “I am one who is willing to do the same thing that I’m asking anyone else to do,” she says.As Founder and CEO of this fast-growing, party-plan company, Monroe says, “I’m really good at setting the vision and telling them that I can roll up my sleeves and be there to help them now, but I do know when it’s time to back off and let them shine.” Only by learning on their own and occasionally falling, she says, do people learn how to pick themselves up and depend upon others on the team. Monroe has been in the thick of an infrastructure build-out at Thirty-One Gifts for several years, which included warehouse management, order entry and inventory systems. “We took the time, energy, and resources and invested it, and now we have a solid foundation. The next two years are really going to be all hands on deck and focused on our sales field to really make them feel like they are No. 1,” she says. Building that foundation took Monroe out of her “wheelhouse” of sales, marketing and product, but that shift in focus allowed her to grow and better grasp areas like operations, finance and IT. “You can’t, as an owner or CEO, be spending millions of dollars without understanding where that money is being spent. There’s a responsibility as an executive that you have to get in and understand it from the inside out,” Monroe says. With sales, marketing and communication as a priority in 2014, Monroe once again steps into her comfort zone to figure out how best to apply tools and technology to support relationships, the party, the business model and 120,000 Independent Consultants. Finding the right balance of technology in a relationship-based industry is tricky. Too much is distracting, and Monroe believes that can put the entire industry at risk. On a personal level, striking balance between work and family has been one of Monroe’s greatest challenges. “I personally take all my roles very seriously, and I really want to make sure I’m delivering and being the best at all of them,” she says. “One of the things I’ve been able to do is to practice and learn how to be present with whatever I’m doing—being in the moment and focusing on who I’m with and what role I’m playing. It’s something that you have to work at. You have to hold yourself accountable and have other people to help hold you accountable.” Monroe puts work and family on one calendar. Sometimes they overlap, but that keeps her head in both worlds in case her daughter texts photos of her winter formal dress or her son checks in. She says, “If I’m planning a date night, I put that on my calendar, and I think it helps me mentally shift gears. I’m preparing for 6 p.m. when I’m going to dinner with Scott, instead of waiting until 5:59 p.m. and saying, ‘Oh, no! I’ve got dinner with Scott!’ ”
Cindy Monroe on personal development…“I’m really hard on myself and trying to accept that I’m always growing and maturing. The business has grown so fast that as a person I’ve had to constantly assess where I am and make sure that the business is not outpacing me. So I’m very careful with my own development and very purposeful with it. I don’t have one strategic system, but I have multiple in place.”
Thirty-One GiftsFounder and CEO Cindy Monroe started Thirty-One Gifts in the basement of her home 10 years ago with a mission to empower women, strengthen families and change lives. Today, there are over 120,000 Independent Consultants, who last year presented the company’s line of personalized bags and accessories at over 1 million home parties. The company believes strongly in giving back. In 2013, Thirty-One Gives again worked with the Direct Selling Association and NBC’s TODAY Show to deliver 250,000 items to an annual toy drive. Over the last four years, that partnership has gathered some 750,000 items, equaling about $20 million, for American children in need. Thirty-One consultants distribute the toys through local nonprofit partnerships that carry forward the company’s mission of celebrating, encouraging and rewarding women and girls. The effort truly impacts local communities. Some 16,000 Independent Consultants and guests gathered last July for the largest national conference in Thirty-One history, and the company hosted its first Canadian national conference as well. The Columbus, Ohio-based company is the second largest woman-owned company in central Ohio with nearly 2,300 employees between its headquarters and distribution centers.
Thirty-One Gifts ranked No. 18 on the Direct Selling News Global 100 with sales of $718 million in 2012.
Cover Story | Women's History | Sheryl Adkins-Green | Claire Bancino | Meredith Berkich | Lori Bush | Dr. Oi-Lin Chen | Doris Christopher | Angela Loehr Chrysler | Kathy Coover | Shelli Gardner | Jessica Herrin | Wendy Lewis | Candace Matthews | Sheri McCoy | Cindy Monroe | Kay Napier | Joani Nielson | Meg Sheetz | Pam Sowder | Jill Blashack Strahan | Connie Tang | Heidi Thompson