How I learned to fo­cus

Inc. (USA) - - LAUNCH -

pri­or­i­ti­za­tion. I’m the kind of per­son who wants to do it all and work with every com­pany that comes to me. Early on at Thrive, though, we needed to de­cide what to fo­cus on.

On the cor­po­rate side, we made the tough de­ci­sion to cre­ate what we call “be­low the line”—po­ten­tial part­ners that we’ll get to, but only af­ter we take ad­van­tage of the big op­por­tu­ni­ties. For ex­am­ple, we re­cently launched with SAP, which will put us in front of more than 3,000 cor­po­ra­tions in one fell swoop. We are also de­vel­op­ing a dig­i­tal coach­ing pro­gram with IBM’s vir­tual as­sis­tant, Wat­son.

On the me­dia plat­form, we had to be nar­row. That was a big shift for me, com­ing from Huf­fPost, where the goal was to cover ev­ery­thing: Be it James Comey’s fir­ing or Bey­oncé’s twins, we were sup­posed to be there. Our me­dia plat­form, Thrive Jour­nal, is like Huf­fPost in some ways—we en­cour­age out­side con­tri­bu­tions, for in­stance. But it’s dif­fer­ent in that we fo­cus solely on this one thing: How do we re­duce stress and im­prove well-be­ing?

What helped was iden­ti­fy­ing the two things that res­onate with our read­ers. The first is science. We bring you the lat­est re­search around recharg­ing, and the con­nec­tion be­tween recharg­ing and pro­duc­tiv­ity. The sec­ond is telling sto­ries around the data. For ex­am­ple, we got Jeff Be­zos to write about why his get­ting enough sleep is good for Ama­zon share­hold­ers. We also got Se­lena Gomez to write about how do­ing a “dig­i­tal detox” helped her in her life. We saw that giv­ing read­ers a role model makes a dif­fer­ence to them.

These early de­ci­sions about what to pri­or­i­tize, like all de­ci­sions you make as a leader, re­quired a com­bi­na­tion of data and gut. It’s very im­por­tant for lead­ers to re­al­ize that it’s not all data- driven. I first met Jen­nifer Mor­gan—the pres­i­dent of SAP—a year ago, when I was still at Huf­fPost. We had this amaz­ing con­nec­tion. Now that Thrive and SAP are part­ner­ing, the fact that Jen­nifer and I have a per­sonal friend­ship is help­ful. When you’re deal­ing with a big cor­po­ra­tion, there are a lot of in­sti­tu­tional lay­ers that have to be brought into the process. But when some­thing gets stuck, I can sim­ply pick up the phone and talk to Jen­nifer.

At the mo­ment, the cor­po­rate side ac­counts for more than half our sales. That’s partly a func­tion of what we staffed first. In the startup phase, where you hire first makes a big dif­fer­ence in where the rev­enue comes from. But the me­dia plat­form is grow­ing too. In less than six months, we’re reach­ing more than 20 mil­lion view­ers.

It was very hard step­ping down from Huf­fPost, be­cause, af­ter all, it’s like my third child. But once I made the de­ci­sion, it was com­pletely clear to me that it was the right one.

Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton, the co-founder of the Huff­in­g­ton Post, sur­prised many when she an­nounced last year that she would be step­ping down. She is throw­ing her en­ergy be­hind a sec­ond startup, Thrive Global. In just un­der six months, New York City-based Thrive has signed deals worth “mul­ti­ple mil­lions of dol­lars.” Clients in­clude Uber (where she’s a board mem­ber), Ac­cen­ture, and Airbnb. Thrive re­cently dou­bled its sales tar­gets for 2017. The com­pany gen­er­ates rev­enue pri­mar­ily by charg­ing busi­nesses for its work­shops and sem­i­nars fo­cused on health and well­ness, and via branded con­tent that runs on its plat­form, the Thrive Jour­nal. It also sells some con­sumer prod­ucts, such as a $100 iPhone bed. The big­gest chal­lenge, Huff­in­g­ton ad­mits, has been learn­ing how to fo­cus. –As told to Zoë Henry

STRESS LESS TEST Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton re­lies on data but still trusts her gut for crit­i­cal de­ci­sions.

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