CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Gillian Stapleton, CEO of Direct Selling Australia

Gillian Stapleton is the CEO of Direct Selling Australia, the industry association for direct selling in Australian retail, with over 60 member organisations.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I am the CEO of Direct Selling Australia (DSA), an association developed over 53 years ago that advocates for ethical business practices, consumer protection, people, passion and prosperity.

My appointment as the first female CEO of DSA came about because of my extensive background in the direct selling sector having previously been the CEO of several large direct selling businesses.

Prior to the corporate side of things, I ran a home -based direct selling business for ten years in the UK to enable me to raise my children and run a business.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

No day is the same. Much like when I was running my own direct selling business anything can crop up and there is the need to be adaptable.

The role of the association is to promote and protect the industry so I might be (virtually) attending a committee meeting with regulators in the morning and then as I did on Friday, I am presenting at a leadership seminar for a Member company, where we are training and educating the field leadership, assisting them to run their business. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

Yes. Direct Selling Australia is supportive of flexible and remote working; my team and I have been working this way for years. As an industry, direct selling is all about working where and when it suits and it is the reason, we attract so many entrepreneurs into the channel. 

The business model lends itself to working part-time around other areas of your life whether you reside in the city or in a rural area.  

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Running any small business means that work life balance is very much determined by your own boundaries.

The skills I learnt running my direct selling business set me up for success with managing a team remotely this year and ensuring that they manage their work life balance as well. Daily exercise is critical to my balance and sometimes it is done early, but there are days when I head out for a run in the middle of the day and work later in the evening. 

I have this in my signature to make sure my team knows I might be working late but they don’t need to be. 

“We now work flexibly, and I am sending this message now because I am working.  I don’t expect that you will read, respond to, or action it outside of your regular working hours.”

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5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

One of the lasting perks of building my direct selling business was and is the exposure to personal development. I was constantly reminded about the importance of “oxygen mask on self.”  It’s all too easy to keep driving your business 24/7. 

This year many routines have changed for all of us, but I know that to run a small business I need to be the best that I can be so I have remained committed to my health and well -being by doing virtual yoga and I have taken up Pilates.

I have also tried to inspire my team to do the same and, together, we completed the STEPtember challenge of 10,000 steps a day. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I am a massive podcast fan. There hasn’t been much time for reading this year but I always find time to catch up on my favourite podcasts, usually when I’m out for a run.

Self development:


I’m also a massive Audible fan and have listened to some great books this year, usually about running and health.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

It’s All Next Door. I am a product of the channel and buy much of what I need from a direct seller.

My daily nutritional’s I would not be without, environmentally conscious cleaning is a must and for all things house and home I can buy from a local direct seller. I just love the luxury of my silk pillowcase. 

 Data is king as we all know in business. I love checking the stats of what we do, our reach and influence but my favourite gadget is my Garmin running watch. 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

Michelle Obama.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

We are re-drawing the roadmap this year. I am reminded of when I was at a similar cross roads juggling career and family and they were not aligned.

Direct selling allowed me to stay connected with my family and build a new career which is why I am so passionate about supporting companies who provide this opportunity. 

Direct Selling, like so many of us, has evolved this year; but what has remained the same and is now needed more than ever before, is that it provides a viable way of achieving work, life balance wherever you end up on the map.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.