There’s no shortage of resources if you’re looking for advice about parenting newborns, infants, toddlers and elementary school-aged kids. But if you’re looking to bend the ear of fellow parents with a moodier-than-thou teenager, or secretly find out what it means when you overhear your 15-year-old talk about vaping, the resources seem to run dry. That’s why Lisa Heffernan, a mom who had made her career in finance, created Grown and Flown along with fellow mom Mary Dell Harrington.
More than a blog, Grown and Flown is a virtual community of more than 200,000 parents of kids aged 15 to 25, a creation born directly out of the observation that there was a dearth of content on raising young adults. “Even now if you go online you’d think parenthood ended at 12,” Heffernan explains. “But that’s when you’re about to step into parenting in a major way.”
Heffernan’s career change is a massive success story (People magazine named Heffernan and Harrington two of the 25 women changing the world in 2017), but here she shares one major thing she would have done differently.
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN
Before Grown and Flown came to be, I had to grapple with a career change. It’s a daunting prospect for many, and certainly was for me, especially since I had never written a word prior. Leaving my career in finance was motivated by the need and want for a lifestyle change. I was having my third baby, and wanted a job I could do at home in order to spend more time with my family. Writing fit that bill. When I decided to make the change, I wrote a proposal for a book about Goldman Sachs (my former employer), which hit the New York Times bestseller list, and opened the door to write even more.
At the outset, I did almost all the writing. It should have been obvious I couldn’t. What I wish I had known before starting my business was this: I needed other people with other life and professional experiences to bring in their perspectives.
My recommendation for anyone looking to leave their comfort zone is to go out and meet as many people as you can who can each offer you some piece of useful advice. I should have spoken to people who were younger and knew more. Every person starting out should try to physically get themselves in front of every person you can — and not just send an email. Everyone will give you 15 minutes. Most people enjoy helping.
THE POWER OF LISTENING
When Mary Dell and I started our website in 2011, my children were teens, and their knowledge of social media was arguably better than mine. I’m part of the generation that had to learn social media from our children. When we first started out, we didn’t realize the power of that community.
“I needed other people with other life and professional experiences.”
Grown and Flown went from tens of thousands of monthly users in the early days to millions now. One thing we did right was that, with no real marketing or social media plan, we created a community slowly and in an organic way. I wrote for other sites and linked back to Grown and Flown within those stories, for example.
We gave our users a way to reach out to each other for outside perspectives — in a Facebook group. Groups are a game-changer, especially for small businesses that can’t afford fancy expensive market research. When we see there are 500 people in our group talking about one thing, we know that we need to get out the information they’re seeking. Now, we have a strong community that is incredibly bonded together. That type of bond begets loyalty.
The flip side of seeking out other voices is listening. If you’re always asking the questions, you’re only getting answers to those you know to ask. By listening to your customers, your audience, your readers and hearing what they’re thinking and feeling and wanting, you’ll benefit your business. Otherwise, you don’t know what you didn’t ask.