No one likes to think about it, but preparing for the worst can help save your family from even deeper levels of heartache and stress.
Tracey Lawrence knows this firsthand.
After spending many years caring for aging and ill parents, Tracey has become a bit of an expert at navigating some pretty complicated situations and systems. Luckily for her clients, Tracey decided to channel her expertise into the creation of a pretty unique business – she helps other families deal with some difficult decisions and make smart, solid plans to help them get through very difficult periods in their lives.
While I was sorry to hear of Tracey’s loss, I was inspired to learn how to gave her the drive to create an amazing business that seems on the brink of great expansion in the future. Let’s check out her story!
Tell us about your business in as much detail as you can. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
Grand Family Planning is a unique business that encourages families to plan for a time when loved ones will get sick (what I call “post-retirement.”) Here in the USA, illness is extremely expensive and we are living sick for a very long time. This phenomenon depletes us financially and emotionally. By preparing for the worst, we can protect more of what we’ve worked all of our lives to acquire. I implement a team of professionals to help our clients, who are primarily adult children of aging parents, to navigate a tragically flawed and complex system.
What made you choose this path? Is it a family legacy or are you a pioneer? Did you go to school for it or are you learning as you go?
I am a pioneer. My family, however, led me on this path. Both of my parents succumbed to dementia. I was caregiver to my father from 2003-2004 and my mother from 2005 (long distance between New Jersey and Florida) to 2009 (in my home in NJ) to 2011 (in assisted living, various facilities, and group homes) until 2015, when my mother died after 8 months in hospice.
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate, so share what drives you every day. Why do you love what you do?
Sharing what I’ve learned through experience is one of the joys of my life. I love protecting people from disaster. I enjoy solving problems that no one has ever been able to solve. Teamwork is also a joy for me and I have forged relationships with amazing people who share my passion and vision for saving lives and legacies.
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?
What the hell is smooth sailing? Adversity is a big driver for me. I have always been someone who seeks to make lemonade out of lemons. So, yes, I have overcome a great deal of adversity, blogged about it, fashioned a book from it, and created an awesome business that is just beginning to gain traction and demonstrate proof-of-concept. This year was brutal, but it’s ending on a high note.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
Every day is a new challenge and a new trip.
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
My husband and I went to Italy for a week in October to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It was hard to justify that kind of expenditure in a year where we earned so much less than we spent, but you only get one 25th wedding anniversary. My goal is to make it to my death bed with as little regret as possible and that trip totally rocked (and we did feel the earth move, quite literally, in Rome!)
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
LinkedIn has been a great tool, especially for finding other professionals to join my team. Facebook has been great for cultivating brand awareness. I don’t use Twitter that much but I’ve had people reach out to me there as well. Having a great website is essential. It establishes credibility in a business that demands it.
The blogs and media that I created as a graphic artist when I was still caregiving my mother continues to lend authority. And I’ve written articles in my local newspaper, which I also shared through LinkedIn, Facebook, and emails. And then there are my videos posted on my YouTube channel.
In the end, it’s all about brand awareness. I have no competition and people are surprised when they learn of GFP’s existence. So, it’s a big part of creating awareness, in concert with a lot of live appearances, tradeshows and fairs.
How are you involved in your community?
I run my town’s public access cable TV station, airing council meetings and recording and producing videos of town events. I serve on the board of my local chamber of commerce. I provide lots of free information and support through talks and I just ran a course at Bergen County Community College at the Institute for Learning in Retirement called “Team Building for a Successful Retirement and Beyond.” It was very well-received.
What does supporting local mean to you?
Being a force for good among my neighbors and all I meet. Being a willing resource first.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
Rosy. My clients love what we do. We’re learning more all the time. I envision growing this business nationally within five years.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
Be prepared to lose a lot of money the first couple of years. Talk to people who are smarter than you and solicit constructive criticism. Figure out who your ideal client is; identify who will write the checks, at least initially. Market to them specifically. Ask a lot of questions and LISTEN to the answers. Implement, test, tweak and repeat. If your idea is awesome, don’t give up.