When 12-year-old Journey Henkart mentioned to her mom Andrea that her friends didn’t seem to have as good a relationship as the two of them did, Andrea proposed they put together a workshop on family communication. Today, 12 years later, the two have worked with thousands of families and their workshop has turned into a highly acclaimed book, Cool Communication: From Conflict to Cooperation for Parents and Kids. Andrea has a Masters in psychology and has counseled over 10,000 preteens and teenagers nationwide; Journey is working on her Masters in Counseling Psychology and her MFT license, and has garnered an impressive professional résumé, including appearances on such media stages as Oprah and Montel Williams.

When we spoke with Andrea and Journey, we mentioned that we were interviewing John Gray the same day for this issue. “Oh,” Andrea replied, “he was in our living room just last night, talking to a little group!” As it turns out, Andrea and Journey are not only an extraordinary business partnership, they are also network marketers—and John Gray is their upline. In fact, Andrea pointed out, she has a subscription to Networking Times and reads every issue cover to cover. — JDM

What led you to write a book together?

JH: My mom and I always got along really well. Not that any relationship is perfect, but we used certain tools to work together and learn from each other. I would compare myself to my friends and their parents, and I would come home and say, “Why is it like that for them?”

We realized that we had a very unique relationship. We took a look at that, came up with some techniques that we use, and started a workshop.

So at the age of 12, you were giving workshops to parents on communications skills?

JH: To parents and their kids, together.

AH: It always intrigued me that at the end of our workshops, the adults would come up to Journey and ask her questions—more so than they would ask me. They really wanted to hear it from the mouth of babes, so to speak!

JH: People would come up to us after our workshops and ask if there was anything they could take home with them. We created a book, and continued to grow our workshop business from there—talking with families and businesses on communication skills, balancing your life and that sort of thing.

Andrea, not every mom would sit down and say, “Okay, let’s do a workshop.” Did your background predispose you to this?

AH: For the last 30 years, my work has been in family communication. I’m just now completing my doctorate in psychology, and I’ve been giving workshops for about 28 years. So I invited Journey to work with me and see what would happen.

In a nutshell, what is the essence of your message that struck such a chord?

AH: In a word, it’s about communication: about understanding each other from each other’s perspective, how the other one speaks. That’s what our book is about. Journey wrote half the book for kids, and I wrote the other half for parents.

And your work was influenced by John Gray?

AH: Oh, very much so. John and his wife Bonnie have been family friends for over 20 years; their kids have grown up together with our kids.

Just as John talks about the Mars/Venus difference between men and women, you can see the difference between parents and kids. Kids see the world one way, and adults see the world an entirely different way.

What Journey and I have done is to help us understand one another by creating a vocabulary and other tools that parents and kids can use to work through issues. Because issues are going to come up no matter what. No family is perfect, and we aren’t either!

How long have you been involved with network marketing?

AH: For about three years. I had a very feeble attempt with another company about fifteen years ago, gave it about a half a second’s attention.

What impression did that experience leave on you? Good, bad, indifferent?

AH: I wanted nothing to do with network marketing! In fact, when my husband Reggie started this business, I wanted nothing to do with it. I told him, if he brought another network marketing business home, I would divorce him! We’re still together, so it’s worked out okay!

What changed your mind?

AH: The main thing that enticed me was the fact that John [Gray] was involved. We were at a mutual friend’s wedding. I asked John what he was doing, and he mentioned this company name. Then he leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Andrea, it’s MLM!”

I said, “What?! Are you nuts? You’re a gazillionaire, and you’re selling products out of the trunk of your car?!”

He laughed and said, “No, this company’s completely different.”

I still wanted nothing to do with it, but Reggie got involved, and we all started using the product. Once I started looking into it, the bug bit, and there was no looking back.

Journey, how did you come into the picture?

JH: I’m very fortunate. My parents were smart in the way they introduced me to it.

At first, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the business. I was busy, I was in college, and to me, it just felt like something my parents were telling me about that would supposedly change my life.

Then they invited me on this great cruise they were doing. I’m not going to turn down a free cruise! And then there was a convention in Vegas, where they were going to see some amazing performers—and I love things like that.

At these events, I met incredible leaders in the company and heard about the opportunity. I met people my age who were earning thousands of dollars a week. All of a sudden, my ears opened.

Rather than having my parents say, “This is what you should do,” I got interested through other people and other experiences. And once I realized what the opportunity really was, and that I could be a part of it, it became my idea!

What’s it been like for you?

JH: It’s been amazing. While my friends are working nine to five, sometimes eight to eight, jobs, I work from home, I take long walks when I want to, I sleep in when I want to, I take vacations and come home to find more money in my account than when I left. I feel like I’m living a luxurious life, while my friends have to work for months and months before they can take a two-week vacation.

Are any of your friends interested?

JH: I’m bringing them on board slowly but surely.

You must have people in your organization who are a generation older than you. What’s that like?

AH: Oh, a couple of generations! There’s one couple that’s about my grandfather’s age, and they’re really great. They respect me and take my advice. I also use my upline a lot. No matter what age you are, it’s great to have a successful upline who are willing to take the time to talk with new people for you.

It’s a team sport.

AH: It is. I like that terminology a lot!

I’m looking at the cover of your book, and I laugh when I read these “seven keys” [see sidebar]. They’re supposed to be about parents and children—but they sure look to me like they’re about upline and downline!

AH: That’s so funny! I never thought of that! Wow! [laughs]

One of the challenges in this business is the balance of being supportive of people, yet not doing it all for them. Isn’t that a very parental kind of challenge?

JH: Absolutely. And there are a lot of tools that work in both realms.

First, we always talk about scheduling time for yourself. Especially for parents with kids. If you burn yourself out, taking care of the family all the time, then you can’t have a strong relationship with your kids, because you’re always exhausted and fed up with everything.

That’s also important in network marketing: you need to take time for yourself, take breaks, make sure you nourish your body and your mind. Otherwise, when you’re constantly helping everyone and taking on everyone’s issues, your steam eventually runs out.

Another major factor we talk about is being a good listener. When you work with the communication between kids and parents, put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand where they’re coming from. And that’s equally true in network marketing.

The crux of this business is the prospecting conversation—and it’s in that communication where we seem to most often generate a poor impression. Where do we tend to go wrong here?

JH: I think part of it is our incredible excitement. You want everyone else to understand this wonderful opportunity you’ve discovered as well as you do. But it’s too much, too fast.

I was fortunate to be brought into it through a very gradual process, without being pushed on. Now, I’m completely excited about it. But if I go out and tell all my friends and expect them to jump on board right away, I’ll just turn them off.

AH: Parents do the same thing. We get overzealous and want our kids to do it our way—and kids are tired of hearing that. Kids don’t want to be told what to do, how and where to do it, and what it should feel like once they’ve done it! A prospect is the same way. “Don’t force it down my throat!”

Whether in parenting or in network marketing, having other people participate in the conversation is very important. It’s about sharing, as opposed to selling—about genuinely communicating, instead of taking a “Because I said so” attitude. When you take an authoritative role that says, “Trust me, I know, you’ve got to do this, and do it my way,” it doesn’t sit well with anyone, whether it’s your child or your prospect.

JH: Being an example of your product is so important. I’ll talk about the product, but I’ll do it by explaining my story—what it is that brought me on board, and especially what it is that’s kept me on board. My feelings about the product, my experiences. I think that’s what people relate to the most.

They say, “You just went traveling for the last month, and you came back to more money in your account than when you left?! I want that!” Or, if it’s the health and energy aspect we’re talking about, they hear my story and their eyes light up—they want to be part of that.

AH: It’s a question of helping people understand why they need what you’re trying to give to them, as opposed to just giving it to them.

JH: That’s a really good point—giving them the information so they can make the decision for themselves, rather than you making the decision for them. And that goes for both parents and kids, and for network marketers and their prospects.

AH: Then they own it and embody it, and they’re free to move forward from there, without any resistance.

As a society, are we shifting our concepts of parenthood and our relationships to our kids?

AH: Absolutely. In some ways it’s good, but in a lot of ways it’s detrimental.

Everyone is so busy these days, speeding through their days with cell phones attached to their ears. There’s no slowing down, no time for communication. This hurried-up world is causing breakdown in families.

A lot of parents just don’t take time with their kids—time to discipline them, time to talk to them, time to sit down and help their children understand why. It’s just, “Don’t do this, don’t do that, you’re grounded.” It takes time to help your kids understand what they need to do to be better people in this world.

JH: Anything of any value takes time. Raising children, building a business—it all takes time. And these days, it just seems like creating time for family is one of the last items on the list.

My mom and I used to have debates all the time; my dad and I did this too. And it was fun. Rather than “curfew” always being a certain time, it would change, depending on where I was going and what night it was. The conversation is so important in families, especially with kids, so that as they grow, they learn how to make decisions and learn why certain things are important.

One reason people get into network marketing is so they can spend more time with their families. Yet I often see people end up busier than ever.

AH: True—it’s easy to do this 24 hours a day!

JH: I can vouch for that!

So how do we balance this?

JH: It’s true that people may be busier at first, yet they gain a flexibility most jobs don’t give them. So while you still may be putting in an eight-hour day, you can break it up and take off the whole morning, if you want. That’s a unique and wonderful thing about network marketing.

There are two crucial things in this business that people often forget. The first is creating boundaries. We talk about this in parenting, but it also applies to network marketing.

You can be on the phone with someone and suddenly realize two hours has gone by while you were counseling them through their issues! It can become enabling or babysitting, instead of leading or teaching. It’s so important to create clear boundaries, so that they feel heard, respected and taken care of, but you’ve also empowered them to make their own decisions.

The second thing is to take time for yourself. This is so important!

Some people do three-way calls all day long; whenever someone calls with a question or a prospect, they answer. Then, when the kids come home or their husband comes home and it’s family time, they’re too burned out and exhausted to enjoy it.

So the time freedom is real, but you need to make it happen—it won’t happen automatically.

JH: That’s right. To make it work, you absolutely need to create boundaries and take time for yourself; both are really important.

AH: In my most recent book, The Healthy Family Handbook, I say that all your scheduling and prioritizing will not relieve your stress if you continue to do too much!

If your family is stretched in every direction, something is bound to snap. You have to simplify your life. You have to create the down time for yourself and your kids. You have to prioritize, and save your best time and energy for what matters most.

JH: And sometimes when people prioritize, they forget to make themselves a priority. This is especially true of women, and particularly mothers. They don’t see themselves as priorities.

You have to realize that if you don’t make yourself a priority, nobody else will get what they need from you. If you want to serve other people, you need to make sure you serve yourself first.

AH: And people often think only in terms of big vacations. But not everyone can just take a week off and go to Hawaii. Taking little breaks throughout the day, every single day, is really important.

I work at home, and I love the freedom of doing that. Sometimes I’ll just take time to go be in my garden. Last week I did a three-way call while I was pruning my roses. It was relaxing and exciting at the same time!

JH: And that may not be a week in Hawaii, but it can absolutely replenish your body and mind so that you feel reenergized. You need to do this on a daily basis. It just means a slight shift in attitude, in how you approach your day.

What has it been like, touching the lives of so many families?

JH: We get letters and e-mails all the time from people thanking us and telling us what has changed in their lives. It inspires and motivates us to keep going.

AH: And being in network marketing together only adds to it. We’re not only building our own financial freedom, but also bringing along so many people with us. That’s tremendously exciting, to know that we’re affecting lives now in an even bigger way.

Do you have any last thoughts to share?

AH: It’s really important to remember that everyone has their own unique ideas and perspectives. Especially the kids. Whether you’re working together or playing together, it’s really important to leave your expectations at the door and let all family members shine in their own light. When people make mistakes, we have to step back and apologize, and help each other grow in the way we’re going to grow. Cooperation, communication and compromise are really the secret to success in the family, business and every aspect of your lives.

JH: Everyone has their own individuality. Parents tend to think that because they’re adults and they have experienced more, they know what their kids want and need. The same thing happens with network marketing: we’ve come across something that is changing our lives, and we feel we need to tell everyone else that they need to do it too.

In either case, by putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes, by listening, by coming from a place of understanding, we can communicate a lot more effectively and end up meeting everyone’s needs.

It’s not easy. But it’s possible.


Seven Keys to Helping Your Kids Downline Grow

1. Standing in Someone Else’s Shoes
2. Being an Example
3. The Positive Power of Words
4. Cooperation
5. Providing Room to Grow
6. Setting Reasonable Limits
7. Fostering Self-Esteem

From Cool Communication: From Conflict to Cooperation for Parents and Kids, by Andrea Frank Henkart and Journey Henkart