Business owners often feel tethered to their businesses. When we begin helping others, we work nights, weekends, and holidays to make sure our clients are taken care of and our business continues to grow.
I have owners coming to me daily saying that they can barely take a vacation from their business without things completely shutting down… let alone maintaining or growing.
Enter Maternity Leave.
Maternity leave is one of the most important ‘vacations’ you’ll take from your business.
It’s completely essential to have at least a week or two off from the business postpartum if anything just to sit in your robe and recover.
There are so many business owners who may be struggling to imagine taking off any significant amount of time from their business. But, we’ll walk through 5 essential planning steps for expecting mompreneurs to have a stress-free maternity leave.
Well, at least on the business side of things.
But first, why do business owners fail at taking time off?
Really, it boils down to one thing…
They haven’t created a business that can operate independently from them.
Imagine if you carried your child everywhere from birth to age five.
They’d likely not know how to walk, right?
That’s what we do to our businesses. We coddle them. We stay up with them late at night and make sure they have everything they need, we don’t leave them alone with strangers, we don’t let them make new friends we don’t approve of…
As an owner, we’re so tied to our brand, our reputation, and our results as a business it’s no wonder we can’t find a way to separate from it.
In order to take any time off, there are a few things to consider.
1. When are you due?
Is it during the busy season of the business? Are you able to take advantage of birthing during downtime or lull in operations? The timing of when you are giving birth is hugely important to creating the structure for yourself to go out for a few weeks.
When I had my first son, Frank, we were smack in the middle of our busy season. Lots of owners get a kick in the pants when their kids go back to school after summertime. Not sure why, but it happens every year.
He was born on August 30. The first week of school for a lot of folks.
Being my very first maternity leave, I thought I had my ducks in a row with fulfillment, but I had not made a plan for the flood of new client requests I was going to get and sales calls I was going to have to put off.
It was exhausting.
My second son, John, was born in March. A traditionally slower season for us.
Let’s just say if we have another baby, we’ll plan for spring.
Some things you can do to plan around your due date are:
- Look at past projects you completed during that time of the year
- Consider your client/customer volume at the same time the year prior
- Are your other children out of school?
- What holidays can you piggyback on?
If your kid is born on December 20, let’s just say you’ll probably have an easy time getting those first two weeks all to yourself.
2. What does your current role look like?
Are you working in your business 40 hours per week? Or are you managing from afar?
We have a neighbor that manages barber shops in the Bronx, NY. He goes into the city about once per month to manage things with the businesses.
He’s got a pretty great setup, great people, and can manage things from his home out here in the Poconos.
Alternatively, I have a new client who is chained to her business. She works all day, and does all the client calls, team calls, and the majority of the fulfillment work.
If we’re honest, taking 40 + hours per week off of a calendar is way more challenging than only a few per month.
Take a realistic scope of everything you do in any given week and just write a list.
First, it’ll probably shock you if you’re still in the bootstrapping phase of your business. Trying to make things work, close business, keep customers happy and talk with vendors. The list sure goes on.
But having the list of items is going to be the first step to taking a really clear inventory of what needs to be reallocated elsewhere in the business in order for you to take a maternity leave.
3. Who do you have in your corner?
This seems like a loaded question. And, truthfully, it is.
When we had my first son, we were living just outside of Nashville.
With no family in the area, we wondered who was going to be home with our pup while we went into the hospital to give birth.
When the time came, I went into labor spontaneously and we had to leave our pup at home without any support while we were gone.
Thankfully, Frank was born quickly and my husband was able to go home and let our doggo out early the next morning.
Taking an inventory of both your personal and professional bench is hugely helpful in planning a successful maternity leave.
- Do you have a team to support you?
- A network you can lean on for interim work?
- Is your team trained?
- Can someone on your team take over your core responsibilities?
- How much lead time will they need and how might it affect their core workload?
Something I often do with my clients is to have them offload one task to a team member when they begin planning maternity leave and see how that goes. Create training and a procedure that they can follow.
Then, give them feedback on how they did. Update the training and procedure to help them fill in any gaps and then give them a KPI (key performance indicator) that can guide them while you’re out.
Example: prospective client call
Step 1: do some training on how to host a prospect call. Include questions to ask, service benefits to highlight, a list of common objections, and questions from prospects.
Step 2: create an SOP for how to go through prospecting step-by-step. Include what research they should to do prepare for the call, any scripting that exists, how they update the lead post-call, and how to prepare proposals, contracts, and any other necessary documents to close the account.
Step 3: shadow the trainee on their call(s) and update the training, and documents appropriately.
Step 4: create a KPI for them to hit. Eg. closing 30 percent of prospects they talk on the phone with.
It sounds overwhelming when you just think: I need to offload my sales calls.
And, believe me, it’ll be challenging.
But this very important exercise is worth it to have peace of mind while you’re recovering with your growing family.
- Is your family nearby?
- Do you have any family or friends who can help care for your other children or pets while you’re recovering?
- Are family members able to sign up to bring meals to your home post-baby?
- Are you able to set up home care services to lighten your workload at home? Lawn service. Foodservice. Cleaning service.
Our business and our personal lives are so intertwined. It’s so challenging to try to compartmentalize them.
When I’m in my basement office working and one of my kids is sick: I can’t focus. It’s really challenging for me.
Additionally, when I am outside on my deck with prospective clients and our lawn is looking overgrown, I start to think about when we’re going to get the grass cut again.
To truly focus on yourself and your baby during your leave, building a bench of people who can sub in and help is so valuable.
4. What documentation do you have?
When we were rushing (and I mean rushing) to the hospital to have my second son, I remember running around my home filming videos for my mom.
We had just moved into our new house a few months prior and she hadn’t yet been up to visit since we’d been doing a TON of renovations.
I called her the morning of her birthday to tell her I was having contractions and tried to prep her for my son Frank’s routine should things progress quickly.
She didn’t seem concerned and honestly, neither was I.
Until about 2 hours later when my contractions were about 4 minutes apart.
I began frantically running around my house filming video after video of his bedtime routine and where to find the towels and what food we’d prepped for him in the fridge.
All while my husband was gingerly pushing me out the door and into the car.
When we saw my mom later that day (still on her birthday) she told me the videos were hugely helpful in getting Frank all set up at home.
Give your bench some help getting things done in your absence. Especially if they’ve never done some of these tasks before.
Create screencasts of you going through your list from tip #2.
A simple chrome extension like loom.com is so helpful for something like this.
It’ll also make things easier to document into standard operating procedures down the line.
Share these videos with your team as you’re helping them train to take over some of your tasks and make sure they’re in a central location so they have easy access to them while you’re out.
5. How are you checking in?
I was on a call with a client recently and I asked him what the current gross profit on his projects was for the quarter.
He said he had no idea.
And, worse, he had no idea how to find out.
Having a finger on the pulse of how your business is performing helps you become a more hands-off manager.
Reports can also give you a sense of what’s going on in the business during your absence.
Create some reports and highlight important metrics that you’d like to see while you’re out on leave.
Some that I recommend to clients are:
- % of projects on time
- Gross profit on projects (if you’re a service-based business)
- Customer churn
- # of new leads
- # of new customers
Simple. And helps you sleep better between feedings.
Don’t stress yourself out planning for maternity leave. Take things slowly and implement some simple structure into your business to help you along the way.
This doesn’t need to be complicated. You got this.
For more tips on planning for maternity leave, check out my FREE Ultimate Planning Guide here.