As I’m writing this, I’m 8 months pregnant and Robin and I are so excited about our little bundle of joy on the way. By the time you read this post, I’ll be taking maternity leave as an entrepreneur…
I have a few friends and relatives who are expecting and having babies in my home country of Canada, where the maternity leave policy is 1 year off from work. And while I envy the option of taking a whole year off to learn how to be a mom, I also know that my entrepreneurial drive will have me thinking about my customers, my team, and our projects again before the 12 month mark.
That being said, I really believe that it’s possible to set up your business to give you a chance to take maternity leave as an entrepreneur, and here’s how we’re approaching this task.
The first I need to mention is that I’m in a special situation, because both myself and my husband work in the business… so we’ll both be feeling sleep deprived and learning how to become parents at the same time.
But the silver lining is that Robin will get to spend more time at home with the baby, especially during those precious first weeks and months.
Now let’s take a look at how we’ve been structuring our business for maternity (and paternity!) leave.
Reverse Engineer Your Due Date and Keep Commitments Manageable
Although not all pregnancies can be planned or scheduled into your calendar, we knew we wanted to start a family, so in early 2015 we started to make decisions with that plan in mind.
For our business, that meant reducing the amount of one-on-one coaching and mastermind retreats that I was leading, and also not putting on our annual event in 2016.
As soon as we found out I was pregnant, we really put all of our energies on building out our software product suite… because that’s a form of income for the business that doesn’t depend on me as much.
More Resources: The folks at The Simple Dollar make a great point about figuring out your cashflow, and setting money aside before the baby comes. Being a female entrepreneur comes with challenges, and having a cushion in the bank can help you feel more prepared for when baby comes!
Find Out Where Your Bottlenecks Are
We took a look at what the business really needed from me on a regular basis… and then we went on a hiring spree! We hired a project manager to keep everything running smoothly if I couldn’t be there to oversee our projects and our team.
We also hired a writer, who has been able to increase our content production and free me up to do some of the things that only I could do.
Now, you might not feel like you can hire full time employees yet in your business, but you can definitely hire on a project basis in preparation for your maternity leave.
One of my biggest mindset shifts around hiring amazing people to help you keep growing your business is this: when you invest money into a stock or real estate, you generally need to put up a big chunk of money up-front… and you’d expect a few percentage points in return.
But when you’re hiring, you only need to pay someone on a monthly basis – and you can usually expect a much higher return on investment, sometimes as high as double what you’re paying them. Pretty cool, right?
Photo credit: Snapberry Photographs
Bring Your Team Up To Speed On Your Maternity Leave Plans
After we got more support on board our team, it was time to have a meeting and find any holes we might need to plug. I’m sure there will be things that we didn’t anticipate that will come up, but taking the time to sit down and write out what potential things our team would deal with was key.
Here are some of the things we found we needed to prepare in order to take maternity leave without freaking out:
- Plan out our editorial calendar, newsletters, and content for the next few months ahead of time
- Record updated tutorial videos for how we do certain things (think Facebook ads, setting up campaigns, etc.)
- Create an escalation plan for support requests, so that most support requests can be handled by the team unless Robin is needed on the “tougher ones”
- Writing more canned responses and beefing up our Knowledge Base to answer questions more proactively
- Set clear goals for everyone on the team, so they know exactly what they’re working on and responsible for
More Resources: Natasha Vorompiova from Systems Rock has a great post all about getting your systems maternity-leave ready.
Automate, Delegate, or Delete Anything That Can’t Happen Without You
This is a big one! It’s actually a process that we’ve been applying since we found out that we had a baby on the way… and one that you can also use even if you don’t have a little one on the way.
When you start to automate things with tools and processes, you can remove yourself from the day to day operations of your business. Now, many times you’ll still want a human being there to make sure that everything is working as expected and to handle special circumstances – and that’s where delegating comes in.
One of the big realizations for my business is that we run launches for many of our programs, and these launches take a lot of my focus and energy. So we’ve begun to change our focus towards our evergreen product sales, instead.
Finally, being more strict about what’s really “necessary” in your business helps you delete tasks that might not be bringing in any benefits. Sometimes we get into a business groove, but end up losing sight of the big picture and the outcomes that we were after in the first place.
More Resources: My business colleague Denise Duffield-Thomas talks about how she simplified her business and automated the revenue generating activities in her “baby-proofing my business” post here. A prime example is her excellent Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp program, which is available for purchase on an evergreen basis. (I highly recommend it, and I’m a proud affiliate and alumni myself!)
Set Firm Boundaries For Yourself + Prepare To Say No More Often
One of the biggest realizations I’ve made since starting on this motherhood journey is the need to be clear about what you want to create for yourself, business and lifestyle-wise.
I’ve had to say no to many speaking gigs, fun-looking networking events, and other activities that would have been a “yes” a year ago. And while part of me is sad that I won’t be doing a ton of speaking in 2016, I know that when I’m ready to get back on stage and share my message, I’ll have a lot more experience to pull from as a new mom.
A side benefit of being pregnant and taking maternity leave is that it really helps you filter through opportunities that might seem like a good idea but could be a distraction. It’s like a hyper-focused laser, because your time is so much more scarce and you can only do so much before the baby comes.
More Resources: Daily Worth writer Natasha Burton highlights the importance of not taking on more work than you can handle. This includes taking on more clients, projects, or expectations… and I couldn’t agree more!
Get The Support You’ll Need In Place Early & Test Your Systems
We had a “test run” of being disconnected from the business when we took an unplugged vacation a few months ago… and we discovered a few places where we would need to shore up our resources.
It’s also been a big priority for us to find local support in the form of a postpartum doula, our families coming to visit after the birth, and then finding childcare options once my maternity leave wraps up.
While women have been having babies for thousands of years, I think that running a business and having a baby brings a whole new level of complexity… and we don’t need to do it all alone!
More Resources: Meg Keene from A Practical Wedding shares her dismay at people who seem to think she does “all the things” herself. Instead, she enlists the support of her team members, childcare providers, and her husband.
Over To You Now… Did You Take Maternity Leave As An Entrepreneur?
Did you take time off for maternity leave as an entrepreneur? What tips do you have for other moms and business owners? Leave a comment below!