Maintaining Momentum: How to Keep Your Business Growing During Maternity Leave
Unfortunately, there's no rule book for this. Women entrepreneurs are getting pregnant and wanting to continue growing their businesses alongside their families. However, they often have no guidance on how to step away and enjoy the miracle of a new life.
I started my business in 2012, and I had my first baby in 2016. At that time, four years into my business and with a full roster of clients, I vividly remember bringing my laptop to the hospital and working while in labor. Back then, I couldn't envision taking time off because, without me, there was no business. However, by the time my second baby arrived at home in 2018, I realized I needed to do things differently. In 2021, we welcomed our third and final baby, and for both of these births, I applied the lessons I learned from not taking any time off after my first child.
As an entrepreneur, you build your business from the ground up, and in those initial years, everything depends on you. Just like me, many women, whether for maternity leave, vacation, or mental health reasons, feel they can't fully step away. I know exactly how that feels. I also understand the immense guilt that comes with not having as many early memories with your children as you'd like or the constant rush between feeding your baby and working because you're striving to balance it all.
But my three babies have taught me so much about myself and how to better manage my business. This blog has been a long time coming because there's an extreme lack of resources for maternity leave and entrepreneurship.
Before we delve into creating your maternity leave plan and everything you need to know to truly step away, consider redefining how you view growth. Instead of the one-sided approach where growing your business is solely about monetary gain, recognize the power of sustaining a successful business as you bring a new life into this world. Truthfully, my maternity leave didn't lead to significant financial growth for my family, but the lessons I learned while taking time off directly impacted my ability to lead and assist other women, resulting in a remarkable return on my investment of time for both myself and my family.
I grant you permission not to abandon the idea of growing your metrics, traffic, engagement, and revenue during maternity leave. But just to understand that there are other aspects of growth. Before creating a strategic plan for your maternity leave, be very clear about your expectations for yourself, your business, and your family. Acknowledge that, in addition to managing your team and customers, you'll now be responsible for another human being, which I believe is the most challenging job on the planet.
It's okay for your business to maintain its current level while you adapt to motherhood.
Maintaining & Growing Your Business During Maternity Leave
1. Plan Ahead
You need to determine how much time you want to step away completely from the business and be clear about all the tasks you currently handle in the business. This way, you can batch tasks ahead of time to keep things running smoothly during your absence and delegate anything that doesn't require your direct involvement. To get a clear picture, take a week in your schedule to document every task you perform in a full week and identify what needs your personal attention, so you can allocate time for working ahead and planning your time off.
2. Delegate and Empower Your Team
Once you've identified all the tasks necessary to sustain and grow your business, pinpoint those that can be delegated and put together whatever instructions to empower your team to take over these tasks, at least temporarily. Make sure that they have the capacity to handle these additional responsibilities in day-to-day operations.
3. Document Processes
Knowing the delegation of tasks, you must establish clear Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that document all your processes, workflows, and procedures. Share these guidelines with your team so they can refer to them in your absence and ensure that operations continue to run smoothly.
4. Cross-Train Your Team
For any tasks that don't require specialized skills, consider cross-training different members of your team to avoid reliance on a single person. Having your SOPs accessible to the entire team, in case someone needs to delegate a task, will help the team collaborate and solve problems without involving you.
5. Implement Efficient Systems
Take a look at any existing bottlenecks or clogs in your workflows and processes. Seek opportunities to implement new tools that can help things run smoothly. Make sure that you have the necessary set up in place for remote work and establish clear communication plans for you and your team.
6. Set Clear Goals and Metrics
Define performance goals and metrics to measure business progress and communicate these to your team so everyone is on the same page. Have your team members review these metrics to track your business' performance during your leave. Everyone should be informed about the current initiatives while you are out of the office.
7. Stay Connected Remotely
Utilize platforms like Slack for communication to keep everything organized. Make sure your team knows what is expected in terms of communication and updates while you're out of the office. Set boundaries for checking in with the team to avoid micromanagement, as it can cause unnecessary stress for you and the team.
8. Establish Emergency Protocols
Remember that most business matters are not life or death. Ensure you're not creating a false sense of urgency that overwhelms you and your team. However, have plans in place for potential emergencies or unforeseen challenges, and make sure your team is well-prepared to handle critical situations in your absence.
9. Ask For Help Outside The Business
While you may be highly independent and ambitious, consider delegating or outsourcing your daily operations outside the business to focus on yourself, healing, and your new baby.
10. Prioritize Yourself First
Your business will always be there, but you have the choice of returning as the cliche exhausted mom who never has time for herself or as a mother who has dedicated time to self-care and family. This transition is crucial for you and your family. Without your leadership, neither the business nor your household will thrive. Take care of yourself and ask for the support you need.
Sustaining and growing your business while stepping away is entirely possible. Use this time to show yourself that it's possible, allowing you to navigate business and motherhood without feeling constantly pulled in different directions. This opportunity ensures your business is set up for you to enjoy the life you've built and the people you love.
If you're a mom or soon-to-be mom, I encourage you to consider joining the Female Founders Inner Circle. It's a group program designed specifically for moms. Just as maternity leave plans for entrepreneurs are rare, there are very few business programs that consider the unique challenges of being a mom in business. We have the advantage of doing things differently, allowing us to pursue our entrepreneurial dreams while raising amazing humans.