Maternity leave while running your own business? Heather Baker shares her story

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Gal Godot makes a great Wonder Woman – she fights injustice, brandishes a shield, falls in love and saves the day. She may just be a comic book character brought to life on the big screen, but her ambitious to-do list resonates with many women today.

However, accepting your inner Wonder Woman isn’t easy. Successfully managing the enormous burden of life requires changing priorities and, most importantly, seeking help. As a small business owner and former workaholic who had my first child last September, I understand that. Now I know that in order to have it all, you cannot do it all. Here’s what I’ve been focusing on so that childbirth doesn’t hit my business.

Engage your entire team

Having a baby is both exciting and devastating—a bit like onboarding a new client. With this in mind, I approached the maternity leave as a kick-off meeting with a new client: I did a lot of research, set tasks and involved the entire TopLine team in the work.

I used to have problems with task delegation. However, as maternity leave approached, I knew I had to educate my employees thoroughly and hand them as much responsibility as possible. It’s hard for a committed workaholic to let go of control, but you need to educate your employees so they feel prepared and confident in your absence.

Take the time to help improve their skills. In order for your team to take on more management work, your guidance and advice will be needed. Set up weekly meetings to update them on clients and projects and check on their progress. Encourage feedback and ask them where they see potential problems.

Ensuring a smooth transition

The devil is in the details. When it comes to ensuring business continuity, there are no secondary tasks. Make a list of all operational activities that need to be performed on a regular basis, and then delegate responsibility so that nothing goes unnoticed while you are away. By creating an extensive list, you can easily plan and, most importantly, prevent all unforeseen circumstances.

For example, who will sign the payroll? If the site goes down, whose work will be sorted out? Make sure those in charge have the usernames and passwords they need to get the job done. And if they run into something seemingly insurmountable, implement an emergency process to keep downtime to a minimum.

stay in touch

Maternity leave may feel like another planet, but there is no need to completely disappear. Have a communication plan so that your entire team knows when and how to contact you. You don’t want to be bombarded with emails and calls at any time of the day, so designate one or two employees as points of contact with you. A weekly round-up email also helps relieve stress for both you and your team.

However, be strict and limit yourself to responding to only the most important business decisions, such as company finances. Don’t lose control of your business’s cash flow for a second: I put in place systems that keep me up to date and auto-tuning.

Notify customers

In addition to preparing your team and appointing an operational administrator, you need to inform your clients months in advance. They won’t like to find out about it at 11th hour – you need to give them time to get used to the idea that you will not be available for some time. Allowing enough time gives customers the opportunity to personally contact you and resolve any issues they may have. It also gives you enough time to introduce them to their new senior contact and help develop that relationship.

Instead of panicking at the thought of what you don’t know, take your distance. Use your maternity leave to think about the overall mission and direction of your business. Taking a step back can be extremely helpful: it allows you to discover what needs attention and understand where and why the company is doing well.

I’ve been at the helm again for ten months now. The business survived without me! There was no need to put out fires, old customers are happy, and new ones are knocking. Of course, life changes significantly with the advent of a child. I manage to combine motherhood with work thanks to the great help of my team. Remember that even Wonder Woman didn’t save the world alone.

Heather Baker is the founder and CEO of TopLine Comms, b2b PR agency are obsessed with finding leads for their clients. She is also the mom of an 18 month old and the coolest in London. office dog.