Are you wondering how you can keep your business running while you take time off to have a baby? Maybe you’re pregnant now or wanting to have a baby or looking to adopt and want to understand what goes into keeping your business running without you.
Every pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience is different… for each and every parent and also for each and every child. The needs of your agency are also different from other agencies. In this episode, Nicole will give you questions to consider to make a plan that works for YOU. She’ll also share examples of her personal experience having her first baby and what she’s changing up now that she’s pregnant with her second.
Join the Agency Accelerator to revamp your Agency Foundations before implementing your parental leave plan! This will ensure that your business is set up to have a team deliver client work and manage your business while you’re out! Our next round starts in April, but there are some special bonuses you get when you sign up early. Check it out here!
Hey everyone. Nicole here and welcome back to the show. Today we’re talking about how to baby proof your service-based business, and this is actually great timing because I am currently 36 weeks pregnant with my second baby. And I’ve been through this once before owning a business and having a baby, and now I’m about to go through it again.
I also support lots of clients who sign up to work with me because they either want to get pregnant or are already pregnant, and know that they need to make some adjustments in their business in order to be able to take off maternity leave to be able to be with their baby postpartum. And so today I wanna walk you through what I think is an ideal strategy for baby proofing your business, and then what to do as it gets closer based on actual reality.
The first thing to know is that every pregnancy, every birth, every postpartum period, it is different. It is different for each and every person. It’s different per child, and so, While I’m going to be sharing with you some of the steps that can be really helpful, I think it’s important to go into this knowing that you are very likely going to have to be flexible, that things are going to change. And the great thing about this is that this is a skill that you need to have as an entrepreneur anyway. And so you’re just going to be applying the same skill that you’ve already been using inside of your business to preparing to have a baby and continue to keep your business running.
Let’s dive into some things to consider as you’re thinking about what your parental leave is going to look like while you have your baby.
The first thing that I want you to look at is your projections. It’s really helpful to know where you are at financially in order to know what activities need to happen before, during, and after your leave.
So some things to look at: Are you planning to maintain your current client workload? So for example, if you have a service where people operate in a monthly retainer, perhaps they’re signed on to four or six or 12 month packages. Is your goal really to maintain the business that you have right now?
And you know, if you happen to get a new client or a new interest, that’s great, but really financially, you’re looking to maintain what you already have, or are you in a place where you are going to need to continue to bring on more clients and increase your revenue? This happens a lot when people have more project-based offerings.
And so it’s good to know what things will need to be set up in advance, what sales activities and marketing activities you’ll need to do beforehand and then during so that you make sure that you set up the right support while you are away. . You also should take a look at your personal financials. What are your needs during your leave?
Are you planning to pay yourself the same salary that you pay yourself currently during your leave? Are you planning to reduce it? Do you have a. Certain goals. So let’s say there’s a baseline goal of what it would take to maintain your expenses and then even a stretch goal for yourself that you would love to be able to hit while you’re out.
Really understanding what does it look like personally for you, and knowing that there’s not a one size fits all answer to this. One of the things that I love about one of our guest experts inside of my agency program, Specifically designed to get agency owners out of at least 50 to 90% of client delivery in a year or less.
We have a financial expert come in. Her name is Amy Bradbury. She’s been on this podcast before. I’ve talked about her a bunch. And she really helps business owners understand like what are their needs? And there’s really no right or wrong. Everyone’s looks different based on what you enjoy, what you prioritize.
And so understanding what it is for you on the personal side and knowing that there’s no wrong answer and there’s no judgment around what that might be. So understanding. What does your business projection projections look like financially? And what is your personal financial needs while you are on leave?
And then I’d like people to take a look at their current business operations. So does your business rely heavily on you in any of these three areas? So marketing, sales, and delivery. , what does your involvement look like right now? Because that’s going to determine what’s going to need to happen and how much change is going to need to happen once you remove yourself from your business for a certain amount of time.
And so when it comes to business operations, and this is why people, a lot of people who are expecting sign up for the AGENCY program or if they’re thinking about it, sign up because they really wanna be able to streamline what they have.
And so this is where we really figure out, okay let’s take a step back… let’s take a look at the operations. Let’s take a look at your offerings and your delivery process and your financials. How can we make your offerings more scalable? How can we make your delivery process more efficient and streamlined, and what do we need to do in terms of pricing and paying for your expenses and the people who are delivering the work to make this work for you?
And so really gauging how involved you are right now is going to determine how much work needs to be done ahead of time. And if you are right now very involved in client work, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s impossible or that you need a year to put everything into place to make your agency a perfect agency because that’s really, A. Perfection is unattainable.
But also there may be other strategies that you can implement to make it work in the short term while still setting up a really solid foundation to be able to continue to grow your agency. And that’s something I work with my clients on a lot inside of my programs.
So also, the last thing I want you to consider is how long do you wanna take off knowing that this might change, and that’s okay. So it doesn’t, it also doesn’t have to be like permanently off.
For example, with my first baby I decided to take 60 days totally off from client calls, communication marketing, everything. And then the following month so the two months passed and then I started joining group calls again for my clients. And then I started taking one-on-one calls. At the time I was offering one-on-one type of support, and then I added back in sales calls, and then I slowly got back into marketing.
So while I was really. Fully off for eight weeks. It wasn’t like at week eight or nine I jumped in and started doing everything that I had been doing originally. I really decided to transition slowly, which was incredibly helpful.
And so I think this is another area that can be good to consider for yourself is: how long would you wanna take off and then where might you be able to slowly transition in so that again, it’s not immediate and all like dumping on your plate right after those two months.
Because from my personal experience, two months was not enough time to be able to come back and do everything fully to my full capacity. It just wasn’t enough time. My son had several challenges when it came to feeding, when it came to reflux. And so I was really glad that I did have the support in place that I had at the time from having consultants and coaches in to support having a salesperson who was willing to stay on for a few weeks longer, and just being able to have that flexibility. And sometimes that’s not accessible to everyone, depending on where you are in your business and how things are working, and I can talk to you a little bit about how I’m planning a little bit differently for this pregnancy based on some things that I’ve learned, but also where my business is right now, which is in a different place than where it was back then.
And so while I’m still utilizing the same framework and asking myself these same questions, things look a little bit different. And so we’re gonna get into that in just a minute.
Okay. So to recap:
Take a look at your business projections. What needs to happen financially before, during, and after?
Take a look at your personal financials. What do you plan on paying yourself while you are out?
Take a look at your business operations. How involved are you and really figuring out how much work needs to go into and how much work you’re able to get done before your maternity leave. And based on that, make some adjustments. And I’m gonna teach you a strategy about that in just a little bit.
And then deciding, approximately how long my, I wa, my I wanna take off. Maybe if I do come back, what type of capacity could I come back in? And what could be a really nice transition plan for me?
So that’s just information to gather before really stepping in and creating a plan for yourself. So when it comes to actually creating the plan of what you wanna implement to be able to take that time off, there’s two area. That I typically divide the business into.
We have marketing and sales, which is, bringing leads into the business. Really nurturing our audience, still connecting and maintaining relationships.
Selling people into our services, and we’re gonna talk a little bit about what that looks like based on your business and what your needs are while you’re away.
And then it’s the delivery portion and how are you going to continue to deliver for clients while you’re out?
So let’s first talk about your marketing. If you have a consistent marketing plan in place right now where every week you create a specific piece of content and it’s repurposed it will be a little bit easier for you to figure out how much of that can be batched ahead of time for you to be able to not have to create that content while you are away.
For example, with my son, every week I would release a podcast episode, I would have a newsletter, and then we had certain Instagram posts that would go out promoting the podcast. And my newsletter actually at that time also promoted the podcast.
So I knew that I had to create I think, I mean, we really batched for that one. I think I created about four months worth of podcast episodes. What I realized halfway into recording those episodes was that even though I had a really great team in place, so I was working with a podcast production company, I also had my business manager who acted as a marketing manager in addition to her other responsibilities, it still was too much.
So what we ended up doing was I had a bunch of lives that I was doing on Instagram and we ended up downloading them and then repurposing them as podcast episodes. So that’s one way I was able to get four months done.
And the second piece of that was actually having that team in place to be able to do it for me. Now that team came at a cost. I think I was paying about $13,000 a year for the podcast production company, and then I had my business manager in place, she’s a part-time employee, and so I was paying her a portion of her salary to do that. So I wanna be really honest and upfront with you about that because my situation right now with baby number two is quite different. I’m not working with a podcast production agency right now based on where my business is and where cash is going in my business. And I’m working just differently this time. And so I am not as ahead of schedule. I’m 36 weeks pregnant and I am probably about three to four weeks ahead right now on the podcast, but I’m doing a lot of the work myself.
And I think it’s sometimes easy to compare yourself, either if you’ve already had a baby to what happened before if you thought your situation was ideal or to other people. I would share with people that I had content batch for four months and they’d be like, “oh my gosh, how are you doing it?”
And it’s part of it is in the planning and is in actual strategy of how we’re putting this together and doing it ahead of time. And we were planning for this months ahead of time. But the other part of it was I was paying for the support and it was amazing. It was great support, but my business is in a different place right now, so we’re doing things differently.
And I think that’s the most important thing to, even if you’ve started implementing a plan for leave and then realize you have to change and pivot halfway through, that it’s okay.
And that there’s always a creative solution. And that’s where it’s so helpful to be inside of a community and have a really good network of people to talk through different ideas. Because I think sometimes it’s very easy to get stuck in just doing things the way you’ve always done them and just like really trying to grind and get it done.
And one thing I learned in this pregnancy is, “Oh, mama’s tired.” I am exhausted and so there’s going to be some days where I can, create. Maybe a few weeks worth of content and there’s gonna be other days where I can’t do anything and just giving myself a lot of grace with that. And that’s really good practice I know too, for once the baby is born, because it’s a similar situation, so just giving yourself a lot of grace around this.
So my plan now is, okay, I would love to have content continue to be produced and continue to be published while I’m away. Right now my plan is I’m just going to keep batching and hoping I get through three months worth of content. But if the baby comes three weeks early, then I’m not gonna finish up.
I do have some additional admin and marketing support during my leave. So my plan is to do as much as I can that nobody else can do. So I’m recording the episodes. I myself am editing and creating the show notes, but then I know that the person who’s coming in to support me in an additional capacity while I’m out, will be able to do the rest of the process.
Right. So really breaking it down into phases and, if I continue to go to 40 weeks, then I may continue to be able to preschedule content and maybe I don’t need that additional support, but I’m being very realistic to say, okay, if I were to go out next week or the week after, What would things look like? And at least maybe can I get to a place where I could pass off the rest of this work? Okay.
So for sales now in terms of what you need for sales support, it depends on what we were talking about before with the financial projections. If you are someone who wants to maintain the current client base that you already have or if you’re someone that needs to continue to bring in new clients.
Now, obviously this depends on your offerings, it depends on your current sales process. If you most of the agency owners I work with do have sales calls there’s a few options here.
If you do either need or have the desire to want support when it comes to bringing in new clients and you’re in a position to do so, then you can always bring in a salesperson that can help and support you with sales. I did this for my first baby and I paid the salesperson a commission. She was also doing some other work inside of my business, so she was also getting compensated in other ways. And this worked really well for her based and for me, based on the amount of calls we had coming through at the time and what our needs were.
So my goal during my last pregnancy was to maintain my current client load and it was like ” great!” if somebody else wanted to come and have a sales call, but it wasn’t it wasn’t something that I needed financially to happen in order to keep the business running.
So for this pregnancy, I’m doing something similar where I am having someone come in to support the sales calls and she’s someone who’s a guest expert inside of the program. She’s somebody who has been on my podcast. I’ve helped her with her agency. So it’s such a great fit. And my goal this year, and I share this on Instagram, is how can I continue to expand during this time period?
And it doesn’t necessarily mean maternity leave or leave specifically, but it can also be just postpartum and throughout the rest of the year, during my first pregnancy, I just felt like I wanted, I felt really called to focus in on my current clients, on my, like everything that was already established and not spend a ton of time on growth.
And honestly, after having the baby, I just didn’t have a lot of capacity to be able to do that based on some of the health challenges that he had. And limited amount of sleep that I was getting but for this pregnancy, and we’ll see how it goes. I really don’t know. And so I am very unattached.
But I am challenging myself to think a little bit differently, which is why I wanted to have somebody who could support sales conversations while I’m away. Because we do have some great ways that we support clients. Everything is set up to be able to continue to support people even while I’m out.
We can ha I know confidently we can enroll new clients inside of agency and they would get the same great experience. And then we also have our accelerator program, which is coming up in April. That we can invite people into as well. So I know there’s some really good opportunities there and I know there’s people out there that need the support.
And so I’m really excited to see to see what happens. Not everyone needs to have a sales person. Let’s say your goal is to maintain your current client workload, maybe. You just, you’ve tried to find a salesperson and haven’t but you’re not really relying on those new sales, you could also have a funnel where people apply and they join a wait list, or I had one client who was off of sales calls for two months, and then if people were applying, she would find some really creative ways to connect with them that wasn’t through an actual scheduled call, but through email and video and just to make it a little bit more creative.
And so what I invite you to do here if you, I mean you should do this anyway actually, but especially if you’re planning to take some time off, is how can you streamline the sales process so that you’re only getting on calls with people who are extremely qualified?
What’s some of the work that you could do beforehand to make sure that’s the case so that time that you are spending is really on someone who is a great match for your company and they really just need to get on a call to connect with you or your salesperson.
And then another thing too, if you are looking to bring in sales while you are out and you’re looking for a creative way to do this, is that maybe you don’t sell all of your services. Maybe there’s one service that you have that’s more streamlined and scalable and super easy to deliver. Maybe that’s the only offer that you sell while you’re away. And then if people do come and want some of your bigger packages, whatever they look like, they could be pre-booked for when you are back. They could put down a deposit, they could join a wait list, whatever that looks like, right? That way you’re still accepting new clients in, but you aren’t setting up your entire business while you’re away and taking on a lot of expense to be able to deliver for those clients.
So for, let’s now talk about delivery. We talked about marketing, we talked about sales. Now let’s talk about delivery. So there’s two things I like to look at here.
The first is what needs to be in place to maintain your current clients? And this is the most important piece. And then if you are somebody who is bringing, is planning to bring on new business. What needs to happen and be in place to onboard new clients and then also maintain those new clients.
This is going to vary depending on what your business offering is. It’s going to vary based on your team configuration, your offerings, but this is generally some things to think about to prep both your team and your clients for you to be away.
So first, actually, let’s talk about team, because sometimes people feel like they need to hire in team before they can take some time off. And this depends on how long you have and how well your business foundations are set up.
So business foundations, and you can find a lot of about this inside of the podcast. I’ve talked about it before. Are to make sure that you are working with ideal clients, to make sure that your offerings are scalable, that your delivery process is streamlined, and that your financials are in order to be able to support team.
Sometimes people feel like they need to hire in a bunch of support and they do that, and then they realized that their business is based on old foundations. And so then the financials don’t end up working. The delivery process doesn’t end up working for this new team member and it doesn’t end up working out and that’s not something that you really wanna deal with when you’re out on maternity leave.
So if you are in a position maybe you are planning for leave or are looking to get pregnant or adopt or whatever. I highly recommend that you focus in on your agency foundations no matter where you are.
And I offer my AGENCY Accelerator program for just this. We are starting that program up again. We only offer it a few times a year. The next time we’re offering it is the week of April 17th, 2023. And it’s a 60 day program where we go through and we focus in on those foundations before you continue to grow.
Because if you don’t update your foundations, it’s like building a five bedroom home on a one bedroom foundation. It’s not going to work. And a lot of agency owners have not updated those foundations to support the team configuration that they have now or that they are wanting to build.
And so that’s first and foremost before hiring in new people, before doing all of that. And so let’s say your foundations are in a good place, that you have the team that’s there to support you. You’ve delegated a lot of client delivery, if not all of client delivery. What needs to happen?
The first thing is to really walk through each and every client, and we’re talking about maintaining your current client. So walk through each and every client with your team and see what needs to happen over the next three months. And you could do this maybe a month before, a month or maybe a month or two, just to be safe before you’re due. Of what does it look like? What does our work look like with these clients over the next four to six months?
What projects are coming up? What’s the expectations that are going to be in place? What are their needs going to be? And then taking a look to see where are you still involved in that process, and then spending the rest of your time prepping your team and training your team to be able to take over that work while you are away, while also continuing to do their jobs really well.
And so if you have team that’s in place that’s already prepared and ready to do this, maybe they just haven’t taken it on fully. That’s one thing. If you’re seeing that you have some gaps, that’s where it might be really helpful to start the hiring process. My advice, though is to hire in advance of when you’re going out.
If you can get somebody in three months ahead of time, that’s probably the most ideal because then you have time to onboard them properly, train them properly, they can work with clients, and you can be there to really make sure that they’re set up for success and doing a great job and getting feedback. And so that would be ideal at a minimum.
And then going through each of those client projects and. If you don’t have a manager on your team that’s responsible for this or a leadership role in your team that’s responsible for this, you’re going to be doing it. If you do have someone. You can direct them to do some of this work as well.
So what are the projects that are coming up? What’s the workload that’s coming up over the next four to six months? Really anticipate challenges and then figure out like what are some answers to some challenges that might come up and options. So almost like running worst case scenario.
It’s like, okay, based on what we know about this client, here are some things that could pop up and where things might not follow our process completely. And really prepping your team and giving them options, and even having them come up with some options too. And then also, depending on your level of involvement with your clients, you can also include them in the communication process.
Letting them know that you’re going to be out. If you’re not involved in client work, you really don’t need to do a whole lot of this. It’s going to be more internal. But if you are very present inside of their business, it’s important for you to let them know what’s happening, what the transition plan is, what you’re doing to prep the team, and then, really run it past them. Get your clients more familiar with your team, and you can start to remove yourself from work at least a month before. And have your team take over so that you can be monitoring behind the scenes, giving feedback, making sure things are flowing smoothly. If there’s a challenge that comes up, allow your team to address the challenge, and then you can give feedback and advice, but you’re more of a consultant for your team than you are an actual part of the management and implementation.
And then in terms of what needs to be in place to onboard a new client and maintain a new client, this is where having your delivery processes in place and making sure your team is aware of what happens with a new client. So let’s say you are only going to be offering one specific package while you are away.
Really getting that package into a place where it is streamlined, it’s efficient, it’s in the project management tool. You can even go through a fake scenario of having your team onboard a new client in, maybe you’ll have a new client and they can actually do it themselves and you can make sure everything is set up and you can really walk them through the delivery process, which should be similar to what they’ve been doing before.
And then anything that needs to happen with wrap. Okay. So those are the main points to consider as you are planning to be out. Whether it be for, parental leave or whether it be for a long-term vacation.
And it’s really thinking about it in terms of what do I need to do when it comes to marketing and sales? What do I need to do when it comes to delivery?
And I had mentioned earlier when we were first started that. We tend to have this ideal scenario of what it’s gonna look like to be on leave or to take time off. That things are gonna be running smoothly, that I’ll have five months of content batch that my team will have fully taken over all of the client work.
The reality of the situation is that things might change. And it might not happen. It might not happen exactly how you’ve had it laid out. It probably won’t. And so this is where again, you wanna utilize that skill that you’ve been developing as a small business owner of how to come up with creative solutions and pivot when things happen.
And sometimes this can be easier said than done because this is our business. This is something. Especially if you’ve been involved in client work, it can feel quite personal. So really being in a supportive community, whether that be a peer group or whether that be a program, this is something that we talk a lot about inside of my program AGENCY. We’ve had a few a few moms go out, maternity leave, come back and really lean on each other for that support. Because it is very difficult to see other options when you are so in it. And especially if you’re starting to get sleep deprived, and just managing something new, whether this be your first kid or your fifth every dynamic is different and things change.
One other thing that I wanted to mention, and I’ve talked about this strategy before, is… as you’re getting closer, if you’re finding we’re just not quite getting there, instead of pushing yourself to your absolute limit, which your limits are going to change as you get later and later into your pregnancy… It’s the D strategy.
What is it on this list of things that I need to do that I could delete? What is just not gonna happen? In an ideal world, it was going to happen, but it’s not gonna happen anymore. What can I just get rid of?
What could I delay? What doesn’t actually need to happen right now? Going back to what I was talking about when it came to marketing. I was trying to get all of these podcast episodes done and the social media scheduled and everything, and what I realized is that if I could just get part one done, then I could delay the second part. Or lastly, I could delegate the second part of.
So what could I delete? What could I delay? What could I delegate? What are the most? And so prioritization is the most important thing. And thinking about, okay. , I can only get one thing done before I’m out. What is it? What’s the most important thing for me to get done? And then C, how does the next day feel? What does the next day look like? Okay, if I could just get one thing done, what would it be? And continuing to operate that way can be really supportive as well.
The last thing that I wanna mentioned, and I think I’ve said this three times, so this is really the last thing I wanna mention is decision making.
Sometimes when you are leaving the business, the biggest thing that you are letting go of is the ability to make decisions for your company. You may or may not have people on your team that are capable of making or have been trained in making executive decisions. If you have a manager or different leadership roles in place that can make those executive decisions, then really giving them more information on how you want them to make decisions can be really helpful.
For example, if you wanna run some scenarios what happens if a client isn’t happy? Who’s responsible? When are they to release a client and when are they to keep the client and try and work with them more? What’s that deciding factor? What will it do financially? What are some of the things that they need to keep in mind in order to make these decisions?
What if a team member isn’t performing well? What is your manager supposed to do? Who’s responsible for that? How is that supposed to be handled? And thinking about that, it can also be really helpful to have some backup in place if you have a particular team member that you’re a little iffy on. Who could stand in if you can’t rely on that team member anymore.
What happens if you have an influx of clients while you’re away? How does your team make decisions around that? So if you have a leadership team in place, this is something that you can start training them on what to do in these certain scenarios and how to make these decisions, and you’re not going to be able to predict every single decision that they need to make, but you can give them some guidelines.
So what, at the end of the day, what’s important? Simply what’s important and what’s not important. So that they have, again, those parameters to make those decisions.
And if you don’t have a leadership team in place, it’s okay. You may have people inside of your network that know your business really well, that you could hire in as a consultant to be able to make those decisions while you are out.
For example, if you have an accountant that you use that knows your business really well, that knows your team, that knows your client base, and there are some situations that come up when it comes to releasing a client or bringing in new clients like that could be a great person that your team could go to just like run something by them and it’s not you, and trust their decision making process. So maybe it’s not exactly what you would do, but it would be really close to it.
So who are those people that you could bring in that could help support your team if they haven’t been trained, or maybe it’s not in their role at all, to be able to make some of those executive decisions?
All right. We talked through a lot today. This was a little bit more of a masterclass than it was a podcast episode, but there was a lot to cover and there’s a lot that goes into this.
To recap, take a look at where your business is right now. Take a look at your company projections. Take a look at your personal projections and what your needs are and don’t compare your needs to somebody else’s. Your situation’s going to be totally different.
Take a look at your business operations. Think about how much time you actually want to take off, and then when it comes to actually creating a strategy, create a strategy for your marketing and sales based on what your needs are, and create a strategy for your delivery based on where you’re at right now in terms of delegating client delivery.
And then don’t be afraid to run those “what if” scenarios? Sometimes I know this, especially for my first pregnancy, I just, I was very. Oh gosh. I was like very vulnerable when it came to thinking about anything negative or that anything bad might happen. I like needed to be very positive and not just with my business, but also with the birth. And it was really important for me. And that’s fine. No judgment. But I do think that it can be really helpful to run these scenarios of ” What’s the worst case thing that’s gonna happen? And then what are we gonna do if that happens?” And be able to do that with your team because they’re, they know your clients really well too, and really get on the same page so that you’re setting them up for success and then the decision making piece of it.
So if you have a leadership team really prepping them to be able to make some of those executive decisions while you are out. If you don’t have team members that can do that, thinking about your network and who they could call on to be able to give them some guidance to be able to make those decisions for you.
All right, everyone, that’s what I have. If you have any questions around this, please reach out. You can DM me on Instagram, although at the time that this is going live, I might have a newborn, so we’ll see how quick I am to respond. You can also always email firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a great team there and would be happy to get back to you there as well.
I will see ya next week. Bye.