So you've done it. And the process was awe-inspiring, enlightening, stressful, and painful at times; and it definitely took a toll on your body. Only it didn't take 9 months -- it took years. That's right, I’m talking about starting and growing your own business. If your process has been anything like mine, your business is your baby... your completely consuming, non-human baby. Now comes your next adventure: you are pregnant. FOR REALS this time.
Unlike for corporate 9-5'ers, the concept of the maternity leave remains a myth for the small business owner. The Field of Dreams mentality does NOT apply here: if you build it, no one is coming but YOU, girl. As an entrepreneur and now mother, the good news is your innovation, juggle skills, and ability to stomach even the most nauseating of circumstances are all going to come in really handy.
So my fellow entrepreneurs, how can we DO IT ALL? Be the mothers we always dreamed to be and keep our businesses afloat and thriving? Here's 5 things you should know about maternity leave for the small business owner.
1. A strong emotional support system continues to be the most important thing in all our universes. Despite the fact that we are all-powerful woman warriors who can rule the world, we do need help. Especially if, like me, you can't afford full time care. I am thanking friends and family in advance for future babysitting with lots of quality time spent together. I found great success in repayment via wine. Lots of wine.
2. You need YOU TIME. That's not an oxymoron, and it's seriously important that health and well-being remain at the top of your to-do list. Exercising, eating right, and prioritizing our personal relationships fuel our engines projecting us upwards and onwards. In his podcast, Tim Ferriss (author of the 4 Hour Work Week, which I HIGHLY recommend) isolates the tactics and routines of the world's most successful people: mediation, balanced diet, reading, and strategic time management are common denominators for these "world-class performers." We must first take care of ourselves to give fully to others. I am resisting the airplane breathing device metaphor… You’re welcome. Carve out time for you, and treat it like (rose) gold.
3. Be realistic and honest with your clients and customers. As I’m still waiting for baby’s arrival, I am completely OCD about responding almost immediately to texts and emails. But on the rare occasion I haven't been able to respond (illness or out of town), I have always been in awe of how respectful and receptive my clients were to my honesty about my ability to deliver: "Thanks so much for your email. I can have that proposal for you by the end of the week." And so, deep breath, communicating the reality of our circumstances and expressing deliverable timelines to our clients that you can confidently achieve will be essential.
4. Start planning and budgeting for assistance with the business, now. Time is not on our side. We will have less of it; this is a fact. I’m extremely fortunate to have two amazing bookers working tirelessly for my company, Quench Staffing, who I could not live without -- baby or no baby. We have to come to terms with the fact that our priorities and responsibilities are evolving; answering emails comes second to keeping our little people happy and healthy. But the business must go on, and answering emails in a timely manner continues to be essential to a thriving business. While your bun is still in the oven, start budgeting, interviewing and training your new best friend. If after balancing your books and wrestling with your numbers you determine you can simply not afford any additional assistance, see my suggested next step.
5. Technology can help you. So, here's my challenge to you: How virtual can you make your business? Here are my tips:
- Update your website. What can you automate via a website that will lessen your workload? For example, last year we worked with our wonderful web designer on creating an event submission form that can be filled out completely online answering all the event questions. This saves time, avoiding typing out emails to our clients individually.
- Create an accessible online storage system. We use Egynte, Dropbox, and Vimeo to store our signed contracts, event pictures and videos, training manuals, etc. Organize your business in the virtual databases as much as possible before D-Day.
- Boomerang your emails. This is a gmail feature that gives you control on when you send and receive emails, and it creates automatic reminders. You can operate it right from your gmail account. Mommy-brain be gone.
- Just Wrike it. An extremely comprehensive online project management software. It is definitely complicated; to be honest, I am still learning how to use it after an embarrassing amount of tutorials. But once I can find my footing with the program, I am confident it will save my company from detangling a spider web of emails and project us into new age of organization. This includes automatic reports, custom workflows, time-tracking and proofing software to name a few valuable features.
- Create a virtual secretary system with Zirtual + Calendly. Zirtual is a virtual assistant program for busy people (that's you) making it easy to schedule meetings, pay bills and plan travel. Calendly is a simple calendar system to schedule appointments, interviews, calls, etc. Both Zirtual and Calendly require paid memberships, so explore the trial period to make sure it fits your business.
And there we have it. I am riding this wave with you surfer mamas. My husband and I are expecting our little bundle to arrive February 22nd, 2016. On this next great adventure, I wish for you what I can only hope for myself: that our greatest successes are yet to come and that we may be fully present for the joy-filled challenges the future holds.
Photography by Stylish & Hip Kids for Well Rounded.