Preparing For Maternity Leave As A Business Owner

By Ange

I used to think being pregnant over a 9 month period would seem like forever… boy, how quickly time flies. 

It’s crazy to think that in a few weeks baby Drake will make his entrance into the world and we will be embarking on our next big adventure as new parents.

If you’ve followed our journey you may know that falling pregnant has been something we’ve been working on for the last 2-3 years. In this time we have definitely let life happen. 

I quit my full time role as a secondary PE teacher and head of department and hubby left his 9-5 to become a highly sought after travel writer, photographer and content creator.

If you are in the midst of your own fertility issues, or the baby making journey is taking longer than anticipated or are still in the throws of a successful pregnancy test, hang in there. 

The timing of life has been quite remarkable for Jeremy and I and while at the time, failed pregnancies and fertility treatments were difficult, getting ready to step back from 23W now that we are more established with an incredible membership base, reliable and experienced staff and systems, makes me so excited to move into this next space in life. This is now a time filled with excitement and joy rather than the stress that comes with the uncertainty of a new business.

I decided to write this blog because one of the most common questions I have been asked over the last 9 months is “what do I plan to do with the business when I go on maternity leave?”

Honestly, I am still taken back when I hear this. When the answer is so simple in my head, “business will be as usual, we will continue to thrive and grow and I will give 23W everything I can”.

But on further contemplation, I know that taking ‘maternity leave’ when you are a leading lady in your own business is not that simple. You can’t simply pick a date to ‘stop work’, turn on your out-of-office email and tune out! In my experience, it is about developing a strategy and a plan to allow you to find distance from the day-to-day tasks and time to look after your precious little bubba, while being able to ensure you can keep the lights on, pay staff and ensure the quality of your service remains unchanged.

Here are five key ways I planned out my maternity leave to ensure I was ready to move into this next exciting chapter of motherhood.

1. Mapping out time and refining systems

When we fell pregnant, the first step I took was to map out the rest of year and review our systems. I also recognised that taking a week away in July and then in September would give me a great chance to find distance between me and the gym, do some deep planning and see how the business functions whilst I was gone. 

In some ways these were my ‘warm ups’ to getting ready to be away for a 6 + week duration. I then mapped out the year, with key dates such as challenges, times of big enrolments, time to develop campaigns and what essential business development needed to take place to help overall efficiency and growth. A big part of this was to see our overall revenue increase, but to do so we needed to acquire additional rental space to grow the physical size of the gym. 

Fortunately, this was well timed in late August when we took over the lease next door and had the studio ready for an October competition. The redevelopment of Studio ‘B’ required a significant investment of funds, but also meant that our overall membership capacity could increase for the following year and also allow us to support more hours for our personal trainers and staff. 

In reviewing systems, every good business needs them!

When I first started my business, I was told early about the importance of developing systems and processes which are the essential building blocks that underpin everything that you do. I was recommended an amazing book ‘Built to Sell: Creating a business that can thrive without you’ by John Warrillow and whilst I have no intention of selling 23W, it helped me to establish a business that is not over reliant on me. We now have systems for most processes in the gym, from how the studio is cleaned, new member acquisitions and on-boarding. 

2. Vision and Planning

The next step was to consider what my perfect year would look like in 2020. Moving away from full time teaching in 2018, always meant forfeiting my 3-months of paid leave (plus government assistance) and the standard 1 full year away from work that most teachers might take. I needed to be honest within my personal context and envision what I want my ‘time off’ to look like. 

As a self confessed work-a-holic with a genuine love of our 23W community and every single woman that walks through the door, I know I will be eager to return back to the client facing  aspect of what we do sooner rather than later, but I also know that I am also eager to fully step into my role and life as a mum, be able to have the needed downtime with my new baby to bond and not be pressured to return before I feel ready.

My vision was to be able to work up to 38 weeks, have our baby in early March, plan for 2 months off from face-to-face operations around the studio and be ready to return on a few hours per day in May (depending on baby and papa Drake’s schedule). During this time I plan on overseeing invoicing, payments and staffing and have trained staff to be able take on other important back end tasks such as clients check-ins and new lead follow ups and calls.

Following May, we have mapped out staff leave and holidays and I will hopefully be able to settle back into the day to day operations with more hours around the studio and be on board to get our winter challenge launched in July.

3. Get Organised and Plan Ahead

Once the year was mapped out, it was time to get organised! This included creating our 2020 periodised macro training plan and micro training plans from January-April. This has given myself and the 23W staff enough time to review plans, make adaptations and be ready to facilitate the strength progression we are renowned for.

Further, we want to be able to continue to publish and create relevant blogs, e-books and content for our members and followers and I’ve devoted planning time to write new blog posts and film new videos to be shared while I am on leave.

4. Automate, simplify and outsource

These three elements are critical in keeping the time managing the back end of 23W to a minimum. We are able to automate email communication, lead generation systems as well as Facebook and IG posts. This helps us to continue sharing the amazing work we are doing in the wider community and ensure our brand is being heard and represented.

Secondly, I often ask myself “How can I make things simpler?” 

The 23W of today is a very different business than what it was when we had 6 group classes and 12 clients.

Lastly, outsourcing of our marketing, cleaning, repairs and design work means that I can find more time in my day for other important jobs.

5. The value of good staff!

I am so proud of the 23W team and am always looking for ways to help them feel empowered and valued! 

When looking for the right staff, when hiring, I knew finding women who wanted to grow with 23W was just as important as finding trainers who are approachable, friendly and have a genuine passion, drive and enthusiasm for working with others.  

In the months leading up to mat leave we have been more connected through weekly team meetings, emails and coffee catch ups then we have ever been before. We will continue meeting weekly while I am on leave to ensure our community continues to hum, although I am sure they will be most looking forward to newborn cuddles!

It takes 9 months…

I am under no illusion that our little world is about to be rocked by the most amazing new arrival, and there will be no doubt business related tasks that will need my attention at different times. I am hoping my vision, passion, plan and organisation over the last 9 months and beyond will put me in a good place to be a mindful mum alongside a successful business owner at the same time. 

But I guess only time will tell!

If you have recently stepped into maternity leave as a business owner, I would love to hear your tips and tricks too! Feel free to reach out over Instagram @ange_drake or email [email protected]

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Our founder

Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.

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