How I'm Planning for Maternity Leave
Your Biggest Vision
Season 3, Ep. 37

I am officially on maternity leave and in this episode, I am sharing how I planned to do it as an online business owner and first time mother. If you have been following along for our maternity series, you have heard me interview other online business owner Mom’s share their insights and advice on taking time off in your business. In this episode, I share how I plan to do it and whether you are expecting or not, this episode will help you learn how to take time off while still keeping the operations running smoothly.


Tune in to hear:


  • How I planned my maternity leave prior to welcoming my baby boy into the world 


  • Why I think everyone should set up a self sustaining business regardless of whether or not you are expecting


  • How to prevent bottlenecking your own growth and grant yourself more freedom

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I am officially on maternity leave! In this episode, I am sharing how I planned to do it as an online business owner and first time mother.

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Leah Gervais maternity leave

Episode Transcription

Leah Gervais: These visionaries. Welcome back to the show. This is Leah, and this is episode 45 of season three of the, your biggest vision show. Now, if you’ve been following along with the show and or my Instagram for the past couple of months, you know, that I’ve been open about my pregnancy and how I have been balancing or trying to balance pregnancy and entrepreneurship and running my business and preparing for a baby.


 My first baby, and one of the things we did was, uh, a series of interviews with online business owner mothers who opened up about their experience with pregnancy and entrepreneurship, as well as maternity leave and entrepreneurship and childcare and entrepreneurship. So if you are interested in this topic, then I encourage you to go listen to those episodes. If you haven’t already. And in today’s episode, I wanted to kind of have my own turn, share my own personal experience up to this point about what I am doing to prepare for maternity leave with my team and behind the scenes.


So if you have no interest in pregnancy and maternity leave, then there are so many other podcast episodes that I hope you go listen to instead and love those. However, even if you are not interested in pregnancy, not planning on getting pregnant, not at that point in your life have no desire or whatever the case may be. If this is just pregnancy is not in your wheelhouse, this episode still could be pretty useful to you. And the reason for that is because really this is about how you can take time off as an entrepreneur, where how you can make sure that your business runs without you, how you will ever have to feel like if you can’t physically be showing up for a certain amount of days or weeks or months, even the business still can maintain itself. The business can still go on and your income doesn’t need to pause just because you are not, you know, your work is pausing.


So honestly I think that this is a good episode for any entrepreneur who just wants to make sure that they’re setting up a self-sustaining business and a business that can run without them for a period of time, no matter what happens. I honestly wish this type of thing was something I could have listened to. Um, a few years ago when I went through a, you know, very personal tragedy of losing my dad, um, where I couldn’t work for a little while things were different, then I didn’t have the established business I do. Now. I didn’t have the team. I did know et cetera. But my point is, life is always going to throw curve balls at us, some pleasant, some not so pleasant. And when it does, you don’t want to feel like your business is going to be sacrificed because of life, you know, things that are just very normal in life.


So what with that, let’s go ahead and dive in. I am just going to sort of freely share, um, I kind of divided this up into different levels of how I am thinking about maternity leave. So please keep a few things in mind as we go through this specifically about the type of business model I have, uh, if this is something you want to apply to your own business model, um, because that is going to differ slightly when it comes to how to step away from that business model as the founder owner CEO, um, especially if you’re like me, where you’re kind of the face of the brand and you do a lot of personal branding for it to grow. So that’s the first thing to keep in mind is that my brand is very, it’s a personal brand. My name is the name of the brand.


Um, I am the founder of it. I am the creator of all of our programs and of the coaching methods. And, uh, most people sign up for our programs because they want to coach with me. Now, this doesn’t mean that we don’t have other coaches. And I’ll talk about that in a second, but the point is I don’t have a brand that is, um, you know, a separate name or a separate logo like it is. I am basically the brand. So that definitely is, uh, probably the most challenging part of planning to step away is just, if you are, have you created a situation or a business where you are the kind of asset almost, or that you are the, the business and what people are interested in, then you really have to be careful about how you think about stepping away and how you think about, um, balancing, you know, that your business offers things that you don’t need to physically be there for, but you do have to be aware of the fact that people are going to be looking at in to you in order to decide whether or not they want to buy from your business.


Now, the other part of my business that’s important is that we are a service based business. So we don’t sell product. We don’t sell anything, brick and mortar. We don’t sell anything hard, copy, hard product. We do do a few digital products here and there, which I can share on, but for the most part, we offer services specifically, we offer business coaching and we do this in a one-to-one capacity. I don’t any longer, but my assistant coaches do. And then we also do this in group programs and masterminds. And I am primarily in our masterminds. 


So between the three of those, and then some miscellaneous things in between, we are primarily offering a service. So this episode is going to be especially helpful to you. If you are a service provider, whether that means you are a graphic designer, a wedding planner, a coach, yourself, maybe you’re a consultant. Maybe you are a freelancer. Maybe you are a manager. Maybe you’re an online business manager. 


There’s so many different types of services you can provide. But the point is you are, uh, working with people directly. You have clients and you are providing services, which also adds somewhat of a layer of trickiness to stepping aside, because in a sense, people, this is an oversimplified way of saying if, but people do pay for your time. And so if your time is gone, how do you make sure that the business still continues going and that, you know, the things still continue turning and, and ideally, so that service is still provided. So those are the two really important things to remember when you’re hearing my experience and how we’re preparing for this. Now, all that said, I fully believe and really never worried or doubted the fact that I would still be able to step away and still keep the business running.


And as I’ve kind of alluded to this throughout this episode, this isn’t even just about maternity leave for me. This also is just a conversation that I think all service-based business owners need to have as they scale, because if you can’t step away from your business, if everything does rely on you being there in order for it to continue functioning, you are going to bottleneck your own growth because you’re only one person and you only have so many hours in the day and you only have so much you can give. And so if everything running, all the systems, continuing going on, all the income coming in is still reliant upon you being there. Then you’re going to stunt your business’s growth at some point or another, because you’re only one person. So this hasn’t really been something I’ve been overly stressed about. And with that, I think it’s important to decide as you listen to this episode, whether it’s applying to your own maternity leave or whether it’s just applying to your own next level of business, that you can step away and your business income will not drop.


I’ve talked to some people who have through completely, you know, a place of innocence asked me if I’m just going to pause my business during maternity leave. And the answer is absolutely not. Um, I, that didn’t even cross my mind. And I understand that maybe someone would assume that because they think that since my business is so service-based, and I don’t want, I can’t be delivering services in the same way. Maybe it will stop, but, but that’s not true. And I’m going to explain why that’s not true as we go through how I’m doing it, but I just want to start by saying that you definitely don’t need to pause your business. If you are the face of a service-based business, and you honestly have a duty to learn how to deliver your services in ways, other than you being the one that delivers them, because otherwise you will bottleneck your business.


You won’t be able to serve as many people. You won’t be able to help as many people. You won’t be able to grow your team as much. There’s just a huge ceiling that will be over you if it’s requiring you to be there. So when we look at how to remove me from the business for a few months here, uh, with the services still being delivered, and everything’s still being provided, there’s a few layers to start with. So the first thing that we have to start with is the internal management of our team and my role in that. So, um, I am the CEO of our team. I, I manage everyone and I, um, up to this point have been making, you know, most of the decisions that come with running a business. I’ve talked a lot about this on the podcast in the past.


It’s one of the harder parts of owning a business for me because I get decision-making fatigue. Um, but the point is that’s a different conversation. The point is I have had to make a lot of decisions to manage our team, to keep the business running, to keep the business growing, et cetera, et cetera. So I know that I need to have people in place or systems in place or structures in place that allow the necessary decisions that still need to made every day to be made, who can make those decisions when I’m not there, who can manage the team when I’m not there and who can make sure things are continuing on when I’m not there. 


So the answer for us to this question first and foremost, which is really important because if you don’t ha if you don’t address who can make decisions in your business while you’re gone, um, then you will, you know, things will just stay stagnant at best. At worst things will just not happen. But when, when conflicts arise, when issues arise, when questions arise, when wins arise, you know, it doesn’t have to be negative, but like decisions have to be made pretty quickly in order to keep things moving. So if no one’s making those things, then things are gonna stay at a standstill. So what we did is looked at our team, and this is PR this is the thing I did pretty much, right when I got pregnant. And this is something that I think I would have need


Needed to have done anyway, this year, we just were kind of at that point in business, but I really emphasized it because I knew I would be taking maternity leave. I starting to think, okay, who can make decisions for me? Who can make decisions on my behalf? Who do I trust to make those big picture and like CEO type decisions, uh, that isn’t me. And so we ended up, uh, promoting two of our team members to managerial roles, and they now are allowed to make decisions for the business on my behalf. 


Now I want to zoom in on this here, because I think that having a team is great, but unless those team members are actually in, at least in, in the beginning, it might only be one person. But if some, at least one team member is not in a position where they can be making decisions on your behalf, you’re still going to be pretty bottleneck because it’s still all going through you. It’s, you’re still kind of, uh, you know, skinny, narrow funnel that everything that needs to go in and out of the business is having to pass through.


And there’s only one of you. So it’s a really important thing. And I think that, um, not enough entrepreneurs think about that. And instead they think, okay, well, I’ll hire someone to do my social media, or I’ll hire someone to produce my podcast, or I’ll hire someone to write my blog posts. And those things are great, but you’re, you’re really just almost hiring like generators or, um, like secretaries in a sense, because you’re still having to decide, okay, what are we going to post on social media? Do I approve this? What do I want to sell on social media? What, what do I want to write on it? When do we want to post this et cetera, and same with like blog posts or you’re the one that’s going to have to think, what do we want to post about what is that going to sell to what is that going to actually do for our bottom line, et cetera.


And then you’re just essentially telling the social media coordinator or the blog, the ghost writer, or whatever, you know, job you have, what to do. It is helpful that if those things are getting taken off your plate, don’t get me wrong. But to truly scale, you want someone managing some of those other kind of like micro departments of your business, so that they’re coming to you and saying, this is what we want to sell this month. Here’s what I think we should be doing on social media. Do you approve this? And here’s what I need from you see the difference. So that has been a really big priority for us this year for really the whole year. Um, so I promoted two of my team members to managerial roles and have been working with them very closely for about six months now to get comfortable making decisions on their own.


And so the best way I believe to get to the position where people are making decisions on your behalf is honestly through time. I don’t think it’s that easy to teach someone how to think like you or to teach someone exactly the decisions you’ve made, unless you have a really clear framework of the questions you ask yourself every time before you make a decision, which, which just most of us don’t I don’t. Um, and so that’s why I promoted two of my team members instead of going and hiring someone else new. Even if someone else hired, had more experience in a COO role, let’s say, or in a customer service role, because I was more, it was more appealing to me. And I thought it was going to help me scale sooner to have people in positions that could make decisions for me, which just comes with time.


It comes with them watching me. It comes with them asking me what decisions I’ve made and why, and me talking that out with them and me being really patient with them and them being patient with me and us, just having these almost like telephone conversations of, um, why we’re choosing to do something, how we, how I thought of that and why that decision is being made. So all that is to say that the first kind of line of action for my maternity leave was making sure that I had two managerial roles that I fully trust and give permission to make decisions for me, uh, while I’m gone. And we have that. Now, one is a manager of the team, and one is a manager of the front-facing part of their business of our business, like the clients and, um, coaches and things like that. So that is what we did.


We invested in another coach coaching company that I really respect to come in and train us for six weeks. Um, we’ve had weekly calls and checks and check-ins about this, and it’s just something that we’ve really focused on. And, um, that’s worked really well. So that has, um, been a really important part. And I think the biggest, biggest, and most important step, because now the team, the projects, uh, the decisions, the, you know, logistics, like all the things that keep the business moving are can, can be managed by them. 


Okay. The next layer is of, of things that up until this point, no one has done, but me is coaching is the certain coaching calls that I do. So I don’t do every single coaching call in our business. We have three at this point, amazing coaches under our business. We have one lead coach and then two assistant coaches.


And so it’s not something that we need to go through and get every single call off of my plate at one time. But there are pretty critical calls that I do weekly or monthly, and that we have to figure out how to do so. Again, this is something that we’ve sort of been building up to for a while, but if this is a pregnancy situation for you, or even if, you know, you want to get pregnant in the future, it might be worth starting to explore assistant coaches as something that you start integrating into your business. Um, and I was really excited about the assistant coaching prospects in my business because I was so excited to teach them how I coach. I mean, our clients get such amazing results. So I thought it was an great mutual opportunity for us to be able to have more coaches as well as for them to learn the kind of secrets behind my coaching so that they can have those same tools, um, and become, you know, really effective coaches as well and become masterful at it.


So that was something we had been somewhat doing and, um, that had been sort of part of our business. And so what we’re doing during my maternity leave is looking at my different coaching responsibilities and thinking, okay, where can we integrate our assistant coaches to allow them to coach a bit more? That was kind of the first thing that we looked at, but then I also didn’t want it. I didn’t want, I didn’t want any of my clients to feel like they were getting like a substitute teacher, so to speak. 


I know that’s not a great analogy and it’s not meant at all to put my own assistant coaches down, but I just wanted them to still feel like they were getting the equivalent to me being there, even if I wasn’t there. So for example, for my mastermind, instead of having assistant coaches come in and sub in for me for every single call that I will be not there for, during that, I brought in my own coaches, um, who are million dollar plus multi-million dollar entrepreneurs, who I paid tens of thousands of dollars to learn from.


And my clients, my mastermind now gets to learn from them during those calls. So it was just a combination of who can do these jobs. And for each call, we just looked at, could this, would this be better done by an assistant coach? And some of the time those calls would, are better done by an assistant coach than by a guest coach because the assistant coach knows the curriculum really well. They pretty much know what I would say if there’s a specific topic for a coaching call, because they’ve heard me do it before or for our mastermind. 


For example, when, uh, especially at the beginning of the year in January, when they are going to be thinking big picture about the rest of their year, I thought, what better? I mean, honestly, this is kind of an asset to the mastermind at this point. Like why not bring in some of these multimillion dollar coaches who have helped me plan over the years, help you help them plan and help them kind of start off the year with a little bit more inspiration and just perspective than they would get if it were just me doing that.


So we just were really thoughtful about every call and, and decided what would be best for our clients. Is it best for an assistant coach or is it best for a guest coach and made those decisions from there? And I think you can do that too. If you are a coach yourself or a service provider, you can, you just, you have to put your clients first obviously, and you have to think what’s going to be best for them, but there are other options. It doesn’t always need to just be you to be the one to support them. And, and for both my guests and assistant coaches, I’ve made notes at, you know, kind of a thorough timeline of some of the things I want to make sure are covered on those calls, what type of direction I’m going in with this program. So it’s not like they’re getting on with absolutely no kind of rhyme or reason to what they need to talk about.


I’ve helped prepare that. I just know and trust that they can deliver it in a way that I would want them to honestly, if not better than I would do myself. So that is the next option is kind of looking at what client facing things you need to do and thinking who else could do them and how can we delegate that? Um, and for my assistant coaches, this has been, again, something we’ve been working on for a while, because I want more people to know my method of coaching, because it is so effective. And because so many people get such great results from it. So it doesn’t really help anyone for me to just bottle it up inside of me and not share it with others. So this has been kind of a natural progression. That’s just now going to the next level when I’m not there due to maternity leave.


So that’s been, the next layer we’ve worked through first was who can manage our team and who can make decisions on my behalf next was who can do my actual service-based work and my calls. And then the, the third line of ammo, I guess what it has been planning, content and planning, how we can, um, have content go out still on our regular calendar and our sales go out still in our regular calendar, if I’m not there. And this just comes with time management and delegating, there’s really no secret behind this. We are planning our podcast episodes in advance. We are planning quite a bit of social media in advance, not everything because our social media manager is so on it and amazing that I trust for her to, you know, use her creative direction. If there’s something she wants to share that I don’t see first, but for the most part, this is just coming with us planning, um, and batching work and trying to do things beforehand so that these things are ready to go.


Um, and that everyone making sure everyone feels empowered about what they need to do and clear on what they need to do in order to execute the things that we are creating behind the scenes. So, yes, that means I have done quite a few podcasts episodes in advance, same with emails and social media. Um, but you know, we have the luxury of the internet and scheduling and batching. And this really just seems like kind of an obvious thing. If you need to take time off and you have time in advance to prep for it, then, um, then batch things in advance, but don’t go too overboard here. I mean, that’s the kind of final word of wisdom I want to share. And maybe these are like famous last words as someone who has never been a mom before, but I just feel like I’m still wanting to give myself room to share what I want to share, even when I’m on maternity leave or do what I want to do.


Um, and you know, not trying to get stressed about making sure every single thing is scheduled and batched and planned and, um, laid out for the time that I’m taking off of maternity leave, because I don’t want my pregnancy to be stressful. And I don’t want the last few weeks of pregnancy to feel like this marathon that I have to finish or a sprint that I’m racing to in order to get ready for my baby to be here. That doesn’t feel like a good experience for my baby or for myself or for my team. So overall I think that there’s a fine balance between preparing, making sure you feel secure, making sure you feel supported and that things will continue moving, but also not letting it become stressful and giving yourself the space to let maternity leave be what it is for you or whatever, leave that you’re taking and allow it to maybe come with some creative playfulness.


So for me, I’m planning on taking, I think it’s 10 weeks total completely off. So my baby’s due in December, I’m planning on starting to stop working, starting maternity leave after Thanksgiving. So like a week or two before he is a guest to arrive, we don’t actually obviously know the day he’ll come, but before his due date, I am going to stop working just so I can enjoy the last few weeks and try to get everything, uh, comfortable around the home for him and just, you know, focus on my health. And then I plan on starting to work again on February 1st. So all in, I think that’s around 10 weeks, but I have no idea what it’s going to be. Like. I don’t know if I am going to want to take longer than that. And if I do, and if I need to do that, I can do that.


Or if I’m going to be ready to go back and start working a little sooner than that, because I might miss the outlet, I might miss the sense of normalcy and it would be a huge change to go from working as intensely as I have the last few years to not doing it at all. Maybe I’ll love that change. I don’t know. And maybe I’ll want to share motherhood and you know, my maternity leave with the podcast, with social media, with my emails, et cetera, in which case I can do it. And maybe I won’t and that’s okay too. So give yourself space to see what you, what it’s going to mean for you, see how you’re going to feel about it. And, you know, don’t, don’t let it be a stressful situation. I really think that that’s like the opposite of what we’re trying to do here.


We’re trying to let you have a stress fee free time off and really make sure that your personal life is not giving sacrifice because of your business responsibilities. So I hope that this has been helpful. Um, these are all obviously things that I’m doing ahead of time, having never done this before. So I could come, come back with, uh, a very different tale of what I think maternity leaves shouldn’t, shouldn’t be like, and I will keep you guys updated, but that is what we’ve done to prepare. And the other thing that we’ve done that was given, uh, that was advice that was given to me by Tara Zercher, who we had on the show is, uh, to do practice maternity leave. So take like a few days off with, with, you know, not working at all and kind of see how the team works together without you there.


Um, I’m doing an entire week off to practice. So that’s also been a really great suggestion because it’s been great to see how  people interact, uh they’re together without me and, um, where things don’t get done and where we can fix what’s broken and things like that. So all in all, I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions, you can always reach out to me on Instagram, or you can email me and hopefully this helps you prepare for motherhood and maternity leave or, um, a sabbatical, or just to make sure that your business is in a situation where you could walk away. If you did need to walk away. Uh, remember, no matter what, in business, you should not have to be the only person doing really anything in order for things to continue moving. So all my best to you, I hope this helps create your biggest vision. And I will talk to you guys soon.

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