By Heather Baker

Being a working mum is not exactly unusual these days. It’s a hefty workload that requires a shift in priorities to get right. As a small business owner who gave birth to her first child in September last year, I get it.

TopLine Comms was seven years old when I found out I was pregnant. I knew then and there that I wanted both business and baby – and that I wanted to be both a great boss and a great mother (some may argue that the one informs the other!). However, I also realised that to ‘have-it-all’, actually meant that I couldn’t do it all.

I knew that I wouldn’t be able to be as hands-on at work once the baby was born. The only way I could relinquish control with some measure of calmness, was to ensure that it would be ‘business as usual’ – whether I was in the office or not. I made it my mission to put plans in place so that company and staff could operate efficiently and confidently in my absence.

I focused on the following five areas.

1. HR

We upgraded the entire HR framework before I went on maternity leave. This included reviewing how to conduct a successful interview, guide a new employee through the on-boarding programme, manage benefits and bonuses, and carry out performance reviews. On top of this our entire senior team was fully trained so is now fluent in our HR processes and can carry them out with absolute ease.

2. Admin (invoices etc…)

Most of our admin is outsourced so here there wasn’t a huge amount to overhaul. If yours is managed in-house, make sure it’s running like a well-oiled machine before you leave. I invested time in making sure our IT and payroll systems for example, operated smoothly so that no glitches could occur during my time away. I also made sure that the team knew how to fix them, or who to call, just in case anything did go wrong.

When it came to the business finances, it was a case of making sure my finger was always on the pulse, with systems in place that kept me updated and tuned in automatically.

3. The Team

A leader has to delegate – before my pregnancy, this did not come as easily to me. The truth is, hands-on skills and operational tasks can be transferred. I spent time with the senior team to help boost their skills to take on more management work. I also asked them where they saw any potential problems arising during my absence, and took their advice on board to prepare for them in advance.

4. The Clients

I let our clients know I’d be leaving on maternity leave a few months in advance. This gave them enough time to get used to the idea – while still having me around to trouble-shoot or check-in. It also meant that I could introduce them to their new senior contact and help develop that relationship before going ‘offline’.

5. Workflows and Processes

Fortunately, our company’s workflows and processes were all running efficiently already and didn’t need any work. I simply had to make sure that people understood them and adhered to them properly.

When the workflows and processes are in good shape, productivity levels are high and people can focus on business-critical work.

My pregnancy gave me a great opportunity to review every aspect of the business. I got to grips with what needed attention and understood where and why it was doing well. And now that maternity leave is done and I’m back at work, there are no fires to put out, no ships to save.