I had the great honor to design Kathy’s website and through the process I found such respect for her as a mompreneur and we became friends. Kathy is the founder + Creative Director of Oh Yes Communications and is about to welcome her second son. I couldn’t be prouder and admire more the way she has prepared and set her business in order to give herself all the room to enjoy her family’s addition stress free. She gives us a detailed and thorough peek into her journey balancing business and life and how to build your team play by play for challenging seasons.
“Three years ago my business looked much different. I was 18 months into being an entrepreneur and the demand on my time and the size of my team is far from what it has evolved into today. Around that same time I had my first babe, Daniel, and as I muddled through those early days of motherhood, it’s clear now that it was only by the grace of God that I was able to keep my business going despite a total lack of systems and forethought. Daniel arriving 16 days early which was the first lesson in the unpredictability that motherhood would bring.
This time around, my years in maturing in business, motherhood, and marriage lead to the obvious understanding that baby #2 and leading a business were going to require intentional forethought and preparation. Needless to say, the minute we found out we were pregnant – the preparation began.
Here’s a play by play of how I doubled my team and prepared for maternity leave in a short 7 months:
1 – Invest in Business Mastermind/Retreat. In a world where I am the boss – accountability is often something I do for others but don’t end up feeling much of on my end. I decided to invest in myself for the sole purpose of creating systems and processes in my business through Reina & Co’s Introvert’s Paradise. The accountability, support, and time-sensitive nature of signing up for this was exactly what I needed to get my butt in gear. Weekly video calls and homework that culminated in a 4 day in-person retreat got me off to the organized start I needed.
2 – Brain dump and download ALL the tasks you’re doing. Old school pen and paper work best in this scenario. I blocked out an entire afternoon to categorize my tasks by client. After getting through this exercise I concluded with a column for the tasks I was doing for my own business. At the time – I had two part time team members but it became abundantly clear that more hires were in our future. If you don’t have a team yet be willing to take an honest look at your workload and identify where you might have to outsource and what has to stay on your plate. From there – I transferred these lists to a dedicated Trello board to track progress and assign due dates.
3 – Decide on systems for task management, storage, and team communication. After crowdsourcing recommendations and looking into each platform – I finally decided on Trello, Slack, and Google Drive as our teams form of management and communication. Trello is used for our tasks lists with due dates and team members responsible for completing, Slack eliminated 95% of the email threads between team members and instead we transferred the conversations to Slack, and Google Drive is where we store client documents. Ease and clarity for our team and our communications felt like next level progress after seeing how well it worked.
4 – Hire + Train. Last fall it became abundantly clear that it was time to invest and train in a second ME for the company. Someone who could alleviate my work load and eventually take over the majority of the day to day tasks to allow room for me to focus on higher level projects, attracting new clients, and polishing the Oh Yes brand. With all my team members, we start small and with a defined amount of hours and pay. This allows for predictability in my budgeting as well as seeing how far 5 hours takes us versus 10 hours, 15 hours, and so on. There’s something very vulnerable about allowing someone into your client space. Having started as a solopreneur – it took a lot of time, care, and nurturing to grow the accounts I had. A tip for those considering hiring team members: finding the right CHARACTER traits has been more important than hiring the person with all the skills you’re looking for. A coachable attitude, a spirit of excellence, and a team oriented personality makes a bigger impact in the long run. Over the course of the past 7 months we’ve brought on 3 additional team members in different capacities. When it feels overwhelming – just remember – it’s okay to start small.
5 – Schedule regular team meetings. Running a mostly virtually based business, where team members rely on my feedback to complete tasks, it became clear that in order for maternity leave to happen – my team needed to “meet” each other and begin working with one another and cross training. I decided on Zoom as our go to way to meet. Initially our calls were weekly for approximately 30 minutes. At the end of the first month of doing this – I asked the team for feedback on the frequency and we decided to adjust our calls to bi-monthly calls instead. In addition to this tweak – we also added weekly reports through slack, due every Friday by 4pm, with the following 4 questions:
If you’ve made it this far – congrats! You’ve outlined tasks, hired and trained a team, chosen platforms to communicate through and now it’s time to turn the focus from internal to external. With baby day looming in the near future – the next step was figuring out what boundaries were going to exist between myself and clients and how we would communicate that. Nancy Ray wrote an amazing post on her approach to maternity leave – and after a few reads and a preterm labor scare – it was time to jump in with both feet and start DOING.
First – I added a maternity leave note 2 months prior to my scheduled time off to my email signature so clients, vendors, and prospective clients were aware of the upcoming event! Here’s how it read:
Second– I identified the team member that would be the “Second in Command” while I was out. We set up 3 training meetings and together we went client by client (back to that task list from the beginning!) and identified what was still on my plate after 7 months and several hires – what could be delegated to someone else while I was out and what had to (or I wanted to) stay on my plate during my leave. We identified potential issues that could arise in my absence and how we would address them, as well as the frequency of our communication.
Third – I drafted and sent out personalized emails to each of our retainer clients and most frequently used vendors. We titled the email “Game plan and your point of contact during my Maternity Leave.” Here’s how it read:
Fourth – Set up your vacation responder ahead of time! The most radical part of this email is the line that states that all emails received during my leave would be deleted. When I first read this suggestion in Nancy Ray’s post I felt a bit sick to my stomach. How would clients receive this and was I okay letting go that much? After 3 listens to Michael Hyatt’s podcast on this subject and the WHY behind it – I was convinced (and convicted) to do the same. Here’s what my vacation responder looks like:
Fifth – Delete and disconnect apps from your phone/tablet. I love being an entrepreneur. I love my clients, my team, and the work we do. I see the impact it has on their businesses and most days – working is one of the highlights of my day. That being said – if there’s anything I’ve learned from watching my firstborn turn into a busy three year old is that the days are long but the years are short and 60 years from now – I’d regret missing out and soaking in these first few months of our sons life much more than I would regret missing out on work. When my maternity leave kicks in – my plan is to disconnect my work email from my phone as well as deleting various apps that we use to monitor client account interaction. Lord knows if I don’t I’ll end up checking work while nursing my little one in the wee hours of the night.
There’s a reason for the season and I know first and foremost that I’ve been called to love on my family well and ensure they get the best of me, FIRST. I know my tendency to want to stay in the mix. I’m in this precious space where I find myself wrapping up tasks, ensuring that our clients and team are good to go, and nostalgically packing my hospital bags while putting the finishing touches in Zane’s room. I’m all too aware that a new chapter is about to begin…and I can’t wait!”