Teaching your business to run without you

Rather than answer the question directly —because let’s face it, it’s very much a personal choice and a lot depends on what you want for yourself and your family—  what I’m going to do instead is look at what you can do ahead of time to ensure your business continues to run smoothly, efficiently and profitably, regardless of how hands-on or hands-off you choose to be once you’ve had your baby.

As CEO of a busy comms agency, I’m all too familiar with the pressures that come with running a company. Now, with just a few months to go until the most important ‘deadline’ of my life, I need to make sure I have every possible plan in place so that it’s business as usual after TopLine’s newest team member arrives.

I’ve identified five key areas that need to be as self-reliant and streamlined as possible:

The team

A large chunk of my focus has been on building the senior team members’ skills so that they can easily take on some of my management work.

I’ve also been sourcing support in the areas where we will need it and consulting the team to find out how they think I should staff the business during my maternity leave.

Right now there are still a few things only I can do, but I plan on transferring these skills to the appropriate staff members before the little guy arrives (yes, it’s a boy!).

Key take-away: Your leadership qualities are irreplaceable, but ‘hands-on’ skills can be transferred to your team. That way when life happens (you get pregnant, fall ill or want to take a sabbatical), it just happens. No stress, no fuss.

The clients

I waited a while before I started telling clients that I was pregnant, but since I’m not key to any client accounts myself this isn’t really an issue.

However, it is still important that I speak with each client personally before I go, so they know how long I will be away and who they can contact with senior level issues or queries.

Key take-away: While it’s always a good idea to maintain a personal relationship with your clients (they’re people after all, not just revenue), it’s important to ensure they feel confident dealing with your team too.

Workflows and processes

We already have really good workflows and processes in place for just this type of business disruption, so it’s simply a matter of making sure the team understands the importance of adhering to them.

That way I’ll be able to slot back in easily and seamlessly when I return to work. If I’ve done this well enough the staff won’t even realise I’m gone!

Key take-away: Workflows and processes are the key to optimum efficiency and productivity. They reduce cognitive load, which means you (or in this case, your staff) can use your brain power where it matters, like being creative.

Admin (invoicing, payments etc.)

Most of our company admin is already outsourced, so I don’t need to stress about it too much (yay). We also have very good systems in place for the company finances, which I will ensure are watertight before I leave.

That being said, this is one area of the business I will probably still be involved in throughout my maternity leave.

Key take-away: Having people you can trust is essential when you’re running a business. You can’t do everything, obviously. However, when it comes to finances you cannot simply hand over the reins and hope for the best. There’s more than just your livelihood at stake here, you have your staff to consider too.


In preparation for when I’m away (and because it’s good business practice anyway), we’re busy upgrading our whole HR framework. This includes best practices for conducting a successful interview, on-boarding new team members, running reviews and managing benefits and bonuses.

This should be in place and running smoothly by the time I leave, with senior team members up to speed and feeling confident about the processes.

Key take-away: Having a solid HR framework and revisiting it every six months to a year will help you avoid bad hires and more importantly, ensure all staff members feel comfortable and confident from day one.

I’ve used my pregnancy as an opportunity to look at all aspects of the business to see where it’s on track and where it needs attention and it’s been an incredibly rewarding and interesting experience.

However, I don’t advocate waiting until you’re in a similar position to do an audit of your company, your job, or your life for that matter. We might not be 100% certain of what tomorrow holds, but if we’re prepared we can at least rest assured that if the wheels wobble, they probably won’t come off.

Heather Baker is very enthusiastic about integrated comms, blogging and a certain office dog. She is CEO and founder of TopLine Comms and editor of two award-winning blogs, B2B PR Blog and Small Business Heroes.