As motherhood and entrepreneurship are becoming more and more synonymous, many momtrepreneurs are learning that it’s entirely possible to take critical time off to care for a new member of the family while still maintaining a healthy business

All it takes is a little planning, says Madeleine van Wyk, Business Development Manager for Sanlam’s professional market.

“The biggest worry, especially for women entrepreneurs who are the lifeblood of their businesses, is whether they will be able to retain their clients during and following their maternity leave, with many fearing that a competitor may grab their market share.

“For a woman in a consulting practise, the likely question is whether clients will be prepared to wait around for her return,” says Van Wyk.

“For a woman in a consulting practise, the likely question is whether clients will be prepared to wait around for her return,”

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Scenario planning

To ensure seamless running of a business in their absence, Van Wyk, says ‘momtrepreneurs’ should engage in scenario planning. This will enable them to carefully consider how they might address the financial and other business performance implications during their leave period.

“Critically, you need to have detailed conversations with your financial planner, your accountant, your business partner and your family about the potential impact of taking some time off.

“After all, you may have to consider issues like cash flow if you aren’t going to be active in your business for a few months. You’ll also have to consider how to communicate your absence to your clients. Will they understand and accept your temporary absence? Ultimately, you need to weigh up all the possibilities to decide what you and your business can realistically afford.”

Next, Van Wyk, suggests drawing up a proper maternity leave plan, outlining a course of action for your business. “The sooner you do this, the better – ideally even before falling pregnant, when you still have lots of time to prepare.”

“The sooner you do this, the better – ideally even before falling pregnant, when you still have lots of time to prepare.”

Consider the following:

  • Your role in the business during your leave period

Are you going to cut all ties (this is probably not advisable), or will you continue to do some work from home? Is there someone in the business who can take over from you, or are you going to employ a replacement? What will your level of involvement be, and what do you want to be told about?

  • Establish clear responsibility and authority

If you manage staff members, consider new reporting lines when you are not there. And, who will manage the finances, payments and general cash flow of the business?

  • How and when to inform your clients

At some point, your clients will need to know that you may not be there for a few months. You need to reassure them that it will be business as usual while you are away. If someone is replacing you, you’ll have to do a proper handover and introduce this person to your key clients.

Apart from this, you will also need a strategy for your personal finances. Again, Van Wyk suggests it is best to draw this up in consultation with your financial planner.

Here’s what you need to consider:

  • Will you be taking a salary home?

If you have business partners, have a conversation about whether they will agree to you taking your full salary during your leave of absence.

  • Will you qualify for unemployment insurance?

Check with your accountant whether your business set-up allows you to claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) while you are on maternity leave.

  • Continued payment of policy premiums

If you have a retirement annuity, the last thing you should do is to allow the premiums to lapse. Many retirement funds have penalty clauses if you stop or reduce payments, and over the longer term, you will lose a significant amount on compound interest.

You should have insurance or risk cover in place and it’s best to speak to your financial planner to check if any waivers on premiums might be allowed while you are on leave.

If waivers are not permitted you’ll need to make provision for your premium payments in your financial planning as you cannot take the risk of not having insurance or risk cover in place to protect you and your expanding family.

The bottom line, says Van Wyk, is that you need to plan, plan and plan some more.

“Don’t rush into anything before you’ve made proper provision for both your business and yourself. Remember that you essentially have two ‘babies’ to consider – your business and your new baby. Make sure they both receive the attention they deserve.”