My coaching business has been in hibernation for one week. This is intentional as I am due to have a baby around March 4th (that’s in 5-6 days). I have been planning my “leave of absence” for a very long time. At times I have worried that creating a baby and a business at the same time were completely incompatible. At other times, I have felt strongly that they are complimentary projects.
It only occurred to me as I write this post to search for guidance on the net how to put a business on hold. Surprizingly, my search turned up only a few articles (a rarity these days!):
- Can You Put Your Business “On Hold” Due to Health Reasons?
- Putting Your Business On Hold
- Mothers in Business: Growing a Business Sometimes Follows Your Children’s Path
Given the paucity of information, I will share some questions I feel need to be answered in formulating a plan to put your business on hold:
- How long will your business be “on hold”?? Are you going on vacation? Extended travel? Are you sick? Are you having a baby? If the timeframe can be clearly defined and articulated, it is important to do so. If the timeframe is indefinite, you will need to decide what you are willing to communicate, to whom, and what the consequences might be.
- What does “on hold” mean for your business? Will all operations cease for a period of time? Will you still be able to meet some orders or provide some services? What can your customers/ clients / prospects / employees expect while you are away from the business?
- What boundaries do you need to set for yourself? What lines in the sand do you need to draw in order to execute the plan you intend? How will you walk away from your business if that is what is needed for whatever your reasons?
- What do you need to communicate to others (to set boundaries and expectations for them)? What is your official line? Who needs to know about your plan ( i.e. your clients, colleagues, associates, employees, suppliers etc.)? When will you tell them? Where else will you share the news (i.e. on your website, in your blog, on your company voice mail, in an autoresponder in your email etc.)
- Who will support you? Who will support you to stick to your plan? Who do the work if your business is still going to provide some products or services?
- How will you manage your finances? What other sources of income will you have (i.e., private or government insurance, savings, line of credit, loans)? Will the business have ongoing expenses even while on hold? Are there new ways to generate income during the on hold period (i.e. referral fees)? Are there any tax filing requirements during the time you will be away from the business? Who will handle this?
- What will your current clients and prospects tolerate? Do you have a loyal client base who will accept your leave and come back when your business is back in full tilt? Can they go without your product or service for the period your business will be on hiatus? Would it make more sense to refer them to another business you trust will provide them what they need? Will new prospects who want to work with you/ your business be patient enough to wait or will you lose them to the competition?
- What can you maintain? Is there a middle ground that keeps you in the business just to the degree that you can handle (i.e. Can you still post to your business blog? Can you still respond to queries? Can you still attend some industry or networking events?). It is important to know what you still can do while still taking care of your other needs (i.e. looking after a baby or family member, getting treatment. convalescing, travelling etc.)
- What is your “come back” plan? While you cannot necessarily expect to turn on the revenue tap the minute you come back to your business, you can plan how you will get things rolling again. Will you come back gradually or all at once? Whom will you contact to let them know you are back? What type of promotional offer could generate the right kind of business faster? Are you able to pre-book any business for when you are back before you leave the business? Might you consider partnering with another business for referrals? Will you need to do other work to generate income during the ramp up period?
- How will you course correct? In case you need to do this again in future or want to help a fellow entrepreneur go through this process, how can you keep track of what you’ve done well and your mistakes (your key learnings)? How can you make course adjustments even while you are on leave?
In my case, I am taking a six month leave from my business. I may coach on a very part-time basis after 3-4 months depending on how I feel and whether or not I have a baby that is easy to care for. For the first 3-4 months, I will not do any coaching and I have clearly communicated this to all my clients as well as IMPACT Consulting , a Toronto coaching company for whom I do corporate leadership and business development coaching. While it took me a long time to commit to walking away from my business to take a maternity leave, I am now fully on board and I don’t expect to have any difficulties focussing on motherhood. I started telling clients very early (i.e. last fall) that I was pregnant and would be going on leave. An interesting thing seemed to happen with many of them…they accelerated their own processes in order to be in a good place re: their coaching objectives by the end of February when I planned to wrap up.
For a while, I considered bringing in associates to work under the Chandler Coaches banner. In the end, I decided I would prefer to simply refer work to other coaches whom I trust so that clients would get great coaching and I would not be managing others/ doing invoicing etc while on leave. As my pregnancy has been planned for a long time, I have put in place a plan to manage my finances while on leave.
Some of my clients plan to come back to my coaching practice when I am back. Others have finished their work for now. I will need to continue business development efforts to generate new leads and follow up with existing prospects and former clients.
I am sharing my plan here on my blog and may adjust my work voice mail. In my case though, I am not going to be travelling or in hospital while on leave so I will be able to correspond in a timely way with anyone who contacts me for business.
Time will tell what I am able to maintain. For now, I would like to continue blogging and I may make it to a few coaching breakfasts etc. I am not setting high expectations for myself and at the same time, I want to leave the door open for some part-time coaching before the end of six months if I feel like I am up for it.
So that’s my plan. In truth, I would love to be so inspired by my new little baby that I follow in Pam Slim’s footsteps and have an extremely creative business period post baby.
For now, while I wait for labour to start, I have time to ask you: Have I forgotten anything for my own business hibernation? Does my 10 point list need anything else? Have you got any real life “business on hold” stories to share? I would love to hear from you. ———
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