You may need time for yourself, yet you fear having Clients feel like you’re abandoning them, or risk losing a hard-won book of business.
In many professions, even those who enjoy workplace leave benefits worry about stepping away: Research by WCM (Women in Capital Markets) found that 82% of women and 90% of junior-mid level women employed1 in the financial industry believed that taking a maternity leave will hurt their career.
No one says it's easy to take time off when you’re self employed, with a limited safety net, and your phone is still likely to ring. But there are ways you can plan a smooth getaway, while keeping your practice alive, well and active.
1. Define the shape of your "time off"
Self-employed professionals may not have the luxury of paid vacation time or maternity leave benefits, but being your own boss does give you the flexibility to manage your time and fit your work around your life (or vice versa).
It's probably one of the things that enticed you to become an entrepreneur in the first place: A Statistics Canada survey of self-employed workers2 over four decades found that independence, freedom and the desire to be one’s own boss was paramount among all age groups. It also found flexible hours and work-family balance were more common reasons among women.
So, define what's possible: Do you aim to be away and out of contact until a certain date? Are there certain Clients you want to stay in touch with, no matter what, such as those who rank in the top tier of your Client segmentation strategy? Do you envision a gradual return if going part-time is an option for a while?
2. Consider a more team-based practice
Planning a leave could create an opportunity to develop your business resources, whether it means hiring an assistant for the first time or delegating more responsibility to your team.
As a business-of-one, it can be hard to let go of every detail – but be honest about what administrative tasks you could train someone to take over.
If you have an assistant, is this someone you could mentor or promote into a Client-facing role, who could vet Client requests while you're away?
Can you see yourself partnering with another advisor, perhaps someone you already know and trust? If your businesses complement each other, you could find a way to support one another to cover-off a leave or vacation time.
3. Transform or adapt your business plan
As an entrepreneur, you get to define your own measure of success and make your own rules. Your business plan can be adjusted and modified over time to help you achieve both professional and personal goals, including time off with family.
Revisit your vision of what sets your business apart and develop a plan for what it may look like before, during and after any planned leave. If you don’t have a recent business plan, there are many excellent templates available online.
This exercise should help you identify revenue streams, any resources you may need to invest in or delegate, issues you may need to address, and steps to help provide consistent service to your most valued Clients.
4. Let Clients know where you're going and what to expect
Can you share your "going away" story to deepen your relationships? Whether the plan is to take months off for maternity leave, travel overseas, or train for a marathon, you may find most Clients to be supportive and encouraging — you're an inspiration!
Send regular reminders as the date approaches. Encourage Clients to get in touch with concerns or to discuss potential changes in their financial plans before you go, so you can pre-emptively resolve issues in advance.
You might keep certain Clients posted on how you're doing via social media like LinkedIn, or by sending a photo or email update along with another reminder of who to contact for administrative issues, in the meantime.
You can also reinforce trust and confidence with a visual of your Client engagement process for while you're away. This could show, at a glance, who to contact for what kind of questions, and in case of emergencies.
5. Be ready for a strong comeback!
Once you've met the challenge of keeping a business active during an absence, you've also sowed the seeds for a practice to grow and expand efficiently when you are back.
Congratulations! You’ve done the difficult work and created a unique business plan, reliable backup, and a transparent process your Clients can trust and depend upon. Once you’re back, you can build on it and dedicate more time to raise your level of service, build your brand and acquire more Clients.
You'll also know, firsthand, the value of a business culture that supports working parents or taking personal time to foster high achievement and motivation to provide stellar Client service.
This article, published by SLGI Asset Management Inc., contains information in summary form. This article is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to provide specific individual financial, investment, tax or legal advice. Information contained in this article has been compiled from sources believed to be reliable, but no representation or warranty, express or implied, is made with respect to its timeliness or accuracy.
1Cited in "The Parent Potential" Nov. 2021. https://wcm.ca/advocacy/newsroom/wcm-report-the-parent-potential. Research originally reported in "The Equity Equation" October 2020 https://wcm.ca/advocacy/newsroom/wcm-equity-equation