Bulletproof your business for maternity leave and long-term absence

Are you pregnant and trying to plan ahead for maternity leave from your business? Among all the excitement of getting used to the idea that you’re going to be a mum and bring a new life into the world, comes the worry about time away from your salon or spa. How it will cope without your daily oversight and attention to detail? 

You may not be pregnant or even planning a family, perhaps something quite unexpected has come along that takes you out of the business for several weeks or months. Either way, how do you ensure your first baby (aka your salon) continues to be a sustainable and profit-making business in your absence?

Set up systems and procedures

Most salon owners feel that no one will do the job of running their business as well as them. In many of ways this is, of course, true. However, with certain systems and procedures in place so that every member of the team understands their individual role, responsibilities and what is expected of them, things can be made much more manageable.  

While you may feel that you run the business instinctively, many aspects of your role can be replaced and replicated with solid processes. Having systems and procedures in place creates certainty and consistency. It means everything is documented so that colleagues can be solution-oriented and find out the answers for themselves.

Consistency and clarity are key to good process implementation. Having carefully thought out procedures supported by clear and simple documentation will improve the quality and consistently of all salon procedures, from cleaning, answering phones and stock control to staff reviews.

This may sound bureaucratic, but it can be as simple as creating a one page cheat sheet for each process. When you have done this for all the important processes, you can bind them into a manual.

Invest in the internal culture

Good communication is so critical for several reasons. It is important that you communicate and educate your colleagues about the systems and procedures so they become embedded as good habits. Also, give feedback to colleagues when processes are not being followed correctly so that everyone understands that doing things the right way is not optional.

They quality and style of the communication you use within the business has a huge impact on the internal culture, and this in turn permeates through the business in either a positive or negative way.

A negative mind set can create a toxic culture, which will have a hugely detrimental effect on the business and make it very difficult to run smoothly, especially without your constant attention.

For any salon owner, it is a dream to create a business which is self-sustaining and can operate at a high level in your absence. To achieve this, it is critical to invest time and energy in the human environment and the culture of the business.

Follow my example

At Zen Lifestyle, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years introducing a coaching style of communication into the business, which has had a hugely positive impact on both our team culture and individual performance.

Coaching helps employees take responsibility, think for themselves and become much more solution-focused. It is a very powerful tool to harness the talents of individuals and help them find the answers they already have within themselves. It allows them to grow and feel appreciated and valued. The impact on staff satisfaction, team harmony and employee retention has been phenomenal.

Planning maternity leave from your business, like pregnancy itself, can create a heady mixture of excitement and trepidation. Even if you don’t currently have plans for starting a family you never know what’s around the corner, so it is important to start thinking now about how you can make your business robust and resilient in your absence.

Good processes, consistent and empathetic commination, and a strong staff culture supported by a coaching style of leadership are all key elements which I truly believe will make the difference in your business and make your leave less stressful.  

Fiona FowleyFiona Fowley is founder and director of salon group Zen Lifestyle, which won the titles Boutique Salon of the Year and Large Beauty Salon of the Year at the Professional Beauty Awards 2018.