Just Keep Swimming: Navigating Business in a Post-2020 World (With a Newborn)

Over the last year, business leaders everywhere have had to adjust business models and keep up with the ever-changing climate. But what about those business leaders who happen to have just given birth, are navigating the challenges of feeding a newborn, and operating on little to no sleep? Okay, so not all women business leaders have to juggle motherhood, profit-and-loss statements, and proposal deadlines. But that’s just the situation we find ourselves in at Theme Strategic Proposals, and we hope the following words are encouraging for you and/or other working moms you know.

If you find inspiration in the following paragraphs, please forward this to someone you know who could use a boost of encouragement! We don’t just want to highlight how business ownership and motherhood can be done simultaneously; we want to show how you can thrive in the process.

Theme Strategic Proposals (TSP): How have you seen working moms adapt in the past year?

Liz Megli (LM): Working moms have always had a reputation for “doing it all” from work to schooling to dinner prep. The last year has only added to the stress with school closures and homeschooling and 100 other things. Because of this, dads have had to adjust as well! Families in general operate differently because of more work from home initiatives or hybrid models, and that’s okay—flexibility is a necessity when it comes to business, and definitely when it comes to family.

One of the most beautiful things about it all is the amount of grace and kindness many employers and colleagues have extended to employees and their families. It seems like the “norm” used to be having guilt or shame about family life getting in the way of work. Now, it seems like everyone is more understanding when things pop up like kids noise in the background or a dog barking. All-in-all, everyone has had to adapt in their own way, and you can still create a thriving business in the midst of a seemingly chaotic time.

TSP: How have things changed for Theme Strategic Proposals?

LM: Well, last year wasn’t a change in that I was already doing most of Theme’s work from my home office. But when it comes to the first six months of motherhood and returning to full-time work, it was definitely a challenge—in the best way . . . namely, with the birth of our first child! David and I had our son, Jesse, on February 20th of 2020.

Although it was hard to get back into a rhythm—especially with the creative elements of my role—it turned out to be a blessing as our family got to be home together in those early days. April and May were interesting because some small businesses weren’t pursuing as much new work via RFPs. In addition, the government wasn’t too keen last spring on pumping out new RFPs, but they did offer Paycheck Protection Program assistance via the CARES Act . . . which we were grateful to receive. Our economy has definitely felt like a roller coaster, but I think business owners will come out of this season stronger for persisting through adversity. For businesses that sadly had to shut down, I hope they can get back on their feet ASAP and go for it—we’re excited about helping businesses thrive again through the RFP process.

TSP: How has Theme adapted under your leadership, and what has being a mom taught you about business ownership?

LM: Although David and I have sweet baby Jesse now, I’ll always consider Theme as my first baby (and my dog Banjo as my second). So we kinda have three children, and rest assured . . . the real order of importance is baby then business (with lots of dog park visits in between). The last year has shown us that family, relationships, and community is most important—above any work-related matters, we believe filling those buckets will contribute to success in work as a result. Take a quick mental inventory of your priorities. We hope you keep family and friends at the forefront!

Also, last year hit me with another important reality: it’s okay to lean on others.

As a mom and business owner, I can’t overstate the power in proper delegation. One of the biggest moves I made this year was hiring an administrative assistant—the amazingly talented Kim Lynk—to work with on the daily and weekly tasks associated with running a business. In addition, we have added two certified proposal managers with over 50 years of proposal management experience to our team—all in an effort to create the best possible outcomes for our clients.

TP: Are there any tips you have for working moms for the days ahead?

LM: Yes, I actually have three that have been game changers.

  1. Administrative Assistant. I can’t help but come back to the administrative assistant piece. I strongly recommend, even if it’s just a few hours of your week, outsourcing some tasks that free you up to do your best work. This tip goes for work just as much as it does for life. For example, Kim helps me with personal to-dos like submitting medical expenses to my insurance (something I dread doing).
  2. InstaCart. There are a few different food and grocery delivery systems out there by now, but I’ve used InstaCart a ton in the last year and it has saved me time, sanity, and let’s be honest . . . money. Sure, there might be a delivery fee. But it’s better than going into the grocery store hungry and coming out an hour later with a few things I didn’t need. If you’ve never used InstaCart before, try it out at least once and see if you like it!
  3. Spouse/Family Help. I mentioned before that all families have felt the shift in work over the last year, so it’s that much more vital to lean on your spouse and family to help keep your world running semi-smoothly. If you’re not married and work hard throughout the week, lean in to one or two life-giving relationships that are as helpful as they are encouraging.

TP: Last question, what do you listen to throughout the day(s) that keep you focused? Music? Podcasts?

LM: I’m not a big podcast listener, and even music with lots of words can get me off track. Probably my most listened to artist recently is the Punch Brothers. They’re mostly bluegrass and instrumental, which David and I love.

There are also some really great Spotify “Classical” playlists specifically geared toward getting work done. So, though I don’t recommend super distracting music while working, I do recommend your favorite rock band once your proposal is selected as the winner. It’s time to celebrate!

At Theme, we want you playing as much rock music as possible, which means winning more. Although the last year has been wild for business owners and working moms like myself, I’m confident the best days are ahead. Your family included.