I started my journey as a mortgage broker four years ago. At the time, I was newly married with no children and hungry to make my business succeed. Often this meant working long hours, starting at the office at 7am and finishing late in the evening. Given that my husband, Aaron, and I both worked in the business, it was easier to throw ourselves into it, and this rhythm continued for a couple of years.
We then decided to rev up the madness by adding a baby to the mix. My pregnancy journey was laced with both anxiety and delusion. The anxiety I suffered was from knowing my life would never truly be my own again and I would be responsible for someone 24/7. (Yikes!) And my delusion and optimism meant I also thought I would have a baby and cruise into blissful maternity leave without having to look at a computer or talk to a client for at least three months.
But was in I for a rude shock! At the time, we were under-resourced and our business was growing, so five weeks after my beautiful baby girl, Sienna, was born I was back working from home, juggling breast feeding and nap time (which often meant Sienna slept in a sling attached to me) while I whispered my phone calls to clients and BDMs. It was certainly not the maternity break I had envisioned.
I have often heard people say they chose to be a mortgage broker because they saw it as a “lifestyle business” in which they could work part-time. For me, this has not been the case. When someone purchases a property and you have five days to get finance approved, you have tight time frames for pushing the bank, while also keeping your client updated and calm. Being absent for a couple of days is not an option.
In some ways I’m grateful. I realised I couldn’t have my second baby in the same environment. We needed to seriously prepare our business to be ready for me to step out again and enjoy at least the first three months of baby number two.
We identified three key focus areas: people, profits and passion.
We were under-resourced, and our business was growing, so five weeks after my beautiful baby girl, Sienna, was born, I was back working from home
For me, the first P was always going to be about our people. As a high-achieving woman, I often feel like I’ve had to do everything and prove to everyone that I don’t need help. My ‘aha!’ moment came when I was working five-plus days a week, juggling two nannies and feeling like a failure as a new mum and business owner.
I realised that I had to build up the people around me to help our business achieve its goals. Having previously used outsourcing support for our loan submissions, we decided to bring this back in-house. This has changed our business dramatically – our turnaround times are quicker, and we get more from our team in terms of what they are able to do.
Recruiting, hiring, training and managing people takes time and effort, but it has allowed me to reduce my working hours to part-time.
The next P was all about profits. Despite my background in accounting, I knew nothing about cash flow management and planning for profits. After hiring the right people, I took a long, hard look at our profits and determined to change this immediately.
The three steps I implemented were: (a) set up a 13-week cash flow planner and review this religiously every Monday morning; (b) review every line item in our financials and cut all unnecessary spend; and (c) allocate profi t money each month. Taking these three small steps transformed our financials and profits.
My final focus is passion. Moving to part-time work allowed me to enjoy my mother hood and mortgage broking journey. When I am at work I’m able to give my best, and now I can also do the same at home. Letting go of the guilt and feeling like a failure was a huge step for me. I’m able to enjoy some of my passions again, like going for walks, being in nature, cooking, and preparing for baby number two.
With our new baby due in November and the current climate we find ourselves in, do I still expect to have that blissful, uninterrupted maternity leave? In all honesty, no. However, I am going into the next chapter of my life with eyes wide open and grateful that I’ve done the hard work to get our people, profits and passion sorted so at least it will be a little calmer than last time.
Bernadette Christie-David co-owns Atelier Wealth with her husband, Aaron. A specialist in helping self-employed clients, Christie-David has been recognised as a nalist for the Empowerment Award at Connective’s Excellence Awards and sits on theMFAA’s Young Professionals Panel.