Sarah is a Marine Corps veteran, military spouse, and mom of two children, and she is excited to share her leadership and project management skills with Powerhouse Planning. After attending the United States Naval Academy and graduating with distinction and a B.S. in aerospace engineering, Sarah served in the Marine Corps as a helicopter pilot for six years. Her favorite part of the Marine Corps was leading and being a part of a motivated team of dedicated individuals who were committed to serving the greater good. Ultimately, Sarah decided to transition out of the Marine Corps in order to grow her family while her husband, whom she met at the Naval Academy, continued to serve in the Marine Corps. When her husband transitioned to the Marine Corps Reserves, they moved back to Sarah’s hometown, and it became the perfect time for Sarah to reenter the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom. Sarah has been watching Powerhouse Planning grow for the past four years and truly believes in the company and its group of military spouse freelance employees. In her spare time, Sarah loves sharing her passion for photography. She enjoys volunteering as a youth cross country coach and serves as a chair for a local swimming pool committee. Sarah is currently working toward earning her Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate and is eager to bring those skills, as well as her leadership and positive attitude, to Powerhouse Planning.
It’s hard to believe we’re already one month into 2021, isn’t it? After the interminable year that was 2020, we’ve all been reveling in the promises a new year brings. Which is why we’ve decided to focus this installment of our employee spotlight series on one of our newer Powerhouse superstars: Heather Osborne. Among her many, many talents, Heather lends her executive assistant expertise to our clients as well as her sense of humor and positive outlook to all of us here at Powerhouse. Trust us, 2020 got so much better when Heather joined our team last April!
Heather’s executive assistant talents highlight one of our lesser-known service offerings. (Seriously, if you’re wondering if Powerhouse can help, take a page from that ubiquitous app tagline: there’s a Powerhouse service for that!) Heather provides executive assistance for Living Off Rentals/Green Vet Homes, for whom she does everything from scheduling and preparing newsletters, to researching and finding contractors, managing social media, organizing podcasts, maintaining websites, and preparing the annual business plan documentation. Her talents allow the client to focus on growing the business and making the most of the opportunities that come around.
While Heather has been with Powerhouse for less than a year, she already has some favorite things about it. Namely, how supportive everyone is of each other and how Powerhouse provides flexibility for professional growth. Powerhouse President Jessica Bertsch is adamant about encouraging that growth; she’s a master at bringing out hidden talents her freelancers weren’t even sure they possessed! Just ask Heather about hosting Powerhouse’s virtual “Salute to 2020” Power Hour. She brought festive fun as well as healthy reflection on what has to have been the strangest year we’ve ever known. Which just goes to show that the support she speaks of is something she offers in spades.
Heather is a veteran military spouse. Her husband, John, served for 26 years in the United States Marine Corps. She’s the proud mom of three sons, the eldest of whom is currently serving in the Marine Corps; the middle son will graduate from Texas A&M this year with a civil engineering degree; and her “baby” is 14 and already both a second degree black belt and an Eagle Scout. So, Heather knows something about service, as well as how to juggle multiple schedules and cheer on amazing accomplishments. It’s probably why she describes herself as someone who “likes to work” and “enjoys being part of a team.” She understands how to utilize the group dynamic to get things done and thrives on being organized.
When she’s not working, Heather will most likely be found spending time with her family, whether that means watching movies or geocaching, or curling up with a good book. Whatever she’s doing, it’s all family-oriented and designed to bring her a good work/life balance. That commitment to balancing professional and personal health is one of the other things she admires about Powerhouse and why she believes that in five years Powerhouse will still be helping businesses reach their best potential. Finding that balance means being focused and intent on work when it’s work time and “turning it off at the end of the day.” When you’re balanced, you work better and can do more for your clients.
“Schedule everything,” Heather says. Seriously. Put me time, family time, work time, all of it in the schedule. It allows you to see where you’re productive and to find the places you’re not quite in balance. And put family first. Putting family first will ensure that you get work done and done well so you’re not interfering with what is most important in life: spending quality time with those you love.
Because we’re taking some time this year to focus on us, we asked Heather what her favorite services are that Powerhouse offers. She loves them all (we told you she was supportive), but admitted to a particular fascination with graphics and web design. “That creative side of Powerhouse is dynamic!” were her exact words. She added, “There always seems to be a new service that comes up every time I turn my head.” So really, how could she choose just one or two favorites?
Professionally, Heather is happiest when she can take a task off clients’ hands so they can manage the business side of the house. “They are happy, and it makes me happy,” she says. It all goes back to that balance thing. Heather has found that “peace of mind outweighs everything.” When you put faith and family first, everything else naturally tends to balance out. That makes for more successful workers and a happier, better grounded individual. It’s a beautiful circle.
As always, we asked Heather to share something not many might know about her. She answered with the fact that she taught the deaf and hard of hearing for years and is fluent in sign language. We’re not sure about you, but we’re busy trying to figure out how to leverage that skill into another Powerhouse service . . .
Heather grew up in a small town in Illinois and took a job in California right after graduation. When that job ended, she knew she wasn’t ready to go back to Illinois, so she enlisted in the Air Force and served for six years. After her enlistment was over, she soon became engaged and married her husband, Tony. They’ve been married for over 20 years. They have two boys, Tony and Niko. Heather has spent the last almost 20 years being a stay-at-home mom, finishing her business administration degree, working part-time, and volunteering at an almost full-time pace. Her various work experience includes office manager for a temp agency, real estate agent’s assistant, thrift shop manager, retail management, and operational team lead. She believes all these experiences have helped her understand how important it is to continue to build your skills because you don’t know when a great opportunity—like Powerhouse Planning—will come along. Heather is thankful she can continue her volunteer commitments and have the ability to maintain her life-work balance as she only has her youngest son at home for a few more years.
The year 2020 brought some unique, unprecedented, unexpected, “un-everything” challenges with it for our communities, our nation, and our world. You just can’t escape that 2020 will go down in the history books with one main descriptor: it was the year of COVID-19. It’s true that we all had to attempt some adjustments to how we do business, even to how we interact with one another. The biggest lesson we all learned has to be that, even with all the technology we are fortunate to employ, there’s just no substitute for the human touch.
The skillful application of technology, specifically virtual work, to that human touch is exactly what Powerhouse Planning excels at accomplishing. In fact, 2020 was our best year ever! It does seem strange, considering the circumstances, but not only did Powerhouse have its best year ever, but our clients were incredibly successful too. The way Powerhouse is structured happens to be the way many companies had to pivot to, and we were well-placed to help them make that shift successfully. We grew our client base this year, and several of our retainer clients renewed their contracts. We enjoyed returning clients and an increase in project-based opportunities as well. We continued to work with clients such as Cape Henry Associates, Operation: Job Ready Veterans, Nomadés, and PayNet. We also added new clients, including Green Vet Homes and HelloHealth. We are blessed to work with some phenomenal companies and help them spread goodness in this world.
Our growth remained steady, largely due to the strategic vision of Powerhouse President and founder Jessica Bertsch. “We’re committed to keeping our team small but highly effective. We only grow team members when we need to,” she says. That strategic vision was cemented with the lessons we all learned from the pandemic this year. “People have realized that you can work smarter and harder at home because time management becomes so crucial. We’ve been blessed and thankful for our remote careers,” she goes on to say. The experience we have with working remotely is what made the pandemic so easy to navigate; we were already used to the challenges of remote work, and we’ve only solidified our commitment to remaining a strong, vibrant virtual work community.
One of our favorite things about Powerhouse is our “Share the Goodness” campaign. Jessica made a conscious decision when she started Powerhouse that she would give back 10% to our communities across the world. This year, we sponsored multiple children through The Children’s Hunger Project of Brevard County, Florida as well as continued our support of our sponsor child, Ambiya, through World Vision. Ambiya was the first recipient of what became our “Share the Goodness” endeavor, and she remains a Powerhouse employee favorite. We helped provide 10 families with Thanksgiving meal baskets with the Space Coast Basket Brigade, and Powerhouse Operations Manager Jennifer Kirkpatrick led the charge to raise funds for 25 more. Powerhouse’s Indiana State University (our founder’s alma mater) scholarship supported a professional aviation flight technology major who used the funds to pursue his dream of becoming a professional pilot by working to earn his commercial aviation licenses. We also founded a Salute to Sisterhood Scholarship with the AOII Foundation, which will serve to help young women interested in leadership opportunities.
We asked Jessica and Jennifer if there was anything they’d add that summed up 2020, lessons learned, inspirational quotes, really anything. Jessica offered, “I keep coming back to that phrase, ‘My plate is full.’ You know, the idea that you have all you can handle. For me, God gave me a full platter. That’s a blessing, but what I’ve learned this year is that I need to ask for help. In the end, by asking for help I appreciate others more and we can still do so much and make a big difference. In other words, self-care is huge.” Jennifer added that when you ask for help you should consider how that makes others feel. “If we communicate and ask for help when we need it, we come together and are stronger as a team.” Those who are asked to help feel important and appreciated, and those who receive support are doubly blessed.
Communication really is key, and it’s something Powerhouse has worked on this year in particular. “We’ve worked hard to create an open, inviting environment. Our brainstorming meetings with the team are some of my favorite work memories from this year,” Jennifer said. Jessica added that it’s been a year dedicated to focusing on our team members. “We started with a few of what we call Power Hours. Small, volunteer, virtual meetings with our team members that don’t necessarily have anything to do with work. We also added a quarterly State of Powerhouse address where we let our team know what’s going on. We didn’t realize how crucial these two things were at first, but what we’ve learned is that our team craves that transparency and ability to get to know one another. Creating that bond is one of the reasons we’re such a unique and effective virtual workforce.”
Moving into 2021, we’ll continue to focus on improved communication and transparency with our team. We’ll be the same in all the right ways, just better able to help our clients make a difference. And that’s really what drives us at the end of the day—taking the talents we have and applying them to our clients’ needs in order to be a force for good. Our clients are all working hard to better our world, and we love being able to help them achieve or surpass their goals. Still, Jessica hopes that 2021 brings back some of the normalcy 2020 took away. “I miss our people,” she says. “I can’t wait to be able to travel to our clients again. I’m grateful that we had our best year ever, but I look forward to getting back to building our relationships in person.” We couldn’t agree more.
Let’s face it—we all think we need more time to get things done. Whether it’s finding a perfect-for-us balance between work and life commitments, working through that massive to-do list the boss handed down Monday morning, or just finding that all-important “me time” we need to refocus and rejuvenate, we all like to blame time as the main culprit for why we can’t get everything done. It’s true, there are only 24 hours in each day, and the average human spends quite a few of those sleeping. While we can’t magically add hours to your day, we have compiled some tips from experts in the time management field to help you maximize the hours you do have.
1. Perform a time audit. Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. Just as you’d perform an audit on your company’s books, perform an audit on how you spend your time. You just might be surprised by how much time you spend on tasks like reading email or catching up on social media. A time audit helps you understand where your waking time goes each day. And, of course, there’s an app for that! Several, in fact. Try RescueTime, Toggl, or Calendar to help you get a clear idea of where your time goes.
2. “Single task.” Did you know only 2% of us efficiently multitask? That mean that 98% of us actually lose time when we try to multitask! So when you go to tackle your to-do list, pick one task, focus solely on it, and when it’s done, you’ll know you gave it your best.
3. Organize, organize, organize. One thing the experts agree on is that organization is key to effectively managing your time. So, we’re sorry to have to tell you, but your mother was right: It really is best if everything has a place and everything is in its place. An organized workspace (and thus a more organized mind) saves more time than we think.
4. Plan ahead. There’s no substitute for good planning. Take a few minutes at the end of your day to prepare for the next day’s tasks. Create your to-do list and get your workstation reset, restocked, and ready to go. In the morning before you begin, take time to review your list and prioritize the three or four tasks you need to complete that day. Additionally, take some time on Saturday or Sunday to reflect on what you’ve got coming up the next week and set a week-at-a-glance priority calendar. Then you’ll have an attack plan for the week. Make sure to leave some flexibility for those last-minute tasks that always seem to appear just when your plan is working well.
5. Set goals correctly. Experts suggest using the SMART system for setting goals. In other words, your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART). Use this system with every goal you set, small or big. If it doesn’t meet the SMART criteria, consider whether or not it truly is a goal (or even necessary). Eliminate any “goals” that aren’t really goals and hone any that need a little more direction.
6. Set a time limit for each task. We’re not multitasking anymore, so this should be easier. Set a time limit to achieve each goal. Say you have a report to write for your boss and it should take about two hours to complete. Make that your time limit. It helps you stay on track and complete the task. You can even turn it into a game. Think of it as “work solitaire.” If you give yourself a time limit, chances are you will stay more focused and use your time more efficiently.
7. Take a break between tasks. The human brain can only focus for about 90 minutes at a time, so build mini breaks into your workday. They don’t have to last long. Take five minutes to grab another cup of coffee or tea or fill your water bottle. Spend five or ten minutes checking in on social media or to listen to a segment of a podcast. Anything that works for you to reset your brain and prepare to double down on your to-do list once again.
8. Spend mornings on your MITs. “Most Important Tasks” (MITs) are the items on your to-do list that have the highest priority. Experts suggest you spend your morning hours focused on these tasks because early in the day is when we tend to be most focused and have the most energy. Leave less important tasks for later in the day, especially when those mid-afternoon blues set in.
9. Instill “keystone habits.” These are what John Rampton, writing for Forbes, calls the habits that transform your life in a positive way. Things like adding exercise to your daily routine, or eating healthier, or meditating. These are the habits that replace our bad habits and help us become healthier, more focused individuals. So even if you think you don’t have time, make time. In the long run, it’ll actually give you more of that precious commodity.
10. Use a calendar. Actually, the experts say, “Use a digital calendar.” A digital calendar can be accessed from multiple devices and carry across several applications. However, if you’re like some of us at Powerhouse, you swear by your old-school paper calendar. Whichever you prefer (or go hybrid!), using a calendar helps you stay on top of your schedule and means you won’t overschedule yourself. Using a calendar also gives you a broader perspective on when you are busiest and when you can schedule activities like that yoga class or school volunteer opportunity you’ve been trying to work in.
11. Use a to-do list. It seems like one of those givens, right? Everyone has a to-do list. Yes, but do you write yours down? Writing out your to-do list helps you stay on task. Or, you can simply organize the tasks you need to do by order of priority. While you’re at it, add a “done” section to your to-do list. While it’s satisfying to cross off items, it’s just as satisfying to see that “done” list grow the more tasks you complete. Plus, it helps you organize (and remember) what you’ve done when it comes time to send in lists of your deliverables, create invoices, etc.
12. Just say “no.” Nobody likes to say “no” when asked to do something. While we secretly might want to say it, often times we don’t want to be that person. Still, learning how to say “no” is one of the best things you can do to manage your time. Only you know when you’re reaching that critical point between being able to manage the tasks you have and being overbooked. If you just don’t have time to contribute to this month’s bake sale or to organize the costumes for the school play, just say “no.” We promise it gets easier the more you practice. And you’ll find that when you are able to say “yes,” you appreciate it more.
13. Don’t waste time. There is plenty of waiting time built into our daily schedules. Whether it’s waiting to pick up kids from school, waiting to see the doctor, waiting for your oil change to be done…You get the picture. Wait time doesn’t have to be wasted time. Bring a book you’ve been meaning to read with you or listen to an episode of your favorite podcast. Or, work on small work tasks that don’t necessarily require you to block out your surroundings. It might surprise you how much you can get to just by utilizing all that wait time.
14. Block out distractions. In the times we’re living in, this may seem like an impossible task. With parents and students working more from home these days, distractions seem to be the norm. Still, to be the most productive you can be, try your best to block out distractions. Close a door if you can, lower your blinds and turn on a light, silence your phone. Remember, just because a phone is ringing doesn’t mean you have to answer it. If diffusing some essential oils or putting music on low helps you focus, then do that. The idea is to create a zone where you can forget about your surroundings and focus on what you need to accomplish.
15. Don’t chase perfection. Believe me, as a not-so-in-the-closet perfectionist myself, this is probably the hardest tip to follow. However, perfection really doesn’t exist and trying to attain it can waste a lot of time. Do your best and move on. Your best is almost always better than sufficient (and better than you think) to get the task done. Do your best, add it to your “done” list, and start on the next task—after a small break, of course.
16. Don’t wait for inspiration. This is a perfect partner to #15. We can sometimes get bogged down in waiting for inspiration to strike, but the fact is it might never strike. The best thing to do is just to dig in and get started. Inspiration might strike while you’re working. Or it might not. Still, chances are great that you’ll still complete your tasks in a way that will satisfy your boss or clients.
17. Before meetings, determine your desired results. When preparing for a meeting, make sure you and your team have decided what you hope to accomplish. Build an agenda and stick to it. We’ve all been in those meetings that drone on and in which nothing seems to get accomplished. We all think those meetings are huge “time sucks,” so change the way you meet. Determine what you want to happen and stick to it; if it becomes apparent that you won’t see your desired results from that meeting, then cut it short and schedule a follow-up meeting. This flexing gives everyone a chance to go back and reassess or complete some more work in order to meet effectively next time.
18. Delegate. Most of us are not great at delegating tasks. We get it. Either we feel embarrassed that we can’t do it all, or we’re control freaks, or maybe we just never learned how. Still, learning how to delegate—and then doing it—is one of the quickest and easiest ways to “gain time.” Of course, we at Powerhouse excel in this area. It’s why we exist, after all. So if you can’t delegate tasks to those within your organization, check out all the ways we can help give you back some time so you can focus on the MITs on your own to-do list.
19. Train the other side of your brain. This is a tip from the time management experts at Toggl. Engage in activities that use the part of your brain you don’t use at work. You’ll find that it’s easier to solve problems and you’ll work more efficiently the more you develop both sides of your brain.
20. Sleep well. Strive for seven to eight hours of sleep per night. We really can’t stress enough how getting good sleep will help you with your time management skills. There are key reasons humans need to sleep: It refreshes our brains, our bodies, and our emotional well-being. So cut out caffeine after lunch time, put down those screens and TV remotes at least an hour before going to sleep, and enjoy the ways a good night’s sleep will help you feel as if you’ve gained time in your day.
In the end, each of us has the same 24 hours in a day. What you do with those hours—and how well you manage them—matters. As Gandalf famously says in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” So how are you spending yours?
If you’re thinking about developing strategy and setting goals for your business, it can seem overwhelming. Where do you start? What do you do? With these 20 tips, you’ll be well on your way to getting your big dreams out of your head and into a workable plan.
1. Start with your mission. You have a mission already, right? That powerful statement of your purpose in your work should drive everything you do each day. And it should be your North Star as you set goals for the future of your business.
2. Do your homework. Grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable. Review where you’ve been. Run the reports. Look at your numbers (revenue, market share, annual growth, whatever indicators you’ve identified as your key metrics for success). Read the Yelp reviews or customer service logs. Pull in whatever information you have that speaks to how you’ve been doing.
3. Be a truth-teller. As exciting as it is to dream big dreams and work to execute them, this process can be uncomfortable. You may be faced with (temporary) limitations to what you can do. You may find you’ve missed the mark or dropped the ball in one area or another. You may not have handled a certain situation as well as you’d have liked. Be honest about what’s happened—all of it, the good, bad, and ugly.
4. Learn from your mistakes. No self-flagellation required. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” The only real mistake is not taking advantage of the opportunity to reassess and choose differently next time.
5. Look at the market. Conduct a market analysis. What’s happening in your industry? Who’s buying what and how much? What patterns or trends are emerging? What challenges might you expect? What opportunities might exist? It’s worth noting that this isn’t a one-and-done task. You should be aware of (or designate someone to be aware of) what’s happening in your market regularly. Set Google Alerts. Follow key influencers or thought leaders on LinkedIn. Keep your finger on the pulse of your field.
6. Check out your competition. They should be part of your market analysis, but also warrant a special callout. They aren’t the bad guys who are taking your business. (There’s enough magic and opportunity to go around if you’re creative and resourceful.) They are a great source of information regarding what’s working or not working in your space. Whether you see something you like or dislike, either is an opportunity to learn about what you’ll do and how you’ll be as a business leader.
7. Gather your team. Decide who will be part of this process. Will you include only senior management? Department heads? If you’re a small business or start-up, maybe it will be you and your teenage daughter who works after school for you (just keeping it real).
8. Solicit input. Who are your stakeholders and what are they saying about your business? Encourage your employees to share their experience working with/for you and what you can do better or differently. Ask your customers to provide feedback about their customer experience. Anyone who interacts with your business in some capacity offers valuable information.
9. Prioritize. What’s most important to you? Where would your business most benefit from change or dedicated focus? Where have you struggled that you’d like to address? What opportunities do you see that you’d like to run with? The correct answer to this question is not “all the things” (even if it feels like all the things need to change). Pick a few of the things that will have the greatest impact and start there.
10. Be realistic. Not that you should settle for less than what you want, but you do want your goals to be achievable. Ask yourself if it’s practical and feasible to pull off what you’re hoping to do within a designated period of time (one year, three years, five years max).
11. Realize size matters. Dream big, start small. Do you have a big, bright, shiny goal in mind? Break it down into smaller steps that, executed over time, will have a big impact.
12. Be descriptive. What are the details that make it clear what you’re trying to do? Pretend you’re a reporter (or a 10th-grade English student) and answer the Five Ws: Who? What? When? Where? Why?
“We want more business.” Of course you do, but what does that mean, exactly?
“Our marketing team will increase our social media reach by 10% quarterly.” That statement tells a better story about what you’re aiming for.
13. Take measure. How will you know when you’ve achieved success? What do those numbers look like? Build tracking, measurements, and analysis into your game plan.
14. Make a shopping list. What resources will you need? Do you need more staff? A new software program? A consultant who specializes in an area you’re looking to improve? Be clear about what resources—time, manpower, and money—you’ll need to actualize your goals.
15. Assign responsibility. Who will be responsible for what? Be clear on roles and responsibilities for each goal and/or action required to execute your plan. Who’s in charge? Which person or team will be doing the work?
16. Celebrate milestones. If your goal is a bazillion dollars (though, you’ll have lots of money for that party), don’t wait until your desired end state to celebrate. Acknowledge designated points along the way. Keep your team motivated to continue driving toward your bigger goals.
17. Take action. Avoid the common trap of planning to plan and, instead, plan to act. Your beautiful goals mean nothing if you don’t use them!
18. Check in regularly. Your strategy and goals aren’t meant to be pulled out once every three to five years for review. Schedule regular intervals—monthly, quarterly, annually—to assess where you’re at, whether you’re on target with your goals and timetable, and what challenges or opportunities might be important to hash out.
19. Be flexible. Your big vision most likely will not change, but your path to get there likely will. The market may shift, the economy may be impacted, your team may shrink or grow—any number of variables may impact the way you do business. By being fluid, adjusting and adapting, you’re more likely to reach your goals.
20. Be kind. To your team executing on your plan. To your customers and clients who may love or hate a new direction you take. And to yourself. This is a process. A never-ending, often frustrating, sometimes uncomfortable process. It won’t always be fun. But it will be productive if you give yourself and others some grace.
Goals and strategic planning aren’t some big monster to be slayed. They’re tangible processes by which you can strengthen and build your business. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get started!
Welcome back to one of our favorite blog series here at Powerhouse. We just love getting to highlight some of the incredible talent we’re fortunate to work with every day. This month’s “Spotlight” features a true behind-the-scenes master—Dean Kokoris. We’re not sure how he does it, but Dean makes the mysterious behind-the-scenes world of Powerhouse work for him (and us) in masterful ways.
Dean is one of our graphic designers and is celebrating his third anniversary with Powerhouse in November. While Dean manages (mostly) to stay out of the spotlight, we convinced him to step into our flattering lights at least this once. Dean works his magic on our own materials as well as for our client Coastal Addiction. If you haven’t been introduced to Coastal Addiction, please check out their website for some fantastic apparel options. But we digress…
When asked what he likes most about working with Powerhouse, Dean said that the flexibility and the outlet for creativity he enjoys are the best. As a completely virtual workforce, flexibility is something Powerhouse excels at providing. Our freelancers are exceptionally talented (like crazy amounts of talent!), and we work hard to promote a safe space in which to allow those talents to grow in unexpected directions.
Dean’s dad was in the Air Force, which gives him a unique perspective working virtually alongside a lot of military spouses. He’s married with two young children, a boy and a girl ages three and six, who keep him on his toes when he’s not hard at work. Because Dean says he prefers to let others describe him, we asked Powerhouse President Jessica Bertsch and the world’s greatest administrative assistant, Jennifer Kirkpatrick, for their thoughts on just exactly who Dean is. “Dean is talented, intelligent, kind, and professional,” says Jen. “He delivers quality work on time and often early.” Jess agrees, adding that his focus is inspiring. When he’s on the job, he’s on the job.
When not at work, Dean enjoys indulging in his favorite hobby, carpentry. It’s really too bad we all work from different spots in the country, or we’re pretty sure we could keep Dean in carpentry work for a good long while! While he values his carpentry time, he also loves time at the beach, which is something that works into Dean’s personal philosophy: “Work to live, not live to work.” Family comes first for Dean. “Never sacrifice time with family for work,” he told us. “There will always be a work emergency, but there are only so many firsts to be a part of with your kids.” By sticking to the work schedule you set for yourself, you can ensure those family firsts will be things you’ll experience firsthand.
This month, we’re focusing on setting goals, so we asked Dean to share any words of wisdom he might have. Of course, he quoted Monty Python:
“Always look on the bright side of life.
If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing
When you’re feeling in the dumps
Don’t be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle, that’s the thing
And always look on the bright side of life.”
He was a little more serious when we asked him what advice he’d give a fellow freelancer just starting out. “Know your value, strengths, and weaknesses,” he said. “Don’t undervalue yourself.”
Dean, like most of our freelancers, is a Powerhouse fan. He definitely sees himself continuing to help us share the goodness. Through his work with Powerhouse and our clients, Dean feels that he has achieved a great balance between work, life, and all those firsts.
Naturally, we asked him to share something nobody else knew. He told us that he once wrote an award-winning book, but that he “forgot to click ‘Save’ and lost the whole thing in a power outage.” Considering he also started to tell us the secret to life but never finished his thought, we’re inclined to believe him. In fact, we strongly suspect that award-winning book contained the secret to life. We’re just not sure whether he “forgot” to click “Save” or he just realized that knowledge unleashed on the world would be too powerful. Whatever the case, we’re just grateful our behind-the-scenes master works with us!
Congratulations! If you’re interested in growing your nonprofit, that means you’ve gotten past those first few rocky months/years where everything is about survival and you’re looking to expand. That’s great news! And by growing your nonprofit, you’ll be able to serve more people and leave an even greater impact on the world. Here are 20 suggestions to support you in that effort:
1. Put your mission first. What is your why? It should be abundantly clear across your website and social media sites as well as in your presentations and grant proposals. Why do you do what you do? And why does it matter? Whenever you are considering a new opportunity, your first question should be, “Is this aligned with our mission?” If it’s not, it’s not something you should be investing time, manpower, or resources on.
2. Differentiate yourself. It’s great to have a mission you’re excited about. But in a world of many nonprofits competing for attention and funds from a much smaller number of funders, you need to be able to articulate what makes your organization different from what other organizations might be doing in a similar space. What is your unique value proposition?
3. Be a lean, mean, bootstrapping machine. You don’t need big bucks to do big, important work. What you do need is to be creative and resourceful. And while the internet and well-intentioned people will tell you that you need all the bright shiny things, that’s not really true—whether you’re a start-up or a more established nonprofit. Be deliberate with the choices you make about where you spend money and whether those expenditures will yield a good return on investment.
4. But realize, too, that it’s smart to invest in the right tools. There are things that are worth the spend—like the proper vetting of new hires, tools and resources that will help you work smarter, and professional development that will keep your organization up to speed with new trends and skills.
5. Become a master storyteller. People don’t give money to places; they respond to stories about people and the difference you’re making in their lives. Storytelling should be a part of everything you do from your social media platforms to your website, from your marketing materials to your elevator pitch. Who has been impacted by your work and how? Share those stories!
6. Gather testimonials. Client videos and thank-you notes are very compelling. But remember that clients aren’t the only ones who find value in your organization. Your community supporters and funders are involved because they’re passionate about your work too! A funder’s “Why I Give” story might be just what you need potential donors to see to prompt them to become an actual donor!
7. Build “brand” ambassadors. You don’t need a huge marketing budget to promote the work you do. What you do need are people who are excited to be a part of it. Don’t underestimate the value of word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations. Happy funders, happy partners, happy clients—let them be members of your fan club. And encourage them to help you build its membership!
8. Utilize volunteers. Even if you’re a small staff (or let’s be honest, often a staff of one), you don’t need to work alone. Leverage the time and interests of others—whether they’re high school kids needing community service, college kids looking for internship hours, or local seniors wanting an opportunity to be of service. There’s an entire free workforce available to you if you make volunteer engagement part of your organizational culture.
9. Tap into your connections. Your network is bigger than you think it is. Your family, friends, board members, alumni community, etc. are all great sources for introductions to the people and organizations who can help you further your mission.
10. You can expand the highway but stay in your lane. You know your strengths and superpowers. Focus your time and efforts there. Don’t chase money that’s not aligned with what you do well. Resist the temptation to do all the things. Do your thing exceptionally well.
11. Demonstrate impact. It’s great to be passionate about your nonprofit’s work. And smiling, grateful service recipients are a beautiful and treasured thing. But potential donors want more than warm fuzzies. They want metrics about impact. How many meals did you serve? How many veterans did you secure employment for? What percentage of high school kids went to college because of your initiative? Be able to quantify the difference you make.
12. Build assessment and evaluation into everything you do. Track your social media metrics so you can speak to how interest is growing in your cause. Set clear goals for what you want to accomplish and plans to measure progress toward those goals. Again, be prepared to provide data along with those great stories about lives changed!
13. Establish trust and rapport. Say what you mean and do what you say. Be trustworthy and transparent. Share your outcomes and financials, even when they’re less than ideal. Be honest about what’s working and where you might need to make changes. Funders are more likely to give to a nonprofit that may have some challenges but also has insight about how to move the needle than they’ll be to an organization painting a rosy (but dishonest) picture about their efforts.
14. Ask for help. Whether it’s help on a project or guidance from someone else in the nonprofit space who seems to have it all figured out, don’t be afraid to ask. Asking for help doesn’t demonstrate weakness. It takes a strong person to call in resources he or she may not have at their disposal. (And while leaders of small nonprofits often find themselves wearing many hats, nobody is good at all of the things!)
15. Build a team that complements each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You don’t want a bunch of people who think exactly as you do. You want people to challenge and inspire you. You want people who will push back when an idea isn’t perhaps the right one for the time. You want out-of-the-box thinkers who will bring creative solutions to the table when you’re short on answers. Surround yourself with a diverse team of people passionate about the work you do.
16. Learn to say “no.” Remember when we talked about chasing all the funding, even if it wasn’t aligned with your mission? That’s a great time to say “no.” The same applies to taking on new projects or programs when your team and/or resources are already stretched thin. Or agreeing to speak at all the places or attend all the events when you’re already overtasked with what’s on your plate. The fear of missing a great opportunity is real. What’s worse than a missed opportunity is dropping the ball on a commitment you make that you don’t have the bandwidth to keep.
17. Diversify your funding. While it’s true that not all money is the right money for your nonprofit, it’s also true that it’s a mistake to rely on a single funder or funding type to maintain your financial stability over time. Companies can fold. Funders can choose to focus on other priorities—like responding to a global pandemic—instead of continuing to fund programs they’ve typically funded in the past. Money can leave much more quickly than it comes in. Putting all your eggs in one proverbial basket means that when that one funding source dries up, you’re left with an empty basket. There are many different vehicles for raising nonprofit funds: events, grant writing, corporate sponsorship, etc. Consider having more than one funding stream in your portfolio.
18. Collaborate with others. Don’t believe the lie people like to tell that everything is a competition and that with scarcity of resources your goal is to win at another nonprofit’s expense. Yes, it’s true that there are finite resources. But it’s also true that partnerships with other nonprofits/groups can benefit both parties. By working together, you can increase your scope and reach. (And many funders tend to prefer funding collaborative endeavors anyway!)
19. Engage with your community. All right, this one really should have been much higher on this list because it’s that important and can make many of the things listed above much easier to accomplish. Your community is, or should be, a source for volunteers, ambassadors for your cause, businesses/companies interested in supporting the work you do and more. But this relationship can’t be one-way. Make clear the value you offer your community through the work you do. Let them know that you’re there to serve their interests via whatever service your nonprofit offers. You need each other!
20. Plan ahead. Your first priority is to be of service. But a close second should be thoughts of sustainability. You’re doing great work and you need to make sure you can continue to do so in the months and years ahead. It is easy enough to be overwhelmed by the mundane daily tasks involved with running a nonprofit. But regular time must be scheduled and used to work on strategy and future-facing conversations about your organization if you’re to continue to remain successful over the long term.
You don’t need to attempt to employ all of these tips at once. Pick a few that speak to you—that are easily attainable—and start there. Commit to a culture of growth moving forward. With that mindset, you’re already ahead of the game!
Nicole Lauer is ecstatic to join Powerhouse Planning as a freelance social media manager. Over the course of the last decade, Nicole has gone from an active-duty military member to a full-time military spouse.
In her professional life, Nicole strives to be an adaptable team member up for any challenge. She has over five years’ experience as a social media manager, communications manager, content curator, marketer, and marketing assistant.
Nicole is a graduate of the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where she earned her B.A. and M.A. in multimedia communications with a focus in social media advertisement. During her course of study, Nicole remained engaged with her military community by volunteering as an ombudsman and holding several board positions on spouses’ clubs and ball planning committees.
Nicole currently resides in Cape Canaveral, Florida with her husband, Clark; eight-year-old son, CJ; and four-year-old daughter, Zoe-Rae. In her free time, Nicole loves exploring every inch of Disney World and tasting new food offerings around the world in Epcot.
Powerhouse Planning, more affectionately known as PH in our online blog series, is eight years old this month. On September 11th, PH turns the big 0-8. In celebration of another turn around the sun, we decided it was time to catch up with our illustrious founder and CEO Jessica Bertsch to see just what she thinks about PH eight years after she signed the paperwork making Powerhouse Planning a dream turned reality.
PH: As you are very well aware, we are eight years old. However, not many people may realize that our actual “birthday” falls on 9/11. Was that deliberate?
JB: The true story is that I filled out all the paperwork to make PH official, and when I got to the date line and filled in “September 11,” I realized exactly what day it was. I deliberated for at least five minutes on whether I should go ahead and click “Submit” or wait another day so we wouldn’t be associated with such a dark day in American history. But then, I really started thinking about it and consciously decided that I wanted PH to be a light in the darkness and something about beginning what I hoped would be a force for good on such a day seemed like the right thing to do. The rest is history.
PH: Reflecting on the entirety of PH history, what do you think you got right?
JB: A man I worked with before I started PH, and someone who has been a bit like a mentor to me, told me that I should always surround myself with people who are smarter than me. So when I started PH, I looked for those who are true experts in their field. Look, you don’t want me heading up your IT services or working your graphic design projects, but hiring the right people has meant that we can provide super high-quality products to our clients. By surrounding myself with experts and smart thinkers, I’ve been able to definitely grow outside of my own comfort zone knowing I’ve got the right people to make it successful. Another related thing to that is that I think we’ve done a fantastic job of helping our freelancers grow their comfort zones as well. We hire them for one thing, but when we discover their “hidden talents,” we encourage them to pursue and expand. It’s something that’s worked out very well for us.
PH: What, if anything, have you gotten wrong? And why is it important to reflect on those things?
JB: Oh my, I’ve gotten so much wrong! Most of the mistakes I’ve made have been on the behind-the-scenes business end of things. Things like giving accurate quotes to potential clients on what kind of hours, money, and time will be necessary. I also have struggled with finding and creating healthy boundaries between work and home. When you’re an entrepreneur who works from home that can be one of the biggest challenges. I’ve needed to learn how to grow a “healthy me” so that I can be the best CEO, wife, mother, and human being I can. And I’ve been completely transparent about the mistakes I’ve made. It’s important to help others learn and grow, so if my experiences can help someone just starting out from making the same mistakes, then I have an obligation to own and share those mistakes.
PH: How did you create such a strong community in a virtual work space?
JB: That’s something else we’ve gotten extremely right. I don’t know of another virtual work force that truly feels like a team, especially in the last four or five years since our Executive Assistant, Jennifer Kirkpatrick, has come on board. She was telling me the other day that PH now employs 22 freelancers, which just blew my mind. We offer new hires a New Hire Toolkit that explains the culture here and sets them up for a strong beginning. We’ve worked hard to offer virtual book clubs, awards, recognition, and just some fun virtual events that help us grow and enjoy each other and the culture we’re creating. Not long ago, some of the freelancers took an hour out of their Friday to just hang out together virtually. That’s something truly unique. And we’re low pressure about it. If you want to be a raving PH fan, we’ll embrace you wholeheartedly, but if you just want to be a fantastic behind-the-scenes worker, we love that too. We’re inclusive and truly celebrate each other’s wins. We like to joke that it’s a good thing we’re virtual because if we worked in a traditional office space, we’d just have too much fun during normal work hours and then have to go home and get all our work done!
PH: Where do you envision PH going from here?
JB: Honestly, I don’t know! I went into this knowing to expect years where we wouldn’t grow or where we’d plateau, and every year that’s what I’ve expected. Yet every year we end up growing. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great thing and I’m glad we’re continuing to grow and meet a need in the business community. I think as we continue we’ll be making better, stronger, smarter decisions. I’d like to see us go deeper into government contracting and grant writing, areas where we’ve only begun to dip our toes in the water. I also think we’ll maintain our company where we are right now. I’m very conscious of our growth because I want to ensure that I can still be a strong wife and mother, 100% present in my family’s life, and I want the same for our freelancers. I can see growing more once all my children are in school full time, but for now I think we’ve reached a good work/life balance.
PH: What are you most excited about right now in the PH world?
JB: I’ve loved seeing what we’ve been able to do for nonprofits over the last two and a half years. The fact that we can provide the services of around five full-time personnel for the price of one gives us the ability to really help. We can provide grant writers, graphic designers, technical writers, marketing specialists, quality assurance experts, and more for about what it would cost them to pay one employee. That’s just a dream for nonprofits, especially smaller ones who just don’t have the budget for these things yet. We’re big on wanting to be a force for good, and our freelancers really appreciate their nonprofit clients because it lets them feel like they are doing more than just work—they’re helping provide services that benefit our greater communities.
PH: One final question. Is there any little-known secret about PH that you’d like to share?
JB: We’re an open book. Honestly, I can’t think of anything. I guess this would be a great time to share about our favorite PH volunteers. My husband, Fritz, has done so much behind-the-scenes stuff since we started. Anything from helping me unpack my office every time we move to creating Excel spreadsheets. And my son, Quint, is my favorite payroll helper. The whole family gets involved in marketing videos for nonprofits as well. PH has truly been a family endeavor, and I would never have gotten this far without them. The only other thing that comes to mind is just how proud I am of our little company that we haven’t had to use any of the COVID-19 relief funds set up for small businesses. Our very nature means that we already had processes and procedures in place for being 100% virtual, and we didn’t really even lose any clients or work. We’ve actually thrived during the pandemic, and that’s something I attribute not only to our business practices but also to the amazing freelancers who make PH what it is.