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Catching Up with Powerhouse Planning’s CEO Jessica Bertsch


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.

2020-07-12T20:05:05+00:00September 8th, 2020|

20 Reasons You Need Powerhouse Planning

It’s September, and we at Powerhouse are sincerely hoping you are back to experiencing a little bit of normal. If you aren’t, well, what is normal anyway? While you are celebrating your new normal, we are also celebrating here at Powerhouse. It’s our birthday month! Eight years ago, our intrepid leader Jessica Bertsch launched what has become a truly amazing, POWERful force for good in both the workplace and in communities around the world. In honor of our birthday, we have compiled a list of 20 reasons you need Powerhouse, covering a wide variety of perspectives and services.

1. We are always growing. We don’t rest on our laurels at Powerhouse. We are constantly adding to our list of services, our community outreach, and our ability to stay on top of what you need most.

2.  We are passionate about our clients. Of course, we wouldn’t exist without our clients. However, we truly want the absolute best for those with whom we partner. It’s not uncommon to find Powerhouse members actively supporting our clients outside of the business services we provide.

3. We are an entire team of experts. We all have our skill sets and the things we are good at doing. Jessica has assembled an entire stable of skill experts available to help with a vast variety of tasks. The best news? You get an entire team for the price of one employee (maybe even less)!

4. Nonprofits have our heart. We love all our clients, but we have a soft spot for our nonprofit clients. Powerhouse is about more than just the business acumen we offer; we are committed to being a force of light and good. So when we can help nonprofits, we are all in, especially when it comes to strategic planning, grant writing, or helping identify the most efficient way to spend the dollars available.

5. We are a true virtual TEAM. Yes, we are an entirely virtual workforce. Yes, we represent pretty much every region in America, but we are also a team in the true traditional workplace sense. We work closely together to ensure we are giving clients the best possible product. And if we have a ton of fun along the way, well, that’s just another way in which we are perfectly unique.

6. We are flexible. Not only are we able to pivot on a dime if a client needs us to, but we also provide flexible work hours for our freelancers. We want our freelancers to have the freedom to choose the work schedule that works for them so that they can also be the best in all aspects of their lives.

7. We rock “office attire.” In compiling a list of reasons why Powerhouse is the absolute best place to work, one of our freelancers asked if the fact that we can “go” to work in our fabulous athleisure attire counted. Of course it does. We know that if you’re comfortable, you’re going to be more productive. Rest assured, though, we do rock traditional office attire just as effectively.

8. We support military spouses. When Jessica started Powerhouse, she was passionate about being able to offer truly portable careers for our military spouses. We are proud of the fact that most of us are active or retired military spouses. For those of us who are not, we love the fact that we work with people who are often overlooked, overqualified, and underutilized.

9. We share the goodness. Powerhouse gives 10% of its annual profits to various charities around the world. Most are causes near and dear to our team members’ hearts, and we LOVE knowing we work for a company that feels strongly about being a force of good in the world.

10. We are career coaches. Have we mentioned that we are all-in with our clients? Besides providing on-time, fantastic products, we also offer career coaching. We are invested in our clients to the point that if we see something that can be improved, we will make sure to mention it (along with some ideas of how to make the change). We just can’t help wanting our clients to surpass their expected potential.

11. We are problem solvers. Need someone to take over the projects that are keeping you from focusing on your talents? That’s exactly why Powerhouse exists. You don’t even need to have all the logistics worked out. Just come to us with a vague idea of what you need, and we will turn it into more than you ever imagined it could be.

12. We are eternal optimists. Ask any of our freelancers and they will tell you that one of the best parts of working with Powerhouse is the positive, encouraging, uplifting team environment. We offer fulfilling work and positive affirmation that lets our freelancers know that they are appreciated and that we are a little in awe of their talents (okay, okay, a lot in awe).

13. We become part of your team. When you sign with Powerhouse, you gain additional team members. Seriously, we will most likely become your biggest fans as well as a virtual workforce helping you become all you can be. It’s definitely not uncommon to hear team members talking about how “we are the best” when referencing a client’s products and services. We really do feel like we are your team members, even if we never meet you in person!

14. We are marketing superstars. We get marketing. Whether it is traditional marketing or the more and more common online/social media marketing, we have got you covered. From graphic design to help with large-event planning or conference/trade show attendance, we can help you make the most of your marketing budget.

15. We are invested in the whole person. Our team members are more than just experts at what they do for Powerhouse. They are family members, parents, community volunteers, and more. We embrace that and want our freelancers to find the perfect work-life balance for them. From our president on down, everyone at Powerhouse is encouraged to make life a priority. It may just be one of the best parts of working here, knowing that if life happens, not only can we take the time to deal with it, but it’s absolutely going to happen with active backing from our Powerhouse coworkers as well.

16. If we don’t offer it, we will. Looking for help from a virtual team, but don’t see what you need on our services page? Just ask. Chances are we can find a way to make it happen. We grow where our clients need us. We are willing to bet our current freelancers have the skills you need, but if they don’t, we will find some who do.

17. We encourage growth. We strive to help our clients identify areas in which they can grow and improve (and offer the expertise to help them do so), and we do the same with our freelancers. When they are ready to grow and expand their skill sets, we are here to encourage them to do so. Most of our freelancers were hired for one skill set but have expanded their knowledge to become experts in other areas as well.

18. We are team builders. Not only is Powerhouse a dynamic team, but we also have the skills to help you improve your own teams. Company development is a bit of a passion for our founder, and she is adamant that every company can implement steps that will result in a stellar team. From hiring to mentoring to developing resources, Powerhouse can help you become the team of your dreams.

19. We lighten your load. In fact, we excel at it. We are comprised of a community of experts in our individual fields, plus we thrive together and grow together, which means we can take on the things that weigh you down so you can focus on the things that will make you grow and thrive.

20. We love what we do. Have we mentioned that? Helping clients be the best they can be while providing portable careers for some truly amazing freelancers all while investing in our communities and people just makes us jump out of bed in the morning. We love going to work (with some of the shortest commute times there are) because each day gives us the opportunity to know we are making a positive difference in our lives, our clients’ lives, and our communities. As cliché as it sounds, it really is what drives us and the reason we are celebrating another successful birthday.

2020-07-12T21:24:12+00:00September 1st, 2020|

Spotlight on Powerhouse’s Meghan Traynor

One of Powerhouse’s social media specialists and grant writers, Meghan Traynor, is celebrating her second anniversary with Powerhouse this month, and we’re excited to feature her in our “Spotlight” series. In her social media role, Meghan, “Megs” to her family and friends, offers social media support to small businesses by developing engaging content that represents their brands. In her position as a grant writer, she supports our nonprofit clients to find and gain the financial support they need to carry out their missions. Whichever hat she’s wearing, Meghan is a rock star, and we’re lucky she calls Powerhouse her work home.

Meghan, like all of us here, absolutely loves Powerhouse and the culture President Jessica Bertsch has cultivated. It is truly unlike any other virtual work force, and Meghan loves the support she receives from everyone on the team as well as the opportunity to provide support herself. “I love getting to know everyone during the virtual POWER hours and book clubs, and most importantly I love all the goodness the Powerhouse team puts out!” Meghan says. Being a freelancer with Powerhouse is “very rewarding” and exactly the fit she was looking for when she found out she was going to be a mom.

With a degree in education, Meghan’s core identity is as someone who deeply desires to help others. She typically wears her heart on her sleeve and feels best when she’s doing work that matters—something that Powerhouse provides her. In addition to her virtual-work family, Meghan is blessed to be a wife and mother. Her husband, Andy, has served in the Coast Guard for 12 years and counting, and two years ago they welcomed their son, Ryan.

Meghan loves spending quality time with her family making memories. She’s an avid baker and crafter, and Ryan loves helping her in the kitchen, no matter what she’s making. Because she believes baking is good for the soul, she’s happy to see that Ryan seems to enjoy it too and is always eager to get his hands in the dough. They don’t leave Andy out, though; the family enjoys spending their time together outdoors whenever possible. Whether it’s playing on a beach somewhere, hiking or camping, or just being in their own backyard, they make the most of outdoor spaces no matter where they’re stationed.

When she focuses on her professional duties, Meghan does it on a schedule. While she loves the flexibility that freelance work affords her, she’s found that if she makes and sticks to a schedule, she’s much more productive with her workday, no matter when that part of her day happens. She also adds “extra time” at the end of her day just in case life happens. In fact, making and sticking to a schedule is her number one tip for those beginning a freelance career, followed closely by “write everything down.” And she does mean everything. “Whether it be ideas for clients, or work you need to get done, writing it down helps me remember to circle back to an idea. There is just something so satisfying about crossing stuff off a to-do list,” she says. She also encourages everyone to keep learning. She loves learning (hence the education degree) and growing her skill set, especially in her professional life.

We asked Meghan to share something fun about herself that not many people know. She shared that she’s one of the few Powerhouse freelancers who has met both our president and our executive assistant, Jennifer Kirkpatrick, when all of their husbands were stationed on the same Coast Guard ship. She also disclosed that once upon a time she was a competitive cheerleader who took dance and gymnastics to help her with that passion. Meghan has always dreamed of starting a baking therapy class for children to incorporate her twin loves of baking and helping others. Knowing Meghan, she’ll make that dream a reality someday. Those of us at Powerhouse will be happy to taste test any recipes she wants to share whenever we get around to having that in-person retreat we’re always talking about. That, and we’ll be happy to help her write some outstanding grant proposals to ensure her dream’s success.

2020-08-28T14:18:48+00:00August 28th, 2020|

20 Tools and Resources You Didn’t Know You Needed as a Business Owner

Starting a new business can be overwhelming. So can operating one, even after you feel like you can breathe again. 2020 has seen a whole lot of upsets, setbacks, and challenges for all small business owners. As we start to navigate our new “normal,” we thought we’d offer some insight into tools and resources that can help you get back on top. Some will seem obvious and some might be new to you, but hopefully you’ll be inspired to renew (or start) your business.

1. The Small Business Association (SBA). The SBA exists specifically to help small businesses. Many of you may be familiar with SBA from hearing about the COVID-19 relief package implemented by the federal government or from securing funding for your new enterprise, but they are much more than that. The SBA’s suite of tools can help small businesses in any stage of growth.

2. Analytics. Every business owner knows it’s important to track and understand statistics. How many people are visiting the website? Who is ordering the product? When are you seeing the biggest surge in interest? Options like Google’s statistics tool, Google Analytics, and others like Open Web Analytics and Clicky are options to help you understand your information in order to be as successful as possible.

3. Cloud Storage. This tool falls into the category of being so fundamental these days we just don’t think about it. Cloud storage allows for digital storage and organization of large amounts of data that can be available at the click of your mouse. The increasing need for secure digital storage is also being addressed by some of the biggest names in computer technology. From free to paid subscriptions, there is a cloud solution perfect for you. Now is a great time to reassess your cloud storage provider.

4. Website and Blog Creators. Have you been wanting to create or revamp your website? Are you interested in starting a blog related to your business? Not a “code” person? No worries. Easy website and blog creators such as Wix or Medium exist just for you. Want a more human touch? Consider reaching out to your local college or university. They probably have web design or computer science majors who would love to help for free or for a very reasonable wage in order to gain experience and/or your recommendation. Don’t forget you can always contact Powerhouse and we can help too!

5. Video Conference Options. Since the arrival of COVID-19, we’re all pretty savvy about video conference options these days. Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Slack—it seems like there are a plethora of options out there. As we return to work, in-person meetings are probably going to be one of those things that fall under the “new” in “new normal.” Take some time to figure out which video conference options will work best for your new normal because they may not be quite the same as the ones that worked best when we were all at home.

6. Digital Document Signers. As we move more and more into the technological age and further and further away from the traditional pen-and-paper business models, digital document signers are becoming more prevalent. Options such as HelloSign and DocuSign provide ways to sign documents digitally and will save you time and money. With a few clicks of your mouse, you can update any contract and have it signed and filed away.

7. LinkedIn. This definitely falls into the “well, duh” column. However, small business expert and entrepreneur Nick Loper of SideHustleNation.com admits to being surprised by the results of a study showing LinkedIn to be the “most recommended social media resource.” Besides exceling at professional networking, LinkedIn offers talent searching and can match companies with individuals seeking positions. If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile lately, now is a perfect time to do so.

8. Facebook. Similarly, Facebook for Business has several free resources to offer small businesses. From help in creating ads to perfecting video content to managing appointments, Facebook has free resources to help you bring your business to the next level marketing-wise. Their resources are very Facebook-specific, so keep that in mind as you check out what they have to offer.

9. Document Scanning Apps. Feeling the need to go greener? Consider installing a document scanning app on your smartphone. Scannable and Evernote are both free apps that can help keep track of everything from business cards to meeting notes, not to mention any kind of document you can imagine. Never worry about losing a business card again with one of these apps. Evernote even connects with LinkedIn for your convenience. Just type “document scanning” into your app store of choice and be amazed at the choices you have.

10. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools. The technology age is definitely here to stay. Everyone jumps on their favorite search engine to find just about anything. Tools like Yoast SEO, Sumo, and Moz Pro can help you make your online presence attractive and easily found. So once you’ve used one of our previously mentioned resources to help you build your online presence, use one of these SEO tools to ensure the right people see it.

11. Virtual Private Network (VPN). Speaking of your online digital presence, security is a growing concern among businesses worldwide. Many VPNs cost money, but there are some that will offer minimum protection for free. So even if you’re not at a point yet where you can afford to ensure security with monthly subscription fees, you can find options like CyberGhost that will offer some protection for free or for a modest fee, such as $3 per month.

12. Chrome Add-Ons. Simple. Free. Easy to install. Perfect for any small business, right? Chrome offers things like TextExpander, which allows you to create custom keyboard shortcuts to optimize your time and efficiency, as well as Awesome Screenshot, an add-on that allows you to take and edit screenshots.

13. Scheduling Apps. Apps such as ScheduleOnce allow you to create a personalized calendar URL that synchs with Google Calendar. Perfect for start-ups and small businesses that need to keep track of meetings, deadlines, etc., but don’t necessarily have space or money to hire an assistant or office manager. For a modest $5 per month, you can grab additional premium features. Need a different format? Your favorite app store will have you covered.

14. Spreading the Word. It’s all about who you know, right? Or who you know and when you know them. Companies like Web FX and Ignite Visibility offer one-step marketing shops to help small businesses get off the ground and/or get recognized. They know the markets you’re hoping to reach and operate with the best possible technology. These comprehensive marketing strategists will cost you, but they deliver proven results.

15. Social Media Tracking. This has been incredibly important in 2020, as we’ve had to rely fairly heavily on online opportunities. Hootsuite and others offer free versions of their products that will help you manage all your social networks as well as allow you to schedule posts and interact with followers. Need more? They offer upgraded versions with premium features for a reasonable monthly fee.

16. Project Management Programs. Trello, Wrike, and others offer free versions of their project management programs as well as premium, paid versions. Easily track projects across your business and have a handy tool that everyone in your company can use to track and update progress. This resource is especially helpful for project-based businesses that manage multiple clients.

17. Gratitude Journal. This tool might be one you haven’t thought of before. Whether you choose a digital option or a traditional pen-and-paper route, consider starting a gratitude journal. Not only will it help you focus on the positives in everything that’s happened this year, but studies show that the happier you are the more productive you are as well. Happiness starts with gratitude. So find a way to reflect on the things that go right in your day.

18. Inspiration. Need some help with finding your happiness and success? Consider subscribing to inspirational websites, blogs, and podcasts that speak to you. Set reminders on your calendar assistant to schedule time to indulge your inspirational needs. Whether you take your lunch break or have time you can build into your day, feed your need for inspiration, kind words, or just whimsy that allows you to forget what’s stressing you. You never know what might help you past that stumbling block, and you just might be inspired to create your next Big Idea.

19. Website Freebies. Many websites exist solely to provide free resources, tips, and interactive guides to help you no matter where you are in your business journey. A great one for those just starting out or in need of a refresher is Visme. It’s a one-stop shop for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

20. Powerhouse Resources. Not only do we have free resources to help you in business and life, but we also have that human touch that can be lacking in an increasingly digital world. Maybe you don’t want to outsource everything to a digital option, but you aren’t in a place where you can afford to hire more people. Powerhouse exists just for you. Get the high-quality, human-inspired options you want at a significantly lower rate than if you had to hire someone part- or full-time. We offer a wide variety of services to help you grow your business and meet your goals.


2020-06-11T20:14:15+00:00August 1st, 2020|

New Powerhouse Team Member

Anna Reed is a mom of three, along with holding many other titles. She grew up in a small town in Wyoming, which gave her a unique perspective on life. She comes from a large family and grew up learning to work hard for what she wanted. Anna has always been a creative at heart and sought ways to channel that passion, from selling her art and creations around her neighborhood as a kid to designing and modeling her own clothing. She has worked in many career fields, from medical to entertainment, and is frequently (and probably jokingly) referred to as a jack of all trades because she is not afraid to try new things. Moving around the country with her family has created challenges and learning experiences not only with family but also with employment, requiring her to reinvent herself in each new location. She loves learning new things and adding skills to her repertoire, and she is grateful for each new opportunity. The biggest lesson she has learned through it all is to think outside the box and never give up, even when it seems like all options have been exhausted. Her hope is to always share her heart through her art and challenge others to see beauty in every situation.

Anna will be joining the Powerhouse team as a product model for one of our clients.

2020-07-16T16:36:00+00:00July 16th, 2020|

20 Ways to Measure Your Business Growth

Management thought leader and author Peter Drucker once wrote, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Recent research has suggested that many entrepreneurs chose the path they did because they desired one thing—meaning. How can we lead our businesses in measurable and meaningful ways, without getting lost in measuring and focusing on things that don’t really matter?

Check out these 20 ideas we’ve put together to help you assess your growth as a business owner and freelancer.

1. Meeting real needs.
You can be growing, but you can also be growing in a direction that no longer meets the needs of the clients you serve. One way to measure your business growth is to compare it to actual needs of your community and customers through regular needs assessments.

2. Benchmarking.
Are you growing relative to similar businesses in your field? What other businesses out there provide services like yours, and how are you different or the same?

3. Leads and referrals.
Tracking the number of new leads and referrals you have each month can give you helpful insights into patterns. Asking these leads how they heard about you is another opportunity to learn what’s working well and possibly whom to thank for referrals.

4. Ratings and recognition.
Higher customer ratings are correlated with increased business. Regularly review your ratings, whether on Google, Yelp, or any other online customer reviews. Looking at ratings and reviews over time can indicate whether you’re growing in a positive direction in the eyes of your customers. Another way to measure growth is being recognized as a leading business in your community or industry, such as applying for and achieving a widely known business recognition, distinction, or seal of integrity that you can display in your marketing.

5. New clients.
If people are knocking on your proverbial door to do business with you, chances are you’re doing something right by offering a needed service and having positive word-of-mouth marketing from your existing customers. Learn more about them and what brought them to your business.

6. Loyalty.
Repeat business and contract renewals are an important aspect of sustainable business. What percentage of your customers would you consider loyal or repeat customers? These are important relationships to nurture, as loyal clients make great (free) marketers who will often happily test-drive new products and services and can even provide the most helpful insights to improve your overall business strategy.

7. New hires.
New team members can be an indicator that you’re ramping up to meet increased demand or growing services and that your company is perceived as a desirable place to work.

8. Retention and engagement.
Measure the average length of time team members stay on board with your business. Retained team members are usually a good indicator of employee satisfaction, a great culture, and successful leadership.

9. Employee growth and development.
One sign of business growth can be found in a measure of your employees’ growth, which is now a well-known factor in employee engagement. If your team members are gaining desirable skills, that development along with their high engagement level can tremendously benefit the growth of your business.

10. Profit.
One sure measure of growth is reflected in your business’s bottom line. If work is plentiful, you should ideally see a reflection of that in your profits.

11. Diversification.
One way to gauge your growth is in terms of sustainability. For example, your efforts in strategic diversification of products, services, or geographical areas served can help you avoid localized impacts. You may also have identified opportunities for growth work or add-on services that will help further solidify your income.

12. Online reach and engagement.
Reviewing your website analytics can give you a picture of your customer reach and engagement over time and relative to certain marketing campaigns. Using trackable links is another great way to see ongoing performance of marketing efforts. If you manage social media pages, you can measure followers, post engagements, and shares. (Here’s an article with great ideas for engaging your social media followers.)

13. New partnerships.
Partnerships are a great measure of business growth because together you are working to provide more or better services to clients or to better streamline the services you provide by cross-referring customers. Tracking the number of business partnerships you have this year over last year could be a good measure of growth.

14. Shareholders.
New investors, funders, active board members, and increased employee giving or board-member giving are great ways to measure others’ confidence in your company or cause and to track growth in that confidence level over time.

15. Expanded services.
Reflect on the number of ways you successfully expanded products, programs, or services in the past year(s) to meet customer needs.

16. Focus and efficiency.
You’re experiencing a kind of growth when you’re seeing better productivity and efficiency along with a more streamlined focus—where there is decreased effort in combination with increased output.

17. Reduced costs.
If you are proactively identifying ways to reduce overhead costs or leaks from ineffective practices, that’s a measure of growth. Effective planning can also help reduce costs, and your strategic planning activities are another aspect of your business you can capture and measure over time.

18. Customer satisfaction and issues resolution.
It directly impacts your bottom line, so you’ll want to ensure systems are in place to measure customer satisfaction and seek feedback often, resolving any issues quickly. Issues resolution is another activity you can track and measure over time to look for indications of growth and improvement in that area.

19. Increased demand.
An increase in demand for your products or services may be a positive indicator that you’re meeting customer needs well and that you have effective marketing efforts in place. Taking steps to understand where the new demand is coming from can help you with future performance.

20. Charitable giving.
A positive, meaningful way to measure your business growth is in how much you are able to give back to the community through charitable acts of giving or volunteering by you and your team.

If you’re looking for ways to take your business to the next level, we have a Powerhouse resource devoted entirely to helping you achieve that. To check out all of our “20 Tips” resources, check out our Powerhouse Resources page and follow us on Facebook.

2020-06-02T20:58:42+00:00July 1st, 2020|

New Powerhouse Team Member

Shannon Toft is a freelance graphic designer and a proud, dedicated Coast Guard spouse of 10 years. As a recent graduate of California State University, East Bay with a B.S. in computer science and minor in mathematics, she is proud to use her degree toward pursuing her passion and love of computers and graphic design. She looks forward to sharing and growing her talents with Powerhouse Planning, helping create and bring to life the ideas of others. In addition to coding and creating designs, Shannon enjoys crafting, traveling, and working on home improvement projects. She is grateful and excited for the opportunity to be a part of the Powerhouse Planning team and have the best of both worlds.

2020-06-17T13:56:22+00:00June 17th, 2020|

20 Things That Truly Matter in Business

A great skill to sharpen is your ability to recognize what is important for your business in the long term. As you cultivate this ability, it becomes easier to actively prioritize the things that are truly significant over the things that simply feel urgent. In this Powerhouse resource, we will navigate you through 20 essential focus areas that prove worthy of your time and investment.


1. Build a culture that values people. A secret of successful businesses is that they’ve mastered developing a great culture centered around their people. Large organizations the world over measure and work to improve their employee engagement because it directly affects their bottom line. And engagement comes down to a few simple things, such as feeling valued and supported, doing meaningful work, and having a leadership culture that fosters trust and empowerment.

2. Learn what matters most to your customers. Your ultimate success can usually be determined by the intersection of two key points: how well you harness your strengths to do what you’re good at doing, and how well this meets your customers’ needs. You can only get so far on that first one, so you’re surely going to need some input on the second.

3. Develop great partnerships. Building strong, healthy, reciprocal relationships with other businesses can really work to propel both of your operations forward. Increasing networking opportunities, pooling resources and client bases, streamlining processes, and finding positive new ways of doing business together are just a few of the potential benefits.

4. Find sources of support that strengthen you. Mentors can come in many forms and need not even be senior to you. Take notice when you are in the company of someone who inspires and motivates you, affirms you, and gives you the courage to reach higher in your goals. Spend more time with these everyday mentors, and you’ll feel the positive effects in other aspects of your life and business.


5. Keep reflecting on the values and standards that guide you. If you have a personal dedication to keep all communications positive and uplifting, for example, this principle can help you navigate conversations, marketing plans, or even conflict resolution. Lean on your moral foundations to guide you through circumstances both large and small.

6. Take the long-term view. When you’re faced with either a great challenge or an awesome potential opportunity, hold it up against your big picture, your long-term plan. Seeking this perspective can help you avoid lots of twists and turns that might otherwise slow down your progress toward your big, long-term goals.

7. Give yourself permission to flex in the short term. Sometimes, despite our best efforts to stay the course, we are dealt an untimely pothole or a fork in the road. It’s okay to make swift calls to action to keep yourself afloat when things get tough. Sometimes making changes is safer than the alternative of being eventually rendered obsolete.

8. Do a few things really, really well. Success is more often a product of doing less than doing more. Just focus on doing what you’re good at, doing what is worthwhile, and doing these things exquisitely.


9. Share good news. Foster confidence and establish credibility by regularly sharing what’s going well, celebrating successful outcomes, and talking about goals and future plans you’re excited about.

10. Encourage trust by being transparent. Share openly about what you’ve learned and about your future plans—and involve people in them—and watch your relationships deepen. For more ways to establish credibility, check out our Powerhouse resource with 20 tips devoted entirely to this topic.

11. Be dependable; it’s a powerful form of respect. Be on time for appointments, start and end all phone calls or meetings on time, and by all means deliver what you said you would. The underlying messages of these simple actions say, “You matter to me,” “I value our relationship,” and “I respect your time.”

12. Accept feedback graciously. If someone is brave enough to tell you that something went wrong, welcome the feedback with open arms. Most customers won’t take the time to complain; they’ll simply take their business elsewhere and never return. That’s not a scenario that helps you learn and improve, so ask for feedback and thank customers who are willing to tell you the truth.

13. Be a familiar face. There’s a simple psychological phenomenon called the “mere-exposure effect,” which suggests the more we see someone, the more we come to like them. Have you ever loved going to a restaurant where the owner always came by your table to say hello and engage in small talk? It’s a simple gesture that leaves a great impression.

14. Make communications meaningful. We have all experienced “spam” and overcommunication. When you send out communications, make every effort to be clear, concise, and relevant to your recipients.


15. Remember that you’re growing. Much of running a business requires you to focus outwardly on others. It’s equally vital that you invest in your own growth and development. The more we learn and begin to become an expert in our field, the more our enjoyment of our work can grow.

16. Strive to stay relevant. You rocked this starting a business thing! Now comes the fun part—keeping your business strong through changes in the market, technology, and other unknowns that lie ahead. In addition to learning continuously from your customers, identify other opportunities to keep your business ahead of the curve.

17. Learn from mistakes, when you can. Not one of us is immune to making mistakes. Fortunately, it’s a proven way to learn—even more effective than being told the right way to do something from the start. Don’t worry about perfection. It’s okay to take risks and experience some failures, especially when you commit to learn from them.

18. Focus on your strengths. There is an old proverb that says, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” A good strategy in business is to pay really close attention to what you love doing and what your personal strengths are. When you know the answers to those questions, you can intensely focus on the one thing you can do really well.

19. Give back. You should be tremendously proud of yourself if you’ve deemed “giving back” a measure of your business success. Benefitting others and creating a positive impact in your community make your work feel more meaningful and have a positive effect on your overall sense of well-being.

20. Grow and reward loyalty. Loyalty is quite possibly the strongest determinant of business success. Loyal customers support your bottom line with repeat business and grow your reach through positive word-of-mouth marketing. Building loyalty in the first place takes great customer service and relationship-building. Look for ways to reward loyalty once it’s there, such as simple gifts of thanks and recognition, milestone discounts, and membership perks.

2020-04-20T16:13:56+00:00May 25th, 2020|

20 Tips to Have Fun at Work

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 89% of working Americans spend an average of 8.5 hours every weekday and 5.6 hours per weekend day at work. That translates to roughly 90,000 hours or 1/3 of an average lifespan spent working. That’s a staggering number. In August of 2019, The Conference Board released its report on job satisfaction, with 54% of Americans reporting that they are satisfied, a three-point jump from the previous year. So, while Americans are basically satisfied with the work they do, they’re spending a lot of their lives doing it.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “If you’re going to do something, do it well,” and an entire generation has embraced the YOLO (You Only Live Once) philosophy. When we realized how much time we all are going to spend working, we decided there has to be a way to make the most of it. Below you’ll find 20 ways to have fun at work, presented in no particular order. These tips may not all be practical for your work situation, but we’re betting you can find plenty to help you live your best, most fun work life.

1. Decorate. Yes, we’re serious, decorate! Whether it’s your cubicle, your office, or a part of your desk, bring in those vacation photos, the children’s artwork, special mementos, or tchotchkes. Anything that brings a smile to your face and reminds you that you do, in fact, have a life outside the office.

2. Make friends. We know, you don’t necessarily go to work to make friends, but whether you like it or not, your coworkers are fixtures in your life. We’re not saying you have to become BFFs, but work friends can make coming to the office a much more pleasant experience. Remember, nobody knows what you go through at work better than those who go through it with you.

3. Create happy moments. Whether it’s leaving a note of encouragement on a coworker’s desk or offering a compliment to another coworker, bring a bit of joy to the office. We all like receiving compliments, knowing we’re appreciated, and feeling like we’re not alone. Bonus? Making these small gestures will not only improve office morale, but it’ll make you feel good too.

4. Create or join an office team or club. Thinking about joining the office softball team? Do it. Ever wonder if your colleagues like the same books you do? Consider starting an office book club. It’s all about connections. The more connected we are to those we work with, the more productive we’ll be. Seriously—you may not think of softball or book club as team-building exercises, but they are. You’ll more effectively work together on group projects; the more comfortable you feel with one another, the more likely you are to put your more creative ideas out there for discussion.

5. Get up and get out. Make time every day to get away from your desk. Go for a walk or get in a mid-day workout. Physical movement gets the juices flowing, can give you that afternoon pick-me-up (without the added calories), and can afford you the opportunity to take a colleague with you. Invite a colleague to walk with you to a nearby coffee shop and talk through a work issue that’s been bothering you. Or invite someone to be your gym buddy. Alternatively, take a few minutes to yourself to recharge your batteries. You’ll get more done and feel better, too.

6. Solve a riddle. Engage in a good, old-fashioned, non-work puzzle. Do a crossword or word search. Break out that Sudoku you’ve been meaning to get to. Better yet, institute an office-wide puzzle break. Consider emailing a daily riddle challenge to everyone in the office. Give a small prize or bragging rights to whoever solves it first. Just make sure you check with your boss first and get permission. Even if your boss doesn’t go for it, consider limiting it to just your division or team.

7. Celebrate. Yes, a festive atmosphere gets everyone in a happy mood. Celebrate birthdays or work anniversaries, or get into the holiday mood. Consider implementing a “Fun Committee” to keep track of celebrations, just make sure to rotate duties so everyone gets a chance to just show up.

8. Allow spontaneity. This may be a little difficult if you’re not the boss, but encourage spontaneity where you can. For instance, maybe the office is super quiet and there aren’t any clients currently in the building—declare it’s party time and crank up the tunes. Let everyone get a chance to get up, dance, chill for a song or two. Then go back to business as usual.

9. Send handwritten notes. We admit this suggestion is mostly for bosses and managers. Take a little time to send handwritten notes of appreciation to your employees. Then arrange for them to be delivered “anonymously” at random times. Your employees will appreciate knowing you see and admire the efforts they’re making, and you’ll get a little joy knowing you’ve made them smile.

10. Go on work outings. Take a small bit of time and get the office out of the office. Arrange for everyone to have a picnic lunch at a nearby park or organize an after-work activity, such as an Escape Room adventure. Everyone gets a chance to interact outside of the office environment and, depending on what you do, you could just sneak some team-building skills into the mix.

11. Do group exercises. Did you know that schools in Japan start each school day with group exercises? Many Japanese companies have adopted a similar strategy. Not only does everyone get a chance to get up and get moving, but group exercise has several positive benefits, including increased productivity. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, just a few minutes of shared activity.

12. Give yourself a reward. Give yourself permission to celebrate a job well done for every task completed. Whether it’s a pat on the back, a high five, or five minutes to revel in your success, find a ritual that is rewarding for you, something small that serves to remind you of your accomplishments and that you rock.

13. Meditate. The benefits of meditation are varied, but they can include increased productivity, creative breakthroughs, and stress relief. Take a few minutes every day to meditate. You can find countless tutorials on the internet or you can create your own meditation routine.

14. Play a harmless prank. Yes, we’re giving you permission to be a little immature. Just keep it harmless. Plaster a coworker’s space with Post-It notes, or pin a funny comic up. Maybe rearrange items on someone’s desk. Just make sure that whatever you do will be received in the playful way you mean it. And be ready to fall victim yourself.

15. Start a charity drive. What better way to promote feelings of well-being and happiness than by doing something meaningful for those less fortunate. Take a favorite charity and organize a drive or benefit. Or poll your coworkers. Just get the office involved. Not only will you all be working together for a common cause, but you’ll also feel good about helping others.

16. Track tasks with a productivity app. “There’s an app for that.” Take those nagging details you just hate to track and let an app do it for you. You’ll relieve some niggling stress and you’ll have an accurate accounting should you need it, too. Whether you setting reminders or tracking taskers, it’ll relieve you to know that the app has your back. No more worrying you’re forgetting something. Some even allow you to share reminders with your coworkers so everyone remains on the same page. It’s as easy as finding the right app for you and downloading it.

17. Have regular no-business meetings. Schedule regular meetings where you talk about anything but business. Whether you discuss the latest water-cooler Netflix show or how the local sports teams are faring that season, make time for small talk. Not only might you learn that you do have something in common with that difficult-to-know colleague, you’ll be giving your brain permission to turn itself off for a few minutes. These meetings don’t have to be long, but they do need to be regular.

18. Organize goofing-off time. Start a pick-up basketball game at lunch. Or hold a trash can basketball tournament toward the end of the day. Maybe a speed board game event is more up your alley (think speed dating only with board games). Organize times to set aside work and have some silly fun. Put a white board up in the break room where everyone can jot ideas down and then pick a few to implement.

19. Get some toys. We know, it sounds strange, but pick up some Pez dispensers or slinkies or hula hoops and bring them to the office. Perhaps a couple of pool noodles for mock sword fights or a few coloring books. Keep a “toy box” in the break room where employees can go and pick a toy for a little stress relief. Trust that “what happens in the break room will stay in the break room.”

20. Start a 30-day happiness challenge. Not sure what that is? Do a quick internet search and you’ll learn all about it. Challenge all your coworkers to complete the challenge. Not only will you all gain a little happiness, but work productivity will rise as well, and everyone will be better for it.

2020-03-23T20:09:34+00:00May 1st, 2020|

I’m Resilient, but I Can Be Broken

Our world was turned upside down and our country was sent into a tailspin in March from COVID-19. Our lives have all been impacted. Our minds are in overdrive.

I’ve read in article after article through the pandemic that military families are best prepared for these types of times because we are resilient. There is truth in that statement. Military families are very resilient. Military families are also comprised of humans not superheroes.

Yes, we can totally appear to be heroic in our own right.

  • Military men and women saving others in times of war.
  • Military men and women taking on overseas deployments time and time again.
  • Spouses dealing with the death of parents alone while their spouse is deployed.
  • Spouses evacuating from a hurricane solo with three kids.
  • Spouses giving birth solo.

Heroic, of course, but let me reiterate that we are human. Military spouses are human. CEOs are human.

In just a few weeks, my husband heads out to sea, and I’m having to have discussions I never dreamt of when I accepted this lifestyle. I’m in a spot now where I have to figure out how I will balance being a mother to three (8, 5, and 4 years old), running a company, assisting my son with virtual learning, and figuring out how to do life. I’m asking myself questions like these:

  • If I get sick, how will I make sure my children’s basic needs are met?
  • Will I self-quarantine and then if I need to be hospitalized call on a friend to take the children?
  • What if one of the children gets sick?
  • If my parents are sick, how will I deal with that weight solo?
  • How much do I share with my kids, yet allow them to have the innocence of childhood?

When big life things have happened in the past, my village was able to show up. A great example was during my last hurricane evacuation with three small children, I had one friend mail me a box of goodness for the kids to have to play with at the hotel. I had over dozen people in my neighborhood volunteer to help put up my hurricane shutters. I had two friends ship me groceries to the hotel. I had a friend connect me with someone they knew in the local community where I evacuated to help me find things to do with the kids.

Over the years, I’ve also had my mom show up time and again to be there to assist. The same goes for my in-laws.

Now it’s important that people don’t show up. Keeping our distance saves lives.

You all…I can be broken. The weight we’re asking our military (and health care, first responder, etc.) families to take on is not okay. We are not okay. Maybe some are, I suppose, but for those of you who feel like this is the biggest “ask” you’ve ever felt as part of this lifestyle, understand others are feeling the depth, uncertainty, and hurt you’re walking in. You are not alone.

I have no answers nor a magic wand to make our lives return to where they were. The only thing that’s getting me through is having truth in every conversation with my spouse. We’re creating our own family plan so we both have peace of mind when and if yuck happens. I’ve also told my spouse the depth of weight I’m being asked to carry. (And trust me—he’s being asked to shoulder a ton on his side, too.)

My encouragement is to live in your truth and strive to find happiness each day. When people ask, “How are you?” I’m actually answering with truth in how I feel in that moment. I’m also trying to find moments of happiness each day. In the suck there is sunshine, I’m certain. Every storm brings madness, but the sun always shows up. Always. I’m praying more—fiercely praying. I’m praying over my family like I always do, but I’m focusing on me, too.

Just know that some of us are breaking a little, and it’s okay to let others know. It’s important to note that being resilient doesn’t mean you don’t break. In fact, it is more about how quickly we can bounce back and recover in those times when we do. You are not alone. And in the end, we will be stronger and, who knows, maybe even a little more resilient.

P.S. There’s no shame if you need some help. Here are some great places to start: www.militaryonesource.mil/coronavirus and www.militaryfamily.org/what-military-families-need-to-know-about-covid-19.
If you’re a trying to lead people through this madness, you might want to check these out, too: 20 Tips for Leading Your Business Through Challenging Times and Powerhouse Planning Goodness and Resources: For the Freelancer and the Business Owner

2020-04-16T19:45:38+00:00April 15th, 2020|