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.