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Spotlight on Powerhouse Jennifer McKee

We are extremely excited to introduce you to our “oldest” Powerhouse freelancer, Jennifer McKee. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say we’ve been waiting ALL YEAR for this feature! Jen has been with Powerhouse for over six years and is still our number one fan, as well as one of our indispensable, go-to talents. She works as one of our quality assurance geniuses, but she has been known to take on the occasional writing assignment if we beg enough. Jen ensures that the products we turn out are error free and fantastic. Currently, you’ll see her hand in products for clients such as Nomadés and Cape Henry Associates, but given how long she’s been with us, her invisible touch is almost everywhere.

Jen has two favorite things about Powerhouse. Well, we limited her to two or, given her status as a super fan, we’d be here all day. She loves the flexibility that comes with our virtual workplace, but she truly loves “how encouraging, supportive, and just KIND the team is to one another.” We couldn’t agree more. It’s a work environment that founder Jessica Bertsch has purposefully fostered since day one—and Jen should know because she’s been here nearly as long. These are also traits Jen’s taken to heart as she is almost always one of the first to offer an encouraging word or congratulations.

Jen describes herself as “a hot mess,” to borrow a phrase from our founder. A typical day finds her juggling her life, working at figuring herself out, and just trying to be happy. It’s a quest she’s aided in by her husband of seven years, Alan (a sixth-grade science teacher which, we think, automatically makes him a hero), and her daughters, Alex and Maya. Alex is 21 and has just started veterinary technology school while she works full time at a veterinary hospital. Maya, almost 18, is in her senior year of high school and a proud fourth-year color guard member of the Hickory Marching Hawks. Jen isn’t a proud band mom or anything (wink). Her domestic bliss is rounded out by her 3-year-old pit bull, 8-year-old boxer, and her 18-year-old, 4-and-a-half-foot long ball python. Hey, we all have different ideas of what makes a good pet, but we think she might win the most cool pet owner points in our “office”!

When asked about her hobbies and interests, Jen said she enjoys kickboxing, hanging with friends, and SLEEPING. We can get behind those, too! She loves to travel, though she doesn’t think she does enough of it. She also doesn’t think she relaxes enough, which we’re willing to bet is a failing a lot of us have.

Because we’re entering that time of year when we all start to look toward next year, we asked Jen a little bit about what planning looks like in her life. Once she stopped laughing at the very idea of planning, she told us that the best planning advice she can give is this: Plan to have things interrupt your plans. She’s an olympic-level list maker, but life always seems to get in the way. She’s spent a lifetime learning not to be flummoxed by the hiccups that come, but to be flexible and that while the best-laid plans may not go to plan, a general outline is helpful.

We’re pretty sure her ability to change as needed is part of what has made her so successful at Powerhouse. We know she has faith that Powerhouse will only continue to grow and blow clients away with our quality products. We’re just relieved that as far as she’s concerned she’ll be a member of the team for as long as Jess will have her. Which means we’ll see you again in about 20 years when we’re celebrating her quarter-century here!

As always, we asked Jen for some fun, little-known facts about herself. She offered three, though she said none were very exciting. The first is that she has been enamored with military jets since she was 12 years old and her Air Force dad took her to her first air show. She actually loves jet noise! The second is that one summer during college she waited on Stephen King. The third is that, having grown up on Cape Cod and coastal Maine, she can get every bit of meat out of a lobster even though she won’t eat any of it (she’s NOT a seafood lover).

Well, Jen might not find herself overly exciting, but we’re excited to have her talented self as part of the Powerhouse family. Here’s to six-plus years together and many more to come!

2019-10-07T19:34:57+00:00October 7th, 2019|

Why Planning Early Is Crucial to Success

Most of us have probably heard that old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” There’s a lot of truth in that, even if we don’t always want to admit it. Planning—whether you’re planning for a new business, planning for an existing one, or just trying to manage life goals on the horizon—is crucial to success, as exciting as it is. Let’s face it: We all love the dream stage. Thinking about how things will be once the initial work is over is fun. The nitty gritty details of planning how to get from the dream stage to the realities of success? Not so much. Yet there are very real, very important reasons why planning can make or break any dream.

1. Planning provides specific goals/objectives.
Brian Tracy invented the six P formula for personal and business success: “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” Not surprisingly, his very first suggestion for ensuring success is to organize your thinking. J.D. Meier, bestselling author of Getting Results the Agile Way, states, “…planning helps organize your thinking, shape your future actions, and prepare for the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.” It’s true. Planning results in specific goals or objectives that everyone in your company can look to as guiding principles for both the big and the little decisions that must be made daily.

2. Planning allows for more control.
The more control you have over a situation, the easier it is to handle. By carefully planning the actions you will take, you remove a lot of the guess work from a situation. You can identify potential flaws in your plan or your execution and correct before they become impossible to manage. Kamran Akbarzadeh, founder of Dream Achievers Academy, notes, “Without proper planning we would not be ready to respond to challenges.” He goes on to say, “Planning ahead helps you and your organization become assertive in taking risks and saying no to either conservative or aggressive approaches.” If we are in control of our path, we have a greater chance to succeed.

3. Planning streamlines/makes us more efficient.
This seems like a no-brainer. Having a plan eliminates waste. Of time, of money, of resources, you name it—planning is the efficiency tool of choice. A little time spent planning how teams will be built, what resources you should focus on building this year, or even how you will spend your time can lead to massive payoff in the end. Take the time now to plan how best to utilize what you have so you’re not scrambling in the future.

4. Planning helps identify potential challenges.
There’s nothing like planning for every eventuality. The best asset of planning is time. Proper planning means having the time to think about every possible outcome and to identify what steps can be taken to combat and overcome each challenge. The absolute best factor to take into account when planning is that your plans will change. By taking some time now to identify how your plans might change and what strategies you can implement when life throws you that curve ball, you can save yourself some serious headaches later.

5. Planning strengthens teamwork.
Truly, the bedrock of any organization is the people who work there. Planning fosters an innate ability to build the best teams and to provide them with the framework in which to succeed. If every member of a team is fully aware of the plan and its implementation, they can more efficiently and effectively carry out their duties. In addition, when everyone knows the plan, it’s much easier to figure out how to make individual contributions fit the planned whole. In 2013, Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM) implemented its first ever five-year strategic plan. Reflecting on its success in 2018, Dean/CEO Paul Rothman said, “A strategic plan is only as good as the people who execute the strategies, and faculty and members across JHM embraced the plan and did their part to make the vision a reality.” The team members at JHM knew the plan and were able to keep it in mind when working their individual parts. The plan was such a success that JHM launched a second five-year plan called Innovation 2023.

Planning can make or break a business. It’s important to plan, to plan early, and to reassess the effectiveness of the plan often. Remember, no plan is perfect and there will be eventualities you just can’t imagine. However, knowing your objectives, having confidence you have the right team and the right time, and feeling in control of every situation are exactly how early planning allows us to overcome and succeed.

For more information on planning early and why it’s a good thing, check out the following articles:
Dream Achievers Academy | “Six Reasons Why Planning Ahead Matters”
Johns Hopkins Medicine | “The Benefits of Good Planning”
Sources of Insight | “7 Advantages of Proper Prior Planning”
Cliffs Notes on Planning
Management Study Guide

2019-09-23T22:19:22+00:00October 3rd, 2019|

30 Days and Ways to Pray for a Family that Serves

By: Jessica Bertsch

As I approach 15 years of “dating” a Coastie and 13 years of being married to a Coastie, I tend to hear on a routine bases, “I’d love to pray for you.” Or, “How can I pray for you?” In true Jess fashion, I tend to brush over the sentiments and say, “Oh…I’ve got this. God gave me a platter instead of a plate…no worries at all.” Then I chuckle, move on, and end up in fetal position on the couch gnawing on a giant size Godiva chocolate bar realizing my husband is out to sea, I’m solo parenting three children (age seven and under), and I’ve got to keep myself together so I can successfully run a business.

So, considering all of that, I figured maybe it was time to focus on how I could ask for prayer based on the basic needs of those who serve.

I’ve created a calendar that breaks down a different focus for each week. It’s super easy to use, and some tips below might help you as you spend some quiet time covering families that serve in prayer.

Week One: Prayers for the Service Member

Day 1 – Pray for him/her to have strength as a leader.

Day 2 – Pray for the service member to find confidence and clarity in his/her job as he/she is given tasks to accomplish.

Day 3 – Pray for the service member to be safe as he/she fulfills his/her duties.

Day 4 – Pray for the service member to have peace of mind as he/she is away from his/her family.

Day 5 – Pray for the service member to have stability in his/her marriage and to find ways to connect with his/her partner when he/she is working missions that call him/her away from his/her spouse for extended periods of time.

Day 6 – Pray the service member finds encouraging words to use with his/her crew and that he/she steps into being a positive force at his/her job and that negativity is washed away.

Day 7 – Pray for professional growth. Pray that the service member finds peers who pour into him/her and challenge him/her to grow personally.

Week Two: Prayers for Children

Day 8 – Pray that our children easily adjust to their new school/norm.

Day 9 – Pray that our children find genuine friendships and children who are willing to befriend them easily.

Day 10 – Pray our children have peace of mind and that they spend little time worrying about mom/dad who are away. Pray they can be focused on the awesomeness of the here-and-now moments they can experience.

Day 11 – Pray our children find joy on a daily basis.

Day 12 – Pray our children find strength in their family.

Day 13 – Pray our children have peace and understanding as their parent serves. Pray that they attain a sense of appreciation of the sacrifices being made.

Day 14 – Pray our children grow stronger in character and empathy so they can be leaders in their spheres and models of kindness for others.

Week Three: Prayers for a Service Member Spouse

Day 15 – Pray we find strength as we solo parent.

Day 16 – Pray we find genuine friendships and a circle of friends who openly and quickly embrace us.

Day 17 – Pray we have peace of mind in general (e.g., regarding our spouse, finances, children).

Day 18 – Pray we have clarity and wisdom when big decisions need to be made as we’re flying solo.

Day 19 – Pray our professional worth is noticed and appreciated as we move.

Day 20 – Pray we find stability in our marriage.

Day 21 – Pray we find community where we live. Pray that we find people who genuinely want to do life with us even though our stay in that community may be short.

Week Four: Prayers for a Family that Serves

Day 22 – Pray we find creative ways to stay connected as a family.

Day 23 – Pray we find joy and laughter together daily.

Day 24 – Pray we find and make traditions that bond us.

Day 25 – Pray we have financial comfort.

Day 26 – Pray we have good health.

Day 27 – Pray we have safety.

Day 28 – Pray we give grace to one another (and to ourselves).

Week Five: Prayers for the Community that Serves

Day 29 – Pray for our men and women who serve and their safety.

Day 30 – Pray that our men and women who serve have peace of mind as they work tirelessly serving our country.

You’ve made it! Thank you for devoting 30 days to prayer!

While I’m at it…

Thank you for welcoming us into your communities from day one.

Thank you for talking to your kids about how to befriend new kids who show up in their classes.

Thank you for asking us in a genuine way, “How are you really doing?”

Thank you for sending us “out of the blue” thinking-of-you gifts.

Thank you for cheering us on and tearing up as watch welcome home videos.

Thank you for showing up when a hurricane is coming to help me put up my shutters (for the second time).

Thank you for bringing us a hot meal because you know we need a break.

Thank you for inviting our family to your holiday celebrations when you know we’re missing our loved ones.

Thank you for instilling a sense of American pride in your family.

Thank you for taking 30 days to give us focused prayer time. Often times, as a family that serves, we hear, “Thank you for serving.” Well, to that I say, Thank you for praying. Thank you for setting aside focused time to think of the families that serve. Your prayers and continual acts of kindness are greatly appreciated and felt, and for that, we thank you.

2019-09-15T20:14:59+00:00September 13th, 2019|

Celebrating 2,550 Days as an Entrepreneur

Experts say years five to eight have the highest risk rate in marriage (a.k.a. highest divorce period). Some of that risk is associated to getting the seven-year itch. It made me almost chuckle looking at Powerhouse as we approach our seven-year anniversary. Being an entrepreneur is tough. I’ve seen many of my milspouse CEO peers close up shop because it got too tough to hang with their dreams. And trust me—I, too, have battled with the thought of what an 8-5 job would look like to have again.

Here are some pieces of the tough:
• I have been cussed out by a client who was having a bad day. (No worries, the individual later apologized profusely.)
• I have had to buy myself out of contracts because I no longer felt the partnership was healthy.
• I have chosen not to recontract freelancers because they weren’t an ideal fit to the morale of our team.
• I’m the CEO, CFO, and COO.
• At one point, I went over a year without a paycheck.
• I extreme couponed for two years when I started my company to help the overall finances for our family.
• I started a dog boarding business to fund the startup costs of my company.
• I have to deal routinely with thousands of dollars of payments still outstanding. (Note: My team always gets paid and rarely knows that clients haven’t paid.)
• I have to keep my team motivated 24/7.
• I’ve had to clean up messes on my team that I played no part in other than hiring the wrong person.
• I have dealt with jealousy from other milspouses who couldn’t find joy in my company successes.
• I’ve solo-parented for half of my time while building Powerhouse over the past seven years (due to my husband’s sea time)
• On average, I give clients 15-25% more of my time than their contracts pay me.
• I’ve had a company take the basics of our business model (after I disclosed in a meeting how we’re structured) and make their company larger in numbers and revenue than we have.

Those are some of the key, tough moments. Those were battles that made me question entrepreneurship.

BUT…on the flip side, here are the “whys” that my entrepreneur roots are planted and that I’m committed to many years ahead:
• Powerhouse has remained true to giving back 10% each month to people and organizations in need.
• We’ve grown 100% by word of mouth and doubled our revenue most years.
• Powerhouse has not wavered from what I believe are the moral and ethical standards a company should have.
• We’ve provided over 100 people with careers that have supplied stable paychecks.
• Powerhouse has provided over half a million dollars’ worth of jobs over the past five years.
• Our team members have been able to be present with their children, and I’ve remained committed to my children personally as well.
• We have a corporate environment that supports (and encourages) work/life balance.
• Powerhouse aims to foster a team that has the opportunity to be a legit team, just virtually.
• We truly do only create dynamic deliverables…like dreamy goodness that’s hard to find these days.

Moments have been hard, but the victories make the tough parts fade and the good experiences shine.
I am an entrepreneur, and I’m proud of the Powerhouse we’ve become!

2019-09-06T14:38:37+00:00September 6th, 2019|

Spotlight on Powerhouse’s Ariana Detrez

Here at Powerhouse Planning we are surrounded by amazing talent. We really should spell that with a capital “T” because the talent is just that good. So is it any wonder that sometimes we just feel a need to throw a spotlight on some of that talent? Yeah, we don’t think so either.

This month we are pleased to celebrate the Powerhouse talent that is Ariana Detrez. Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, Ariana is celebrating her first Powerhouse anniversary, and we could not be happier that she’s a part of our team. Ariana is one of our graphic designers, though she hasn’t always followed that career path. Ariana began her professional career as an art educator, but when life threw her a few curveballs, as it is wont to do, Ariana didn’t hesitate to turn her incredible talents to the equally artistic field of graphic design. You can currently see her artistic endeavors with Powerhouse clients like Jacey Eckhart, PayNet, and Gromelski & Associates, but we’re certain this is only the beginning.

As many of you know, Powerhouse is almost exclusively a military spouse and veteran organization. From our founder and president, Jessica Bertsch, to the array of freelancers we have on contract, Powerhouse is proud of our military ties. Ariana is no exception, though her military experience has turned out to be much shorter than she or her former Air Force husband ever anticipated. Though his military career didn’t turn out the way they planned through no fault of their own, Ariana credits their time with the Air Force with helping to shape who she is today. If nothing else, the adaptability required by the military has helped her deal with all the changes in her life this last year.

Since Powerhouse is also comprised of a virtual workforce, we asked Ariana what professional work relationships should look like in a virtual work space. She answered, “Effective communication is key here.” She went on to point out that it is especially important to have a connection to others when you work virtually. “Relationships are key when you’re living out your passion. You want to have a connection with the people you’re working with!” She adds that how you approach virtual work relationships is just as important. “Be authentic and, have I stressed this enough? Communicate effectively. It’s easy to misinterpret or not understand something through virtual chat—never hesitate to ask questions or for clarification,” she says.

She credits effective communication and the time spent building virtual relationships with helping her when her life was upended earlier this year and a cross-country move became necessary. Because she had built strong, clear relationships with Powerhouse’s Jessica Bertsch and Jennifer Kirkpatrick, Ariana says her move went much more smoothly than she expected it would. “Jess and Jen contacted me throughout to make sure I was okay and were open to providing any resources I needed,” she says. That kind of professional relationship, the kind that you know will survive whatever life throws your way, is why Ariana feels so blessed to be a part of Powerhouse and the virtual workforce. It’s why she’s so excited to continue to learn and improve her chosen profession and why she’s confident she’ll still be with Powerhouse in five years.

Ariana and her husband are dog parents to the adorable Professor, a nine-year-old Terrier mix, and Atlas, a one-year-old Australian Shepherd. While they currently call North Carolina home, they are eager to return to their home state of Florida next year, where they will be surrounded by family, friends, and all things Disney, which is a good thing because Ariana loves Disney!

We asked Ariana for a tidbit not many people know about her. Ariana shared that she was heavily into the art of paper crafting and has a YouTube channel with over 1,000 followers. While it may have started as a place to showcase her paper crafting expertise, it is now geared more toward design and art education. Is it any wonder that someone that involved with the arts has found a successful career as a graphic designer? We don’t know about you, but we’re pretty sure that on our lunch break here we’ll be heading over to YouTube and checking out a certain fabulous Powerhouse talent.

2019-08-01T21:49:00+00:00September 3rd, 2019|

Mentors for Grown-Ups

As a society, we know about the importance of mentors for children. We want to surround kids with adults who can

provide guidance, serve as role models, and support their growth. We care about their teachers, coaches, tutors, and other adults who spend time with them. We build great teams of knowledgeable, skillful, and caring adults to support our kids.

For some reason, once that transition from childhood to adulthood takes place, we’re expected to have it all figured out. And we’re supposed to successfully navigate that figuring-it-out part solo. What we don’t do, but should, is be just as committed to involving mentors in adult lives—both personally and professionally.

Why You Need a Mentor: A good mentor has experience doing what you want to do and all that comes with it—the hiccups, the roadblocks, the dumpster fires, the accolades, and the achievements. That experience brings with it true empathy rather than platitudes about how it’s all going to be just fine, even if it may not.

She can fill the gap between education and experience, like reminding you that it’s fantastic to promote yourself but even better to make sure you spend a few minutes proofreading before sending that letter out about all the awards you won at your pubic high school (true story). She can “educate” you on what you don’t yet know that you don’t know yet.

A good mentor can open doors for you that otherwise wouldn’t only be locked, but also may be hidden behind a faux set of bookshelves (figuratively speaking, of course, unless fake shelving is your thing and then maybe literally too).

Perhaps most important, a good mentor will tell it like it is. Unlike someone who loves you or is too personally invested in your story, that mentor will give you the professional equivalent of “Yes, Karen. Those pants DO in fact make your butt look big.” And it may hurt. But it will be the kindest thing she could do for you—be real and honest and direct—all with your success in mind.

How to Find a Mentor: So how do you find this mythical creature who will want to help you succeed and invest her time and connect you to others and give the gift of truth? Well, even the most magical of mentors cannot (and should not) be the chief advisor to all the things in your life that perhaps might benefit from mentorship. You don’t have your electrician help with your meal planning, do you? (If you FIND that electrician, please share that phone number this instant.) The person who’s “right” to mentor you as you start a new company probably isn’t going to be the same person you’d seek out to take your business global. Your first priority, then, in finding a mentor is to have clarity about what specifically you’re hoping to do and then start your search with that in mind.

Do your homework. Who is out there who has successfully done that thing you want to do—lose weight, launch a successful business venture, start a nonprofit, adopt a child from a foreign country, (fill in whatever your goal is here)?

Start with your current village; you may be pleasantly surprised to see the experience and expertise that’s already right within your reach. Then expand further out. See who’s on the news or LinkedIn or at whatever industry events are in your field. Be as specific as possible. (For instance, I’d love help getting a book published but have zero intention of writing the next vampire love story. I’d search for successful writers/publishers in the comedic self-help space, if such a genre even exists.)

Once you’ve identified a list of movers and shakers whom you’d love to emulate, dig deeper still. Who on that list volunteers their time? What causes do they care about? What are their interests? What can you glean of their personality and work style? Remember that it’s not just about what they’ve gotten done—it’s about how they’ve done it too. One person’s successful journey isn’t necessarily the secret to your own, and the path they took to their destination matters too. It needs to align with how you operate in this world.

Put yourself out there. Be willing to be vulnerable. Unless you’re looking for help becoming a psychic, chances are pretty good that those potential mentors on your list aren’t tracking your need for a mentor. Open your mouth (or LinkedIn/email) and make the ask. Come up with some version of “You’re successfully doing what I’d love to be able to do and I’d be so grateful for your mentorship” that is authentic for you. Make sure your ask makes it clear that you’ve done that homework referenced above. And that you can share some value a mentoring relationship might bring to them (especially if you’re a meal-planning electrician). Make it clear that you know it will be work and that you’ve got the commitment and drive to put in the effort—in other words, time spent working with you will be a good investment.

Repeat this process again and again. You should always be on the lookout for relationships with others that help you grow. As you gain skills in one area, there will always be other places where you’d benefit from someone else’s expertise. And as you acquire your own expertise, you then have another responsibility that is also a gift. You get to be the mentor. You’ll know the personal satisfaction that can come from contributing to someone else’s growth and achievement. At the end of the day, if we’re doing this “life” thing well, we’re always both mentor and student at the same time. Because there’s always something to learn. And there’s always something to contribute.

2019-07-16T23:46:58+00:00August 12th, 2019|

Get Creative!

We joke that there’s nothing new under the sun. The same younger folks who mock the old-timers among us wear clothing lines recycled from times past and sing lyrics to songs we knew when we ourselves were children. So too, unless you’re an inventor, it is unlikely that your business provides a product or service that someone else, somewhere else, is not also marketing. The key, then, is in how you package or deliver whatever the product, service, or content is that you’re selling. And the great differentiator is creativity.

 

Paint a picture. Okay, maybe not literally (although a mural would be AWESOME). But use imagery to promote your work. People are visual by nature, and your images will get their attention far more easily than the best-worded content. Be sure you’re adding well-worded content for them to see once you’ve piqued their interest. Capture video of your team (or your team of one—just keeping it real in small business land) at work behind the scenes. Create an infographic of what you do, the pain point you solve, or the progress you’ve made. (We’re super proud of that growth in charitable giving).

 

Provide value. Sure, all business inherently should be about providing value to customers. But if you want to stand out, go the extra mile. Not everything you offer has to be about making a profit. Share your expertise. Be a resource for the people who trust you with their dollars and business. Like these great (free!) MILLIE Toolkits that can help guide you through a PCS from start to finish. Incidentally, giving away something that you’ve invested time and love in is good for business.

 

Be generous with your gratitude. You could simply put whatever you sell in a box and send it out in the mail. But everybody’s doing that. Be creative about how you show your love for the people who keep your business lights on (literally and figuratively). Send a handwritten thank-you note. Toss in a free product or coupon code. Showcase their work if you’re providing services to them. Give them a shout-out for their business (unless you’re selling something that requires some discretion, and then maybe don’t advertise how glad you are they’ve bought your incontinence products, for example.)

 

Create your own league of super fans. Super fans are people who are delighted with the products or services you offer. They’re your purpose as a business owner. They’re also your best marketing tool. Get their quotes and endorsements. Ask for those positive reviews that you can promote on your website and social media. Capture photos of people wearing/using your products in the most interesting/far-away/unusual places via a photo or video contest. Hold a “best caption” challenge. Make it “cool” (or at least remotely entertaining) to be someone who purchases what you’re selling.

 

Brag on yourself. Well, not in an unbecoming way, but if you can’t speak well of whatever you’re selling, making, or providing, then how do you expect other people to be excited about it? Want to see a great example of this? Check out Cape Henry Associates. They don’t just tell you what they do—they show you with engaging video. Put yourself out there to the extent that you’re comfortable and then a little bit more (because growth comes in the uncomfortable places). Allow yourself to be interviewed about what you do or sell. Provide content to sources beyond your website and social media properties.

 

Pick and choose from any or all of the above. Better yet, figure out how to add your own special spin to your efforts. And across it all, be authentically you. The most creative thing you can do is be yourself.

2019-06-17T20:05:44+00:00July 1st, 2019|

Spotlight on Powerhouse’s Amanda Higgs

Here at Powerhouse we are blessed with a wealth of talent, which is why we love to showcase some of our amazing members from time to time. This time, we’re shining a spotlight on a true “Powerhouse,” Amanda Higgs. Amanda is an incredible video producer who edits our clients’ videos. She takes their ideas and brings them to life by doing everything from creating storyboards to helping our clients figure out how best to feature themselves and their products. She delivers top-notch, quality videos every time.

Amanda has had the privilege of working with some of our favorite clients (okay, okay, they’re all our favorites. I mean have you checked out whom we’ve been partnering with lately? Could you choose a favorite?). In the past she’s worked with Cape Henry Associates, Jacey Eckhart, and HPI. Currently, she’s working with MILLIE to edit social media videos to help them best serve the military community. Amanda has been a Powerhouse video producer for two years, and we really can’t imagine how we functioned without her.

She loves the flexibility her career with Powerhouse brings, both in terms of her position and her ability to flex her creative side. It’s very true that a career with Powerhouse will challenge you to stretch your imagination on what you can do. The success of such creative endeavors is a product of trust and expertise on both sides. At Powerhouse we listen to our team members’ opinions because we trust that they will bring us ideas beyond our wildest dreams, and the fact that we foster such a trust means that our members feel safe to reach for the impossible. We’re pretty sure it’s a win-win. Amanda even told us that working for Powerhouse is her dream job. Well, the fact that she can report to work in her pj’s probably doesn’t hurt!

Amanda is proud to have served 11 years as a military spouse. Her husband retired as an Air Force Master Sergeant after a 21-year career. They have two boys: Ben, who is in sixth grade, and Jake, who is in fourth grade. She and her husband love spending time with them and their rescue dog, Lucky Ducky Applesauce Higgs. We’ll save you the time—Amanda doesn’t know how Lucky came by her name any more than we do. Still, we’re kind of in love with it.

Our intrepid video producer is as optimistic as they come and is truly one of the most resourceful, creative, dependable, and kind people we know. Her philosophy is to leave the world better than she found it, which is sort of our philosophy too, so it’s no wonder we’re happy Amanda is at Powerhouse. It’s not too much to say that Amanda loves her coffee (she only mentioned it a few times), but she also loves reading and watching movie adaptations of the books she reads. Spoiler alert: The book is always better, in her opinion. She also loves to cook, though she does admit that her smoke detector is her biggest fan. We’ll trust her on that one.

Amanda is always looking for ways to learn new techniques and gain new perspective in her work life. She hopes to be with Powerhouse for a long time because Powerhouse allows her the opportunity to constantly discover and grow. She wants to be a part of Powerhouse growing its clientele and contractor base. Even more, though, she wants to be a part of a company that gives so much back to the greater community. As she says, “Powerhouse gives back more than any other company I know.” She’s looking forward to watching, and participating in, Powerhouse growing its “Share the Goodness” campaign. We agree.

So we asked Amanda as a parting question what fun facts we should know about her. She shared that she and her son share the same birthday. She can touch her tongue with her nose (you just tried to do the same, admit it). Also, she’s terrified of frogs and dentists. Fair enough. Of course, she also added that she’s always up for coffee, but we already knew that. Check out some of our clients’ video posts. Amanda and her coffee may have had a hand in producing them.

2019-05-23T19:13:48+00:00June 12th, 2019|

Tips for Staying in the Cybersecurity-Know

Whether it’s identity theft through an ATM skimmer or the possibility of stolen social security numbers after a company or organization you trusted was breached, you likely know—either firsthand or via a friend/family member—what it’s like to have your personal information compromised.

But as the owner of a business, you have a different level of responsibility in protecting your organization, assets, and customers. Although we are far from being cybersecurity experts, we’re here to help point you to some resources to stay up-to-date on the latest in cybersecurity.

In the wise words of that famous NBC PSA…

Tip 1: You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!
Would you consider yourself a tech novice? When you think of hackers, do you think of someone in a dark basement in a far-off country? Or do you think you’re a tech expert who knows what it means to protect your business from potential threats? Either way, you can never know too much, and you can always teach an old dog new tricks.

In 2014, Rick Howard, CISO of Palo Alto Networks, created the Cybersecurity Canon (read more in the CSO article by Ben Rothke). The Canon includes highly recommended books from cybersecurity experts, and whether you are looking for information on cyber history, law, governance, or risk/compliance, this list is easily sortable and has something for everyone. And if you are simply interested in a great vacation read as you gear up for the summer, you can find that on this list, too.

Tip 2: Follow a Few Trusted News Sources.
There is a lot of information out there about cybersecurity, and it can feel overwhelming at times. Our second tip is not to try to boil the ocean with your knowledge. You can lean on a few sources for great, timely information. Here are a few sources we like to follow:

Dark Reading: You can find a great mix of news and commentary from experts, with product information sprinkled throughout the site.

Krebs on Security (Brian Krebs): Brian Krebs is a highly respected cybersecurity expert and former reporter for The Washington Post. When it comes to cybersecurity, he doesn’t simply report on the news—he breaks the news. Whether it’s nation-state hackers or cybersecurity vendors, everyone wants Krebs’ attention in the cybersecurity world.

CSO: Like Dark Reading, you’ll find a mix of information on this site. This is a great place to browse for tips from experts.

SC (formerly known as SC Magazine): You may see some more vendor-specific news here, but there is healthy mix of thought leadership on cybersecurity, too.

The Hill: Most publications have a cybersecurity section these days, and given all the changes in government policies, it’s not surprising that The Hill also has a cybersecurity section. This is an excellent source for staying up-to-date on the latest federal cybersecurity policies.

Tip 3: Lean on Others.
At the end of the day, you are one person who likely has to run a business, not simply worry about cyberthreats. The good news is that there are lots of people out there who spend their days staying current on what is happening in the world of cybersecurity. So consider whom you can lean on to support your learning and/or strategy to protect your business from potential threats. Here are a few people to lean on in your cybersecurity journey:

Make friends.
Identifying solid mentors and new friends is a great way to stay ahead of the game, while not relying on just your knowledge to make decisions. Check out local cybersecurity meet-ups or attend a cybersecurity conference (RSA and BlackHat are two tier-one tradeshows on the topic).

Invest in a cybersecurity team or consultant.
Find an awesome IT person who is passionate about cybersecurity.

If your budget allows, consider hiring a Chief Security Officer (CSO) or a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).

If you have a limited budget, simply bring in a consultant to evaluate your cybersecurity strategy and current holes and to provide guidance on how you can reduce risk.

Tip 4: To Err Is Human.
Regardless of what you do to protect your organization, human error is inevitable. A recent report by Oracle, noted in this article by TechRepublic, calls out this specific trend and how artificial intelligence may be a solution to consider. But investing in AI-specific technology might not be realistic for your business right now, so our biggest tip is to ensure you properly train your employees on the risks of cybersecurity, compliance, and privacy. (Don’t assume you are compliant because you have a cybersecurity policy or vice versa.) It does not matter what you know—if your employees are not educated also, you will continuously be at risk.

Being a business owner comes with a ton of responsibilities, and in today’s world, ensuring you’re in the know about cybersecurity is—and will continue to be—one of them. Lean on a few trusted cybersecurity experts to guide you so that you can make your business its best. Because what they say is true: Knowledge is power.

2019-06-05T19:56:43+00:00June 5th, 2019|

Tech Trends: Solutions and Gadgets and Apps, Oh My!

It wasn’t that long ago that we came across this article by Mike Moore and Desire Athow on TechRadar in which they highlight the “Best Business Accessories of 2019.”

As consumers, a lot of us are programmed to run to the next shiny object (or maybe that’s just me) and think it’s a must-have, but this article had me at “spot the products that will give you that extra boost.”

That’s right, I love that in this article, you can find not just fun products, but also products that can actually help to make your business life easier. Although we’re not sure all the products are “must-haves” (it really depends on your business), here are a few of our favorite business solutions and products (from their list as well as our own personal list):

Solutions:
Cybersecurity: As mentioned in our cybersecurity blog, this topic is not going anywhere. Hackers are changing strategies every day. Considering cybersecurity solutions that are right for your organization is imperative in defending your data.
Cloud computing: Whether it’s Google, Box, Dropbox, or another solution, cloud applications allow you to access your work from anywhere at anytime. Most cloud applications are highly collaborative and secure, which allows you to shift from managing IT to driving your business results.
Analytics tools: Every day your business is collecting data—data on customer buying patterns, usage trends, choices, etc. But your greatest competitive advantage is making sense of this data to drive change. Investing in tools, whether that’s CRM software or more advanced machine learning options, is not just a “here today, gone tomorrow” fad, but rather the new reality of all businesses.

Apps and Gadgets:
Square Reader: If you ever need to take payment instantaneously, this is a great solution. It easily plugs into your mobile device and allows for the transfer of payments quickly.
Tiny Scanner: It’s the app (you can find in the Apple App Store) that allows you to turn your mobile device into an instant scanner. Do you need to scan a document unexpectedly and send it back to your office via email while at the airport? Tiny Scanner has you covered.
AirBar: We haven’t gotten to try this yet, but we have it on our business wish list for the year. Easily turning my laptop into a touchscreen is a dream.

Honorable Mentions:
Evernote (an oldie, but a goodie)
Expensify
Scanner Pro

What technology solutions and apps/gadgets are your MUST-HAVES? Do you have any recommendations? We’d love to hear from you and try out a few new products and solutions this year, too!

2019-06-06T14:16:55+00:00June 3rd, 2019|