Spotlight on Powerhouse’s Shannon Toft

This month, we are turning the spotlight on to Powerhouse Planning’s Shannon Toft, one of our freelance graphic designers, who is celebrating her first anniversary with us in June. She’s been an absolutely amazing addition to our team ever since another one of our stellar employees, Meghan Traynor, first encouraged her to apply for a position. Shannon says, “I knew I wanted to be a part of this company based on all [Meghan’s] positive discussions about it. So glad she referred me!” (We are, too, Shannon!)

In the short time she’s been with Powerhouse, Shannon has designed social media ads for The Children’s Hunger Project, Kova Covers, and Powerhouse. She’s also worked with other clients, but it’s her first job with Powerhouse that she remembers most fondly: “My very first project was to design the new Powerhouse t-shirt. I learned so much. It pushed me creatively, and I love that I was able to design a product that would be worn throughout the team.” Currently, Shannon is pushing herself out of her comfort zone by taking a Software Engineering Immersive program, which she hopes will result in her being able to transition into a web developer role. It’s something Powerhouse President Jessica Bertsch fully supports: “I always encourage our team members to expand their knowledge and follow their passions.”

That attitude is one of Shannon’s favorite things about Powerhouse. It inspires the kind of atmosphere that fosters creativity and growth through professional support and motivation. “I love working for a company that appreciates their employees’ work and values their time,” she says. It’s one reason Shannon is positive she’ll be around to witness the constant growth Powerhouse experiences. “I can’t wait to see where we are in five years,” she says.

When not working at expanding her professional horizons, Shannon loves to learn new things and stay busy, especially creatively. Anything involving arts and crafts catches her fancy, and she’s addicted to trying all kinds of creative outlets. She describes herself as the type of person who works hard and plays harder. Family-oriented, with three siblings and ten cousins who might as well be siblings, Shannon believes her dad and her aunts and uncles are the ones who instilled such a strong work ethic in her. “They were all hard workers. My dad was a single parent, and every day I saw his hustle and how he managed to stay positive through any situation,” she states. His philosophy and example are still what Shannon strives to imitate daily.

Shannon and her Coast Guard husband have been married for ten years. They met on a blind date, organized by one of those aforementioned cousins, and have been together ever since. They love to travel (though these days they find themselves mostly working on their home) and have been to Japan three times. “It’s amazing there,” she says. “We even went to Tokyo Disney and drove go-karts dressed as Mario characters.” Disney is a staple of Shannon’s personal life. “I grew up in LA before being a pass holder was super popular,” Shannon says. “I would go to Disneyland before my night shift, ride however many rides I could before I had to leave, and head to work.” It’s all part of her desire to find a good work/life balance . . .

. . . Which is another thing Shannon appreciates about Powerhouse. Being able to balance work, home life, and me-time are essential to Shannon’s well-being, and she loves working with a team that prioritizes finding that balance. “I schedule all my tasks for the week in my planner, and that includes personal time. I find it helps me to know what needs to be accomplished even if my plan doesn’t always work out perfectly,” she says. Being realistic about how much time each task will take is essential, as is putting your well-being first. “Even just a five-minute mental break here and there throughout the day can make a difference,” Shannon comments.

Shannon says her favorite Powerhouse service/resource is our Share the Goodness program. “It shows how generous Powerhouse is and makes me feel lucky to be a part of a company that displays such a moral virtue,” she says. For those who may not know, Share the Goodness is Powerhouse’s charitable giving program. Founder Jessica Bertsch made giving back a priority from the inception of Powerhouse Planning, and 10% of our gross profit goes back to the communities that our team members call, or have called, home. For Shannon, seeing the impact that Powerhouse has made in helping others is inspirational and motivational.

As always, we asked Shannon to tell us something not many people know about her. She shared that growing up, she never listened to music from the radio. “My dad was a musician. He would play jazz, funk, and soul music. Sometimes, it makes me feel like I should’ve been born in a different time period because I’m so out of touch with music from my generation.” Well, Shannon is certainly not out of touch with achieving a work/life balance and creating dynamic graphic design collateral for our clients. And she may have given us an idea for our next virtual team meeting . . . music trivia, anyone?

2021-05-11T16:25:05+00:00June 1st, 2021|

New Powerhouse Team Member

Sarah is a Marine Corps veteran, military spouse, and mom of two children, and she is excited to share her leadership and project management skills with Powerhouse Planning. After attending the United States Naval Academy and graduating with distinction and a B.S. in aerospace engineering, Sarah served in the Marine Corps as a helicopter pilot for six years. Her favorite part of the Marine Corps was leading and being a part of a motivated team of dedicated individuals who were committed to serving the greater good. Ultimately, Sarah decided to transition out of the Marine Corps in order to grow her family while her husband, whom she met at the Naval Academy, continued to serve in the Marine Corps. When her husband transitioned to the Marine Corps Reserves, they moved back to Sarah’s hometown, and it became the perfect time for Sarah to reenter the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom. Sarah has been watching Powerhouse Planning grow for the past four years and truly believes in the company and its group of military spouse freelance employees. In her spare time, Sarah loves sharing her passion for photography. She enjoys volunteering as a youth cross country coach and serves as a chair for a local swimming pool committee. Sarah is currently working toward earning her Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate and is eager to bring those skills, as well as her leadership and positive attitude, to Powerhouse Planning.

2021-04-06T19:02:27+00:00April 6th, 2021|


Merging Career and Health: Bringing a Healthy Balance to Work and Medicine

By: Heatherlynn Akins

Here at Powerhouse Planning, we are all about being healthy. If you’ve been following us or reading PowerTips for a while now, you know we’re big on finding a healthy work/life balance. For 2021, we’re taking it even further by challenging all of us to identify the unhealthy practices in our lives and make steps toward changing and improving them. That’s why we’re thrilled to feature HelloHealth founder Dr. Carmen Mohan this quarter.

Dr. Mohan spent three years as a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School before joining the faculty at Emory University Department of Medicine. While at Emory, she started a priority access health clinic for employees and staff of Grady Memorial Hospital, a level-one trauma center in Atlanta, Georgia. Given that she was treating mostly mission-driven, dedicated personnel who were committed to serving Atlanta’s underserved populations, Mohan quickly realized that she was leveraging her skills as a healer and not just a physician. She could address healthy living practices and offer consultations that helped her patients stay not just healthy, but well.

During her residency and first years as a doctor, Mohan started her family and eventually shifted her professional focus to becoming a hospitalist. It was while she worked as a hospitalist that she truly came to appreciate the fact that hard-working, career-driven professionals were being admitted to the hospital with severe issues when a bit of preventative medicine could have eliminated them. She recalls a particular woman who came in and died of a heart attack in the emergency room while she tried to save her: “She was the kind of woman who would have kept my young children from crossing the street when cars were coming by, and I felt the undeniable feeling that I could have saved her if I had been her doctor five years before the night we met.” That feeling stayed with Mohan and opened her eyes to just how many patients, particularly professional women, were suffering from preventable medical issues. She searched for months for a job that would allow her to bring her healing talents together with her medical skills to treat patients holistically. A chance meeting with five like-minded women in the medical field prompted her to launch a concierge medical practice “focused on women in leadership.” With those five women 100% on board, HelloHealth opened in 2018. (more…)

2021-03-29T21:06:56+00:00March 29th, 2021|

Did You Know?

According to an IBM study, 72% of employees don’t understand their company’s strategy and 44% feel that their manager doesn’t provide clear information about the company’s vision. The Harvard Business Review discovered that the turnover rate of companies with disengaged employees is 34%. While these numbers may be alarming, they’re all manageable with effective internal communications.

Yes, providing clear, concise, and relatable information to your employees on a timely and consistent basis can go far in improving employee work efficiency and reducing inefficient work practices. Initiatives as simple as distributing a monthly newsletter from top management keeping employees informed can lead to reduced stress and higher productivity rates overall. It may seem overly simple, or something additional you just don’t feel you can take on right now, but enhanced internal communications can make a huge difference for your company.

Powerhouse Planning can help. We offer internal communications services that can help you bring your business to the next level. Contact us today for details.

2021-03-29T21:07:07+00:00March 29th, 2021|

Tips to Improve Internal Communications

By: Meredith Flory

When assessing communication and messaging, many companies focus on their presentation to customers and business partners, not the ways in which employees interact with each other. However, making sure that back-and-forth communication is available and in line with the mission of your company can help increase worker productivity and satisfaction. Here are three ways to improve internal communications.

  1. Respect privacy and boundaries

Many businesses and entrepreneurs are now working from home, whether this was a result of the pandemic or a previous situation due to the nature of your business. This can be a wonderful business perk, especially for people who want to maintain careers while their spouse moves or who need a more flexible schedule as they raise children or serve as caretakers for other family members. However, working from home can also blur the lines of times for rest and privacy, and not all employees may have homes large enough for separate workspaces.

To help prevent burnout and uncomfortable situations, set guidelines that help protect employees’ work/life boundaries ahead of time so that employees are aware of reasonable expectations placed on them, their coworkers, and managers. This communication may include expectations for when video and audio are necessary, what backgrounds are allowed, when the company will provide technology or when the employee should use their own, and what the expected working hours are and if those are firm or flexible.

Due to the pandemic causing children and spouses to be in the same workspaces, teams may need to have conversations about handling sensitive information as well as forgiveness and flexibility for families working in small spaces together. This discussion is particularly helpful for preventing burnout of skilled female employees who statistically have more caretaking burdens. (more…)

2021-03-29T21:07:14+00:00March 29th, 2021|

It’s Not Just What You Say—It’s When and How You Say It

Business Etiquette and Internal Communications

By: Randi Cairns

Unless you’re a business of one and wearer of all the hats (we’ve been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt), you’ve got a team of folks you rely on to do the things your business does. The best way to get those things done, and more importantly, to have a team that loves doing them, is to prioritize your company’s internal communications.

We’ve got experts ready to rock that function for your business (and we’re happy to tell you all about that), but you can choose right now to improve your internal communications skills or at least start thinking about what that might look like. (Spoiler alert: When it’s done right, it looks like increased teamwork, productivity, and employee engagement.)

Here are a few tips on business etiquette when it comes to internal communications:

  1. Value your team’s time.

By being mindful about what and how often you communicate with your team, you demonstrate that you care about how they use their time, and you minimize unnecessary distractions. Nobody wants to work to the relentless alerts of incoming emails, texts, and Slack messages. If there’s a time-sensitive message that needs to be communicated, of course that needs to go out right away. But for the things that aren’t on fire or bleeding, be deliberate about the communications you put out there. Can you send out one email that highlights key information instead of a dozen as they occur to you? Do that instead. 

Bonus points: It’s totally okay to use multiple tools to communicate. No one tool is perfect for everything, but you can agree as a team about which platforms are to be used to communicate depending upon urgency and importance (or whatever other criteria you choose). (more…)

2021-03-29T21:07:19+00:00March 29th, 2021|

Client Profile: Operation: Job Ready Veterans

Powerhouse Services Provided: Nonprofit Retainer Support

“Working with the Powerhouse team has been an invaluable solution for our organization. Throughout their time with us they have provided outstanding customer service, directly impacting our organization’s ability to fulfill our mission. They are a team full of military spouses and veterans who completely understand the needs of our clients. They have shown compassion for our clients and our team, and they have consistently been extremely flexible in this challenging time and period of growth. Working with Powerhouse has been a genuine partnership where they have joined our team and filled critical supporting roles with team-oriented passion and flexibility whenever necessary. This has allowed our small full-time staff to focus on the needs of our clients, increasing our efforts and efficiency. As a growing nonprofit, OJRV, along with our entire remote team, has found Powerhouse to be the perfect solution.”

– Gene Anderson, Executive Director, Operation: Job Ready Veterans (OJRV)

2021-03-29T21:07:26+00:00March 29th, 2021|


Internal communications are more important than you might think. For a good overview on what internal communications are and how they can help you, try browsing through this Smarp blog article. It’s lengthy, but worth some time.

To get current on internal communications trends and where they’re headed in 2021, check out this article by Lead Content Strategist Charong Chow from SocialChorus.

As always, Powerhouse has plenty of resources available to help you with both traditional and outside-the-box tips on how to improve internal communications. From team-building exercises to tips on effective communication to just how to incorporate fun in the office, our resources are free and full of great information.

Overwhelmed or unsure of where to start? Powerhouse can help. Contact us today to see how our internal communications services can boost your business.

2021-03-29T21:07:41+00:00March 29th, 2021|

Ensuring No Child Goes Hungry

By: Meghan Traynor

Ten years ago, Bob Barnes, founder of The Children’s Hunger Project saw an unimaginable need in his Florida community. There were many Brevard County children who relied on their school lunches during the week, but when they went home for the weekend, they didn’t have food to eat. After seeing this food gap and hearing from teachers that students were coming into school hungry on Mondays, Bob Barnes decided to start The Children’s Hunger Project (TCHP).

In 2000, TCHP started feeding 27 kids at one school. Over the years the need has increased. TCHP reports, “In Brevard County, the number of children in the free and reduced-price meal program exceeds 50%. Some elementary schools have 80% or more of their kids on the free and reduced-price meal program with many of them at risk of childhood hunger and malnutrition.” To help achieve their mission, TCHP started spreading the word and creating awareness in their community while also building relationships with the schools and learning the specific need each school had. Through their efforts and community support, The Children’s Hunger Project is now supplying over 2,000 children with weekend food packages at 45 schools.

We recently caught up with TCHP Executive Director Cheryl Cominsky to see how things are going and if the COVID-19 pandemic had any impact on their organization. Thankfully, because TCHP supplies food, they were considered essential and never had to close their doors, though they did have to make some big changes to their business model. Before the pandemic, TCHP would hold weekly food packaging events every Thursday night with 30-50 volunteers packing anywhere from 1,000-2,000 food packages. But when COVID hit, they quickly had to switch gears and break up their food packing events into smaller groups scattered throughout the week, ensuring they were following the most up-to-date guidelines, including performing extra cleaning, wearing masks as well as gloves, and sanitizing between each packing event.    (more…)

2021-03-29T21:07:48+00:00March 29th, 2021|

Spotlight on Powerhouse’s Heather Osborne

It’s hard to believe we’re already one month into 2021, isn’t it? After the interminable year that was 2020, we’ve all been reveling in the promises a new year brings. Which is why we’ve decided to focus this installment of our employee spotlight series on one of our newer Powerhouse superstars: Heather Osborne. Among her many, many talents, Heather lends her executive assistant expertise to our clients as well as her sense of humor and positive outlook to all of us here at Powerhouse. Trust us, 2020 got so much better when Heather joined our team last April!

Heather’s executive assistant talents highlight one of our lesser-known service offerings. (Seriously, if you’re wondering if Powerhouse can help, take a page from that ubiquitous app tagline: there’s a Powerhouse service for that!) Heather provides executive assistance for Living Off Rentals/Green Vet Homes, for whom she does everything from scheduling and preparing newsletters, to researching and finding contractors, managing social media, organizing podcasts, maintaining websites, and preparing the annual business plan documentation. Her talents allow the client to focus on growing the business and making the most of the opportunities that come around.

While Heather has been with Powerhouse for less than a year, she already has some favorite things about it. Namely, how supportive everyone is of each other and how Powerhouse provides flexibility for professional growth. Powerhouse President Jessica Bertsch is adamant about encouraging that growth; she’s a master at bringing out hidden talents her freelancers weren’t even sure they possessed! Just ask Heather about hosting Powerhouse’s virtual “Salute to 2020” Power Hour. She brought festive fun as well as healthy reflection on what has to have been the strangest year we’ve ever known. Which just goes to show that the support she speaks of is something she offers in spades.

Heather is a veteran military spouse. Her husband, John, served for 26 years in the United States Marine Corps. She’s the proud mom of three sons, the eldest of whom is currently serving in the Marine Corps; the middle son will graduate from Texas A&M this year with a civil engineering degree; and her “baby” is 14 and already both a second degree black belt and an Eagle Scout. So, Heather knows something about service, as well as how to juggle multiple schedules and cheer on amazing accomplishments. It’s probably why she describes herself as someone who “likes to work” and “enjoys being part of a team.” She understands how to utilize the group dynamic to get things done and thrives on being organized.

When she’s not working, Heather will most likely be found spending time with her family, whether that means watching movies or geocaching, or curling up with a good book. Whatever she’s doing, it’s all family-oriented and designed to bring her a good work/life balance. That commitment to balancing professional and personal health is one of the other things she admires about Powerhouse and why she believes that in five years Powerhouse will still be helping businesses reach their best potential. Finding that balance means being focused and intent on work when it’s work time and “turning it off at the end of the day.” When you’re balanced, you work better and can do more for your clients.

“Schedule everything,” Heather says. Seriously. Put me time, family time, work time, all of it in the schedule. It allows you to see where you’re productive and to find the places you’re not quite in balance. And put family first. Putting family first will ensure that you get work done and done well so you’re not interfering with what is most important in life: spending quality time with those you love.

Because we’re taking some time this year to focus on us, we asked Heather what her favorite services are that Powerhouse offers. She loves them all (we told you she was supportive), but admitted to a particular fascination with graphics and web design. “That creative side of Powerhouse is dynamic!” were her exact words. She added, “There always seems to be a new service that comes up every time I turn my head.” So really, how could she choose just one or two favorites?

Professionally, Heather is happiest when she can take a task off clients’ hands so they can manage the business side of the house. “They are happy, and it makes me happy,” she says. It all goes back to that balance thing. Heather has found that “peace of mind outweighs everything.” When you put faith and family first, everything else naturally tends to balance out. That makes for more successful workers and a happier, better grounded individual. It’s a beautiful circle.

As always, we asked Heather to share something not many might know about her. She answered with the fact that she taught the deaf and hard of hearing for years and is fluent in sign language. We’re not sure about you, but we’re busy trying to figure out how to leverage that skill into another Powerhouse service . . .

2021-03-05T19:33:18+00:00March 5th, 2021|