Fostering Creativity in the Workplace

Fostering creativity in the workplace can be challenging. You want to maintain a professional atmosphere, but sometimes that very feeling can, well, feel stifling. Studies show that employees who are empowered to express their creativity work better and create more innovative work products. Here are three sites to help you get started with increasing the creativity in your workplace.

StartupNation’s Catherine Plano discusses why and how creativity is so important on the workplace. As she says, “creativity is a mindset.” As we all know, creativity can’t be forced, but it can be fostered. Check out what Plano has to say and get inspired to get creative!

Filestage gives you 29 tips on how to increase creativity at work. These tips all come from award-winning companies and range from getting outside opinions on our ideas to finding ways to diversify your team. These 29 tips will get your creative juices flowing and give you practical ways to implement a creativity plan for your office.

For those who work in a virtual workforce, it can be difficult to feel a sense of belonging. The isolation that many virtual employees feel can also stifle creativity. Museum Hack’s Jesse Sussman provides ideas for creatively building a team spirit and ways to help your virtual employees bond. Some are fun, some are goofy, and some might even prove nostalgic!

2019-06-30T21:10:42+00:00June 30th, 2019|


Find Your Passion: Danielle Jackson

By: Julie Kirchner

When Danielle Jackson started her photography business five years ago, she could never have predicted where her passion for photography—and people—would be taking her one day. This summer, Danielle is going on her first-ever mission trip to Uganda with Show Mercy International. We caught up with this busy entrepreneur, wife, mother of two teenage daughters, and soon-to-be missionary to find out what inspires her.

“People have always been my thing. I just love people. I majored in sociology, which is ridiculous…don’t ever let your child get a degree in people. That is not a ‘job,’” Danielle shares straightforwardly, with a kind of knowing chuckle in her voice. “BUT, truly, what is behind all of it—the photography, the fundraisers, all the things I do—it’s the people. It’s my love for people that gets me there.” This is evident in the way that Danielle goes about her business as well as her philanthropy.


2019-06-30T21:11:06+00:00June 30th, 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):

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)
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|

Powerhouse Asks: What Are You Reading?

Summer is right around the corner. That means summer reading lists are being compiled now. We’ve gotta have time to stockpile those “must-have” reads, whether that means taking an online trip to the digital bookstore, stopping by a real life bookstore, or making sure your favorite library either has the books you want or can get them for you. Here at Powerhouse, we’ve been thinking about what we want to read this summer, so we thought it would be interesting to reach out to our clients to see what they recommend. Rissa Reddan, senior vice president of marketing for PayNet, an Equifax company, graciously sat down with us for a chat on life, work, and what she’s reading now and this summer.

PayNet was founded 20 years ago with a desire to serve the small business community. Located just outside of Chicago in Skokie, IL, PayNet’s mission is “to make the lending process faster, easier, more accurate, and more profitable.” Today, they focus on the digital lending revolution and how to help lenders navigate the digital world in order to make better decisions on how and where to lend their money. Reddan came on board about a year ago. With a background in marketing, which she considers to be both an art and a science (and thus perfect for her), Reddan loves the opportunity she has at PayNet to have a real chance to put a fingerprint on a place. Usually in marketing, the brand is already established and the ability to shape that brand just doesn’t exist. However, the entrepreneurial culture at PayNet has allowed Reddan to have an impact on how their brand is grown and how it is marketed. In other words, PayNet gives her that true blend of art and science that she craves.

Because she works in a place that has such a passion for helping small businesses succeed, grow, and thrive in our present economy, is it any wonder that Reddan’s book recommendations all focus either on finance or on how to succeed? Her first recommendation is a book by former Bank of America Executive Vice President Richard J. Parsons entitled Investing in Banks: Strategies and Statistics for Bankers, Directors, and Investors. A highly practical book for serious investors that delves into all aspects of the banking world, it truly is an enlightening read on how banks operate.

She also recommends Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by psychologist Adam Grant, Wharton’s youngest tenured professor, and Let the Story Do the Work: The Art of Storytelling for Business Success by Esther Choy, a Chicago-based author and founder of Leadership Story Lab. Grant’s book posits that there are three types in the workplace: takers, matchers, and givers. He shows how these styles impact success. Choy believes that nobody remembers statistics, but everyone remembers a good story. Her book shows you how to take your life experiences to create a narrative that will help you realize your business goals.

On Reddan’s personal reading list is Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown, which her entire marketing team is reading right now. Brown’s book claims that empathy, connection, and courage are necessary ingredients to putting your leadership ideas into practice. In Reddan’s queue as well are The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, The Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, and Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

A self-professed extrovert, Reddan does best when she has others to share her thoughts and ideas with; thus, book clubs are a big way in which she processes what she reads. It’s no surprise that most of her recommendations come from either past, present, or future book club reads. She highly encourages sharing your thoughts on what you read with someone. Not only does reading improve you, but also sharing what you read helps bring others together and foster new, exciting ideas that can change the world. Is it any wonder that Reddan is one of our favorite people? Now, I’m off to go pitch to Powerhouse President Jessica Bertsch that we absolutely, positively must form a company book club and choose one of Reddan’s recommendations as our first read!

2019-05-01T18:39:59+00:00May 12th, 2019|

Top Five Books for Your Summer Reading List

It’s hard to believe that summer 2019 is almost upon us! What better way to celebrate the beginning of prime vacation season than with a list of small-business-oriented books with which to fill your beach bag. Our list is comprised of the top five books small business owners, or those thinking of starting a small business, should read for inspiration, tips, or lessons learned.

1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
It’s a classic for a reason. Named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the 20th Century, 7 Habits author Stephen Covey’s take on business is encapsulated by the following philosophy: We should be living lives of greatness and enduring purpose. His bestseller has been shaping and transforming lives for 25 years.

2. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth was a somewhat surprising bestseller. In this edition, he has completely revised his seminal work. Gerber walks you through the life of a business from inception to the end. He draws a distinction between working on your business and working in your business, and the difference can change how you view and run your business. In addition, he supplies plenty of ways to apply franchise lessons to your business model, even if you don’t own a franchise.

3. Built to Last: Success Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras
Collins and Porras spent six years on a research project conducted by the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. They took 18 companies and did an in-depth comparison between them and one of their largest competitors. The results provide countless examples and principles that can be applied to any level of business management.

4. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
One of America’s premier biographers takes on one of America’s great business visionaries. Apple’s founder put nothing off limits, submitting to 40 interviews in a two-year period and allowing family and friends to be interviewed while refusing any creative control over how Isaacson portrayed him. The result is a riveting look into the life and business practices of the man who invented one of the top computer technology companies and then resurrected it from the brink of irrelevancy to make it one of the most powerful companies in the world today.

5. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by Phil Knight
This is the autobiography of the Nike founder and board chairman. It’s a candid look at, as Booklist called him, “the man behind the swoosh.” Bill Gates named this one of his five favorite books of 2016. Rife with hidden gems by one of the top names in sports apparel, this book is definitely worth a read.

Honorable Mentions (because five books just isn’t enough):
1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap & Others Don’t by Jim Collins
2. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
3. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

2019-05-01T15:05:17+00:00May 1st, 2019|


He Turns Water Bottles into Fashionable Bags: How This CEO Balances It All

By: Karen Pinkston

Hamilton Perkins knows firsthand that being a CEO and an entrepreneur is grueling. At 30 years old, he launched a sustainable business that makes fashionable bags and totes out of recycled water bottles and billboard covers.

After receiving $10,000 on a Kickstarter campaign in less than a week, Perkins officially launched the Hamilton Perkins Collection in 2017. Since then, he’s sold thousands of bags in the U.S. and around the world. Major retaliators like Nordstrom, West Elm, and Zappos signed up to sell Perkins’ eco-friendly bags. And the media has taken note. Forbes, The Washington Post, and Money magazine have all covered his story of making functional fashion from water bottles.

But Perkins knows having a sustainable business also requires having a sustainable life. Powerhouse Planning caught up with Perkins to see how he manages his own stress and wellness as a CEO.

Q. What’s a typical day like for you?

I start at the gym to do something physical. Then, I have time for planning out my day. I try to do my hardest work in the morning, the work that requires the most mental horsepower. I do all the heavy lifting before noon, and focus on more routine tasks in the afternoon. By the end of the day, I move into some type of networking or speaking event.

Q. CEOs have a lot to manage, all aspects of a business. Do you have any hacks that keep you feeling more in control?

Daily journaling is a hack for me. It’s easy to jump in the hamster wheel and keep on going. But it’s important to take the time to reflect and see what we have accomplished as a team. Make plans to hit your goals. Practice gratitude by celebrating even the smallest wins.


2019-04-15T20:11:28+00:00April 15th, 2019|

Did You Know?

The idea of finding a healthy work/life balance isn’t new, but it has come into prominence because of the dominant presence of millennials in the workforce. Yes, the much-maligned millennial generation has employers scrambling to reassess just what it means to have a healthy work life and a healthy home life.

Chronic stress is among the most common health issues for employees, with burnout a close, but related, second. Employees today report that a flexible work environment is critical to productivity and inspiration. Powerhouse is passionate about helping everyone find a perfect work/life balance. Check out our resources for ideas on team building, which can help you open a dialogue at work about work vs. life issues. Or consider hiring Powerhouse to handle some of your tasks so that you and those you work with can achieve that ideal work/life balance.

2019-04-15T20:11:43+00:00April 15th, 2019|

Five Hacks to Improve Your Social Media Strategy

By: Karen Pinkston

Have you ever felt the pressure for your brand to be on all the popular social media channels? You are not alone. The good news is you don’t have to go down that path. Be strategic, and don’t try to be everywhere. Focus on the networks that are most relevant to your brand, and make your content awesome. Here are five tips to help you get started.

#1 Define your audience.

Take a moment to clearly define whom you’re trying to reach. Think of your ideal candidate or customer. Put yourself in their shoes. What age are they? What interests them? What do they value? Where are they living?

Answering these questions will tell you what social media platforms to target. If you’re trying to reach teens ages 13 to 17, YouTube is the most popular social media channel, with 85% of them using it. Or you might consider Instagram and Snapchat, as about 70% of teens are actively engaging on those platforms, according to the 2018 study “Teens, Social Media, and Technology” completed by the Pew Research Center.

#2 Know what works.

Part of knowing your audience is knowing what resonates with them. A great way to do this is to look at your competitors or at other successful similar campaigns. Analyze which ones had the most engagement and why.

When I was the communications director for a sheriff’s office, we found that humorous recruitment videos had more views and shares than serious ones. That data drove our decision to create a video with a sense of humor. But most of all, figure out the key factor that will set your brand apart. How can you be better than the rest and stand out?


2019-04-16T00:08:03+00:00April 15th, 2019|