In honor of Powerhouse’s 10-year anniversary, we asked the team, “What comes to mind when you think about your experience at Powerhouse?” and these are their responses.

Spotlight on Powerhouse’s Jessica Bertsch (and Powerhouse Planning) – The 10th Anniversary Edition

While our “Spotlight” blog series isn’t 10 years old yet, we’re excited that Powerhouse Planning is! So, in honor of our 10th anniversary, we’re shining the spotlight on Powerhouse’s “oldest employee,” our founder and president, Jessica Bertsch. We recently sat down with her to reflect on the first 10 years of Powerhouse, lessons she’s learned, the way ahead, and why she chose Powerhouse Planning as the name we’ve all come to recognize as synonymous with successful, remote team solutions.

PH: Ten years is a significant accomplishment. Overall, when you reflect on the first 10 years, what are your thoughts?

Jessica: The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s a lot harder being an owner than it is an employee! Seriously. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The benefits of freelancing are so worth it. I’m sure you’ve heard me say it before, but it’s dreamy. Getting to work with people who chose Powerhouse, especially since you are all what I categorize as people who are overqualified and underutilized. Getting to recognize that talent and cultivate it on behalf of our clients makes me happy.

Also, I think I’d say that I really like the ability to build my own work culture. We’ve worked hard from day one to establish a healthy work-life balance from the top down. It’s actually one of my goals for this year: to take a completely unplugged week off from work myself. I’m not sure even two years ago I would have thought I’d be able to do that, but I’ve learned that as the owner it’s my responsibility to model what I want from my employees and that includes putting myself and my family first.

Overall, I’d say that it’s been fun to mold and shape Powerhouse into what it is today. Hard, but worth it every single day!

PH: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned over the last 10 years?

Jessica: The most important is probably something I knew from the very beginning but hadn’t ever had to articulate or really put into complete practice in the way I have as a business owner, and that’s not to ever lose sight of what’s important to me as a person. There were times, especially in the early days, when I felt I had to chase every lead, every client, even if I wasn’t sure we would make the best fit as business partners. Not every client is the right fit, just like we’re not the right fit for every client. We cannot meet the needs of every single client, so we have to remain true to our principles and the culture we’ve built.

I’d say also that I had to learn to compensate myself along the way. The first year I never paid myself, just put everything into the business. I was struggling, something I’ve never made a secret of, because it’s important to understand how hard being a small business owner can be. My mentor at the time, my father-in-law, asked me if I was paying myself, and it was a question that pulled me up short. “Um, no?” I think was my exact response. He asked me why not, and it literally changed the way I approached business ownership, Powerhouse specifically, and we’ve never looked back.

I knew I would always have high expectations for us to meet our “awesomeness,” but I think I didn’t always celebrate when we met those expectations in the beginning. Over the years, we’ve developed a culture that celebrates small and large milestones. We’re having our first in-person company celebration this fall to mark our 10th anniversary and I can’t wait for our team to meet in person, some of us for the first time ever.

PH: What do you see as the way ahead?

Jessica: We’re going to keep growing. We’ve enjoyed about a 200% growth marker each year we’ve been in business, which is crazy. I’ve finally accepted that we’re just going to keep growing for the foreseeable future. We’ll be hiring more freelancers, giving more people the chance to have a remote career they can carry with them through the various stages of life. We’ll keep strategically growing, meaning we won’t hire any new employees for established roles until our current ones tell us they’ve reached a comfortable maximum on hours. That’s one of the ways we keep our culture strong at Powerhouse, and we’re committed more than ever to growing the strength of our culture.

PH: You mention the almost exponential growth we have each year. I know you’ve recently been making changes to your own role as we grow. Has it been hard to transition from being 100% hands-on with each contract to focusing more and more on long-term goals and generalized management while letting your talented freelancers deal more with the day-to-day details?

Jessica: In a word, YES! At this point, I’m still “in the know” with each client, some as a project manager and some as a thought partner, but I’m no longer driving every team. I love to be connected with my clients, with my freelancers, so to transition to more of a traditional CEO role is tough for me. But I know I’ve got the best people at Powerhouse, and I know we’ll continue to hit our goals and expectations.

PH: What is your absolute favorite thing about Powerhouse?

Jessica: Well, if you hold me to one thing, it’s hands down our team. We provide a space for our team members to grow in ways they may not even expect they can do. But I’d say there are three things that I love the most:

  1. As I stated, it’s our team. I love the workforce we’ve built. 98% of the time I love coming to work. Our team is so good. And that 2% has nothing to do with our team members!
  2. I love trying to be faithful and grow with my family. I’m growing as my kids grow; Powerhouse is growing as my family grows. It’s why when Powerhouse first started our very first charitable contribution was to set up an annual sponsorship of a girl in Africa, Ambiya, who is the same age as Powerhouse. There’s just something about watching a young person grow into herself in the same timeline that Powerhouse is growing that grounds me and reminds me of why I started Powerhouse—so that my family and I could grow together.
  3. I love that we’ve created a space that gives back and gives to the world and other people because our team loves to give! I committed from day one to giving 10% of our proceeds to charitable endeavors, but I don’t think I envisioned that our freelancers would demand, in the nicest way possible, to be a part of that giving. Our Share the Goodness campaign is the result, and we celebrate being able to give back to the communities and organizations that our freelancers call home and are passionate about. Like all things when our talented team members get involved, Share the Goodness has taken on a life of its own, and I’m blown away by how much we can do and how much more connected we all feel because we’re invested together, even if we live hundreds of miles away from each other.

PH: You mentioned that 2% of the time you don’t want to go to work. Given that, will you share your least favorite part of being an entrepreneur?

Jessica: I don’t think it’s a revelation that there are bad days. I try my best to protect our freelancers from those days because I want work to be a happy place for them, but there is “yuck.” It’s seasonal, though. I’d say we have maybe three to four “yuck days” a year and when I look back, I realize that it’s worth it to experience the yuck to get to a better place. I always reflect with every hard time. I do the work to process and learn from my mistakes. I own those mistakes, and I have made them. The tough days grow me as a person and as a business owner.

PH: So, given everything you know and have experienced, would you do it all again?

Jessica: 100% YES! I adore this space way too much to give it up. There’re just way too many positives. We’re finally profitable. We’re giving real, portable careers to military spouses, veterans, and others. We’re supporting great organizations, doing great work in communities around the nation. Ten years ago, I had no idea where this journey would take me, but seeing where we are today? No regrets. Although I do wish that we hadn’t had to physically move so many times. I’m not sure how many people are aware that Powerhouse has moved five times in its 10 years. It would have been dreamy to be able to stay in one place, but then again, I started Powerhouse as a way to have a portable career so my husband could pursue his dream career in the Coast Guard. I needed the fulfillment of a career as well, and Powerhouse has succeeded in bringing that to not only my family but almost 30 families of freelancers over the last 10 years. What a dream!

PH: You know more than most that we always end our spotlights with a little-known fact. What’s something that might not be widely known about Powerhouse that you’d like to share?

Jessica [laughing]: I’m an open book! I’m not sure how much of a secret this is, but 10 years ago when I started Powerhouse, I tried to dream up a name that was big—a gamechanger. I wanted something we’d have to grow into, to earn. Powerhouse was what came to me. I think in the last 10 years we’ve achieved that goal. We’ve rightfully stepped into that name; we are a Powerhouse, and that is worth celebrating!