Happy Halloween from Project House!

Happy Halloween - Project House

It’s That Time of Year Again!

Corporate Holiday Party

The end of October is nearly upon us, and we at Project House are in the midst of planning what will be our first Holiday Party. I have planned a ton of corporate events, including holiday parties over the years, and I truly love the creative process of designing a great event, and then the pulling together of all the details.

So planning our own company party is no different; it’s even a little more exciting than usual as I get to have fun with our brand! Heidi and I have been brainstorming about a host of things (my own little mental party planning checklist so to speak) in the face of this upcoming event. Here’s a sample of the things I like to consider to get the ideas flowing:

  • What is the tone of the event? What are we trying to accomplish and how do we want people to feel – is it lighthearted or serious, is it formal or fun, is it a simple celebration, or a hugely elaborate affair?
  • Will it have a theme? Well that’s silly, of course it does! A theme is mandatory as far as I’m concerned, but it can be as simple as picking colours that coordinate across your invitations, flowers, and a few simple table decorations.
  • Where will we host the event? Restaurant? Home? Rented space?
  • What time of day is right for our crowd and budget? (Luncheons tend to be less expensive if you are on a limited budget).
  • What type of food will we serve?
  • Will we have a little gift for each guest? For sure! This doesn’t have to be expensive, and who doesn’t love a little take away?!?

In addition to our little Project House party, I am also planning a corporate event for one of our clients, so I thought that this would be an opportune time to give people some quick tips and reminders for how to plan and organize a successful corporate Holiday party. So here it goes:

  1. Pick a date early. One of the first things you need to do is settle on a date and make sure that a “Save the Date” (a simple calendar appointment will do) gets out to your staff or invite list. You can then follow up with nicer or more formal invitations later. December (and even late November) books up for most people quickly, and you don’t want to have half of your staff missing from this important staff event. Doodle.com is a great tool for polling people on a series of dates to see which one most people can attend.
  1. Determine your Budget. Holiday staff parties are an investment, and I strongly believe that they are an important one. If done right, end of year parties are a great way to thank your staff for a job well done and show your appreciation for all of their contributions. With busy workdays, we may not always take the time to thank our staff as often as we’d like for their dedication to the company, so this is a great opportunity for everyone to have a little fun and for you as a business owner or manager to show your gratitude. Make sure you carry a budget line item for them – however big or small. If you are feeling pinched for money, a cocktail party is a fun option, choosing a luncheon over dinner, hosting the party in someone’s home, or limiting alcohol consumption are all great ways to save money.
  1. Select a theme & venue. It’s important that you select a venue and theme for your party that fits your company culture and your staff, as well as your budget. You know best if this means a casual party at the pub near your office, an enormous black tie event in an edgy warehouse space, or a simple tea party luncheon in your home. Remember who this event is for and choose accordingly. Selecting the right tone for your event will ensure that everyone feels comfortable and has a good time. Remember that the more elaborate you want to make it the more time you will need in order to prepare and pull it together… Again, another reason to get cracking on this early.
  1. Book the space. Settled on a theme and type of space? Book it…and book it now! If you are hosting your event in a restaurant or bookable space, secure it as early as possible. Popular venues sell out early for December – so don’t delay. Most people have their space booked by September or earlier! If you are hosting an event in your home, its not a bad idea to secure any rental items you might need early on. Rental companies don’t usually run out of supplies – but better safe than sorry.
  1. Good food and good wine. If you are hosting your event at a restaurant, make sure to visit the space in advance and discuss the food and beverage choices early on. A representative from the venue can work with you to create a fixed menu and to pair wines with your meal. Fixed menus are a great way to control your costs. If you are hosting a party in your home, you can either cater or cook meals yourself, although I have found that catering tends to be on the pricier side if you are trying to save money by hosting in your home. Make sure to try any new recipes in advance to ensure they will turn out as desired. A signature cocktail as people arrive is another way to personalize your event and kick off a great party. Have some fun with this, you can make a drink just about any colour these days and give it a fun name to suit your company.
  1. Music. Music. Music. My biggest piece of advice: don’t have an event without music. I attended a party recently that was teetering on becoming boring as the venue’s generic music droned on….that is until someone took control and started playing some fun-loving, all ages ,foot tapping tunes and got everyone onto the dance floor having an amazing time. Music has the power to transform an event and make everyone leave feeling elated with great memories. If you have the budget for live music then go for it, but if not, a great playlist on an ipod is totally fine.
  1. The finishing touches. These are all the little touches that make an event special and memorable. My top must haves: flowers, candles, nice invitations, printed menus, place cards & decorations, and small takeaway gifts (try Chapters, Etsy or a custom gift with your company logo). None of these needs to cost a lot of money however they have huge impact. If you’re on a tight budget, forego flowers and printed items, but definitely pick up some tea lights for the table or make sure the restaurant has them (Ikea is a great place to pick up inexpensive candles). A small sprig of holly tied with some ribbon at everyone’s place is simple and inexpensive. There’s bound to be a holly bush around your neighborhood somewhere! I’ve posted a few ideas for inspiration on our corporate holiday party Pinterest board found here.
  1. Say Thank you. Take a moment during your event to praise your team for a job well done and perhaps share some of the company’s goals and visions for the upcoming year. Your team wants to hear from you so don’t miss out on this chance to appreciate and inspire them.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend, whether you have a huge elaborate party, or a small get-together in your home. What’s most important is that your staff feels appreciated and that they have an opportunity to let their hair down and enjoy themselves in a non-work setting.

Good luck with your upcoming holiday party planning. Feel free to give us a call if you need a little advice, have a specific question about your upcoming event, or if you would like to plan something special for your staff this year but just don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to this task. Of course we’d be happy to help!

PH weekly “lap chats”


Crystal and I, in our quest to make the most of each day and lead a healthy lifestyle, have decided to swim laps together once a week, sharing one lane and chatting about our business. We are hoping that these weekly “lap chats” will allow us to catch up, exercise, and think creatively, all while being weightless for 45 minutes.

Today was our first time trying our new “swim + meet” format, and, after recovering from the shock of getting up way too early, we believe it was a smashing success. I’m sure we looked a bit funny, two ladies swimming back and forth, talking and laughing, but nobody else in the pool got more done or had a better time.

Stay tuned for more lap chat updates!

Project House will be at the Small Business Advice-A-Thon!

Project House swagGot big questions about small business?  Come visit Project House at the Small Business Advice-a-Thon!

In celebration of Small Business Month, Benchmark Law Corporation is hosting a FREE Small Business Advice-a-Thon! Sign up for 20 minute sessions with lawyers, accountants, financial experts, business coaches, web designers, and more. You can have as many sessions as you want!

– Speakers and door prizes

– The first 100 attendees will receive a resource package containing useful business documents, coupons and products

Event Date:  October 17, 2014 10:00am – 4:00pm

Event Price:  Free!

Location: Creekside Community Centre

For more information or to register visit: Small Business Advice-a-Thon

Your Company’s Culture is You


Culture isn’t a beautiful office, scheduled “fun” time, or free candy. It’s not foosball, fancy vision statements, or a gym membership. It’s not, on its own, an open door policy, casual Fridays, or a great BBQ. A company’s culture is what a company’s leaders do, what they reward, and where they spend their time and money. Culture is what you create every time you make a decision, communicate to your team, have a meeting, give someone feedback, or set up a project to either succeed or fail.

Culture is how you make other people feel, how you act, and what you say. If you make promises you don’t keep, or if you set rules you don’t follow, that’s your culture. And all of the Beer Fridays in the world aren’t going to fix that.

Culture is how you are, not how you want others to see you.  It’s a pretty basic equation: Everything you do to and for your staff – good or bad, intentional or not, one time or repeatedly – it all adds up. If you throw great parties, reward your team with words of praise, but then gain a reputation for repeatedly and unapologetically taking credit for your employee’s ideas, that is your real culture.

As a leader, here’s one method for doing some quick Culture Math, in order to see how your work environment adds up.

Ask yourself how many times in the past month you have done something from this list:

  • Acted the way you expect others to act
  • Set clear expectations and acknowledged when they were met
  • Thanked someone
  • Celebrated success
  • Empowered your leads and your team
  • Rewarded good work
  • Inspired trust
  • Built up your team’s confidence
  • Taught, led, or motivated someone
  • Opened an opportunity unexpectedly for someone else
  • Took responsibility for your team’s mistakes
  • Admitted that you didn’t have the answer
  • Shown that you have someone else’s back
  • Trusted someone to do a job differently than you would do it
  • Encouraged an opinion that is different from your own
  • Gotten out of the way or rolled up your sleeves, depending on your team’s needs.

Now ask yourself how many times in the past month you have done something from this list:

  • Pointed a finger at someone else
  • Avoided giving someone feedback to their face
  • Thrown someone under the bus or proven that you don’t have their back
  • Withheld information from your team
  • Withheld an opportunity for someone else to be part of the bigger picture
  • Withheld your trust
  • Acted politically instead of for the benefit of the team or company
  • Changed your expectations without being clear
  • Assumed someone “should know that” without confirming that they do
  • Asked for something but then didn’t want it
  • Reacted to “we can’t do this” by saying “I still want you to do it”
  • Resisted someone’s interpretation of acting “like this is your own company”
  • Became the bottleneck to a decision
  • Advertised your “open door policy” without meaning it
  • Organized a meeting without knowing who should really be in it, what the agenda was, and what the expectations for the meeting outcome should be
  • Forced someone to shrink to meet your small expectations.

How do you measure up?

Culture can also be measured by looking at what kind of results you are getting. Do you retain great people, or is there a pattern of high turnover? What do your employees say when they leave, and are they even willing to give you feedback? Do your current employees tell you when things aren’t going well, or are you always the last to know? Do they speak up when they disagree or don’t clearly understand your vision? Are they thriving despite you – are they united against a common enemy? Are they often sick or away? Do your current employees recommend your open positions to their friends and colleagues?

Every company’s culture can be different – the successful ones are generally authentic. If you do what you say, care about your staff’s results, and share your vision for your company, you are certainly on the right path. If you support a culture of trust, your staff will tell you where things can improve, and they will help you build something amazing. You’ll know your culture is a healthy one when your employees are your best idea generators, your loudest cheering section, and your most valuable recruiting and marketing ambassadors. When they forgive you for mistakes and they have your back. When they want to learn and grow with you. When they are able to ride the waves of successes and failures that are part of any growing business. There are as many company cultures as there are leaders – just be honest with yourself about what you want to create, and watch your employees and clients to gauge your success.