Extra Muscle, Rocket Fuel, a Clear Course

Project House is a company that offers a diverse range of solutions, tailored to your business needs. We love talking with business leaders about their companies and their challenges, because we are passionate about being part of their solution in a variety of areas including staff, organizational change, office space, websites, social media, event planning, and more.

In a phrase, the core of our business is helping you focus on the core of your business. Once you grow out of start-up mode (and you will!), many of the hats you’ve had to wear will become a burden, and we are here to take some of them for you. Until you want to hire employees to help you with your load, our team can help.

That’s why we’ve been really happy to share our three brand images to more succinctly explain our business:

Extra Muscle speaks to our desire to help you with all of the projects that keep falling to the bottom of your to-do list, whether it’s because you don’t have time or because you’re unsure of where to start. This might be hiring staff, creating effective policies, tackling your neverending to-do list, organizing an amazing client event, helping you organize or move workspaces, or designing a beautiful card or website.

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Rocket Fuel refers to our ability to help you get where you want to go, but faster. We love getting things done, whether it’s helping you and your team get organized or unstuck, bringing technology into your process so you don’t have to keep working on things from scratch, or talking you through your business and your priorities to see if there’s a different or more efficient way of looking at a problem.

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A Clear Course is our way of saying that we can help you chart a more direct line to getting what you want out of your business. This includes working with you to create a business plan, understand your hiring needs, help you articulate your vision and goals, and engage your team.

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At Project House, we will custom tailor a solution to your unique challenges.  Our team is highly skilled in a wide range of areas, and we are able to bring the right person to the job at the right time.​

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”

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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

company_culture_projecthouse

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.

 

Whoa Nelly! Hit pause before you send that next email!

Whoa_Nelly_projecthouseI did something I’m kind of sheepish about over the weekend. We have hired a delightful woman who works for us part-time. She is a very talented graphic designer and she is helping us stay organized and perform tasks in a variety of areas.

Here’s what happened: I was going through our Asana tasks (for those of you who are not familiar with Asana, it is an awesome task management web and mobile application that is great for teams or individuals) and just checking in on various projects that she had completed, and looking at the week ahead.

I came across one particular task and wanted to do a spot check. My role as her manager is to assign tasks and provide the freedom to complete these tasks in her own way and at a pace that suits her and our deadlines, but I also owe a duty to my clients to ensure that these jobs are being handled to the level of quality and service that is befitting of our company. In addition, as this employee is still new to our company, I want to ensure that she is getting the training that she needs from me, so before work goes out, I will often review it, or I will do the odd spot check on work to ensure that it has been done correctly.

My spot check on this particular web-based task revealed that the link was not displaying at all. In a quick moment of panic I sent this employee a note, thanking her for doing the work but letting her know that I had noticed that it was not working correctly, and asking her to fix it right away on Monday. I also inserted a quick reminder into the email to be sure that she doubled checked her work going forward.

Now, honestly, none of this is particularly that bad. I sent her a nicely toned email; I didn’t berate her or try to make her feel incompetent. Generally, my reminder to double check work is valid and a good rule to follow. Unfortunately, once I sent off the email and went back to my browser to close it down, I noticed that the link was in fact working. Apparently the content was a bit larger and had taken a few seconds longer than I had given it to load. So of course, I felt bad that I had sent this employee an email at all. I sent her a quick apology, explaining what had happened, and when she came in on Monday, I also offered up a verbal apology to ensure that the air was clear. No damage done, thank goodness, but it’s so easy for this kind of thing to spiral into something worse, so here are some takeaways:

1) Set the intention of your email before you write it. In this circumstance, I wanted this to be a teachable moment and avoid having this type of thing happen again. I also wanted my employee to know that I valued the fact that she had completed the task, even if it hadn’t been done exactly as I wanted (well…we now know it was!). The intention of your email shouldn’t be to berate or belittle someone, so make sure that it doesn’t come across that way. Which leads me to my next point…

2) Lead with a positive tone. When communicating by email (or verbally for that matter) you can either do good or do damage. My suggestion is to try to use a positive tone from the start, even if you are delivering negative feedback. I can be proud of the email that I sent her, as it started with a “Thank you for getting that job done, great work…I did however notice a small issue”. Much nicer than if I’d started with “I can’t believe what a mess you’ve made!” Imagine how that would have made her feel and how that could lead to a damaged relationship between us.

3) Take a step away, reread, and take a deep breath before hitting send. I’m not sure that I would have thought to go back and check the link again just to be sure that it wasn’t working – perhaps I will now that I’ve learned my lesson. I wish that I had taken just another few minutes before pushing send, or had come back to it, but at the very least, I can be happy that with doing items 1 and 2 above that I was able to avoid any longstanding damage.

If you are sending some feedback out or sending out an email that is particularly charged, I strongly recommend that you take a step away from the email for awhile after you’ve written it, and before you send it. If you feel the message could really have a negative impact on the other side, or if you are feeling particularly angry or upset, why not save the email and park it until tomorrow. You might find that after a good night’s rest you feel quite differently about the matter. At the very least, get up, get a glass of water or just walk around a little first.

When you come back to it – reread it. Perhaps double-check your facts, or even have someone else read the email for tone.

Lastly, take a deep breath before you hit send. If you still have any angst over sending it, then again ask yourself why – trust your next-day judgment; perhaps the message isn’t quite right, or it doesn’t need to be sent at all.

4) Take responsibility and be prepared for a reaction. Once you’ve hit send, it might be appropriate to follow up in person. If it’s a colleague or employee, you might ask them if they received your email and if they had any questions. And by all means, if you’ve made a mistake, make sure you take responsibility for it and own it, don’t forget to say you’re sorry!

So… in my case, no longstanding damage was done, no relationships were ruined, but it was a good reminder to me going forward. Email communication is fast and simple, but your words can be so easily be misconstrued or sent without realizing their impact. Sometimes a good old fashioned phone call or face-to-face may be the best action.

Looking for another cool option to send a message to someone? There is this neat web site where you can dictate a message and attach it to an email – the perfect way to communicate exactly the tone you want: www.vocaroo.com.

 

 

It’s How You Leave A Thing.

projecthouse_it's how you leave a thing

Last impressions count. You can be an absolute pro at work for years, you can try your hardest, lean in, produce great work, and add value; and then it happens. For whatever reason, you decide you’re going to leave (or someone decides for you), and the next thing you know, you’re in the last weeks of your job. During this phase, you let people know that you’re leaving, hand over your work and your responsibilities, and prepare yourself mentally to move on.  It’s at this point that you have a choice: you can keep your head in the game, or you can let things slide. I believe that it’s during this last phase of your job that you have to work harder than ever to wrap things up, properly hand things over, transfer as much of your knowledge as possible, and set others up for success after you’re gone.

You need to spend your final days doing consistently good work. Adding value. Staying positive. Doing your job well. Being sure to leave your responsibilities in a clean state that will be easy for someone else to pick up.  Until you walk out the door with your mug and photos in hand, you must continue to do a great job with a smile on your face.

Because, of course, it’s that last stretch by which you are measured. It does not matter how big a rock star you’ve been over the years; if you start to whine now, slag the company and your manager, let your work ethic slip, or in any way let your leaving negatively affect your attitude/abilities/impact, that is ultimately how you will be remembered.

I’ve been through a few of these in my career, and I’ve coached many others through this period, and it takes resolve. It is hard. It is tempting to let things go a bit, to not do your best work or to not stay positive or engaged, because hey, you’re leaving anyway.  But in reality, it is how you leave a thing that says a lot about who you are as a professional. If you burn down the forest on the way out, people will remember.

It might help to bear in mind that, in today’s job market where employees move around more often, your path will inevitably cross with many of your former coworkers’. In fact, any number of those people may one day start a company, manage a team, or hear about a job opening, and they will either reach out to you or avoid you, depending on what they remember of you.

If you haven’t always done this, don’t despair. While you can’t go back in time and take the high road on your way out the door, with some effort you can put a less-than-rosy past behind you. It shows strength and courage to reach out to people and to acknowledge your mistakes. It is powerful to extend an olive branch, to apologize, to retract harsh criticism, or to make genuine efforts to reconnect and start fresh. Most people understand that we all evolve over time, through trials and reflection, and you will discover that most people have at some point benefitted from a second chance.

SO. If this is your last week at work, be your best. Make people excited to see what great things you’ll do next. Make them look forward to working with you again. Be grateful. Be professional. Leave a great last impression. And when you get an opportunity down the road to give someone a second chance, take it.

 

Congratulations to ShoeMe.ca!

Sean_Clark_shoeme.ca

We are so excited for our client ShoeMe.ca, whose founder and CEO, Sean Clark, sold his Vancouver-based online footwear company this year in an acquisition that consolidated ShoeMe.ca with OnlineShoes.com, an online footwear retailer based out of Seattle. Roger Hardy, founder and former CEO of optical giant Coastal Contacts Inc., has consolidated both companies with the intention to create the largest online footwear operation headquartered in Canada. Sean is now President of the merged entity’s Canadian operations.

The Project House team was able to support ShoeMe with several aspects of their business, including the creation and implementation of new contracts, a hiring workflow, and an employee-friendly policy handbook.  We were also involved with OHS and WCB/WSIB research and set-up, as, in addition to their Vancouver headquarters, ShoeMe has warehouses in both Vancouver and Toronto.

Congratulations to Sean and the whole ShoeMe.ca team on their continued growth and success. We are thankful for the opportunity to be part of your business journey!

To read some of the recent articles about ShoeMe, please follow these links:

http://www.vancouversun.com/touch/story.html?id=10161343

http://www.techvibes.com/blog/hardy-capital-partners-buys-shoeme-dot-ca-2014-07-15

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-marketing/customer-service/shoe-retailer-was-born-after-zappos-left-canada/article19765911/