Happy Groundhog Day!

Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most beloved and furry seasonal prognosticator, saw his shadow on Monday morning (despite overcast skies), portending six more weeks of winter. Read more here.

GroundhogDay

It’s a brand spanking new year! Time to set some goals.

SMART-goals

The beginning of a new year is always an interesting time.  You are often feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and excited about the year ahead, and perhaps also inspired to think about what you want to accomplish.  It is also a time of reflection on the year that has passed.  Did you accomplish what you had set out to do? Did something in your business work well that you’d like to duplicate? Did something not go as planned, and you’d like to make an adjustment for the future?

Heidi and I held an all day strategy session on Monday where we discussed some goals for PH for 2015.  We have been working with a business coach to help us develop a more comprehensive plan for our company, and we had lots of homework to do and many items to discuss!  We didn’t get through it all in one day (we have another session set for next week!) but overall I’m happy that we are making progress as I’m a huge believer in setting goals and then checking in and tweaking as you go.

Someone special in my life has ingrained in me since I was young “if you don’t have goals, you won’t get where you want to go”. It’s a philosophy that when I was younger I didn’t give much credit to, but now as I grow and develop as a person, mother and business owner, I truly feel the significance of these simple words and I try to live by them.

Whether it’s setting a simple goal such as getting a task accomplished by the end of the day, a more ambitious goal like wanting to train for a marathon, or something more complex like setting strategic long term goals for your organization, without setting the goal in the first place how would you ever be able to set out on the path to achieving it??

Given that it’s the beginning of the year, we thought it might be a good time to pass along some tips on how to go about setting good, tangible goals. Before you even get started, it’s important that you are first feeling motivated to set, and reach, these goals. Without this motivation, you are likely to fall back into old habits or lose sight of the end goal.  Try to think about what the benefit of reaching these goals will be: building your business, making more money, or freeing up time to spend with your family because you have successfully delegated some tasks to other people or other companies.

Feeling motivated? Here is a how-to process for setting goals, and it all starts with 5 simple letters: SMART.

All goals must be S.M.A.R.T.

1. Specific – Clearly define what you want to accomplish.
Is it specific? Have you clearly stated what you wish to accomplish and how you plan to accomplish this goal? Also ask yourself why this goal is important to you? It is sometimes easiest to start with a general goal or objective and then move into the finer details or specific tasks that might be needed to accomplish the larger goal.

2. Measurable – Identify targets and milestones to track your progress.
Is it measurable? If you have not made it measurable and set yourself clear targets and milestones, you will have no way of checking to see if you are going in the right direction. It can be very frustrating to find that you have ploughed ahead on a series of tasks only to discover that you should have made a course correction weeks back.

3. Attainable – Your goal is realistic and manageable.
Is it attainable? Make sure you give yourself the opportunity to reach the goal. You could break each goal down into smaller tasks and make sure you have the time and resources available to meet the timeline you have set for yourself. Setting unrealistic goals will only set you up for failure, and nothing is more defeating then never attaining your goals.

4. Relevant – Identify a goal that fits with your business or overall philosophy.
Is your goal relevant? Your goal should fit with your business, your mission statement if you have one, or your market, client base or industry.

5. Time-Based – Identify a specific period of time for the goal.
Does your goal need to be achieved by a certain date? Make sure that you set a realistic time-frame for your goal, and you must set a deadline!  It is often tempting to leave a goal open-ended, but the danger is that you will never actually achieve it and then give up because it hasn’t worked or because you’ve now decided that goal setting is a waste of time!

What sorts of goals might be appropriate for your business?

• Writing a business plan – it doesn’t need to be overly complicated, but it is important to make sure that you are not setting yourself up for failure.

• Ways to improve your bottom line – whether it be ways to increase profitability or ways to reduce your company costs, or looking at ways to improve your cash flow.

• Becoming more productive – this is very important for small business owners. Learn how to use your time efficiently and effectively. There are many tasks that, although not profit centre activities, directly affect your ability to become profitable as they take you away from core business functions (for example manually doing your payroll each month).

• Making use of technology – there are many free or economical programs on the market these days which can be used to assist with aspects such as accounting, billing, and task management.  These programs can greatly reduce admin time, giving you the opportunity to concentrate on your core business goals.

We hope that this inspires you to set a meeting with your company’s key players, your employees, or maybe even your family, to set some SMART goals for 2015.  We wish you the best of luck in setting and achieving these goals, whatever they may be!

Project Spotlight: Westbourne Projects Rebrand

Westbourne_BusinessCardsWe recently created a new visual identity for a dear colleague of mine. This type of work for me means swirling concepts around in my head and on paper for extended periods of time, seeking inspiration from all types of sources, and then trying to channel everything into a tangible solution. In this case, I knew that the new visuals had to demonstrate integrity, reliability & trust, as he’s a talented project manager who consistently delivers outstanding service. It also had to be modern and fresh, and more polished than his existing business card and identity.

When speaking with my colleague, he shared with me the history behind his company’s name, Westbourne, which came from his desire to convey his geographic location on the West coast in combination with a place of personal significance, the River Westbourne, which used to flow through Chelsea and out into the Thames. The River Westbourne needed to be diverted underground in order to make way for development; however, it still runs through the city and out of a pipe suspended over the Sloan Square tube station. This bold symbol of engineering ingenuity, along with the persistence of the river, parallels the character of the company he wanted to create.

River Westbourne now runs through a large pipe suspended over the Sloane Square tube station, London.

River Westbourne now runs through a large pipe suspended over the Sloane Square tube station, London.

Our approach to this project included exploring ways to incorporate the river into the visual icon for the company, in combination with construction iconography to reflect the type of work that Wesbourne does, in order to create something solid and lasting that potential Westbourne clients could identify with. After many iterations, following a thorough and thoughtful process, we turned away from the river imagery and created instead a simple yet elegant building form paired with simple and clean typography, and chose a modern yet sophisticated shade of blue to complete the brand. We designed business cards and letterhead, and in time we will roll out additional stationery and branded materials for Westbourne as needed.

Business card and letterhead designs.

Business card and letterhead designs.

The second phase of the project was the creation of a website, as Westbourne had no online presence. Again we wanted to demonstrate the same tone of integrity, reliability & trust within a modern, professional, and responsive website that would showcase the high quality projects that have been managed by the owner of Westbourne Projects Limited.

A new, fresh website for Westbourne Projects Ltd.

A new, fresh website for Westbourne Projects Ltd.

Our client was very happy with both the end results as well as the creative process, and so were we. Project House is thrilled when we can channel our experience, talent, and passion into delivery of a high-quality project that satisfies our clients’ business needs.

A Letter to Myself

person writing a letter

Just over a year ago, Crystal and I joined forces to create Project House. Our goal was to launch a company for us, and for other women like us, in order to use our skills, energy, and experience to help other businesses focus on what they do best. We also wanted to create opportunities and connections for others and to give back to our community, including women, local businesses, and other entrepreneurs.

Six months ago, I had the great fortune to take part in Minerva’s Learning to Lead weekend as a Community Leader. The weekend was full of discovery, partnership, inspiration, and hard work, and I loved every moment of it. At the end of the weekend, we were asked to write a letter to ourselves, capturing our hopes + goals for our “future selves”. The letter was sealed and kept on our behalf for 6 months, then mailed back to us. Last week, my letter arrived, and this is what it says:

Dear Heidi,

What an exciting, amazing year!
I’m so proud of you for embracing your dreams and for not giving in to fear.

I’m sure by now your business has grown and evolved, and I’m sure you’ve refocused in response to that change and evolution. Please don’t forget to celebrate all of the little successes as well as the big ones, and try not to sweat the small stuff or obsess over your mistakes. Keep learning + pushing forward, keep taking risks and following your heart, and I know everything will (and has so far) work(ed) out the way it’s supposed to.

Your clients appreciate you and refer you to other like-minded businesses. You have learned how to say no. You have figured out how to offload the tasks that you hate. :o)   You are clear about your values and PH’s values, and you are living these harmoniously and successfully.

You are travelling more.

You are seeing the rewards for risks taken.

You are more energized.

You sleep more.

You are more in love with yourself, your family + your friends than ever before.

You are recognized for your spirit, skills, and success by your community, but mostly by yourself first.

You have accepted the things you can’t change, and you are pursuing the rest like a graceful, beautiful bat out of hell.

I love you.
Heidi

When this letter arrived, I had honestly forgotten all about it, and had no recollection of what I’d written. I was so pleasantly struck by the positive and caring tone of the letter, and by how excited the “me of then” was to encourage the “current me”. Obviously not all of these things have come true yet (sleep more?!), but I can appreciate that committing these goals to paper has given me a subconscious path to follow and re-find, should I wander off course.

Hey, it’s a new year. What would your letter to yourself look like? This is an easy way to try: Write a letter to yourself that contains a list of goals or objectives, in whatever format or language suits you. Seal it in an envelope, tuck it into your calendar on a page six months from now, and forget about it. In six months, read it and think about what you accomplished, where you met your goals, and where your goals changed or evolved. What steps did you take to get closer to what you wanted? What surprises you about what you wrote to yourself? And what would your next letter say?

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.

Image 2a

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.

Image 3a

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.

Image 1

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”

project_house_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