On January 25th, we had the honour and pleasure of being event partners at PowHER TV’s Vancouver Launch Party. It was an inspiring night full of engaging speakers and cool + interesting women; we loved being involved and watching a private screening of the documentary Dream, Girl. Thank you to everyone who came out to join us – it was great to meet new people and see some of our favourite faces!
The week of the event, PowHERhouse released the Winter 2017 issue of their magazine, which features an article about Project House. Our sincere thanks to Charlene SanJenko for interviewing us and sharing our story.
We are happy to share the feature in its entirety on our blog too, below:
Project House’s PowHERhouse Winter 2017 feature –
PowHERhouse recently had an opportunity to chat with Crystal Roche and Heidi Eaves, the Principals of Project House Business Solutions, a growing and energetic Vancouver consulting and outsourcing company that supports companies of all sizes who need “extra muscle” in the areas of HR, graphic design, websites, and workplace design.
Crystal Roche and Heidi Eaves of Project House
Ladies, welcome! What inspired you to start your company?
Heidi: Thank you; we are very grateful for your time. Crystal and I both spent many years working in busy, big, competitive, male-driven industries: my background is in video games and software development, and Crystal’s is in construction and development. We both have busy family lives and growing children, and we wanted more control, more flexibility, and much more joy. We knew that if we wanted to work at a company with values that exactly matched our own, we’d have to start it!
Crystal: One of the things we are most passionate about is creating a company that gives great work opportunities to talented, bright, and energetic women from our community who don’t want to work full time, for any number of personal and professional reasons. We have team members who decided to come out of retirement, and others who are just getting started in their careers, and we are excited to work with each of them in their own way, and even to help them discover what they’re good at if they aren’t sure.
How do you offer so many different services and ensure that they are done well?
Crystal: Heidi and I come from different backgrounds and we have different skills and experience across our service areas, and in combination with our extended team, we are able to deliver a wide variety of projects at a professional and high-quality level.
Heidi: We talk a lot about simply wanting to help companies be “better”. This might mean treating people better, using better and faster systems, showing themselves off more beautifully with a new logo, website, or workspace – we feel it’s all related. And as we add more employees and team members, we are able to stretch into new areas and deepen our services in others. Our clients come to us from many different industries, and we are learning all of the time, which we love.
Crystal: If a client is looking for something we haven’t done, we might choose to bring someone onto our team with that skillset and experience, or we might decide to connect the client with someone else we know and trust who can do that work.
How do you find clients?
Crystal: We have been so lucky to find most of our work through word of mouth. We reach out to our network and our contacts, and we keep our eyes open for opportunities, but most of the projects we have done come from people we know and who we’ve worked with.
Heidi: We were given some excellent advice early on, and it’s simple: When you have your own business, your company goes wherever you go – in other words, if you’re curious, you will discover clients, ideas, and opportunities everywhere. Crystal and I are always excited to meet people and hear about what they do. That often leads to discovering what they need, or what they’ve heard someone else might need.
You are both busy parents. What is your schedule like?
Heidi: We have three set Project House office days per week when we are all in the office together to synchronize deadlines, move projects forward, and share ideas. Crystal and I spend the rest of the week in client meetings, working from coffee shops, or taking phone calls. Plus, our goal is to spend a big chunk of time in parenting mode, and that’s different for each of us. Between us, Crystal and I have 5 kids between the ages of 4 and 15. Mine are older, so I have more freedom on weekends to work if I want to, and Crystal has to be more in tune with 3 pm and the busy after-school schedule that her family enjoys.
Crystal: We have a number of systems in place that help us manage everything smoothly, like calendars and task-managing software. And sometimes it all falls to pieces and we have to improvise. Heidi and I are friends, and we can help each other with dogs and kids if necessary. Plus we have supportive and wonderful extended families, and some weeks everyone pitches in to keep the trains running on time! We also have great clients who know that every so often, a phone call from a child is going to win out for 5 minutes, or we’re going to show up to a meeting in flip-flops.
Heidi: And in those moments when everything seems out of control, a sense of humour definitely helps!
Crystal: Because we work out of a home office, it’s very easy to go between work and home whenever necessary. I can take a phone call, pull together a proposal, wipe a nose, do laundry, and solve a design challenge all in the same place.
What is one of your most memorable moments or funniest memories in your business thus far?
Heidi: One of my favourite memories happened on a leadership retreat weekend with Crystal and a group of other entrepreneurs and business women. We were in a beautiful setting and during an early morning group nature walk, Crystal twisted her ankle. We were at the very end of the line of hikers, and we got left behind in the woods. It took us ages to get out, and Crystal was in considerable pain, but we laughed all the way back to the main lodge, because we were together and the situation was ridiculous. We know we can rely on each other, and we can see the funny in almost anything, which is a great partnership.
Crystal: One of my most memorable meetings was one where I had coffee with a potential service provider, and I was blown away by how little interest he had in me or my business. It inspired me to write a blog called “How to Blow a Potential Client Meeting” and it reminded us of some key ways to always be better prepared for meetings and behave in the most respectful, humble, and collaborative way with all clients and partners.
When you hear the phrase ‘playing at the top of your game’, what does that mean to you and how you like to perform in your business life, and what do you use (tools, techniques, strategies) that entrepreneurs may find helpful?
Heidi: To me, playing at the top of my game means using all of my experience, excellence, values, and instincts, as well as summoning confidence and courage as I walk through the world. This can be with clients, our team, with volunteer work, at events, or helping friends and family with whatever they need. I wrote a blog about something dear to my heart, “managerial courage,” which means being speaking up and willing to risk being unpopular, for the right reasons. I feel like I’m playing to all of my strengths when I can behave in that way and encourage it in others.
Crystal: In our business we manage multiple projects, clients, tasks, and team members who work in different styles. In order to do this, we rely on different tools to keep us all on track, and we’re always testing out new ones. We use Fresh Books for our invoicing and time management, Asana for task and project tracking, and a host of others for communication, payroll, and other functions. It excites me to learn about new systems, bring them to the team for testing, and, for the rare ones that make the grade, master them and dig into how they work, as well as get to know the companies who create and support them.
What’s your favourite way to unwind?
Crystal: I unwind in little ways all of the time – with my girls watching a tv show, going for dinner with friends, riding my bike, reading a great book, cooking a new recipe. In bigger ways, I love travelling and experiencing something new.
Heidi: I love to read, sing, and swim. I watch TV, go on long walks, hang out with my family, make jewelry, do happy hour with friends, or cook something new. A glass of wine in the sun is a great home remedy.
At PowHERhouse, we have a mantra that we’re putting front and centre this fall, “PREPARATION: You get what you are ready for!” When you think of this mantra, what would you say that you are both personally and professionally ready for this Fall?
Crystal: Now that we’ve been in business for three years, we are evolving our services and getting involved in work that excites us. We have a small team of employees and a larger team of subcontractors, and I really feel ready to take on some challenging projects that excite me personally – large construction and design projects, beautiful graphic and website projects, as well as some of the community-focused projects where we volunteer our time are very rewarding. On a personal level, I feel confident in the value that we bring and in the quality of our work, and so I’m ready to keep growing my skills and checking in with myself to make sure that I am always balancing my home life and getting what I need to recharge and enjoy my family.
Heidi: We did a graphic image for the Benjamin Franklin’s “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” It’s nerdy, but we really feel like everything we do is helping to better prepare us for what’s coming down the road. I am so proud of what we’ve built so far, and excited about the journey forward. I like to think that each of us is stronger than we think and readier than we can imagine for what’s next.
What’s next for Project House?
Heidi: We are continuing to evolve our business, and we are always looking for ways to improve our processes, offer great value, and build on what’s working. We don’t always get it right, but we always learn, and we always do better the next time. I’d like to be recognized as a great place to work, not just as a great company to work with. We are also expanding our services in the Fall to include strength assessment workshops to add to our training programs, and I think we’ll get as much out of that process as our clients will.
Crystal: As we grow our business and meet new people, we discover work that really excites us, so the trick is to make sure we have great people who are focused on what they do best across all of our services, so Heidi and I can work in areas we’re each really passionate about. And a nice office one day would be amazing!
What do you want to leave us with?
Heidi: At the end of the day, we are so proud to provide opportunities for women in our community to do excellent work on exciting and rewarding projects. We partner with a lot of talented and experienced men too, but our focus is creating something flexible and supportive for women who want to balance their individual combinations of work, home, family, skills development, adventure, and career. We know that we can do a huge amount of great work for our clients and provide a business framework for our employees and subcontractors who prefer to focus on projects and not worry about day-to-day business concerns like finding clients, or invoicing and bookkeeping.
Crystal: And for ourselves, we are so excited to be a growing part of the local business fabric of our city, and to have the opportunity to partner with, learn from, and cheer on so many other women who drive their companies forward and who share our values of integrity, creativity, and passion.