The 4 Apps Keeping Us Productive This Fall

As we head into Fall and move into a new fiscal year, we are shifting, tweaking, and refining our workflow and systems.

September is often synonymous with busy. For many it means back to school or back to work after summer break, and it can feel like the to-dos and tasks are endless. In order to tackle our “new year” on a high, we have made small tweaks to the applications we use to keep our team motivated, organized, and focused.

The Project House team is made up of a blend of in-office employees and sub-contractors. We offer a variety of services and do work across many different industries. Keeping track of all of our work and who’s doing what can be tough. At any given time, one of us could be working with a client in the Kootenays, taking a meeting down the road at the local coffee shop, or working poolside at a kid’s swim lesson.

In order to keep us all in sync, we use a number of applications to refine our workflow. If you ever take a peek at our desktops, iPhones, or Safari tabs you will see these in use the most often:

  • Asana
  • Dropbox
  • Freshbooks
  • Slack

systems

We use each of these applications for a different purpose: Asana for Project Management, Dropbox for file management, FreshBooks for Time Tracking and Invoicing, and Slack for casual communication.

 

In Asana’s own words, their mission is to ‘help humanity thrive by enabling all teams to work together effortlessly’. While it may not be pushing all of humanity forward, they definitely keep the PH team going. We use the platform to house all of our projects and related tasks. In Asana, we can assign tasks, comment on projects, and set deadlines. When we all work on different tasks, and sometimes even different pieces of tasks,Asana makes it possible to for every team member to keep each other up to date.

 

For time tracking, estimates, and invoices, we use a software called FreshBooks. FreshBooks allows us to assign team members to specific projects, easily track hours, pull together estimates, and invoice our clients – all from one simple dashboard. FreshBooks makes it easier to keep track of project hours and pull together helpful reports.

 

At Project House, we use Dropbox to store and share files and documents across our entire team and with our clients. Being able to access everything ‘in the cloud’ makes it possible to work remotely, which is the foundation of our business! Not having to worry about having a certain file uploaded is perfect if you are working on the weekend, late at night, or from another location.

 

Slack is a newer addition to our workflow but it has been useful. Slack is a team communication app that helps to reduce email and condense conversation. It is easy to use, fun, and was founded in Vancouver in 2009. At Project House, we use Slack for simple messages, internal team updates, and quick one-on-one conversations. Slack has reduced the number of two-line emails we send to each other (“Hey! Check out this link!”) and has made team updates easy. Being able to split conversations into different channels enables us to keep discussion on topic (ie. web design, marketing) and only available to those who need it.

 

Being able to work together online has made our team more connected and more collaborative. We are able to reduce our carbon footprint by keeping the majority of our work paperless, and we can be more flexible with the work we do and the hours we do it.

Do you have any favourite tools? Does your team need help moving online or to a better system and workflow? Let us know at hello@projecthouse.ca!

In celebration of Video Game Day…

video game day graphic capcom kerberos relic entertainment

To celebrate Video Game Day, we would like to give a shout out to some of our clients who work hard to give us the chance to kill zombies, crush cities, and gather armies.  Video Game development isn’t just fun; it’s a business that requires creativity, commitment, technical wizardry, and the ability to pull together high-performing teams who can solve challenges with speed.  Working in the gaming industry will test your mettle by pitting you against tough deadlines, tougher critics, ever-changing technology, challenging production and marketing cycles, nervous investors, intense hiring competition, and a fickle market.  It will also reward you with a chance to work alongside some of the best and brightest creative minds in a variety of disciplines and crafts, and to be a part of an industry that is serious about business and innovation.

 

Local studios rise and fall, and employees often move from one to the other, then back again.  Hiring fairs and events that pop up whenever a studio suffers a layoff or closure aren’t just opportunistic; everyone gains by keeping video game professionals living and working in Vancouver, as there is always a need for experienced hands as well as a fresh perspective.  For the most part, the local gaming industry has proven to be fiercely protective of its members and also focuses a significant portion of its energy on sharing ideas and rallying around community needs.

 

Tech in BC continues to grow in a significant way:  as of 2014, it was recorded that 75,000 tech professionals work across Vancouver, and the industry generates more than $23 billion dollars in revenue, meaning the tech sector in BC (which includes video game publishers as well as software publishers, motion picture and video production, pharmaceutical and medicine, computer, and navigational instruments) is a bigger employer than mining, oil, gas and forestry combined.

 

One area we’d love to see grow faster is the number of women who work in gaming development.  According to a report in 2015 by Nordicity, “the representation of women in the industry workforce has not changed over the last two years. Women still represent only 16% of the overall video game workforce. (They) are generally more highly represented in jobs in the marketing and communications and operations and administration job categories… however, these categories only account for about 21% of the industry’s total workforce. Women are the least represented in technical job categories, where they account for only 6% of the workforce.”  There are a number of meetups, networking groups, and social organizations whose goal is to support and encourage female gamers and developers, including Girls Learning Code and Ladies Learning Code.  According to the Ladies Learning Code Vancouver site, “Our adult programming offers women (and men) hands-on, project-based learning experiences that are designed to give beginners the skills and confidence they need to become digital creators.”

 

Video Games are mainstream and have long gone well beyond pure entertainment.  They are on your phone, in your living room, and out on the street, and they are a driving force behind many technical applications, such as education and training in medicine and defense strategy, in schools and in the workplace.  As the press around Video Game Day states, “Gaming is a pervasive part of our culture, coloring everything from our choices in clothing to our taste in cuisine, there are even themed restaurants that are entirely dedicated to gamers and the games they love. Video Games Day is dedicated to recalling this defining part of our culture and sharing it with our fellow gamers, new and old alike. Get your game on!”

Happy Women’s Equality Day!

Women's Equality Day

“To truly celebrate women, we must hear the stories of all women.” Happy Women’s Equality Day!

In honour of Roller Coaster Day…

Roller-coaster-day-instagram

This week I’m inspired by Roller Coaster Day.  Many people are drawn to roller coasters as a symbol for life’s ups and downs – it is part of the human experience to go through highs and lows, success and defeat, exhilaration and desperation, sometimes simultaneously.  The key difference between a roller coaster and life, however, is that the coaster is relatively safe and it’s your choice to get on: you’re strapped in, the equipment has been tested, and you’re really just pretending to be in danger, which is what makes it fun. What’s interesting in real life is that everyone’s interpretations and attitudes around their own experience are different.  It’s how people deal with their own life’s roller coaster that fascinates me.

I think the general Roller Coaster Attitude that I share is best summarized by the ever-lively and optimistic Grandma in the movie Parenthood:  You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.  Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.

The things that excite, worry, frighten, and amuse each of us are so different and sometimes we don’t know how we’re going to react until we’re right in it  – there are many different lenses through which to see things, levels of resilience and grit to draw from, and an infinite number of ways to combine optimism, pessimism, and realism.   In every aspect of our lives we experience highs and lows; there are times where we’re on the way up, and others when we feel out of control and terrified, and these are rarely the same for everyone.  Some people lead with ‘why me?’ and others with ‘of course, why not me?’; some are glass half full, others not; some approach a situation with powerlessness, and others with a bull-by-the-horns mindset. Some people push on, and some people hold back.  You might be thrilled and excited to meet new people, and I might be terrified.  You might see a breakup as the worst possible outcome, and I might see it as a wonderful opportunity for a fresh start.

My 93 year old grandmother told me last week that she regrets never jumping out of an airplane or trying a mountain zipline.  I don’t consider myself that kind of risk taker – not interested, thank you.  Having said that, I have fully embraced all of the joy, uncertainty, and cold sweats that come with parenthood and starting a business, and I feel fully awake and engaged when I’m a little bit scared – it keeps me focused and ready.

What I remember from riding roller coasters as a kid at the PNE is that feeling, right after the terror and “oh my god what have I gotten myself into”, after the coaster had slowly chugged back to the loading platform, when I KNEW I NEEDED to go again, RIGHT AWAY.  I’ve long since lost my appetite for rides, but I hold onto the nervous excitement and appreciation of “controlled chaos” – if I can stay just on top of my fear, I can use it to push myself into new things, which, as they say, are only new once.

How do you approach something new?  When has bad news for you turned into good news?  When has watching someone else’s reaction changed your perspective?

End of Summer Sale!

Project House web sale

It’s Web Design Christmas!! Our Project House End of Summer Sale is starting. Get 15% off our your new site or 3 months of web maintenance for FREE!

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Grow Local

Cambie Village Local business

At Project House, we love supporting local business, and we rely on them for food, coffee, gifts, art supplies, ideas, meeting spaces, information, opportunities, partnerships, team members, and more!

 

We also provide our support by being generous with our time, sharing our experience, using their services, singing their praises, attending their functions, introducing them to people they need, or asking how we can help. We are a proud member of LOCO BC, a non-profit business alliance that works to strengthen the community, and we value the business, entrepreneurship, and community focus of our partners, clients, and other companies in our city.

 

There are many tangible benefits to supporting local companies, beyond meeting amazing people and discovering kick-ass products, including these:

 

  1. Local businesses spend more of their dollars locally, which is referred to as the ‘multiplier effect’ by economists. Every dollar spent at a local business generates two to four times the economic impact compared to a dollar spent at a big-box or chain business.
  2. Local business owners “think local” – because they have a stake in the community, they are more likely to support the community and focus their efforts locally and act as a local business advocate for their neighbourhood.
  3. The presence of local business helps to create a sense of culture and adds to a city’s charm, which helps to bring more resident and tourist dollars.
  4. The presence of a unique and diverse local business community helps foster the growth and health of neighbourhoods and their residents, by boosting commitment to civic life and duty, public health, and social equity.
  5. The support of local business helps to
    1. Reduce environmental impact, as typically less transportation is needed;
    2. Create more jobs;
    3. Ensure healthy competition between small businesses that helps to breed innovation.

With so many benefits to supporting local business, it’s time to start forging relationships and growing communities. Need help with a project? Get in touch and let’s grow local together!

 

Happy BC Day!

BC Day 2016

Happy BC Day from Project House!

Happy Paperback Book Day!

Paperbacks

I love to read, and my passion for books has been a lifelong one.  Many years before texting and walking was a dangerous nuisance, I was walking to school and home again with an open book in my face; I never wanted to put a good story down, and I could pretty much read anywhere, including car trips in the near-dark, when the only light was from intermittent highway streetlights.

In addition to loving stories, people are my business, and as someone who is constantly curious, I’m always on the lookout for wisdom about what makes people tick, ways to understand them better, and ideas about how to partner or coach them more effectively.

Crystal and I are both avid readers, and we are always on the hunt for books that move us, bring us information we can use, reveal a new or better way of looking at things, or provide ways to better understand ourselves.   As an entrepreneur, it’s tempting to throw myself into a pile of “business” or “leadership” books, but I find it challenging to find ones that suit my reading style AND bring me the information and insight I’m looking for.  A few that I’ve enjoyed that do both include Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, anything by Malcolm Gladwell, and Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie.

What’s great is that skilfully crafted characters from fiction and journalism stories often work just as well, if not better, than business books to reveal insights about leadership, trust, relationships, self-awareness, and other aspects of human behaviour.

Some of my recent favourites include The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, The Sisters Brothers and Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt, Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows, and Moonwalking with Einstein with Joshua Foer.   There is also an ever-expanding list of incredible “young reader” novels that aren’t just for teenagers, and with one of my sons I am re-reading The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  I also feel the urge reveal here that my two favourite books of all time are The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

If you’re a TED Talks fan looking for additional insight for evolving your leadership style, there are great speakers who also write, including Gladwell, Simon Sinek, and Brene Brown.  I am in the middle of Brown’s I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from What Will People Think? to I Am Enough.  Looooong title; fascinating topic.

This summer, I’m planning to tackle a few more from my ever-expanding book pile, including Quiet by Susan Cain, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine.  Happy Paperback Book Day, everyone!

Do you consider yourself a Reader?  Is reading included on your resume as a hobby?  Do you muscle your way through to the end of books you don’t enjoy, or do you give yourself guilt-free permission to cast an unsatisfying novel aside, unfinished?  Are you a sucker for a great story?   We invite you to share your favourites with us!

 

 

Project Spotlight: Uegama Architecture

Uegama Architecture Website

 

Web design, brand identity and business stationery? Lots of fun! This month’s project spotlight focuses on our friend and client, Jen Uegama and her business, Uegama Architecture. We worked with Uegama Architecture to create new branding, business stationery and a website for their company. Uegama Architecture specializes in creating custom architectural solutions for residential and commercial projects. Client-centred design is a core tenet of the Uegama Architecture brand and Uegama Architecture’s participation focused design approach was evident in our process. Having worked with Jen on projects before we knew her collaborative style would allow us to create branding that felt true to her and her business.

We created a logo to be used across online and print collateral. This logo was used for business stationery (including a business card), an email signature and a new website. Uegama Architecture’s website reflects their preferred design style – clean and simple.

Uegama Architecture Business Cards

Our goal was to create branding that reflected the Uegama Architecture brand while still providing a site that was functional and recognizable. Having an easy to navigate site will allow an increase of traffic and attract more potential customers. We created a layout that was intuitive and user-friendly, with splashes of bright orange and pictures of Uegama Architecture’s work. The site is personal, yet professional.

Are you looking for a brand refresh but still want to keep it true-to-you? Send us an email at hello(at)projecthouse.ca and lets chat about how we can develop YOU and YOUR brand.