PowHERhouse Winter 2017 Feature | Meet Heidi and Crystal

Crystal and Heidi Project House

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.

 

 

January 25: PowHER TV and Dream, Girl Launch Event

Dream, Girl

Project House Business Solutions is excited to announce their event partnership for the Vancouver launch party of PowHER TV and a special screening of Dream, Girl on January 25, 2017. 

PowHER TV is an initiative of PowHERhouse, the only Canadian media platform that accelerates individual performance, business growth and social impact. Their vision is a commitment to becoming a strong, positive global force with a tangible, grassroots impact, and their aim is to utilize the capacity of their highly-interactive multi-media platform to connect powerful women with each other in order to maximize their collective strength and energy.

Project House is a creative and energetic company whose mission is to build flexible work opportunities for women and support clients who want to treat people better, use better systems, and show themselves off more beautifully.  They do this by providing “extra muscle” consulting in a variety of professional service areas.

Dream, Girl is a documentary showcasing the stories of inspiring & ambitious female entrepreneurs.  The film’s mission is to inspire the next generation of leaders:  From brand new startups to million dollar industries, it’s time we stop telling girls they can be anything they want to be and show them what it means to be a leader.”  Executive Producer and launch event champion Cheryl Wheeler will be attending the Vancouver launch event.

The PowHER TV Dream, Girl event will include a networking reception, inspirational speakers and an interactive panel discussion with the cast of PowHER TV, moderated by Project House Principal Heidi Eaves.  The Project House team is thrilled to be working alongside Charlene SanJenko and PowHERhouse to create an event that celebrates the idea that young people of all genders, backgrounds, and skills need to experience healthy role models and a broader range of inspiring opportunities in order to dream bigger and develop their own personal brand of leadership.

Both companies are committed to furthering the development of positive and healthy leadership, business, and entrepreneurship opportunities for everyone.

Tickets can be purchased from PowHERhouse here.

 

Click the image above to watch the Dream, Girl trailer.

computer virus graphic

Website Pest Control

computer virus graphic

Recently one of our clients had their websites hacked.  This was a very stressful experience for everyone involved. As part of our website development process, we load a software on our client websites to alert us if a suspicious file has been identified, however this infection was already widespread before we had time to react.

 

We moved quickly to find the infected files and remove them, however once we got that site cleaned up, the infection had hopped to another site hosted in the same directory. We cleaned up the second site and then, to our amazement, discovered that a third site had been affected before we were finally able to put a stop to it. Thankfully we then stopped the spread before any of their other 4 websites were infected.

 

Once we had the infection under control, we brought in our security experts to do a thorough clean of all the files, find the infection source, and remove any “backdoors” that may have been installed.  The final piece of our clean-up was changing all user passwords, notifying Google that the site was clean, and having all users run scans to ensure that no malware remained on their computers that could cause future infections.

 

The culprit in these security breaches is often as simple as your website requiring a theme or plugin update. The damage, however, can be catastrophic.  Besides having your website down with a big red screen saying “SITE INFECTION” – a major turn off to your clients, if your core website files are ruined during an infection – you can potentially lose your entire website. This is why having a website backup is so important! Another major issue is that Google doesn’t like infected websites, which can have a major impact on your SEO. Finally, of course, is the issue of cost associated with a website infection. There are costs for cleaning the infected files, hiring security experts, re-building your website should core elements be lost, and of course the opportunity cost of any lost business while your website is down, all of which can quickly and easily lead to having to spend thousands of dollars or more to get back on track.

 

Malware developers are constantly trying to find ways to infiltrate people’s websites…so plugin and theme developers are constantly working on improving their products in order to keep them out. This is why it’s so important to install website updates from the plugin and/or theme developers, especially anything security-related, as soon as possible.

 

We take website security very seriously and we continue to take additional precautions internally to do our utmost to protect the security of our client’s websites. While we cannot guarantee that a website hack won’t happen to you, we can offer solutions to minimize risk.

Brace Yourself, Winter is Coming

Winter Is Coming

The most wonderful time of the year? Not if preparing for parties and presents causes you stress! It is time to get a head start prepping your business for the holidays so that you can get back to the fun stuff – whether that is spending more time on the work you love, or enjoying your free time.

To alleviate some of the effort before the holiday season starts, it is important to make a list of what is important to you. Holiday cards? Employee appreciation? Client gifts? Deciding what your priorities are can make it easier to decide where to allocate your time (and money!).

Too busy, overwhelmed, or distracted to discover or focus on all of your priorities? Don’t know how to get started?  Let us help! We are your one-stop shop for holiday cards, gifts & employee appreciation, and event planning.  Read on for more ideas and inspiration.

Read more

In honour of Love Note Day…

love-note-day-instagram

This Monday we celebrated Love Note Day…we know it’s not particularly business-related, but I have to admit that even though I’m not a super romantic at heart, I do have a fondness for love notes.

My husband and I met at work and started dating almost 12 years ago exactly – October 4th (my birthday) marks our first pseudo date.  We were a workplace romance, starting up conversations while manning a booth at UBC together. He was new to our office, and I was being friendly. I couldn’t resist his beautiful blue eyes and amazing smile – oh, and he was intelligent and easy to get along with too! We had lunch together on the grassy knoll and things just kind of went from there.  

At the time, we were both very nervous about the implications of working together and dating. We were both professional and didn’t want a potential “fling” to go badly and ruin our working relationship. We proceeded with caution and didn’t let anyone at work know what was going on. Despite our attempts to keep things low key at work, or maybe because of it, our workload was beginning to intertwine and our higher-ups put us onto a project together.  This meant that we were spending more and more time together, which of course made keeping our relationship to ourselves and professional at work even more difficult.  How do you communicate with someone who you are falling in love with when you need to be seen as “just colleagues”? Well…love notes of course.  Dave and I would pass notes to each other, Dave more so than me I’ll admit. I have always had a hard time writing love notes – but I do love to receive them.  I still carry in my wallet the first note he ever wrote me. 

Despite our best efforts to be cautious and careful, we fell hopelessly in love with each other.  A few colleagues saw us out together and I’m sure the rumour mill started winding up at the office.  I remember diving behind a movie store aisle one day in an attempt to hide from a fellow work colleague when Dave and I were picking out a movie to watch.  We got caught despite my efforts of course – how do you explain your way out of that one??

It wasn’t until the company Christmas party that we finally came forward with our relationship.  Whether intentional or not, Crystal may have had one or two drinks too many and …well…the cat was out of the bag! 

Work handled our relationship fairly and professionally. They moved Dave off the project that we were working on together, and they put him onto other work on the UBC Okanagan campus, while I remained on the Point Grey campus.  They allowed us both to keep our jobs, for which we are still grateful, and we remained very professional in the workplace.  Our boss at the time told us that we would thank him later for splitting us up to work in different areas, and I have to admit he was right.  Although working together while you’re falling in love is exciting, it was not a good long-term solution for us – the separation between our work projects was great for each of us as we were able to make a name for ourselves independently from one another.   

The rest is history of course!  We were engaged within about a year from when we met, got married 6 months later, and now we have three amazing daughters.  For all the fuss over office romances, I’d say ours was a huge success…and of course I still look forward to receiving love notes from my husband. Although these days they tend to read more like this: “Can you please feed the dog?”

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?