The Story of The Baker

A story we often tell when we get asked what Project House is all about, is one about a Baker who loves to bake pies.  We’ll call him The Baker.  The Baker made pies all of the time.  His pies were well-loved by his family, who demanded pies for every conceivable occasion.  His pies were delicious and better than anything available in a shop.  Over time,  The Baker started making pies for his kids’ fundraising events, for his friends and their friends, and before he knew it, his pies were in such high demand that he had a business on his hands and he needed to hire some helpers and find a community kitchen space several days a week just to keep up with the orders.


Fast forward a few years and The Baker is in a bit of a pickle. His business has grown exponentially, which is wonderful, and he is proud of his success.  He has long outgrown his space, and he now needs a commercial sized kitchen with a huge warehouse space for manufacturing, storage, and delivery. He has a huge team, his online sales are growing, and his customers and family are suggesting that he open up a small storefront with a café. The Baker is feeling overwhelmed.  He needs a new website because the one his niece built for him originally, while lovely, does not give him the flexibility that he needs for his online sales business.  His logo could use a refresh as the pies are now shipping across the country and he really needs a more polished brand.  He is having some issues with a few of his employees, and he doesn’t know how to uncover the problems.  He suspects that he may need additional managers, and would really like to promote and train some of his current staff. He is doing his payroll manually and it’s giving him night sweats. He never had any formal training in anything to do with running a business, and as his company grows, he is feeling pulled in a million different directions.  He needs help in a variety of areas, but he doesn’t know where to start or who to reach out to for help.


Enter Project House…and we can help with all of The Baker’s headaches.  He doesn’t need to call multiple companies or consultants to come in and work in silos in all of these challenging areas, because Project House is a one-stop solution. We can work with The Baker to discover all of his many pain points, prioritize them, and break them into bite-sized pieces.  The Baker will have an achievable plan to work through all of his various business areas in a strategic and holistic way that will fit his needs and his budget. At Project House our goal is to help improve and align The Baker’s business, find efficiencies wherever possible, and leave things better and easier, so he can spend time on the right things and enjoy his work! 


Does The Baker’s story sound familiar to you?  We would love for you to get in touch with us to see how we can help!

We Love Being Part of Your Team

Last year, one of our clients went through a significant leadership change. We had enjoyed a great relationship with this client, and we felt trusted and effective, providing strategic and operational support regularly and easily. When our primary senior contact informed us he was leaving the organization, we wondered if our work with this client would continue, or if the new leader would be looking to make their mark by handling these pieces differently. We focused on ensuring a smooth transition from one leader to another, making ourselves available to bridge processes and systems, and support continuity.

After this initial transition period, once the new leader had an opportunity to assess their own goals and priorities and set their own tone with the team, he reached out to us. Happily we were asked to step even further into the organization, to spend more time 1:1 with employees, and to make ourselves known and trusted members of the team.

Months later, we are still spending regular time in this client’s office, dipping in more often when there’s a big project to deliver.  We are able to support them in a way that is effective and positive for us as well as the team, sharing our expertise and learning from each other.  When a challenge looms, we can head it off at the pass, or lend our extra muscle in the moment, before it gets too big to handle neatly.  We can help support and nurture the team culture as it evolves.

When this client grows to a size where they need to hire full-time employees to take over some of our services, we may shift into a more traditional consulting role where we lend a hand occasionally in areas where we can add value.  It will be great at that stage to already know and understand the business and to have developed trust with the team.  We will be able to provide training and support, and know that we’ve made a positive impact on the business at its various stages.

We love getting calls from clients who have a big challenge that needs tackling.  By giving us an opportunity to work closely with your team early on, we can help you mitigate risk and solve small problems before they escalate.  We can get to know your employees at every level and we can see your culture in action We can share our skills and experience, earn your trust, and become a valuable member of your organization.  All without breaking the bank or working more than you need.

What sets us apart: Combined Creative Services

Illustration by Jeremy Enecio for Fortune

One of the most unique and exciting aspects of our company is that we can combine our services in order to expand our offeringsWe love innovating within our projects to discover creative solutions that integrate HR, Design, and Web.

Many businesses have an ongoing and serious challenge to hire senior staff with hard-to-find skills, as industry competition for candidate attention can be intense.  In tech, this type of employee is often referred to as a unicorn.  “…unicorn: …staff who possess a unique set of qualities that make them extremely rare and valuable. They’re hard to find, but once hired, they offer up enormous benefits in the workplace and can take your business to the next level”. (Ryan Holmes | October 5, 2016, Financial Post)

Traditional HR solutions for this problem can include setting up recruiting programs, sourcing candidates from other companies, advertising for the role, reaching out into employee networks, or hiring recruiters.  Sometimes this just isn’t enough.  What else can you do in order to make your voice heard?  Our clients need our help:  what will make a Unicorn notice them and poke their head in the door to learn more about the job?

Because Project House has HR, Branding, Design, and Web expertise, we are able to seamlessly pull these elements together for our clients, and design a business solution that maximizes our skills.

Most recently we were asked to solve the Unicorn Problem for a new client:  after struggling to attract and hire senior, experienced, high calibre engineers, they needed a solution that would target this very specific candidate and get their attention.  This was going to be much more than an HR solution; it would require the creative brains of a Marketing campaign in combination with elements of design, as well some deep-dive discovery – exciting!  We would need to dig into the qualities and common elements of this particular candidate and find out what would most attract them to our client’s business.  We would also need to find out why current star employees had been attracted to the company, then ask why they stay and what matters to them.   We’d have to go into the industry and examine what competitors were doing well, and identify unique unicorn hunting opportunities.

From this discovery phase, we typically move into a design phase, coming up with a few options for look + feel, message + tone, and we make recommendations about where to launch the campaign in order to maximize its impact and reach:  is this a print ad in an industry magazine, a polished conference booth, a unique industry event, or a billboard beside a competitor’s office?

When we meet with clients who are struggling to attract the right candidates, we dive into a number of areas of their business to see what might be going on.  Often we arrive at Employer Brand, which is a way to describe the outside world’s experience and opinion of your company as a place to work – this consists of a combination of your company’s website, social media presence, current and past employee reviews, manager skills, reputation, and more.  Ultimately we try to determine if what your company says matches how it behaves, and identify areas where we can help you bring up your game.  A recruiting campaign could be an ongoing branded effort across all of these platforms, or it could be a special one-off project to fill a critical gap.

Are you struggling to recruit and hire?  Are you hoping to land a unicorn?  We can help!


Heidi Eaves and Erin Brandt Speak at Pacific Dental Conference (Mar 2017)

Dentists as Employers: Rooting Out Workplace Problems Before They Happen

At this year’s Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver,  Heidi Eaves and Erin Brandt, Lawyer at Kent Employment Law, will speak about the legal and human resources issues that dentists face as employers.

Topics will include contracts, leaves, buying/selling a business, and engagement from a Canadian perspective, and help dentists create a healthy, engaging, and legally compliant workplace.

To learn more about this event and to register, click here.


May 14: Acing the Phone Interview Workshop

phone interview tips tricks workshop

On Saturday, May 14th Heidi had the great privilege and pleasure to deliver a workshop for Dress for Success in a beautiful space provided for the occasion by the School of Music at the VSO. Heidi designed the workshop, called ‘Acing the Phone Interview’, to help prepare attendees for phone interviews by knowing what to expect and how to put their best foot forward.

The workshop included a variety of practical lessons, including how to research a company to understand its business and culture and your potential fit, knowing what questions will likely be asked and how to prepare your answers, coming up with your own questions for the interviewer, and other tips for how to be ready for the call. Attendees got an opportunity to practice preparing their own questions and took turns interviewing each other.  Throughout the day, there was a lot of time for q + a, storytelling, and additional insight from the group.

Dress For Success workshop attendees


The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.


Client Spotlight: Capcom Vancouver

Benjamin Franklin quote

Project House has been designing and facilitating manager training sessions for one of our amazing clients, Capcom Vancouver, in order to provide their employees with an opportunity to brush up on their skills, pick up some new ones, gain a fresh perspective and new ideas, and to feel more prepared and comfortable in their roles.

Our session on Effective Performance Reviews took place earlier this year, and was designed to provide training, tips, and insights on understanding and maximizing the evolving performance process, including how to give great performance feedback and guide effective goals.

More recently we met with managers to deliver training sessions on Communication and Feedback, which included components such as listening, comfort zones, and effective 1:1 meetings. Upcoming sessions will take place over the coming months, and will be tailored to cover a broad spectrum of management and leadership topics.

We are excited to provide this type of training to our clients and their teams, and we always enjoy partnering with employees and getting exposure to their insights, ideas, and best practices firsthand.

leadership training

Why You Need a (Good) Employment Agreement

business set-up and best practices

Ok. You’ve started your business, you have figured out your business plan, you have found a workspace and developed some initial service or product. Now what do you need? People. How do you hire them, what are the rules, what is a simple and legal set-up for your company? And what kind of employer do you want to be? If you want to do it right, you need to figure out insurance, how to pay people, what information to get from your employees (and what information is none of your beeswax), and how to kick off the employment relationship properly, which starts with an offer and an employment agreement.

Read more

HR is dead! Long live HR!


I love being in HR.  I love people, their joy, their weirdness, their excitement, their grumpiness, their unpredictability.  I love learning as well as teaching.  I love being in a room the moment someone “gets it,” especially when that someone is me.  I enjoy the effort and reward of creating, coaching, and listening.  I enjoy being surprised, breaking big problems into smaller achievable ones, providing information and guidance.  I like being involved in bringing clarity, reasonable processes, and policies that work. I like rolling up my sleeves in the grey area that is human behaviour. Read more

How to pay Employee Vacation Pay


“How to pay employees Vacation Pay” is a question that comes up quite frequently with our clients. I thought it would be a good idea to take some time to describe the various options, as well as the pros and cons of each, to help you identify the most appropriate option to suit your business and employee needs.

The Employment Standards Act states that an employer must give an employee annual vacation of at least 2 weeks after 12 consecutive months of employment, or at least 3 weeks after 5 consecutive years of employment, and so on. This is calculated as 4% of the employee’s gross salary for two weeks of vacation, 6% of gross pay for 3 weeks, 8% for four weeks, etc. Regardless of how you manage this time off, the end result needs to equate to the above.

So what does “after 12 consecutive months” mean? This means that the employee accrues their vacation pay/hours during the first year of employment, and is then entitled to start using it after one year. Day by day, week-by-week, the employee accrues vacation time as they work.

While technically, the employer is not required to give the employee any time off until after completion of their first year, for some companies this is a little too harsh. Many companies will let their employees take their accrued vacation time during their first year of employment. Some will even allow the employee to take vacation time before it accrues. The risk of doing that is that, if you give them more days than they have accrued, and they quit before the 12 month mark, the employee may then need to pay back any overpaid money or time off they received.

I would typically recommend that you not allow an employee to use any vacation days prior to at least their 3-month mark, unless they want to take an unpaid day, and in general, I wouldn’t recommend letting them take more days than they have accrued.


So how do you track and pay out vacation pay? Here are some options:

Option 1: Paid out on every Paycheque

This option, in my opinion, is the simplest. Essentially, you pay out the employee their vacation pay on each paycheque. For example, if your employee receives 2 weeks of vacation per year, that is equivalent to 4% of their gross salary. To do this, you simply add an additional 4% of pay to each paycheque. No need to track anything or do any complicated calculations…then when an employee wants to take a day off, they take it off with no pay.

There are some pros and cons with this method for sure… This can be a difficult option for some employees, as when they take their vacation they don’t get any pay. If the employee is good at saving, this is not a bad option for them, and for the rest of the year, they actually get a little more pay on their paycheques. For other employees, they would rather have a little less pay on each paycheque and be paid for their days off. From the employer’s standpoint, the pros are that it is easy to manage this system, and you end up saving payroll costs when your employees are off; however it is more expensive for you during the rest of the year as you are paying more payroll costs throughout the year, given that you need to add the vacation pay on top of their base salary.

My recommendation is that this is a good option for seasonal employees, casual employees and part-time employees, although it might not be ideal for long-term or salaried employees.


Option 2: Paid Vacation Time

With this option, the employee continues to earn their regular wages or salary while on vacation. This option is used more commonly for salaried employees, who are issued their vacation entitlement at the beginning of the year and then simply draw down the days as the Employee takes vacation. It is simple to administer – no fancy systems required for this one!

Pros: simple to use and administer. Cons: not simple for hourly staff. This method is truly best for salaried employees only.


Option 3: Accrued Hours

A third option is the accrual method. Every hour the employee works, they earn their 4% of vacation pay. It is your responsibility as the employer to track this. This option is slightly more complicated in terms of administering, especially if you have many seasonal or part time employees and you do not have a system that can calculate this for you. Essentially, for every hour/day of work your Employee works, they accrue vacation hours/pay to take. When they go to take vacation time, the Employer pays them from this accrued balance.

This option is certainly a bit more onerous. You need to track the vacation balance that might be owing from the previous year, you need to track the vacation pay earned throughout the year, and you need to track the amounts that you pay out to the employee to ensure that the balance is always accurate

All of this can be a bit complicated to navigate and every company’s needs are unique, so taking the time to determine what system is best for your company is a good idea. If you need help to find the right system to track this process for you, please don’t hesitate to ask!


Managerial Courage

When you work for someone else, sometimes your values match the company’s and those of its leaders, and sometimes they don’t.  Depending on your level of seniority, you might also be impeded by a lack of control over priorities, deadlines, hiring, or projects, and this can make it feel like you don’t get to make the decisions you would make if you were “in charge.”


No matter how much control you have over your surroundings, you still choose how to behave.  You can always make the decision to stand up for what’s right, carry yourself with grace, and be honest and transparent.  I know this is hard work, especially if you need the job (and who doesn’t), and trust me, I am constantly working towards a level of managerial courage in my work:  I am a diligent, ever self-aware work in progress.  My goal every day is to behave in a way that I can be proud of, and for me that is reflected in how I partner and communicate, not just in what I accomplish.


When I started using the term “managerial courage” it was really to describe my need for a leader’s bravery:  their willingness to stand up for what’s right, have their team’s back, refuse to sign up for an impossible deadline, or admit they don’t have all of the answers. Managerial courage means being willing to risk being unpopular, for the right reasons.  It means being straightforward with employees about their behaviour and other people’s perceptions of them, and letting them make choices about whether to change, leave, or tough it out.


When I was in the thick of my management career in video games, I sometimes struggled to do the right thing. I often felt pulled between conflicting priorities and duties:  meet the deadline, stay within budget, get more out of people, add features, change things on the fly, create fewer bugs, mitigate risk… and do it faster… and don’t forget to innovate and improve quality!  And, through it all, my team needed strong and clear direction, vision, and goals.  They wanted a healthy workplace, opportunities to do their best work, time to learn and grow their skills, hone their craft, and make a great game.  Knowing which priority to follow and which to ignore, and how to lead through this chaos, was always a huge challenge.  The more senior I became, the clearer it was to me that the need for bravery and honesty was paramount.


My failures in courage have taught me some big lessons.  Once, I was asked to terminate an employee who didn’t report to me and whose performance was unknown to me directly.  My job was to walk him to the HR manager and sit with him while she delivered the message.  I was uneasy about this, as it was a long walk to the HR manager’s office, and the employee didn’t know where we were going at first, or why.  It felt terrible and wrong to bring him to a meeting in that way, and to watch it dawn on him as we approached the HR department that he was probably being fired.  To make matters much worse, the HR manager was late to the meeting, so the employee and I shared a very painful ten minutes, with him asking me what was going on, and me (obedient junior manager) telling him that I wasn’t allowed to say, but that HR would be there soon.  By the time the HR manager finally arrived, he was in tears, and I wasn’t far behind. I will never forget the feeling of choosing to not tell him what was going on, because I was afraid of getting into trouble. I have held countless termination meetings since then, and each time I think of that experience, and I strive to be kind and respectful, honest and clear, and on time.


It is difficult to be courageous when the pressure’s on and you’re feeling the squeeze between what the company is asking for and what your employees need. Every so often, you have to say no and stick up for something – a person, a project, an idea – that deserves to be protected or celebrated, even when no one else will speak up.  Be clear about the costs to quality with a deadline your team can’t hit.  Refuse to hire a candidate who looks great on paper but who you know will be a bad fit.  Be willing to let someone go if they have no place on your team, even if you like them.  I was lucky to have a few great managers who modeled this behaviour, and while they occasionally got in trouble for it, it was clear that they always felt the risk was worthwhile.


This isn’t about digging in your heels when you don’t get what you want, or when the going gets tough.  It’s about doing the right thing, striving to make your environment better, speaking up for the greater good.  It’s about integrity, celebrating other people, fighting for the best interests of your team, trusting and being trusted.  It’s about not holding on to information just because it makes you look important. About not treating employees like children and then being upset when they act childishly. It’s about being vulnerable and kind.  Finally, it’s about believing that professionalism and compassion can co-exist, and striving to prove it every day.


For another blog about leadership choices and the environment they create, please see Your Company’s Culture is You.