PH: A holistic approach

This year Project House is turning four, and we have been getting ready for our next business phase.  After partnering with more than 65 clients, designing and delivering countless projects and solutions, and onboarding over 40 PH team members, we wanted to take stock of what we’ve built so far and where we want to focus next.    

Following our own advice, we enlisted some extra muscle from an energetic and empathetic business coaching team.  Together we have spent the summer diving into our project stories, mining our business data, brainstorming creative ideas, and answering tough questions about what drives our business and inspires us. We have enjoyed highlighting which services give us the best opportunity to thrive and provide value, as well as reminding ourselves what makes PH so unique.   

We are proud of being a part of a business community that acknowledges the considerable impact that happy, motivated, healthy, and comfortable employees have on productivity, retention, achievement, and financial success.  

What we’ve discovered is that we are drawn to ensuring our clients are successfully empowered with effective and practical solutions: 

  • Sustainable and positive management practices and systems to engage people better 
  • Beautiful and practical spaces where individuals and teams can thrive 
  • Tools and facilitation to maximize employee strengths and talents 
  • Strategy to align brand and culture across key business areas. 

This isn’t a wholesale change from what we’ve been doing, but at the same time it feels like a shift into a holistic approach where all of our experience, skills, and values click into place.  What does Project House do?  We help leaders create productive and engaging workplaces. 

We are excited by our ability to combine best practices, tried and true solutions, creative ideas, and industry innovations into achievable and customized solutions. 

You will start to see this focus in our branding, in the work we take on, and in the types of workshops we provide.  And as always we welcome your feedback, questions, encouragement, and referrals!   

Next up?  Crystal and I are heading to Amsterdam, where we will participate in the Smart Workplace Design Summit, a conference that celebrates the powerful combination of HR and Workspace best practices.  This is a perfect fit for Project House, as it aligns exactly with our design and solution-focused business model.  We can’t wait to tour innovative offices and exchange ideas with a range of speakers from across Europe, and come home inspired! 

Stay tuned for more, and as always, THANK YOU for being part of our business journey.   

Project House Client Spotlight: Connie Pretula

Connie Pretula is an inspiring health coach to mature corporate women, using a holistic approach to nutrition and life.

The design team at Project House was thrilled to partner with Connie to design and create a beautiful and informative marketing brochure, using key messages from her mission and values in combination with beautiful new photographs of Connie and her food, taken by our talented pal Kevin Shoesmith.

project house connie pretula graphic design brochure mockup

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Feeling Pinched? 10 Signs It Might Be Time For A New Office Space

You might be feeling the pinch of an overcrowded workspace without even realizing it. Here are 10 reasons it might be time to upgrade your office space:

  1. Getting up from your desk is an agility contest. You can’t get out of your desk area without climbing over and around boxes and mounting piles of paper, supplies and other materials.
  2. You have downsized desk sizes at least twice already. In an attempt to gain more workspace for new hires, you’ve forced everyone to purge their stuff and sold them on the idea of further collaboration by sitting closer together…twice! You are pretty sure your employees will all walk out if you ask them to downsize yet again. Besides, you’re not sure you can actually buy smaller desks than the ones you have now – they need to be at least large enough for a laptop, right??!
  3. You have taken over every meeting room with workstations. This is classic – you need more space and there is a big room over there, just waiting to be filled with more bodies…but wait, how can you hold a team meeting, entertain or meet with clients…in the hallway? No wait…see #6.
  4. Your new hire has to sit in the lunchroom.  The lunchroom is already standing room only…and you have two new hires starting next week and they will likely have to move in there too. You might have to put everyone on a 5 minute rotating lunch schedule! It’s important to have breakout space – somewhere for people to eat away from their desks, collaborate, and have informal conversations.

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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.

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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!


The Point of No Return

Etch-a-sketch day got us thinking about the point of no return when working on a project.

This week was Etch-a Sketch Day…do you remember those?  While we posted that as a fun little “throw back” to the toy, we got to thinking about the idea of working on something really hard and then having to wipe it clean, and how that might actually relate to our business! While much of what we do and the projects we work on certainly have much more permanence than the artwork on an Etch-a-Sketch, the idea of starting something and having the ability to wipe it clean is quite refreshing. How practical is that though? Is there a point of no return? If a project is not going the way you want or isn’t going to result in the desired outcome, is it realistic to “shake things up” and just start fresh?


This question brings to mind a project that we worked on earlier this year, which was a branding and website project for a new company. We went through our discovery phase where we asked all the relevant questions about client needs, target market + demographics, marketing objectives, etc. Once we received approval of our mockups for the client’s new materials and website, we began site development work.  About a week or so into the project, the client had a significant change of heart and asked us to redesign the logo and website again –  the bottom line was that the design we had been working on was not a fit with who they were as a company. The client had always felt a little bit conflicted about their new brand and struggled (as many companies do) to identify their target market, as well as how to best present themselves to potential clients. This had all come bubbling up in a variety of ways.  With the company now “open for business,” there was a pressing need to get the site up and running as quickly as possible, and with new and prospective clients coming through their door, they had realized that the target market they had imagined they were trying to reach no longer made sense. This meant that the edgy, modern vibe we had been going for no longer seemed appropriate.


The project came to a halt, and we went back to the drawing board, presenting a variety of new ideas to our clients to help them really dive into what they were looking for, and we ended up landing on an entirely new brand and web design. While this was a potentially frustrating process for everyone, as hours and hours of work had already gone into the original design and website development… we ended up with a design that is far, far better, meets their true needs and company vision, and represents their brand more harmoniously than the previous version.


Did this restart take more time? Absolutely! Did it cost more money… Yes it did:   double the design time and double the efforts does cost more money. Was it worth it in the end?? Without question! I have no doubt in my mind that pulling the plug and starting over was the right course of action, and our client wholeheartedly agrees.


The question that I’ve been mulling over, however, is this:  at what point would it have been too late…or is there ever such a thing? I suppose if we had launched the website, designed marketing brochures, and printed business cards, that would have probably been too late – pulling the plug at that stage is confusing for clients and customers, can be perceived as a lack of organization and professionalism, and so on.  Once you present your brand to the world it’s pretty hard to go back a month later and launch something altogether different. That being said, if something just doesn’t work, no matter what stage, is it better to just shake the canvas clean and start over?


As with any major decision like this, there are always a multitude of factors that need to be weighed and reviewed, such as:

1. Time of course is an obvious one – sometimes you just have to get the job done and you have a schedule to meet, so “good enough” might just have to be acceptable.

2. Costs are most certainly a factor. If you’ve already budgeted for what you can afford, and have invested a whole bunch of money into a project, sometimes you just don’t have the option to stop and start all over again and incur new fees .

Once you order custom furniture and it’s on its way, you can’t send it back. If there are mistakes, or if the client has a change of heart, it can mean having to get rid of one set of expensive furniture and reordering new pieces, which can be an extraordinary cost.  If you’ve signed a contract for a new piece of software and you are locked in for 2 years, you may not be able to walk away from that investment. In addition to the hard costs initially, if we just run with this software example above, future costs and operating costs also need to be considered. If your current solution will lead to wasted hours and hours of additional resources, then perhaps in the long run it’s better to cut your losses now. It’s good to run the numbers for a few potential scenarios ahead of time, in order to make sure you are making a sound decision.

3. Importance and priority should certainly be a factor in deciding whether to start over again or not. I am inherently a perfectionist, so for me most of the time “good” just doesn’t cut it. That being said, there are projects where you just don’t have the ability (or time, money, staff) to start all over again and you need to see your idea through. You might not think it’s perfect, but how important is this particular item, and how important is the distance between “good” and “great”? Does it warrant the necessary time, energy, or resources that it will take to start again from scratch? Is your current solution good enough and will it get the job done and not cause undue hardship for anyone? If yes, then maybe it’s best to leave it alone.


So in the end, while the idea of just shaking that etch-a-sketch and starting fresh is certainly appealing, and is absolutely warranted in some cases, be sure to “think before you shake”…lol!   Do this by factoring costs, time, and importance into your decision. Talk to your colleagues and get their opinion; maybe you are missing a piece of the puzzle. Run your numbers, look at your business goals, ask your clients or customers.  And trust your gut.  After all is said and done, however, don’t be afraid to start something over. If your gut is telling you that something isn’t right and that in the long run you are going to have to spend more time and energy to dig yourself out after taking the wrong road, then pull the plug, wipe the slate clean, and start a new sketch!

The Story of Project House

Crystal and Heidi Project House

Crystal and I started Project House Business Solutions almost three years ago, after years of being friends and next-door neighbours.

Our purpose when we launched our business was to create a flexible way to do what we love and excel at, and to help women who looking for meaningful and challenging work.  There are so many women who, for a variety of reasons, want fulfilling part-time work.  Perhaps they are striving to return to the workforce after having kids, or they don’t know what they’re good at, and hope to increase their experience and skillset. We want to create opportunities, confidence and a network for these ladies (while some of our talented team members and partners aren’t ladies, most are), and we meet them everywhere we go.

Between us, Crystal and I have 5 kids between the ages of 3 and 15.  We both gave up a lot of time with our families in order to build up our careers, and together we decided we didn’t want to compromise any more – we wanted flexibility, autonomy, joy, and control.  We wanted less ego, less judgment against passion, emotion, and empathy, and less unhealthy bullshit overall.  We want our kids to understand that working, striving, learning, trying your best, and adding value to your community can be an ongoing and joyful endeavour.

When we first started our company, Crystal and I took an assessment that told us how we might be as partners.  One hint it provided was that Crystal would have to give me room to talk through things, and I would have to keep myself from being overly sensitive to Crystal’s straight shooting.  We got a lot of information and insight that has helped guide us as we make decisions and face obstacles.  We have done this type of assessment with some of our team members as well, and this helps us to communicate better with different personalities.

We have since taken more tests and assessments, and each time we are blown away by how opposite and complementary we are. While I have learned to be more cautious, I like people and their challenges, teaching and coaching, thinking out loud, and working with people to solve a problem.  Crystal likes to analyze and synthesize a huge amount of detail quickly and well, diving into a budget and numbers, and she is always in action and accomplishing.

I am a hugger, she is not.  I am all about relationships, optimism and “who’s going to be there” and she is adventurous, fearless and independent.  We both flex in each other’s direction, but we are also getting better and better at articulating what we don’t like doing, or even what we like doing but aren’t great at. I LOVE building a barn and putting on a show.  I don’t really care how big a barn, how many seats, or even what show, which is where Crystal with her significant eye for detail and data becomes invaluable.  Also sometimes I don’t really want to put on a show OR build a barn, I just want to sing in the show and say hi to everyone once it’s built…  I don’t score as high in stress tolerance or independence and she doesn’t score as high as I do in empathy or flexibility.  She’s way more fun and much more likely to take risks, and I’m much braver when she’s in the room.  In combination, we are stronger, smarter and faster, and we are constantly evolving and sharpening our purpose and our message.

Project House clients are diverse, and their needs span all of our services and drive new ones.  In the past months, we have worked on employee policies with Earnest Ice Cream, done space planning and furniture procurement at the head offices for Lush Cosmetics, trained managers in performance and feedback at Capcom Vancouver Game Studios, and designed a brand new logo and website for an architect, a beauty salon, and a family law firm.   Our clients come to us from many different industries, and nearly all of them find us through referrals and recommendations from our network.

Project House offers a lot of services, and we feel they are very inter-related.  We help companies find their voice and put their best foot forward, whether it’s a well designed and constructed website, handbook or onboarding program, support and training, a kind approach to terminating, an efficient way to manage clients, a beautiful office space, or a gorgeous new logo.  We combine our team’s skills and experience to help companies be better, treat people better, use better systems, present themselves more clearly and beautifully, and add value to their employees, clients, and workspace. 

I have to pinch myself sometimes – Crystal and I are entrepreneurs, business owners, and employers.  We feel both the joy and the weight of responsibility, and we are definitely at our best (in our “flow”) when we are working together with clients who are action-focused, community-minded, and in need of our varying skills and strengths.  This doesn’t always work out, but we getting wiser and more understanding when the relationship comes to an end, either because we’ve done our job to get them to the next level and they don’t need us anymore, or because we recognize we are not the best fit for each other.

Crystal and I love to learn new things and discover a new approach to our work.  Next month is exciting for us, because we are taking a 4-day intensive training program to be certified in Emergenetics, which is a neuro/strength/ preference assessment that we will then be able to offer to our clients, with an eye toward improved communication, understanding, and productivity.

We continue to be supported and inspired by successful, strong, funny, vulnerable, kickass, powerful, kind, generous, smart, and talented women, and we are filled up by providing even a fraction of this to others.

Some of what we need from our “village” we get already: support, ideas, wine, friendship, partnership, services, referrals, and wine.

Our “asks” this year continue to evolve:

  1. We want help getting great clients and exciting work: the juicy stuff! (Like companies who need high quality websites, teams who need training and coaching, clients who are fun to work with and open to our business model);
  2. We want opportunities to share our story – we want to tell people about our company and what are creating for women who want to work in a flexible way, enhance their skills, make money, learn about business, grow their resumes, or meet other professionals – whatever they need to get where they want to go;
  3. We want to hear your stories! We learn by doing, but we also know that many people have already solved some big problems and developed best practices – we’d love to speed things up by getting some advice and by learning from your experience.  We enjoy getting tips and tricks and discovering what you have learned, what mistakes you have made, and what makes you tick;
  4. We want to help you. The speed of trust is amazing – so if there are things you need from us, people we can connect you with, or ways we can cheer you on, please let us know.

And that’s our story – – – so far!  We want to do all of the things – this isn’t so much a balancing act as it is a mad dash while juggling plates – sometimes everything is spinning beautifully and we are dazzled by our own skills and grace, and sometimes it is a f–king disaster with a little bit of crying…  And every day we learn a little bit more about what we want, who we are, and what we’re capable of.


Supplier Spotlight: Docuplex Graphic & Print Centre

Matthew Javadi Docuplex

I don’t know about you, but when I’m running a mile a minute and have deadlines rushing at me, it is so helpful to know that I have some amazing people on my team, both internally and externally, that I can rely on to get the job done.

I think the key to this is strong relationships built on mutual respect and a mutual desire to work hard for our clients.  At Project House, it’s important to us that we do what we say we will do, and that we always strive for high quality work delivered on time. It’s important that we surround ourselves with people that believe in this too so that collectively we can continue to deliver a high standard of work product.

Because of this, we want to take a moment to highlight one of our key external suppliers:  Matthew Javadi at Docuplex Graphic & Print Centre is someone that we rely on to help us meet our deadlines every day, and we would be seriously lost without him!

While we have a fleet of amazing suppliers that help us look good, Matthew at Docuplex is certainly a shining star and deserves a shout out!  No matter what the time of day, no matter what the print order size, I can rely on him to get the job done when we need it.  We often get rushed or last minute jobs and we want to be able to pull through for our clients during their time of need. I know without hesitation that Matthew and his team will be there for us, every time, without fail.  He has never let me down, turned down our work, or produced less than top quality work. He is happy, easy to deal with, and affordable for our clients. I really couldn’t ask for a better relationship. 

It can be challenging these days to find, develop, and maintain amazing relationships with people – relationships built on honesty, hard work, and trust – and I am so grateful for the relationship that we have with Matthew and Docuplex. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thankful for all of Matthew’s hard work.  I know that I can often be a demanding client, but no matter what kind of dog’s breakfast I have thrown at him at 4pm with a deadline of “NOW!!!” he always responds with enthusiasm and a willingness to help.  THANK YOU, Matthew! We look forward to a long and continued relationship between Docuplex and Project House.

The Advantages of Opposites in Partnership


When Crystal and I decided to start Project House, we knew we had a lot of the critical core pieces in place:  a shared vision for our company, a common set of values, the desire for a flexible workplace that maximized our skills and experiences, a passion for getting sh*t done, and a strong desire to create valuable connections and opportunities within our community.  What we didn’t know was if our “hey I really love talking with you and sharing a bottle of wine” friendship would translate into a strong Business Partnership.

On the surface, it’s easy to see our differences.  I like people and presentations, face-to-face meetings, thinking out loud, and working with people to learn or solve a problem.  Crystal likes to analyse and synthesize a huge amount of detail quickly and well, she enjoys diving into the budget and numbers, and she is always in action and accomplishing.  We share a curiosity and excitement to learn new things, we like big ideas and making things happen, and we love helping people achieve their goals and gain new opportunities.

Crystal and I have had an opportunity to take part in a number of leadership assessments, and in nearly each area of testing, we score as opposites.  She is analytical, dominant, action-oriented, adept at pulling apart facts, details, and data.  She is confident and assertive, she learns by doing, and she has a high stress tolerance.  I am optimistic, intuitive about ideas and people, social, conceptual, and emotionally self-aware.  I enjoy the unusual, and I learn by experience and through others.  I don’t score as high in stress tolerance or independence as Crystal, whereas she doesn’t score as high as I do in empathy or flexibility.

While individually we are very different leaders, Crystal and I often joke that in combination we are a Whole Brain.   Because our values and our desires for Project House and our team are so aligned, we are able to tackle projects together, often better than we would separately.  Even if we don’t always agree, we have a healthy respect for each other’s strengths and approaches, and our styles generally complement one another very well.  In business, we are stronger together than we are apart.

Chris Klundt said, in his article for Entrepreneur about choosing your startup partner, “in the startup world, opposites truly do attract — by choosing someone completely different from yourself, you can form a force of nature within your company that is strong enough to withstand challenges from any angle.”

Like with any great partnership, we work to make it work.  Here are some of the ways we do this:

  1. Respect and trust. Crystal and I respect each other’s space, skills, talents, styles, strengths, weaknesses, areas of non-interest, and methods.  We learn from each other, we brainstorm together, we discuss and pull things apart and we even disagree, but we always do this respectfully and with an eye on the bigger picture.  We trust that the other always has the best interest of the business, our clients, and our team’s interests at heart.
  2. Independence. We have our own “wheelhouses” within the various areas of the business and in the services we offer, and we share the internal tasks that move Project House forward.  I reach out to new people and attend more networking events, and my focus is on communication, workflow, and onboarding (client and team).  Crystal drives our systems, budgets, tools, technology, and vendors.  I concentrate on our HR services, and Crystal leads pretty much everything else.  We own our own projects, and we have the amount of autonomy we need.
  3. Kindness. We provide each other with true partnership, encouragement, and support.  We recognize that as busy parents, business owners, and wives, there is always an ebb and flow of energy and mood, and we understand what motivates each other.  We check in with each other if something feels “off.”  We know when to be nicer, talk more, or shut up.  We know when a cupcake or a shout-out is required.  Or a hug, once in awhile, if Crystal is willing… 🙂  We know when the other is overwhelmed, and there is no judgment. We have each other’s back.
  4. Laughter. We laugh a lot – at ourselves, mostly, but also at life.  When our backs are up against a wall (deadline, tough project, having to admit a mistake, feeling overwhelmed), nothing helps more than laughing at something together.  We also believe that a sense of humour is an important part of our culture and our brand.
  5. Time together. We set aside time to talk about our company goals, dreams, and plans.  We meet to talk about big stuff and small stuff.  We flex into each other’s areas to gain understanding and generate ideas.  We talk about how we want our business to grow, what we want our clients’ experience to be, how we want our team to feel, and how to get there.
  6. Humility and help. We have an incredible network of great friends and allies, and we reach out to them to ask for support and answers outside of our areas of expertise and experience.  We are open about things we don’t know, and we chase after new ideas and best practices.  We know we’re a young company and we know that we have a lot to learn.  We’re also very happy to share our successes and mistakes so that others can leapfrog on what we’ve done so far.

From one of our assessment reports, which combined our individual results to comment on our compatibility as business partners: “It can be seen from the foregoing that their needs and approach to the workplace are very different.  It is equally obvious that if they can combine their talents they will make a very effective team” “the compatible strengths of this pairing are assertiveness, energy, and a willingness to take risks and act independently.”

Want to understand how to make the most of all of the personalities on your team?  Crystal and I will be posting more about assessments and training in the coming weeks; in the meantime, please reach out to us if you want to know more!


Let LinkedIn Work for You


The LinkedIn platform is a really valuable tool and resource, and it can be used in many ways.  Like anything, it can be overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with it, so here are some of the ways I like to get the most out of LinkedIn.

  1. Who am I meeting? As Crystal wrote in her blog last week, with all of the resources at our fingertips these days, there is no reason not to do research in order to prepare for meetings. LinkedIn is a great resource for this: if I have a meeting with you, or if you have reached out to me to ask about my business services, or if a contact of mine has recommended that we meet, I’m going over to LinkedIn to check you out!  Not in a creepy way, mind you – if you’re on LinkedIn, you have complete control over your profile and what can be seen, so hopefully you will have some information there that you want to share with me, such as your experience, your business interests, the companies you follow, and what your references have said about you.  I will also look at your photo – that way, I can find you if we meet.  And hopefully you will look me up too, so you’ll know more about me.  If you use LinkedIn, keep an eye on your profile content, keep it relevant and up to date, and make sure it’s working for you.
  1. Posting and sharing. At Project House, we write blogs and we like sharing them. We also like (thumbs up!) and share articles we find interesting; blogs written by colleagues or clients, and information about our areas of interest (small business, women entrepreneurs, leadership practices, etc.).  We also share job opportunities for our clients, in the hopes that members of our network will also share them, so that they eventually arrive at a great candidate.  LinkedIn is a place to share professional information and insights – it is not a social platform like Facebook however, so please don’t share cat videos or word puzzles here, or you will rub people the wrong way.
  1. Reaching out. Once you are “linked in” with a network of people, you can get in touch by sending a message, either with one person or with a group of people, in order to ask for a meeting, share information, or ask a bunch of people the same question. This is a great feature, especially if you see someone who you really would like to meet, but haven’t yet been connected with.  A nice message that says “hey I see that you know so-and-so, and I’d really like to buy you a coffee and talk about this thing that our businesses have in common” can act as a great introduction.  I’ve sent emails to a group of my contacts in a specific industry to ask them how something works, or to point me in the right direction to get the help I need.  Just don’t spam or blast everyone in your network with a canned message – as with anything in business, the more genuine and relevant your request, the more people will be inclined to respond and help.


There are so many great ways to use LinkedIn and to maximize your profile, including writing or soliciting work referrals, listing activities or organizations where you volunteer your time, and following people who post great blogs or articles.  If you’re just getting started and you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, a great picture, a few words about what you do, and a title that explains where you work or what you’re looking for are enough for people to start connecting with you.  When you go to your page, you will often get helpful prompts to beef up your profile, which you can follow or skip until you’re ready, or until there is something you want to add or say.

What are your favourite ways to get LinkedIn working for you?  And if you don’t have a profile for your business, let us know if you’d like to see a future blog on creating a great one!