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!

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

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

LinkedIn_Project_House

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!

How to Blow a Potential Client Meeting

bad meeting

I don’t consider myself to be a salesperson. While I truly enjoy meeting potential clients to tell them about what we can do, and in the process I try to convey that our company has integrity and know-how, I wouldn’t say that I’m a great salesperson.  That being said, I have recently been on the other side of the table as a potential client, and sadly I got a first-hand glance into what I think was a colossal fail of a client meeting.  This sparked some good conversation among my team and colleagues and inspired me to write this blog.  While we aren’t trained in sales, this experience proved to me that if you enter a meeting with humility and genuineness, and you strive to put your best foot forward, you can leave people with a positive experience., which is the goal, isn’t it?.  Some of the things that we do intuitively are really working for us, and this makes me proud.

I think it will be more effective to write this as a list of the 10 things you shouldn’t do in a client meeting, and I hope you’ll see why!   Incidentally, if this meeting sounds familiar to you from the business side of things, and if you are guilty of some of these behaviours, I’m hoping that reading this will provide you with some insight and some helpful advice around how to turn a potentially bad meeting into a great one!

  • Don’t mass email people, or else be careful doing so. This story started with an email from a new startup that I received through LinkedIn.  I’ve never used this feature in LinkedIn before, but I understand you can do an eblast of sorts to all of your contacts.  I received a message that at first glance wasn’t too canned or formulaic, but it was a little impersonal.  I was interested in the services this company could potentially provide to us, so I responded.  A few minutes later, Heidi forwarded me the same note and asked me if I remembered this person from a past project.  Aha!…so it was a generic email.  My suggestion is this: if you are going to blast your entire contact list, don’t send it to everyone within the same organization.  Call me old fashioned, but if you genuinely want to do business with me, wouldn’t it worth your time to write me a personalized note? I understand mass email blasts for organizations trying to sell me t-shirts or furniture, but my business is important to me, and if you want to do business with me on a B2B professional level, it’s lazy to start this way.
  • Don’t not know who I am. I set up a meeting with this business to hear more about their company and services.  As background information, I have met this person before, and there is a reason why we are “linked” on LinkedIn.  We are not bosom buddies or anything, but with just a few clicks of the mouse, it would have been easy to discover how we are connected.  Anyways, I arrived and was able to pick this person out of the crowd as I had done my homework. I got to the table and said hello in a familiar way, only to get a “Hi…I’m so and so…nice to meet you.” To which I of course replied “Yes I know – we did bushiness together at “X” company…remember?”  I received a blank look as a reply, so I added a few more details before they finally said “oh yes, I remember” and the conversation went on from there. With all of the resources you have at your fingertips these days, there is NO reason this kind of exchange should happen – especially if you want my business.  If you reach out to me, and I take the time to meet with you, you should know who I am, why we’re connected, and possibly even what I might need from you.
  • Don’t expect me to pay for your coffee. It was evident that this person wasn’t jumping up to offer to buy me a coffee, so I bought one for both of us. There are often times when it’s not necessary to treat someone to coffee, and when you are a startup, I get it…money is tight…but this person was truly cavalier about the whole thing and it rubbed me the wrong way.  In addition,, I also got hollered at to “grab me some sugar would ya!”  If you want someone’s business, and they’re taking their time to meet with you, a coffee is a nice and low-cost way to set a positive tone.   And if someone offers to buy you a coffee, say Thank You.
  • Don’t come unprepared. After the coffees were ordered, I came back to the table and rather boldly said, “so I guess, as you didn’t remember who I was, you have no idea what I do or what my business is about.” The reply was “Oh yes I do, HR Consulting – I looked!”  Ya…when? While I was up getting coffees?

I  know this is a bit repetitive from point number 2, but this one is a no brainer people! If you are going to meet someone and you want to woo them as a new client, please take a few minutes do some research before the meeting.  I’m on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook…I have a website…there is no reason you shouldn’t know exactly who I am and what I do.  You should know who we know in common and maybe even be prepared to talk about something that I recently posted or tweeted.  Taking the time to get to know a potential client or business partner in advance is a simple way to show them that you care about them, their business, and their time.

My brother told me recently about this new app called “CHARLIE APP” which allows you to “make a killer impression” by scouring the web for information about the person you are about to meet then emails it to you before your meeting! What a great idea – I’ve just signed up and can’t wait to try it out. Stay tuned!

  • Don’t tell me how rich you are. In this meeting, I was astonished that the topic of conversation quickly went to the “$hitloads” of money this person was making.  While I’m excited for you if your business is booming, and really who doesn’t want their business to be profitable, I’m just not that interested in how much money you’re making.  Especially if you are clearly just trying to impress me without knowing what actually impresses me.  It just sets the wrong tone – it’s off-putting and unpleasant.
  • Don’t miss the opportunity to find out about my needs. While I certainly want to hear all about your new business and your services, you are missing a huge opportunity by not digging into my business and my needs and then trying to piece together how you could truly help me. It shouldn’t be up to me as your potential client to fit the pieces together.  Ask me questions! As my brother told me (he’s in sales so I consider him knowledgeable on this subject), you should be asking at least 5 probing questions as well as asking “Why” as often as possible, while staying genuine.   If you’re not curious about me and why you’re meeting with me, you are not making good use of our time together, and my time is precious to me.
  • Don’t be arrogant. This can be a tough one I guess, because some people just come across this way, either in their body language or in the words or tone they choose.  Perhaps you are nervous and you are trying to act confident, and you are overdoing it…  Having said that, though, it can also be pretty easy to avoid this if you just watch what you say at least. This person had the nerve to tell me at one point that they had purposely done something lacking integrity in their last position.  Wow, that’s a red flag.  Why would I want to work with someone like you? You stand for all the things that I work so hard to prevent. If you lacked integrity then, you lack integrity now, and I know you won’t have my best interests at heart if we work together!
  • Don’t be too technical. If the nature of your work is very technical, it would help to create a pitch to describe your business or services in more user-friendly terms. If I don’t understand what you’re saying, and feel lost, why would I want to work with you?  If I feel inadequate and unable to keep up with you when we’re in the preliminary stages, how will I feel doing a project with you?  Know your audience, get a feel for what their level of understanding is, and then modify your pitch accordingly.  Don’t make them feel stupid for not understanding you – help them and educate them.  This is a great opportunity to build trust.
  • Don’t speak negatively about your other clients. We all have difficult clients or difficult projects, but don’t speak ill of anyone in front of a potential client! Aside from the issues of professionalism and confidentiality, if you so easily talk about other clients like that to me – a practical stranger…what the heck do you say about them behind closed doors, and what might you say about me?
  • Don’t miss the opportunity to send a follow up email and re-engage me. I gave the customary 24-48hrs to receive the “hey…thanks so much for meeting with me” email. It didn’t come. Am I surprised? Ugh…not at all! Don’t make the same mistake. If someone took time out of their busy day, and drove to your part of town to meet with you, bought you coffee, and listened to your terrible sales pitch, you owe them a thank you! A nice note also serves as a little prompt and reminder – your name and email is now in their inbox so you are easily contacted.

Clearly the meeting was a complete failure – and I think it’s safe to say that this person won’t be getting my business.  In a funny way, I thank him for all of the warnings and red flags, as they helped me avoid wasting any future time or money on a partnership.  As I said though, it was a good solidifying moment for me, as I know that all of the things that made me crazy during this meeting are things we DON’T do…or at least we try very hard to not do.  We want potential clients to know that we CARE about them, that we will work HARD for them, and that we VALUE their time now and as a client.

What do you do when you are meeting with a potential client? Any do’s and don’ts that you care to share with us? We’d love to hear about them!

Which Screw to Turn

Which Screw To Turn

A few months after starting our new business, I was in the throes of a new life as an entrepreneur and a business partner. Everything was new: looking for new clients, articulating my skills and experience, fielding questions about our services, delivering projects, building a team and a vision with a strong partner I admire, developing a business plan. Learning and doing. Head up, shoulders back, confident smile. Fielding questions and developing answers and process around our services and skills, our growing team, and our hourly rates, each day brought moments of both pure joy and raw panic.

Lunch with a trusted friend during this early period led to a candid conversation about the pangs of self-doubt that plague consultants and small business owners, especially around the topic of services and their value. I mentioned how conflicted I felt about calculating the worth of my services and how difficult it is to decide what to charge for my time. I also mentioned my unease with PR – as a woman, and a Canadian, I felt ill-prepared to sell my services and set my fees with confidence. My friend, who I have since thanked many times over, told me a story that I had never heard before.

The essential nature of the story is this: A retired, long-time employee of a large printing company is called in by a manager to fix a sudden problem on the floor that has brought the entire conveyor belt system to a complete standstill, and that none of the current technicians are able to solve. The former employee looks around, and goes to a small panel at the back of the manufacturing area. He opens the panel and adjusts one of the screws. The machinery starts up again and order is restored; the company is out of danger. The manager is thrilled, and asks what the cost of the fix will be. The expert, without hesitation, says $10,000. Flabbergasted (albeit grateful), the manager asks for the calculations behind the high cost, and the expert explains that it’s $1 to turn the screw, and $9,999 to know which screw to turn. Satisfied, the manager pays.

According to my online research, this is either a story that Tony Robbins told about the founder and CEO of FedEx, or it’s about a large newspaper company in Chicago. Regardless of its origins, it represents an effective and simple lesson about the value of experience and expertise.

Yes, it can be relatively straightforward for me to help a client with a human resources or management issue. It can look like the answer is easy because I sometimes have it in my pocket to use. The reason for this, however, is because I have over 20 years of experience working with project delivery and people management, and because I have expertise and training in HR, and because I have seen and done much of what I am tasked with before, either for different clients or at different companies. It is also because I have always been curious about people and what makes them tick, and I am always reading, learning, asking questions, looking for feedback, and putting my knowledge and experience into practice. I am still learning, but I know which screw to turn, and that means I can occasionally walk into a room, hear about a big problem, and go directly to the solution. I can sometimes make it look easy.

As both a consultant and co-owner of a small business, I understand that to save money, I need to wear a lot of hats, but I also acknowledge the value of outsourcing tasks that are outside of my expertise, my interest, or my experience. The more we move out of start-up mode into “we don’t need to do it all” mode, the more we appreciate the skills and experience of the people who support us and the value of investing in their contribution.

Want to learn more about how we can help you grow your business by wearing some of your hats? Get in touch at hello(at)projecthouse(dot)com.

Why do I need to say thank you to someone for just doing their job?!

PH AppreciationDoes that headline shock you…or do you agree? I’ll admit that when I started doing a bit of research on workplace appreciation, the idea that people wouldn’t find value in giving appreciation, or see the importance of saying thank you to a staff member, was not even remotely on my radar. I just naively assumed that everyone recognizes the importance of it, but perhaps aren’t that great at doing it.

What I learned instead is how many people do not believe that appreciation is necessary or worthwhile: 70% of employees say they receive no praise or recognition! WTF – I had no idea.

This of course got me thinking about my own actions and beliefs…what do I do and what have I been doing? Do I do a good job of showing appreciation to my team members? Maybe all of the thank you’s that I KNOW that I spout out are all hopelessly wasted, and not at all what my employees are looking for. What else could I be doing, how else can I show my teammates that I value them? Because I WANT them to feel valued and appreciated. I WANT them to know that I couldn’t do what I do without them. And I KNOW that by sharing my appreciation with them, I will get better performance and commitment from my staff, because they will feel a deeper drive to go the extra mile for me and for our organization. When my team feels better about me and their work, their loyalty will grow, and they will work harder for me in the long run, and guess what? Ultimately that positively affects my bottom line as a business owner.

What do you think? If you’re still not convinced, or if you aren’t sure where to start, here are some thoughts around showing appreciation and cultivating a rich and positive culture throughout your organization. And let’s face it, no one ever complains about feeling too appreciated at work!

  • It starts with you. You need to set the example and find opportunities to give praise. I truly find this hard sometimes, and I think it might be because I’m hard on myself and don’t often find time to recognize my own good work. A suggestion would be to take a moment every day to write down something great that you accomplished, which might help to break down any barriers you have about finding something great to say about your teammates. The more you do this, the easier it will get, I promise!
  • Lose the “buts”. It can sometimes seem like a natural way to give praise is to mix it with a suggestion, but try to avoid saying things like “That was a great job, BUT if you could just make these 5 changes then it would be even more awesome.” Ending your praise with “but” doesn’t really feel like praise. Try to look for solid opportunities to give positive encouragement for a job well done without any additional feedback.
  • Treats. Everyone loves to receive a little treat; I know I love to receive one now and then. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but the occasional delicious tray of food, small gift, flowers, or tickets to an event can go a long way towards making someone feel recognized and appreciated. For people who don’t like public praise, a nicely written note that they can read at home might be just the thing.
  • Empowerment. Giving your team the ability to make decisions, offer suggestions, and feel like valued contributors to a project or problem is a great way to show that you value them and their ideas.
  • Appreciation Programs. Feeling particularly inspired to crank this up a notch? Why not create a more formal and regular rewards program that recognizes your team for a job well done, which can include both public and internal recognition for completing a project, meeting a goal, or just for kicking ass on something specific.
  • It’s not all up to managers. While employees might feel that it’s up to their manager to give them positive feedback, I think it’s equally important for teammates to recognize and praise their colleagues, and heck…why not praise your boss if they just pulled off something great! Building a positive culture certainly does need buy-in at the top, but think about how awesome it could be if everyone was committed to doing this together?!
  • Monetary appreciation. I’ve focused a lot here on non-monetary appreciation, as I believe that making your staff feel appreciated does not have to be expensive, and that you might truly have a stronger culture if it is built on trust and positivity as opposed to money…but compensation is certainly very high on many people’s list of ways to show them they are appreciated. If paying top dollar is not what your company can do at the moment, then consider offering flexible work schedules, the ability to work from home occasionally, or some other type of benefits instead. If you can afford to, you can certainly add in profit sharing models or bonus structures.

It’s important to show your recognition and appreciation for people’s work, and whether you are a startup or a huge organization, you can find lots of appropriate and creative ways to do this. My advice is start today. Don’t make it overly complicated or tedious – it doesn’t need to be. Here’s a suggestion: order lunch for your staff tomorrow…or bring in some donuts in the morning. Choose one person and go thank them right now for something awesome he or she did today.

I just took my own advice and sent a quick note to an awesome team member who has been kicking ass today and told her what a ROCKSTAR she is…(you know who you are, awesome lady!)