Coffee Break with Jessica Bertsch, Founder and President of Powerhouse Planning

By: Heatherlynn Akins, Powerhouse Planning Technical Writer and Quality Assurance Specialist

As our savvy followers and fans know, here at Powerhouse (PH) we like to highlight different aspects of business life every month. For the month of April, we’ve been all about Insider Tips, aka all those ways to make your business the best it can be. As always, we are brutally honest about what works, what doesn’t, why, and where to go from here; and we’re not afraid to use PH as our primary example! Recently, I had the distinct honor to sit down with our president, Jessica Bertsch, and chat about all things Powerhouse. What she’s learned from her five years at the helm of PH, what she thinks are the biggest lessons learned, and what advice she has for anyone considering or in the process of starting a small business. Plus, she may have revealed some secrets she hasn’t shared before, so grab a cup of coffee and let’s chat!

HA: Why did you start PH as opposed to some other home business?

JB: For me, the number one consideration was I wanted to create my own environment. A true work/life balance with none of the micromanaging you see in the corporate world. That type of environment just wasn’t for me, and I realized there were so many others who felt the same way. Plus, I wanted to tap into a segment of the population I feel is the most overly qualified yet underused around: our military spouses and veterans. So I took something I was passionate about and combined it with a breadth of talent that I felt was being wasted, and here we are.

HA: What makes PH successful?

JB: I think it’s all in how I define success. I get more excited when we re-contract a client than when we get a new contract. I know we’re doing things right when that happens. I think in five years we’ve had maybe one client who hasn’t re-contracted. My goal is for our clients to realize through their interactions with us that we know what we’re doing, we’re doing it well, and we’re doing it quickly!

HA: In getting to where you are today, what is the biggest or most important lesson you’ve learned?

JB: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is just to hire the right people. I know that sounds so simple and basic, but it is the key to our success. I can’t do everything we do. For example, I can’t build a website, and you wouldn’t want me to. If I hire the right people, together we make a difference. That’s where the Powerhouse name came from. If I hire the right people, I can ensure our clients get the best service possible. In addition, I want our freelancers to be able to come and go as needed (more of that anti-corporate culture), but know they can live up to high expectations as well.

I know this answer is getting long, but I just have to add that another important lesson I’ve learned is to make sure my contracts with clients are tightly written and have addressed as many potential problems as possible. My contracts weren’t tight enough in the beginning, and I didn’t include verbiage that would allow me and my team members to walk away from a client, or for a client to exit our contract, if necessary. At one point I had to buy my way out of a contract, which was a costly financial lesson to learn!

HA: What advice would you give someone starting his/her own business?

JB: Go for it, but prepare! There will be a lot of ups and downs. Have a legit marketing and business plan. The more you prepare, the more successful you will be. It sounds simple, but the fast-paced culture we live in makes us think, “Hey, it can happen tomorrow!” It’s not true, and you have to plan and prepare for your success. For example, it took me a couple of years to realize that I do all this great marketing for other people; maybe I should do it for myself!

HA: Going back to PH and what you’ve learned, describe the biggest failure you’ve had and what you’ve learned from it.

JB: There were two: I did not pay myself the first year. I would never, ever encourage an entrepreneur to do that. You need to put monetary value on yourself so that you remember that you can do it and that you have value. It was a rough, rough first year getting PH off the ground, and if I’d paid myself I think I would have had an easier time reminding myself that I was working on something great. The other failure I mentioned in a previous answer—it’s key to write tight contracts.

HA: What are your favorite and least favorite things about PH?

JB: My favorite is definitely our clients and team. I love our clients because they provide the work that creates our team, and I love our team because without them PH cannot be successful. Our team does the work, especially the parts I can’t do! I never look at success as a personal thing, but as a team victory. On top of that, we provide a team-type of dynamic freelance service. We’re different and unique because while there are a lot of us, our clients see a one-stop shop that gives them a consortium of talent for a fraction of what they’d have to pay if they hired our freelancers as full-time employees in their own companies.

My least favorite thing is absolutely dealing with finances. I hate it. I really, really do. I like to deal with people and projects, but invoicing makes me cringe. It’s not fun, even though I like getting paid.  I also dislike doing contracts, but that’s why I have awesome freelancers who help me, too, so I can focus on the things I love!

HA: Tell us PH’s best-kept secret.

JB: Gosh, I don’t know! We’re pretty straightforward. I guess maybe some people still think I do everything, but I don’t. I use a freelance PH team for everything PH. My hands are involved in it all, but it works just like it does for our other clients. I guess something not many know is that I have an internal goal to give back to our community at least as much I as take in in revenue. At least in the sense that if we grow 200% in one year (which we’ve done every year since we started, by the way, thanks to our clients), I want to give back an equal amount. I believe we should be contributing to the community at the same rate we’re growing in revenue. My personal motto is “Be the good and do goodness in the world.” So I try to give 10% of whatever is left in the bank each month to the community.

HA: In keeping with the secret theme, tell us something about you that no one has heard before.

JB: Well, I guess there are two things I can share. First, I started PH with the finances from a separate dog-boarding business I had started. I used that business to raise the start-up funds I needed for PH. The other is that after the first year I was literally ready to close the doors on PH because it was so hard and I had so many lessons learned that I thought I couldn’t handle it. I was talking to my husband about shutting down, and he asked me if that was what I really wanted to do or if I was just super frustrated. That made me realize that I needed to focus on what made me happy about PH, and I started paying myself so that I could remember my value. After that, I never looked back, and here we are.

HA: Is there anything else you want to add about PH, lessons learned, etc.?

JB: I think that at the end of the day we do really great work and we give back. That just sounds beautiful to me. Recently we were on a long car ride and my husband asked me, “If you could have any job in the world besides being a mom, what would it be?” All I could think was, I’m already in my dream job. This is exactly where I want to be, and I’m so excited about the future.  

Thanks for joining us as we reflected on the first five years of Powerhouse Planning, what worked, what didn’t, and why we are, well, a powerhouse. For more insider information, straight from Jessica’s mouth, click on the following hyperlinks. She has tons of information she’d love to share about being a small business owner, advice and tips for success, and ways she has found a balance between being a career and a family woman. If you are a small business owner, or thinking of becoming one, sign up for our Powerhouse newsletter, which always has great information, tips, and trade secrets. As always, best of luck in your endeavors and know that PH is here to help.

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April 26th, 2017|

SMALL BUSINESS REBRANDS FOR GROWTH POTENTIAL

By: Bianca Strzalkowski

Branding evokes a feeling in customers that can create a loyal—and lucrative—following.

Entrepreneur Tom Geist understands the value of proper branding. The owner of SoCal Hot Sauce, formerly TG’s Hot Sauce, recently rebranded his entire company in anticipation of increased growth in the new year. His branding strategy focused on representing his product line in a way that resonated with potential customers.

“We would often get the question, ‘TG’s Hot Sauce? What kind of sauce is that?’ We needed a new name and logo that was more professional and let the customer know what kind of sauce they were looking at. SoCal Hot Sauce™ was the answer,” he said.

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January 18th, 2017|

DID YOU KNOW?

Braggarts don’t breed customers. 45% of online followers said they will unfollow a brand on social media because of too much self-promotion, according to a survey conducted by BuzzStream. The way in which a company uses social media platforms affects brand reputation and determines growth online. Powerhouse Planning can assist your company in developing innovative ways to connect with your networks. Check out services here: External Communications.

In last quarter’s POWERTIPS, Technical Writer Jennifer Morrison shared tips for interacting with business audiences in The Social Media Realm: A Lesson in Etiquette.

January 18th, 2017|

A BUSINESS REFRESH

By: Rebecca Alwine

Two entrepreneurs gave their brand a refresh to align their sassy business personality with an evolving vision.

Owners Shiang-Ling Bissonnette and Miranda Perales make up the dynamic duo behind The Hive & Co, a company that provides consultation services to small businesses. The team of two—both military spouses—joined forces after recognizing they each had skill sets that could balance each other out to make a strong partnership. Bissonnette brings the creative side, while Perales has an extensive background in marketing.

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January 18th, 2017|

GRATITUDE FOR YOUR EMPLOYEES ALL YEAR LONG

By: Jennifer Morrison

It’s the traditional time of year when businesses distribute yearly bonuses or end-of-year gifts to their employees, contractors, and freelance workers to say “thank you” for their hard work throughout the year. But what if instead of one check (that’s taxed at a ridiculous rate) or company branded swag, you—as the employer—spread your appreciation for your employees throughout the year?

Money Doesn’t Always Talk

You may be thinking, “Who doesn’t want money?” Of course, everyone wants money, but it can create two problems. The first problem is the limit of your company’s budget. If you can only afford to reward your employees and contractors once a year, generally at the end of the year, it can appear that the gift is one of obligation or expectation rather than true gratitude. People don’t want to feel like they’re a check on their employer’s to-do list. In 2014, The Atlantic reported that employees would rather receive non-monetary perks in lieu of more money. The second problem is the message you can send to your employees if you can’t afford to give a large monetary gift. Employees can interpret your financial gift as a reflection of their job performance and find it wanting.

So if you’re a small business with a limited budget, how can you say “thank you” to your employees for a job well done?

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January 18th, 2017|

Client Profile: P.R.E.P.S., Inc.

Powerhouse Service Provided: External Communications

“Working with Powerhouse was a great experience. We are looking forward to future opportunities to use their services.” 

Antoine Corbin, Executive Director of P.R.E.P.S., Inc.

Interested in learning how we can help your company grow regarding your marketing collateral? Email us at admin@powerhouseplanning.com. We’d love to be on your team!

January 18th, 2017|

BUSINESS RESOURCES TO GROW A BRAND

A targeted branding strategy can attract new customers while convincing existing customers to share company content, news, and products or services. Memes and infographics, for example, are likely to be shared if they are crafted in an attractive, visually appealing way. Platforms offer content creators, from novice to professional level, the opportunity to build graphics, edit images, and create animated videos for free or low monthly fees.

Canva: One of the most popular current platforms, Canva lets users create professional looking documents, such as brochures and flyers, make images, and generate memes.

Animoto: This video platform allows businesses to create videos for marketing with images, animations, and audio.

Stencil: Perfect for social media, users can create images in minutes.

January 18th, 2017|

Nonprofit Profile: Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN)

By: Randi Cairns

There is a great deal of debate about the military-civilian divide—the idea that there is a split or disconnect between the U.S. military community and the American public at large. While most folks on the military side of that equation agree that there is a gap between their experience as a military-connected person and the general public’s understanding of their service and sacrifice, there’s a missing piece of the puzzle.

To suggest that there is an “us” and “them” overlooks the tremendous diversity within the military community itself.  There are differences between branches of service, between active duty and Guard/Reserve components, between officers and enlisted, etc. There is no one voice that can speak for a singular military life experience.

The Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) is doing something about that. Their mission is to connect military families with the resources they need to thrive and to convene thought leaders within the military family community who, through collaboration with outside organizations and effective communications practices, will elevate their voice as well.

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January 18th, 2017|

New Hire at Powerhouse

Heatherlynn Akins is excited to join the Powerhouse team as a quality assurance specialist and technical writer. fullsizerender-4

Heatherlynn studied for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Dallas in Irving, TX. She couldn’t decide what to study, so chose concentrations in both English and German literature. During her master’s program she married an Air Force pilot and left the world of academia to follow him around the world. While doing so, she taught English to Japanese students, tutored many a student, taught creative writing, edited and wrote for several newsletters, worked as the Program Director for a martial arts studio, and managed to raise two boys to (thus far) teenage-hood. In other words, she was the typical military spouse.

After 25+ years of service, her husband retired two years ago and the family moved to Colorado. While she adores her adopted resort town, she is eager to get back to her first love, the written word. Her love affair with such began many moons ago when she gummed her first cardboard book and she is still most often found with a book in her hand, or spouting off useless trivia she’s learned from reading.

December 17th, 2016|