High Performing Business – Negotiations – Exit Strategy

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

No need to burn down the house when a kind and compassionate exit strategy will suffice.

No need to burn down the house when a kind and compassionate exit strategy will suffice.

Having an idea (or even several ideas) on how to exit a situation (any situation) is something that requires careful deliberation.  Yes I hear the commitmentohpiles or those who believe thought creates reality saying , “but doesn’t having an exit strategy presuppose you’ll need one and create the situations for it to occur?”  Having an exit strategy helps you continue to move forward with kindness and compassion when the inevitable forces of change blow through life.

From my knothole on the planet, the number one reason I see people fail to achieve their full potential is because they stay with what is too good to leave and too bad to stay far longer than is required.  I’m not just talking about significant relationships – I’m talking careers,  locations where you live,  business relationships that were once rock solid but now exist by the barest of threads.   Lets say you’re working on a project and over time, the person or people who wanted you to do the project seem to lose interest – how can you move on to your next big thing in the way that is in the best interests of all?   Or you have a supplier that provides a critical service for your business – but over the past six months they have been late on the delivery and have not sent you a bill – how do you either remediate their service level, learn how to run the business without their help or find a more suitable supplier while keeping all the balls in the air?  Or the client that makes up the majority of your revenue who becomes increasingly demanding and acerbic placing your mental health and that of your staff in serious peril – how you do find new clients to shore up your revenues and gradually renegotiate the relationship with the significant client to something that is both healthy and manageable?   Or the key employee who was once the foundation of your business, but is now taking extended lunch breaks, coming in late and leaving early to make up for it, and being a debbie downer bringing down everyone around them – how do you gracefully transition them into a role now more suitable for them or help them find their way to a more rewarding existence, outside of your employ?

When contemplating exit strategies for situations you find yourself in in your life where an exit strategy may be required, it literally pays to look at the risks associated with each strategy before taking any action.  In Project Management terms, we do an expected monetary value (EMV) analysis along with a probablity and impact assessment for each potential risk.  Students who take the Cheetah Certified Project Manager program learn how to do this type of analysis ahead of time to continually make the right choices for them in life based on their success criteria and their goals.   You can learn how to do the same – become a Cheetah Certified Project Manager.

High Performing Business – Negotiations – Enthusiasm

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

The reason so many of us love puppies even with all the things they can get into,  is their unbridled enthusiasm for life.  It's good to remember this when working with others - enthusiasm attracts even more enthusiasm and can make the difficult possible, even fun.

The reason so many of us love puppies even with all the things they can get into, is their unbridled enthusiasm for life. It’s good to remember this when working with others – enthusiasm attracts even more enthusiasm and can make the difficult possible, even fun.

I noticed years ago the more enthusiastic I am about a plan, the better it seems I can enroll others in my ideas.  When I am working with Cheetah Learning’s certified teachers, every once in a while I’ll here the hardest students to work with are the ones who think the problem with their performance is outside of themselves.  These are the students who say their poor performance is due to the teacher, or the curriculum doesn’t work for them, or something or other not related to them.  In the 90’s as part of my early research into accelerated learning, I was introduced to Richard Bandler’s work on Neurolinquistic Programming.   Bandler says that when you run into people resistant to making changes within themselves (like these students who feel their performance issues are outside themselves), it’s our job as teachers and change agents to inspire them to make the changes required.  Using the excuse that they are not willing to change is like taking your car to a mechanic and the mechanic says – I’m not capable of fixing this car until it’s ready to change.

The key for the Cheetah team with inspiring people to adopt the required practices to succeed in Cheetah courses (and then later in their lives) is our enthusiasm in our programs’ effectiveness.  But it’s not that we have all drank blue koolaid and are brainwashed by our own rosey delusions.  It’s hard to knock success.  We’ve had over 60,000 students go through Cheetah Learning programs and almost daily receive their glowing endorsements.  What is even more telling,  most of our business is from word of mouth. While we do share our free assessments and tools in a variety of social media contexts, we do no formal advertising.  And every year we have 5000 or so people enroll in Cheetah Learning courses.  Enthusiasm is contagious.

So when you’re faced with a negotiation, find the elements of it that make you the most enthusiastic and lead from there.   When you enroll in the program to become a Cheetah Certified Project Manager you master how to communicate your enthusiasm for your ideas in ways that other people can hear you – based on what makes them more enthusiastic too.   Enthusiastic people attract other enthusiastic people and it’s this energy that can in fact move mountains.

High Performing Business – Negotiations – Fairness

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP

The perception of fairness is a critical success factor in negotiations.

The perception of fairness is a critical success factor in negotiations.

In the book  Sway, The Pull of Irrational Forces, the authors discuss how people want to have the decisions of others for which impact them be made fairly.  If there is a perception someone was not fair in an interaction,  there leaves a stain in the memory of the person and their associated organization.

We see this often in the Cheetah Exam Prep with our students who feel they are treated unfairly from PMI in the pursuit of becoming PMP certified.  We will have students with very similar experience backgrounds and similar eligibility applications where they approve one but not the other.  This leaves the student not approved extremely disgruntled.  Then we have students who do manage to get the eligibility letter from PMI, but for whatever their reasons don’t follow our course processes and end up having to take the test several times before they ultimately pass.  These students tell us the test questions on the second and third attempt get easier and they feel that PMI purposely does this to get them to pay more exam fees.  PMI may have very good reasons for the way it does business, but when an organization wants to create good will with its customer base, they need to ensure their processes are clearly documented and uniformly followed.  Even the perception that a process is not fair when in fact it may be quite fair will hurt an organization (as is the example of the student feeling the organization is making the test easier in subsequent attempts to get more exam fees).  While having consistent and fair processes throughout the business is important, it’s even more important to have those processes that directly impact the viability of another’s life be rock solid,  transparent, and communicated as such.

It is for this reason at Cheetah Learning in our program to help people become Certified Project Managers,  we teach our students how  to create a stable negotiations process.  Developing trust from having stable ways of interacting with others creates enduring success – which is one of the many values of becoming a Cheetah Certifed Project Manager (CCPM).  It’s also why the CCPM is gaining in popularity and growing quickly as the new “must have” PM certification.

High Performing Business – Negotiations – Building Value

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Cheetah Certified Project Managers master the skills to bring out the best of everyone to create enduring and sustainable value for all.

Cheetah Certified Project Managers master the skills to bring out the best of everyone to build enduring and sustainable value for all.

Ever since I created Cheetah Negotiations, I often hear from others they perceive any encounter with me is a negotiation.  But,  for me, a negotiation is a very deliberate, well planned out exchange where there is a mutual exploration of how we can create more value together – beyond what we each may have previously envisioned.

What I’ve found never works in a negotiation is a lack of regard for the well being of another.  If either party leaves an engagement feeling in any way damaged, the negotiation was a failure.  When only one person wins, everyone loses.  Strategies that rely on manipulation or coercion of the stronger party over another are not a negotiation  – they are a dictate by the stronger party.  Furthermore when either party has a firm idea of the way things must be in order to develop or maintain any type of exchange – whether it be personal or professional, this is also not a negotiation – but a demand.

Taking the high road in a negotiation to bring out the best of others and create more value  is always the better strategy  – even if it appears on the surface you may have given away more than you received.   In 2007 I had to foreclose on a single Mom who had purchased a property from me.  While I did not want to do this, she had not paid the mortgage in six months, yet was renting out the home to someone else and keeping the revenue.  Once that process went through, I had another woman approach me who wanted to purchase the place.  Her mother had recently passed away and she was well liked by many of the people in our neighborhood.   She was honest with me about what she could afford for a monthly payment and we agreed on a price that would help her get into and stay in the house.  It was less than what I could have gotten had I relisted it.  But I was confident I would not have to foreclose on her, I would have a good neighbor, and she needed a break.   She lived in the place for several years, and then resold it – making a nice profit.  I was happy for her.   There was a higher inspiration here then to just make the most money I could on that place.

Building value, creating something better than previously envisioned, uplifting all parties by the exchange, helping bring out the best or yourself of others – these are the skills you master by becoming Cheetah Certified Project Managers.    Learn more by visiting www.cheetahcertifiedpm.com.


High Performing Business – Planning – Requirements

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP

The preliminary design requirements for the Year Round Food Production System in Haines, Alaska

The preliminary design requirements for the Year Round Food Production System in Haines, Alaska

I’m working on a really exciting project with Dylan Kasch, an Environmental Scientist and food security expert.  After graduating from UC Berkley and then riding his bike from California to New England he found his way to studying small-scale food production year round in cold climates – at an aquaponics farm in New Hampshire.  I got to know Dylan working with his mother Jody Kasch – she is the photographer and visual designer for Cheetah Learning.

In a conversation with Dylan a few weeks ago he shared with me his dream of creating a small scale year round food production facility in Antartica.  I asked him if he would be interested in helping me create something similar in Haines, Alaska -as my main goal for this year was to create a year round greenhouse operation at the Alaska Eagle Adventures facility in Haines.

Dylan got on it and found a grant for our specific project type.  He and I have been working on the design of the year round food production system in Haines.  It’s a fantastic project for the two of us – almost like the “perfect storm.”  My Mechanical Engineering Masters degree final project was on making more energy efficient buildings so I’ve been designing a very energy efficient greenhouse for our small scale aquaponics operation.  I also am tying it into another one of my passions – square foot gardening.  But I added in a new twist I’ve recently learned of – Keyhole gardens.  I’ve designed all the square foot beds another foot higher (better for my aging body) and included a compost bin in each bed family.   Dylan is working up the design of the aquaponics system and developing  the heating requirements.

It has been an exhilarating planning process as we are both learning from the other.  I had to design the greenhouse based on the requirements Dylan gave me for his Aquaponic system.  We went through several exploration iterations on the type of fish we were going to be using in the ponds. The ability to get them there was part of the selection criteria.

We’ve both been working on the preliminary designs, budgets, the timelines, the ongoing operations and maintenance plan.  The requirements have evolved as we have dug into the planning process with the key requirement – keep it small scale on the family backyard level. Our main goal with this is to demonstrate the feasibility, research what works best, and to teach others how to do the same.

Dylan experienced “food deserts” in his bike ride across the country – where it was impossible to get fresh produce.  Haines, Alaska, like most remote locations, gets it’s produce shipped up once a week – by then it’s already over a week old and who knows how old it was before it got on the barge? While I am adept at canning both fish and vegetables, and have a root cellar, being able to cost-effectively produce fresh vegetables and fish year round may be more than just a dream – we are seeing how we can make it a reality.

Two new insights to curing brain cancer

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

This is how Rick Simpson oil targets brain cancer cells.

This is how Rick Simpson oil targets brain cancer cells.

I have not written on the brain cancer topic now for almost five years.  But I’ve come across two new treatments that show much promise (and it’s effective for many other cancers besides just brain cancer).

The first is intravenous Vitamin C with DCA – you can learn more about it here – http://www.lemmo.com/cancer-care/dichloro-acetic-acid/.

The second is Rick Simpson Oil.  I’ve attached a picture of how this oil you can make yourself attacks cancer cells (not just brain cancer).   He has an extensive facebook page as well with a wide variety of ways people use it in their cancer treatment.

High Performing Business – Planning – Research

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

When I was an Air Force Officer, I was stationed at the Aeronautical Systems Division and worked in the office for Electronic Warfare and Countermeasures.  We were responsible for upgrading the electronic warfare systems on existing aircraft.   Part of our duties were to write Request for Proposals (RFP’s) for the new technology upgrades.  During the planning stages of these types of projects, we would research previous RFP’s.  We used this information to make sure we created a comprehensive RFP for the new system, or at least one that would satisfy our superiors.

I was thinking about the research elements of planning this morning as I embark on an idea I had to help a friend develop commercial markets for her photography.  I have no idea how to develop commercial markets for art.  We are in the very early planning stages of this project, so much research is required to even create the plan for marketing her artwork commercially. Yet most projects start out this way – when you need to research what is even involved in the planning elements.  But there is a time when the research is over and you just have to take a stab at what it is you are trying to do.  The more research you do, the more you move out of the dark and into the light of what is required, the more likely it is the project plan will be something that achieves it’s objectives.

There is no shame in not knowing.  The shame comes from not doing your research on what is required.   The same is true of what is required to become a Project Management Professional (PMP).  Do your research on what is required for becoming a PMP by downloading Cheetah’s Smartstart Guide for the PMP.

High Performing Business – Planning – Estimates

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Estimating the work required to complete a project is a skill that gets better with more practice.

Estimating the work required to complete a project is a skill that gets better with more practice.  Here is the result of the staging project for our office property we are selling in Portland.

Estimating is a crucial element of my project success.   It is the early assumptions made that set most projects in motion. I was thinking about this after the first weekend of my property in Portland being on the market. The first estimate that even started this was with observing very few properties were on the market in Portland (this was an estimate later confirmed by doing research into the current Portland real estate market).  I was initially considering renting out both units of the property I now use for my office as we are consolidating locations but after seeing the market forces happening, decided to test a different approach.

I learned it was a seller’s market with many properties selling for 25% over list price in the first week with multiple offers. Since we needed to do the work to put the property into a rent ready condition as temporary office space for visiting execs or people in the business start-up mode anyhow, why not see if we could capture the property buying frenzy happening right now?

This got me thinking about how important early project planning estimates are in the overall success of a project. I had two different estimates done by experts on the property. One by a property management company that gave me three ranges of possible rental rates for each unit based on comparable spaces in the area. The other by a realtor who gave me an initial listing price of the property based on comparable property values.   I then had to estimate what it would cost me to ready the property for putting it on the market. It needed interior refreshing on the paint, carpets cleaned, materials that had to be moved to our shipping facility in another state, and the outside landscaping refreshed. And we needed to get all this done in a week as sometimes these buying frenzied markets do not last that long.

When I get estimates from people to do work on properties, I’ve learned the more vague the job requirements, the more vague the estimate.  For example, I asked the painter to fix the dings in the walls, door jams, and the posts in the entry.   I got an initial estimate but was told – “the posts may need some extra work and it might make sense to repaint the hallways that are fairly dinged up.” So we set up a not to exceed material and labor budget with a bonus for completing the work quickly.   It took several phone calls to get a landscaper in post haste and he was able to accomplish his work at the requested budget in the time frame required.

I’ve found when contractors underbid their work they tend to put your projects on the “will get to when things are slow list” – especially if you are moving and they are not sure they can earn repeat business from you. So I made sure we budgeted sufficiently so our project would be on the top of their list.

With the estimates in hand,  I apply two different techniques to get a better feel for how to make sure I have the cash flow required.   The first technique is a variation of a military planning technique called PERT (Project Evaluation and Review Technique). This requires estimating task time – (p+4m+o)/6   where p = pessimistic estimate (longest time), o – optimistic estimate (least time), m = most likely estimate. When you have costs associated with labor hours, this is a good way to get a more accurate budget estimate.  I also used this to get a more statistically accurate estimate for the possible rental payment from the rent comps I received.

Another estimating technique I use is confidence limits – this is how confident is the person giving me the estimate. For example, the painter was 50% confident of the initial bid to fix the posts as there were several unknowns as to the level of repair required. This means the lowest possible bid would be 50% lower and the upper limit of the bid could be on and a half times as much.   (starting to sound like a fifth grade math problem). We came up with a work around solution that was actually far less than the original bid (this is what can happen with the confidence limits approach).

I improve my abilities at estimating on a continual basis by reviewing estimates after the fact to see how well I have actually done. I do this monthly on the company’s budgets – reviewing the previous months budget estimates to what we actually generated and spent. Then I adjust the next month’s budgets based on actuals. This helps me develop better instincts for running required projects.

You can learn more about how to do better estimating with a number of Cheetah Learning’s Project Management courses. To find the best course for you – contact a Cheetah Career counselor at 888-659-2013 or email “hello@cheetahlearning.com“.

High Performing Business – Planning – Kindness

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT


Expediency in completing projects is my main goal.  I find I can move fastest with kindness as the foundation.  Projects are about people working together towards completing a significant goal.  The key words here are “people working together.”   Kindness and consideration in the planning phase goes a long way in expediently completing the project.

I activate kindness in the planning phase in three ways:

  1. Accommodate – how and when someone does their work is their responsibility.  When people know others are dependent on them to start or finish their work, they typically accommodate those requirements far better than if the schedule is dictated.  As the project manager, I make it my responsibility to understand people’s availability to do the work required and accommodate the schedule to their availability or find other resources that are available.
  2. Acknowledge – each of us  has unique skills and strengths.  Acknowledging these helps better coordinate who is the best person to accomplish specific tasks. For example, it makes no sense to have the detail oriented person create the overall theme for an event yet they may be  the right person to ready a space for hosting the event.
  3. Appreciate – showing gratitude and graciousness of how people can and do contribute while planning carries over into actually doing the work.  I use appreciative  inquiry about my contributor’s desired future state with how they can best deliver.

Over the years of leading projects I’ve seen two  things can hurt people’s ability to keep it kind during planning:

  1. Righteousness -this is the belief that “my way is the best way”.
  2. Entitlement – this means the belief that others in some way owe you something.

By following the three A’s of Accommodate, Acknowledge, and Appreciate; and being conscious of the stumbling blocks of righteousness and entitlement, kindness can be the foundation of an expedient project plan.

Cheetah students learn how to bring these principles alive in projects close to home in Cheetah Action Project (CHAP). This is where they learn how to improve their project management skills by doing a project at home or work with those closest to them.   Learn how to make kindness your project planning foundation.

High Performing Business – Planning – Desire

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Signs of spring can drive new desires.  But taking time to plan helps think through how much you really desire what you desire.

Signs of spring can drive new desires. But taking time to plan helps think through how much you really desire what you desire.

It’s only March 3rd and the fruit tree’s are in full bloom all around me here in the Pacific Northwest.  The rain clouds have cleared for a moment and the sun is peaking through.  It’s days like today that fill me with vim and vigor to start planning my gardens for the spring and summer.  On days like this I can find myself falling into delusions of grandeur over what I’m going to tackle.  This will be the year I put in that cool cathedral green house I’ve been eying and build that twenty by twenty foot fenced enclosure near my workshed to have an expanded space to grow vegetables protected from the hungry wildlife that enjoys the fruits of my labor.  But as I get into the details of planning, I find getting the concepts more in balance of what I can do and what I will do and what I actually need.   I rarely consume all the vegetables I  grow anyhow, even when I make the effort to can all of them, so do I really need this much effort to go into this?

Doing the planning activities to realize my dreams helps bring them into balance of what is not only possible for me, but what is also truly desirable.   I ask myself just because I can do something, does it mean I actually want to do it?   Before the cathedral green house idea germinated, I was going to purchase a neighbor’s thirty by forty foot green house.  I did some preliminary planning on this larger greenhouse and realized this was not how I wanted to be spending my time.  Planning serves a very valuable purpose of vetting the desirability of dreams to bring them into balance of the reality they will create if achieved.  And this is one of the true values for me – it helps me look before I leap.

You can do the same thing if you’re considering a career upgrade in Project Management by first checking out what is involved in becoming a Project Management Professional.  Download your free copy of Cheetah’s Smart Start Guide to becoming a Project Managmenet Professional.