Archive for January, 2013

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 12 – Living the Alaskan Dream

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Haines is a nice winter place when your summer job is in the Arctic.

Haines is a nice winter place when your job is in the Arctic.

I met my neighbor today – Michael Wald.   He owns Arctic Wild – Adventures in Latitude – he winters in Haines, Alaska.   And he runs his business out of Fairbanks, Alaska in the summer.   I can definitely understand why he would not want to winter in Fairbanks; with their -50 degree days as the standard event.    But Haines?   He said he just loved Alaska and this is how he enjoyed spending his time off.   When I met him he was pulling his custom built rowboat on shore with a come along he had rigged up on top of a stump.   It was a balmy 30 degrees here today.   Michael is living the “dream.”   He said he never thought he could make a living doing what he loves, but that is precisely what he’s doing.   To all you entrepreneurs out there – keep living your dream.   You can DO IT!!

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 11 – Rugged Determination

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

It takes rugged determination to have a farm in rural Alaska - especially when your only source of heat is wood..

It takes rugged determination to have a farm in rural Alaska - especially when your only source of heat is wood.. It was 0 degrees on the day I visited here.

I’ve been working on acquiring a good sour dough starter for a class I’m designing called Alaskan Sour Dough Artisan Breads.  We are holding cooking classes at the Inspired Eagle Eco Bed and Breakfast in Haines, Alaska.   I ran into a good friend at the post office who had a very sour sour dough starter that I wanted to give a whirl.   This required a 30 mile drive on a very very cold winter day up to her farm where she lives with her nine ducks, three dogs, and two goats.   Of course, being a generous soul, she sent me home with a lot more than just the sour dough starter – my bounty included 5 pints of goats milk, 12 duck eggs, and instructions on how to make goat cheese.   I met my friend two years ago when she and her brood lived in a cabin across the street from my place in Alaska. She is my role model for rugged determination.   Her first farm near my place was off the grid and she heated the home by her wood stove – which she also used to cook many of her meals.   She had about a 1/5th mile steep driveway that much of the time she had to clear by shovel (no plow or snow blower) to get her car out.   Her new farm cabin is much bigger, has electricity from the power company, much more room for her animals, and she shares the driveway with the store next door so her drive to the road is now plowed.  Most of the time she lives alone with her animals, but she has started getting folks coming from all over the world who want to work on her farm in exchange for free room and board.   She is a testament that whatever the type of life you want to live, you most certainly can pull it off.

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 10 – Anticipate Delays

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

The view from the Executive Business Suite at the Inspired Eagle Eco Bed and Breakfast in Haines, Alaska

The view from the Executive Business Suite at the Inspired Eagle Eco Bed and Breakfast in Haines, Alaska

Setting up a B and B in rural Alaska takes a special form of patience. When we need something we can’t find in town, we have to figure out how to get it up here from the lower 48 or do without.    I’ve learned in the ten years owning property up here, it’s far better to source as much as you can from the merchants in town.  That way there are also people in town who can help you fix it.   Lets take a look at what this means:

Internet service – yes we used to have a high speed satellite dish for the internet.   Sometimes the guy who could work on it was in town, sometimes he wasn’t.   The house that is now becoming the Inspired Eagle B and B has been on the market for two years.   So for two years it sat empty – staged for showing.   And for two years, we have not had any internet service here – for who?   The random realtor showing one of the three people who looked at the home around?   As we are readying the house for it’s new mission – becoming the Inspired Eagle Eco Bed and Breakfast – we opted to go with the local telephone company’s high speed internet.    Great service – signed up on Friday and by this afternoon had a 1 Mps service operational.   The service guys (my neighbors) – had an idea of how they can increase it to 4 Mps and are coming back tomorrow to test out their theory.   The home is very far from the next closest transfer station so it’s amazing we even are getting 1 Mps service.   Hmmmm – now I’m remembering why we went with the satellite dish…….  For our needs right now, we are choosing reliability and service over performance.  When we used this house for corporate retreat meetings for Cheetah Learning – we needed the highest speed internet we could get.   But we weren’t here that often so the advance team could make sure it was all working.   Now, the house has a different mission.   The local telephone company is a better solution.   The Internet service is not the fastest or the best – but it works.   And when it gets really slow, we’re in paradise – time to get out and enjoy the splendid beauty of this place.   Hopefully our guests will get the pristine setting far exceeds the lower performance of the Internet they may find down south.

Washing Machine – we have an issue with the front loader washer.   But since we purchased it at the furniture store in town five years ago, there is also a repairman in town who knows how to trouble shoot the problem. We had purchased a really fancy dishwasher around the same time from an appliance store in Washington State. The dishwasher is long gone as no one could fix it when we had a problem.   We replaced it with a very basic dishwasher – haven’t had one problem since.

The Soap – Our B&B host arrived today to help with developing the sales, marketing and management systems for the Inspired Eagle Eco B and B.   He just finished a five month work for trade arrangement as the manager of a B&B on the Big Island in Hawaii.   I met him there on my visit in January – this was where the light bulb went off a B and B could convert this property from a liability to an asset.   Our host is a critical success factor for the Inspired Eagle Eco B n B – as I do not have the time to do all the necessary work with the start up and operations.   I am good at business start up and we make a good pair as I have seasoned business systems we can use to launch the B n B (plus the house) and he has the know how, spirit and enthusiasm to start and mange a successful B n B.   I am usually a much better host but today was a very busy day tending to urgent issues with making sure we had adequate heating oil (the place has been empty for almost two years and we were keeping it at 50 degrees with very low reserves of oil in case it sold).   So acquiring soap or shampoo was a low priority.  Making due,  I found these tiny half empty generic travel containers of shampoo and conditioner scrounge up from a stray travel kit. I did though order soap, shampoo, and hair conditioner dispensers for every bathroom and several gallons each of high end shampoo, conditioner and soap.   Yesterday.   So they won’t be here for another week.   We can manage to find adequate soap, shampoo and conditioner for both of our bathrooms in town tomorrow.   Thank god we are in Alaska and hat head as a hairstyle is the in thang so having plump voluptuous hair follicles stimulated from the high end volumizing hair products is just not required.   Guests to a luxury bed and breakfast may not be so understanding of our local habits or preferences – so I ventured outside of Haines via the Internet to procure bathroom products fitting for the premium luxury B n B experience.

21 Days of Capitalism – Day 9 – Platinum Rule

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

I made it to Haines, Alaska to continue work on setting up the Inspired Eagle Bed and Breakfast on an amazing property that I’ve owned since 2005  – it was just looking for the “right mission.   So far so good as I am getting supportive encouragement from my neighbors – many whom are very accomplished artists.   I did an initial walk through the house to see what was left to do to ready it for BnB guests.   And noticed a LOT of bare walls. And I remembered the Platinum Rule – which is one step up from the Golden Rule.  In the Golden rule – you are supposed treat others as you would like to be treated.   The Platinum rule goes a step further –  to treat people in the way they would prefer to be treated.   By giving people exactly what they want, in the long (and usually in the short run) –  I end up getting exactly what I want.   So instead of going out and purchasing artwork that will stay in the BnB (my first thought),  the neighbors and I discussed using the BnB as their own art gallery – showcasing their work for sale and letting the guests who visit the BnB purchase the art on display around the home.    The Platinum rule introduced a solution that is far more beneficial than the solution the golden rule would have generated PLUS it helps the neighbors get a “win” from me creating a BnB in our neighborhood.

21 Days of Capitalism – Day 8 – Family and Friends Staffing

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

In the business start up mode most entrepreneurs work with whomever is closest to them. This often means having family members and close friends helping in various roles in the business.   As business evolves, you quickly develop the need to use different approaches with people who have more specialized skills.  But this does not necessarily mean you have to get rid of the family members and close friends who helped you get past the infant mortality stage of your business.   As the business grows, the top talent who helped in the early stages can take on more of a training and mentoring role with new hires – IF they are flexible enough to change with the various stages of growth.   When the “old guard” can’t and won’t adapt , off boarding enables the natural progression of the business.

The way to maneuver this very delicate situation is to set it up right from the get go.   I have found whenever family members and close friends get involved in the business to have a clear path for their involvement.     This helps in two ways – first no one wants to sign on for a life sentence to help you pursue your dreams.   They have their own dreams.  Even in an established business, it is helpful to use your established business as a launching off zone for their dreams.  In any situation though, a start up or an established business, I have found it helpful to evaluate over several years (not weeks or months) the formation of legal partnerships – at least in my experience it is those partnerships formed after years knowing and working with someone that last – ESPECIALLY with friends and family.    Limit the time for employment to as long as it is creating value for both parties – putting a time limit on their help of six months to a year can help as well.   Make it a part of the dialog about creating the processes required to run the business as it grows with people who have been professionally trained to run those processes.   The family and friends can most certainly become the professionally trained staff too – when they are willing to get the appropriate professional training.

My brother a CPA gave me very wise counsel in the early days of my business.   First he told me right out – while he would be happy being an advisor and help me find the right talent to help with my accounting and finance parts of the business, he was in no way available or qualified to help with the day to day of the business.   Second he told me that “cheap” accounting cost far more than good accounting and it was better to spend just a little more on better accountants.   This I see in others business one of the biggest failings – thinking you can do your own books with products such as quick books or let someone in your family do the books.   Professionally trained book keepers and accountants can mean the difference between success and failure of a small business.   A good book keeper and an accountant can actually help you make a lot more money – they are not a cost center, they are profit centers.

Accounting is the most common area of the business where I see the family and friends staffing the hardest to change.   And the most in need of adopting more professional approaches the soonest.   Viable businesses need professional bookkeepers and accountants.  I have found other areas of the business a bit easier to transition away from early reliance on family and friend talent.

21 Days of Capitalism – Day 7 – Launch

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
The closer the launch date looms, the more focused and coordinated the activity becomes to be ready to launch.

The closer the launch date looms, the more focused and coordinated the activity becomes to be ready to launch.

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Nothing creates more coordinated, focused action than having a real life launch date for any endeavor.   Event driven development drives completion.   Take the Inspired Eagle Eco B&B – there are lots and lots and lots of little things we have to do to make sure we can start selling space at the B&B – but when we get right down to it – at least 80% of the activity to actually make the place guest ready will happen within the week before the first guest arrives.   To speed up the readiness activities,  find a way to open the B&B sooner.   This is exactly what we are doing by opening the B&B for the heliskiing season in Haines, Alaska.

Whenever we create updates to our websites – I find when we have a real live launch date – something where we have real live customers registered for an event – so much more coordinated effort goes into making sure the most required elements of the updates are ready for prime time.   What I like best about creating event driven launch dates is the least required features seem to miraculously disappear.   Someone’s pet project that well before the due date we really needed to have,  becomes far less important as the launch date gets closer while the real features absolutely needed for launch dramatically increase in importance.

Timing is not everything in life, it’s the ONLY thing in life.   We can create more money, develop new relationships, but we cannot create more time.   And miracles of all miracles, when we commit to an event – heaven and earth moves to pull off what we need to happen in the time we have for the show to go on.

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 6 – The Task of the Day

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

In the vision to action pyramid posted several days ago,  I show how to align your actions to your vision – in the middle part is the transition from the long view – strategies, mission, vision to the tactical – goals, objectives, actions.   Success requires doing BOTH well.

We live in a day to day world – every day we get up, eat meals, interact with other people.   Too much focus on the minutiae of life without a grounding into the larger context, we start to see our goals and dreams slip by us into never never land.   I started my first business in 1987.   In 1989 I had my first child.   I learned very early in my capitalistic journey to do at least one task every day in the pursuit of my biggest goals.   Some days I can accomplish more than others – but every day, as long as I do one thing in the pursuit of my most important goals – I make progress.

Even though I’m taking a personal day today,  my biggest task for the day is done – to insure the team handling the updated outside sales recruiting and training program for Cheetah Learning has all the material in place and is aligned on their roles.   We rolled out a new recruiting campaign late last week and over the weekend received 25 applicants for outside sales positions.

I took care of some critical issues for the Inspired Eagle B&B launch yesterday – and we decided to up the open date three months to February 15th to serve the market for Heliskiers in Haines, Alaska.

One task a day towards achieving my big goal keeps everything moving forward.

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 5 – Priorities

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Project Priority Ranking

Project Priority Ranking

I was raised to believe I could do anything I wanted to do.   What I’ve realized over time though is I can’t do everything I want – there are only so many hours in the day.   I’ve learned how to make better decisions on what it is I will focus my time and attention to make sure it’s something I really really really want to do.   For every project I pursue, there is literally a hundred I have decided at the concept stage not to pursue.   I do a preliminary project agreement when I’m thinking of getting into projects to see if it is something I’d really want to get involved with. I require the same of others who want my involvement. You can get a free copy of a project agreement at And when I have a lot of projects vying for my time and attention, I do a project priority matrix.

We evaluate each project based on these nine areas:

  1. Do we have the skills on hand to do the project?
  2. How much more capability will we develop to do other things we want to go after by doing this project?
  3. How much money will it cost to finish the project?
  4. How much money will it cost to maintain the results of the project once we are finished?
  5. How much revenue will the results of the project make over it’s lifetime?
  6. How much fun will we have doing the project and using the output of the project?
  7. How will the project help us reduce risk for future projects?
  8. For how many people will the results of this project help?
  9. How will the project help us become more sustainable for the long term?
I have a lot more time now to pursue those projects that give me the most satisfaction overall in life.

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 4 – Be More of Who You Are

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

The Sea Lion is the Sea Lion, Not a Killer Whale. Be who you are, you are one of a kind. Besides that, everyone else is taken.

For every entrepreneur, their business is the ultimate expression of who they are and how they are choosing to show up in the world.   The key strategy to my main business – Cheetah Learning is to help everyone associated with the business – from our staff through to our students – succeed by becoming more of who they are.   Leveraging innate genius is the key value driver both inside the business and for our students.   This shows up in how we live our other core values:

  1. Be in service to others – their success is our success.
  2. Pursue mastery in our areas of strengths
  3. Focus on finishing
  4. Live with an attitude of gratitude – make someone’s day.
  5. Be our brand –  fast, fun and effective.

In the vision to action pyramid posted two days ago, there are four key areas our values shape our competitive strategy in:   Operations, Marketing, Sales, and Support.

In a world where it’s fairly easy to copy others intellectual efforts – what truly differentiates one business from another offering similar products and service is how their core values become embedded in the business systems and how the experience with the business resonates as value for the customers.

As we are creating the Inspired Eagle B&B, we are working on defining our core values BEFORE creating the strategies to achieve our vision through our mission:

Here is some of our initial thoughts on the values drivers we want our guests to experience at the Inspired Eagle Eco B&B:

  1. Gracious, Kind & Caring Hosts
  2. Sustainability Based Eco Tourism
  3. Events that Foster a Sense of Community and Belonging
  4. Good Cheer – Conviviality
  5. Pristine Natural Beauty Inside and Out

With the Inspired Eagle Eco B&B – we will be designing the systems to insure they enable everyone who touches our business (and our guests) to experience our core values.

The “Summer” Sauce

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP


For a little bit of summer in January - The "Summer" Sauce

For a little bit of summer in January

Yes it is January 16th and I am posting a recipe called The “Summer” Sauce.  I am here at a tropical location as part of the support crew for an interesting extension to our business.   For the past twelve years we have used an 8 minute series of yoga stretching and breathing techniques to help people maintain their minds in peak performing condition while they are doing the Cheetah Learning courses.   We are extending the program to create a whole series of 8 minute yoga videos for people to do throughout the day.  And I am thanking my lucky stars we have certified and professional yogini’s – Anne Lindsley and Pamela Sery – making these 8 minute yoga videos.   I’m more than happy to be on the support team and not the one in front of the camera for a change.  Part of my support role is resident chef. Tonight’s dinner was homemade pasta accompanied by The “Summer” sauce.   This recipe makes enough pasta and sauce for 8 hungry people.


Yes this meal did take some planning.   My sous chef (AKA assistant kitchen wench, AKA intern Brook) milled about ten cups of an organic Kamut flour at our Portland office before heading over here.   She also packed the pasta maker.

The rest we picked up over here:

1 tbs Chia Seeds

6 Eggs

2 Lemons

2 tbs Olive Oil

1 head of garlic (10 – 15 cloves)

5 – 8 Large Fresh Tomatoes

1 bunch Fresh Parsley

1/4 cup fresh Oregano leaves

1 cup fresh basil leaves





Step 1 – Make the Pasta Dough – Mix 3 cups of the Kamut flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/8th tsp pepper, 1 tbs chia seeds, and grated rind of one lemon.  Stir all together.   Make a well in the center.   Put six eggs into the middle and mix until all the flour is wetted with the eggs.   Make it into a ball and wrap in saran wrap.   Let sit for 2 – 3 hours so the flour can continue absorbing moisture of the eggs.

Step 2 – Make the Pasta –

1. cut off about a half a fist size of the pasta dough.

2, Roll it in some Kamut flour to prevent it from being sticky.

3. Flatten it out with your hand.

4. With a standard hand crank pasta maker – put it through the widest setting.

5. Put more flour on the now flattened dough to keep it from sticking to the rollers.

6. Double it over and roll through the widest setting two more times.

7, Continue flouring the flattened dough as needed to keep it from sticking.

8. Roll it through increasing narrower openings of the pasta maker – go to the 5th or 6th level until the dough starts getting too thin.

9. Cut the wide sheets to the length you want for the noodles – we usually limit it to about 9 – 12 inches.

10. Stack the sheets on top of each other with flour between each sheet until you are finished with all the wide sheets.

Repeat “Make the Pasta” steps 1 – 10 until you have used all the dough.

Once you’ve used all the dough to make the wide sheets, then you can attach the noodle attachment to make the linguine noodles.   As you make the noodles, drape them over the side of the pasta cooking pan and let air dry for about 1/2 hour to an hour

Once the sauce is all assembled, boil water in a deep stock pot (put 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp olive oil in the water).   We use a pasta pot with the straining pot that holds the pasta that fits right into the stock pot.   Once the water is boiling, put in the pasta.   Cook about five minutes or until the pasta feels soft and not chewy.   Remove from the stove immediately and drain the water.   Put the Pasta in a serving bowl.

Step 3 – Make the Sauce

Peel all the cloves of garlic and dice up fine.

Place the diced garlic in a large fry pan with the olive oil.   Put it on a low setting – you want to “sweat” the garlic – this means cooking it on a very low heat so as not to brown it.   It may be sweating up to a half hour depending on how long it takes you to roast the tomatoes.   Keep the temperature very low.

Put the whole tomatoes on a grill or under the broiler.   You want to blister the skins of the tomatoes – this caramelizes the tomatoes and brings out the sugar flavors in them.   It’s not necessary to brown the skins of the tomato’s (but it is not a big deal if you do either) – mostly you want the skin to blister so it’s easy to pull off and the tomatoes to soften a little under the intense heat.  Pull them out of the oven or off the grill and allow them to cool so you can pull the skins off without burning your fingers.

While you are waiting for the tomatoes to cool, grate the lemon rind from the other lemon you haven’t grated yet.   Put the lemon rind into the garlic.  Then juice both lemons (you will have the lemon left over that you grated the rind for the pasta).   Remove any seeds and put the juice from these two lemons into the sweating garlic.

Once the tomatoes are not so hot you will burn your fingers, remove the blistered skin.   Remove the hard core of the top part of the tomato and dice into 1/2 inches pieces.   Put the diced tomatoes and all their juice into the pan with the garlic and the lemons.

Reduce the liquid in the sauce over about a 1/2 hour.   While the sauce is reducing, put in about 1/2 tsp of salt.

Finely chop the bunch of parsley, basil leaves and oregano.   Once the sauce is reduced and just a little thick, add the herbs and mix thoroughly.  Continue to simmer for 5 – 15 minutes – while the pasta water is boiling then cooking.

Put the pasta sauce in a serving bowl.

Step 4 – Enjoy  – the sauce is meant to be an accent for the pasta.   You can also put grated cheese over the pasta before you put the sauce on it.

Monitor and Control

Make sure people know the sauce is meant to be an accent to the pasta so the early folks don’t take it all for their own.

Lessons Learned

Often times we are sharing our table with vegetarians.   Many times I will make a special entree specifically for the vegetarian diners.   In one instance the visiting vegetarian thought the sauce was all for him.   I make sure now I tell the vegetarian diners the sauce is for all to share and is just meant as an accent to the pasta.

Also, it’s better to have the pasta dough be a little bit moist when you first make it.  You can absorb the moisture for the small amounts as you are putting it through the pasta maker with extra flour so make sure you have extra flour on hand for this important task.