Archive for February, 2013

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 20 – Resistance

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

I’ve had ten days of continual company – first was a big family party for my Father for his 80th birthday then some good friends stopped by for two nights on their way from Denver to Portland.   In the first round of company – I got the pleasure of perpetually cleaning the kitchen as it seems the males in my family have developed an allergy to picking up after themselves.   I discovered the more I resisted cleaning the kitchen, the harder the job was.   But when I donned these “sexy” hot green rubber gloves, I became a white tornado and had the kitchen cleaned in no time.   Realizing that like a colicky baby, this too shall pass and my family would be back to their own homes, I decided to change my attitude and stop resisting cleaning the kitchen as it was not helping me at all – and it was hurting my ability to enjoy my family.   And wasn’t that the reason we all got together anyhow?

I started thinking, where else in life is resistance to whatever also hurting my enjoyment of life.   My friend visiting on her road trip with her family shared with me this book she was reading – called “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.” It is all about how resistance to anything sabotages creativity.

I recently completed reading The Untethered Soul – and in that book the author teaches you how to become more conscious of how you are resisting pain and how this hurts your ability to achieve long lasting happiness and fulfillment in life.   Whatever you resist in life persists.

I notice this resistance element is what stymies my creative efforts, ability to grow, and ultimately my happiness.   When I just get down to just doing it, everything flows.  A sense of all is right with the world prevails.    And I experience this in every element of my life.  I used to resist exercising – then I got this device called the Fitbit.   Once I saw how sedentary I actually was, it increased my awareness and stopped my resistance to exercising.  Now instead of resisting exercising, I look for opportunities to move more.

My perpetual question has become – what am I resisting and why?  Sales have doubled over the past ten days in comparison to the previous ten days.  Is this related to my letting go of the need to “resist” and just allowing things to flow?   Whatever the reason, the desire and the choice to resist anything is no longer serving me and I’m letting it go as it appears.

Initial Mind Map of the Untethered Soul Book

Initial Mind Map of the Untethered Soul Book

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 19 – Gestation

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Everything in life has a cycle. The more in tune I am to those cycles, the easier life seems to be. One of my businesses is a cattle ranch. I got into this 9 years ago based on two different magazines I had with me on a trip to kick off a Project Management conference in Mexico City. One of the magazines had a cover story on the growing obesity epidemic in America. The other magazine was about Belgian Blue Cows – a breed of cattle that had a naturally occurring genetic mutation for not having any fat, but producing beef that is lean, tender and full of flavor. A big part of our obesity problem is in how we were producing our food. Corn fed beef is as bad for you as white flour and corn syrup. You might as well take this type of “food” and strap it to the outside of your belly as that is where it will likely end up anyhow.

One of my colleagues raised grass fed beef and I asked her if she could raise one of these cows for me. Nine years later, I have one of the largest herds of these cattle on the west coast. As we got into it, the whole business became more and more interesting. We discovered early on the big reason this breed does not do well in the open range cattle ranching practiced in the Western US was because they have a difficult time giving birth naturally. We set out on a program to develop a breed of this cattle that can give birth naturally. This is not a fast internet turn on a dime type of business. We have a one year cycle every year to see how we are doing. We have lost a number of cattle as we made a choice not to continue breeding bad genetics that caused the difficult birthing characteristics. Last season we had ten live births. We now have a breed of this cattle that can give birth naturally.

We have started selling beef. Next we are going to figure out how to sell the genetic material – primarily the embryos. Nine years ago, we got our first ten calves from a rancher in Texas who started his herd with embryo’s implanted in large daily cattle. It took nine months for those zygotes to turn into calves as well. Some things in life you just can’t rush. In the book “Patience: A Little Book of Inner Strength” by Eknath Easwaran – I was reminded: “You can achieve any goal you want when you are patient.” We are on our ninth gestation cycle and we are realizing our goal.

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 18 – Channels

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Just like water flows into a pond from multiple streams,  sales flow into a business from multiple channels.   Working these channels to keep the cash flow moving is a big part of the marketing machine of Cheetah Learning.   Today we focused on two of our biggest channels – increasing the conversion rates of our google adwords campaigns and giving our PMI chapter affiliates more support in promoting Cheetah Learning courses to their members.   Channel partners are a valuable resource and we enjoy cultivating great relationships with them.   The key is to be savvy on how to improve those relationships.   We were approached today by a company offering to increase our google conversion rates and they only get paid when they are successful with increasing conversions.   I made sure we both agreed that a conversion was an actual payment received for the registration of a course    We shall see how it all turns out with them if they will work under this definition of a conversion…

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 17 – Making Do

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Being an entrepreneur means being impatient to see your ideas become reality.  And being impatient means that at times you have to figure out how to achieve your objectives with what you have on hand.   Many times I’m stymied to accomplish what I’d like to do because the technical solution to pull it off is just too complicated.  When I take a step back and look though at what is possible when I use what I have at hand, the results are usually pretty darn good.   This week was certainly a lesson in making do.   And making do with respect to creating videos for the business is becoming easier and easier.

In setting up the Haines Guest House – we used a small camera on hand (Canon PowerShot SX210, a point-n-shoot with decent HD video capturing ability) and repurposed an older Mac Powerbook with iMovie installed to create a welcome video.

The February Sweepstakes for Cheetah Alumni.

The February Sweepstakes for Cheetah Alumni.

I spent the week onsite with the Director of Marketing of Cheetah Learning – we brainstormed ways we could reward our Cheetah Alumni for excellence in Project Management.   We developed a sweepstakes where our Cheetah students can complete a PM Scorecard for free.  A PM Scorecard measures their project management performance – based on input from the Project sponsors, stakeholders, customers, and team members. The cheetah student who has the highest PM Scorecard ranking wins $1000.  All entries are due by March 15th and the winner will be announced on St. Patty’s Day March 17th.   When discussing this idea with our head of technical support, she mentioned that tech support gets a lot of calls because when registering for the PM Scorecard people get a little confused as to who to identify as the Project Manager.   So I wanted to make a short video clip that showed how to register for a PM Scorecard.   I was able to download a free trial version of Adobe’s Captivate.   I took a class on how to use Captivate on for $37.50 and voila – our first software simulation video.   Check out our sweepstakes campaign with our instructional video on how to register for a free PM Scorecard for our Cheetah Alumni.

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 16 – Deliberate Practice

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

According to Malcom Gladwell’s book “Outliers” he shows how the extremely accomplished person in any field has spent at least 10,000 hours honing their craft.    But they don’t stop there.   Even after accomplishing the 10,000 hour requisite for mastery, it is imperative you focus on continually upgrading your skills in your mastery domain.   Especially in today’s fast moving technology changes.  One of my areas of mastery is teaching.   And even though we never use Power Point presentations in Cheetah’s training courses because we have found the person who does the most learning is the one who creates the power point presentation, we do use power point for marketing presentations.   For the next month several of my colleagues and I at Cheetah Learning are upgrading our marketing presentation skills by learning several extension products to power point.  This also gives us a chance to share our unique expertise with each other in a deliberate and guided practice.

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 15 – What’s in a Name?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

It's Official - here is our logo for our new B and B - the Haines Guest House

It is official - here is our logo for the Haines Guest House. Thank You Sharene Lewis of Pi Design.

In any new endeavor, the name of the effort emerges over time.   When I started my first company at 25 – I called it Environmental Requirement Associates.   The mission of that business was to help electronics company’s adequately design their systems for the environments they would encounter.   Three months later though with no clients for the first mission but having defense contractors contacting me to write their proposals for government contracts, that company name made no sense at all.   I soon changed it to EnRA – which enabled me to brand it anything I wished.   Another of my businesses, I called Wired for Success.   When Wired Magazine sent me a cease and desist and being too naive at the time to fight it, I changed the company name to Success Connections.   And before Cheetah Learning was Cheetah Learning – it used to be called Quantum Learning Systems.   That was until Quantum Learning sent me a cease and desist.   Well I did agree with that one and came up with a MUCH better name for the company – Cheetah Learning.   So when we initially hijacked a name from another enterprise I’m setting up called Inspired Eagle for the Bed and Breakfast, and called it Inspired Eagle Bed and Breakfast, I was relieved when our host came up with a better name – the Haines Guest House.   I’ve had some pretty bad experiences at Bed and Breakfasts (and some great ones too) – but for the most part it’s somewhat of a crap shoot.   Especially when you’re staying in someone’s home – as it can sometimes be just downright awkward.   We wanted to convey a sentiment that the home away from home we were setting up was specifically for guests and it is in Haines, Alaska.  We also wanted a name that would convey an element of simple elegance, conviviality, and gracious hospitality.   Haines Guest House does all this – far better than the initial name of the Inspired Eagle B and B.

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 14 – Competitive Strategies

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Competitive Strategies was my favorite course in the three year Owner President Managed (OPM) program I went through at Harvard Business School.   I loved Michael Porter’s work and routinely use his five force analysis to assess our competitive positioning for new pursuits.   I also loved Cynthia Montgomery’s work on Corporate Strategy.   The biggest take away was how important it is to cut out a unique space in the market.  The more different you can make your product and/or service, the better you can help your customers achieve value that is unique to their needs, the more competitive you are.  Montgomery had us identify our three core differentiating strategies.   For my businesses the three differentiating strategies are Elegance, Best Friend Customer Service and what we call “being a cheetah” – which means make it fast and fun to get the job done.  To an engineer, elegance has a very distinct definition – it means perfectly fit for use – you just know as you are experiencing whatever it is we create – that it was absolutely meant just for you to be experiencing.   The elegance shows you that your every need and desire was anticipated even before you knew you needed it.   We design all our student experiences in Cheetah Learning with these core differentiating strategies.   We are also designing the Haines Guest House with the same three strategies.  The home is elegant just by it’s very design in the rugged environment of Alaska.   Our gracious host epitomizes best friend customer service – it’s as if he knows what you need before you know.   And we are making it easy for him to stay gracious by setting up the systems so everything in the guest experience keeps them comfortable and just tickled beyond belief.   Our new host is also learning from our seasoned Cheetah’s onsite – Kent and Elissa, exactly what it means to “be a cheetah.”   First we were going to set up the B&B to be ready for the start of the summer season.   Then we realized we could be ready for heliskiing season in March.   And after we put it into Cheetah gear – we are now ready to start selling rooms – a whole month early.   Elegance, Best Friend Customer Service, an Be a Cheetah – three core strategies that have helped my businesses soar.

21 Day Practice of Capitalism – Day 13 – Sprouted Grains

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

If you look closely you can see the little sprouts on the wheat berries.  These little sprouts create enzymes that make digesting bread much easier and the nutrients more readily available from the digestive process.

If you look closely you can see the little sprouts on the wheat berries. These little sprouts create enzymes that make digesting bread much easier and the nutrients more readily available from the digestive process.

What do sprouted grains have in common with capitalism?   Quite a bit actually.   You see one of my main hobbies is making bread from scratch – and by scratch I mean starting with the wheat berries.    I have been studying how to grow grains on several patches of farm land I own as well.   This hobby is soon turning into a business as I am going to be teaching a class called Alaska Sour Dough Artisan Breads at our new Bed and Breakfast in Haines Alaska.   Over the years my bread making pursuits have yielded better and better results, as I went further back in the process (starting with milling my own flour) and become more innovative and experimental.   The same characteristics help me improve my other business efforts – better understanding the fundamentals then being innovative and experimental from the base foundation of excellence.

I used to purchase commercially milled flours – until I learned about the significantly improved health benefits from milling my own organic wheat berries from various varieties of wheat.   I rely on the staples of the hard red or white winter wheat berries.   But I also make numerous other breads from a more ancient grain called spelt.   In reading the cook book “Nourishing Traditions,” I learned that if I let some of the wheat berries sprout, that it could improve the nutritional characteristics of my home made bread even more.   So, I wanted to test this out.   I took about a cup of wheat berries and soaked them like any other sprouts.   After a day – and only a day – the berries had sprouted.   I was so excited.   I had tried to get a bag of mixed beans to sprout for three days – and not a one sprouted.   I later learned that if the beans get irradiated as a method of preserving them, they won’t sprout (makes me wonder just how nutritious irradiated food actually is?).

That excitement about the sprouted wheat berries led me to making my first bread with the sprouted wheat berries kneaded into the dough – at 10:30 PM after all the guests had left from my birthday party.   And isn’t this what innovation and experimenting does for all creative pursuits – gets you excited, energized and ready to try more new things.   Innovation is the fuel that keeps me going in my business – whatever the business pursuit.