Project Success- Without Going Broke

A Project Management Article by Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

It is March 2011 and the US Government has yet to approve its budget for the current fiscal year.

Costs are rising, budget surpluses are scarce, and growing inflation makes a mockery of the little money that we actually do have available for projects.  While some people view this situation as a period of stagnation and a time for victimization, many companies and project managers are using this as an opportunity to become experts at doing more with less.

Companies are increasing profit margins while revenues are flat, new innovations are seen in every industry report, and eager entrepreneurs are starting successful businesses at a phenomenal rate.  The common theme in each success story is that people are learning how to draw more from other sources of capital and relying less on volatile pieces of green paper.

Social Capital, Knowledge Capital, Brand Capital and Infrastructure Capital, if used correctly, can be harnessed to create and complete incredibly successful projects that unlimited cash flows simply cannot accomplish.  The key lies in how resourceful, creative, and fervent you allow yourself to be.

Jump to Article Sections:

  1. Social Capital
  2. Knowledge Capital
  3. Brand Capital
  4. Infrastructure Capital
  5. Bringing it Together

Social Capital

Social capital refers to the relationships you have with others, both personal and professional.

What is a good way to build relationships? Start by caring about others, and finding opportunities for them to be successful.  You can do this by asking questions, and listening more than talking. When you focus on helping others, you end up gaining much more in terms of social capital than if you are focused purely on your agenda.

Gratitude Is Key

An important aspect of social capital is to be grateful for how others help you. The act of expressing gratitude is something that costs us nothing, but is a practice that many of us forget in the every day hustle and bustle of life. Conversely, if someone slights you, do yourself a favor and forgive them FAST. Holding grudges only makes you old, mean, and slow, and has little affect on the “grudgee.”

To help me put into practice the expression of gratitude and the omission of holding grudges, I like to apply two of the four agreements from the book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz here - don’t take things personally and don’t make assumptions.  Many times we judge others by their behavior and ourselves by our intent.  Reverse that habit and you will have relationships that stand the test of time.

Improve your Network Quotient

Now that you know how to enhance your social capital, how do you quantify its development and improvement? The book Influencer by Kerry Patterson, introduces the Network Quotient (NQ), stating that this measurement is more important than your IQ. You can visualize your NQ by creating a mind map on a piece of paper, with a circle in the middle that represents you, and the names of everyone you know coming out from that. The closer the person is to you and the more influence they have in your life, the bigger the circle is around their name. Work on growing your NQ as avidly as you would work on expanding your investment portfolio- it is that important! Below is an example of my NQ.


Knowledge Capital

Knowledge Capital refers to what you know, and how you can use what you know to help others and yourself.

The best way to build your knowledge capital is to do what you love and do it and do it and do it.  As we have known since grade school, practice makes perfect. In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, the author Gladwell points out that people have to practice at least 10,000 hours in order to rise to any level of success in a field. The way to ensure that these 10,000 hours are enjoyable is to do what you love to do.

Learn to Adapt

While it is important to master a certain activity or skill that you enjoy, it is equally important to learn how to learn - and fast. The ability to synthesize information and apply it quickly to real life scenarios is a skill that will prove beneficial to you throughout your lifetime. The faster you learn, the faster you can change, and the ability to adapt quickly guarantees your survival in this dynamic world we live in. As you learn and master more skills, you will start to find opportunities all over the place to apply what it is you have mastered to help others in every area of your life.

Brand Capital

Brand Capital refers to your credentials and your reputation.

So how do you build your brand capital?  This is where I live by the other two of the four agreements from the book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz - Be impeccable with your word and always do your best.

Let your Reputation Shine

To enhance your brand capital, word-of-mouth of your capabilities is the best endorsement you can get. Yes, you may have to get the requisite credentials in any field you want to go into, but keep in mind that credentials will only get you in the door.  To advance further in your career, your reputation needs to be rock solid for being able to consistently deliver on what others need from you. This is where being great at doing projects, and finishing them on time and under budget, comes in especially handy.

Infrastructure Capital

Infrastructure Capital refers to the resources you own or have access to for delivering value to others.

To find out what type of infrastructure capital you already possess, take a look around you. When I look around, I see a computer, a printer, a fax machine, keys to my car, and my trusty iPhone. These are all sources of infrastructure capital.

Keep your Car Running

For example, if you rely on your car to get to locations where you create value for others, you better make sure you keep that car in good working order, or else you may end up on the side of the highway only helping out the tow truck driver stay in business.  This also goes for you computer systems that you rely on to keep your company operational.

Maintenance is an important aspect of infrastructure capital - that is why it’s important to only posses and maintain infrastructure that you need to create value for others. If you have an old beat-up Volkswagen as a hobby car, that is fine. But don’t rely on that as your main transportation if you are in a delivery business and you spend more time fixing it than driving it.

Explore your Virtual Capital

When I started my company, I thought I needed bricks and mortar, as most companies I encountered had a corporate office setting.  At one point in time, I had six training centers.  Over time, I realized that these centers did not create value commensurate with their cost. The employees who went to these centers every day to work could do the exact same jobs from their home offices and actually preferred that to the corporate office. Now my company is essentially virtual and my employees have become more efficient than ever. We still create tremendous value for our students and my team is much happier working virtually. Also, the savings overhead and the reduction in risk made me wonder why I ever had offices in the first place.

The main infrastructure that I focus on as a business owner is my web system that enables me to support my business worldwide. We go to great extents to ensure that this system is functioning optimally and are very vigilant in its performance and upkeep. We have learned that by investing in our Infrastructure Capital, we are rewarded with student satisfaction and increased student enrollments.

Bringing it Together


Creativity is the ability to use all of the above sources of capital to help you solve problems that arise during your project - without turning to money.

How do you use these sources of capital to bring creativity to your work, and to find new and innovative ways to do more with less? When caught in a project pinch, it can be a knee-jerk reaction to throw money at the problem. The reality is that money is not a substitute for creativity or hard work. Some of the best ideas form when you are stuck between a wall and a hard place and don’t have the fallback of money to get you out. Next time you are faced with a project dilemma, instead of turning to the green, first try out all of the capital that you have at you fingertips - Social, Knowledge, Brand, Infrastructure Capital.

Embrace the world that we live in today, budget surplus or not. Use this opportunity to challenge yourself to find ways to do more with less. This is your chance to utilize ALL of your sources of capital (not just monetary) in order to get the job done.

About the Author

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Michelle LaBrosseMichelle LaBrosse, PMP, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun and fast.  She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management to the masses.

Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. To date, more than 30,000 people have become “Cheetahs” using Cheetah Learning’s innovative Project Management and accelerated learning techniques.  

Recently honored by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), Cheetah Learning was named Professional Development Provider of the Year at the 2008 PMI® Global Congress.  A dynamic keynote speaker and industry thought leader, Michelle was previously recognized by PMI as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world.

Michelle’s articles have appeared in over 100 publications and web sites around the world. Her monthly column, the Know How Network is carried by over 400 publications, and her monthly newsletter goes out to more than 50,000 people.  

She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner President Manager’s (OPM) program and also holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University   and the University of Dayton.  

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