Spreading their wings

Published: May 14, 2018

Spreading their wings

For Peregrine owners Gillette is home, but the world's their office

By KATHY BROWN News Record Senior Writer kbrown@gillettenewsrecord.net

May 6, 2018



One of the most common questions Deborah Robbins and Olin Oedekoven field as co-owners of Peregrine Leadership Institute of Gillette is where is Wyoming?

Especially when they’re overseas.

“I’ve been asked so many times, ‘Why are you out in Wyoming?’” said Oedekoven, a Gillette native and Peregrine’s co-founder, president and CEO.

So he hands out a small brochure that he put together “a few years back” for when he’s in Europe or Africa on business. He can hand out the brochure, which has a map pinpointing Wyoming. He also carries a picture book of Wyoming showing Yellowstone and Devils Tower.

Even in America, they’re often asked why the business headquarters is in Gillette, said Robbins, the chief operating officer.

The easiest answer?

“It’s home,” Oedekoven said.

And this home business is thriving on a global scale. It’s not something you’d expect in rural Wyoming. But that is exactly what Peregrine thrives on, its relationship with clients throughout the United States and beyond.

A global presence

The addition of flights in and out of Gillette has aided Peregrine’s pursuits across the world, as well as offices and connections in 13 other locations around the nation and six other countries — all shown on that small brochure.

Peregrine has two major branches: Its leadership services, which includes workshops, strategic planning, human resources consulting and executive education; and its academic services.

That line, the fastest growing, includes online academic courses, meeting accreditation needs, skill-based learning, the Bloomberg Businessweek B-School Connection, career readiness courses and assessment services in eight educational fields ranging from criminal justice to business and public administration.

Last year, Peregrine had 500 clients around the world in the academic services. That was a growth of 85 clients from the year earlier.

In 2018 so far, there’s been a growth of about 1.5 clients every week, Robbins estimated.

Two years ago, Peregrine had a presence in 35 countries. This year, that’s grown to 45.

Among the new countries on board are Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Nigeria. Others are in Europe and Latin America.

Merging sides

By design, the leadership side of the business hasn’t grown as fast, Oedekoven said. That’s because it requires more face-to-face connections and can’t be done as easily online.

The company has 31 employees, 15 located in Gillette. And it has partnered with many others.

Peregrine’s Gillette location, 1001 S. Douglas Highway Suite 160, has been remodeled three times to create more office space. It’s maxed out now. Any new additions, and the business will have to move. Managing that has been a challenge.

Robbins said there are indications the two sides of the business are beginning to merge together.

Peregrine has developed seven online leadership courses, short courses of two to four hours in length, and she sees that growing. There are plenty of other ideas and challenges still out there for Peregrine to tackle, too.

Employability and potential

All of those are based on needs they’ve heard about worldwide.

“An increasing concern globally is student employability and career readiness,” Oedekoven said. “So this past year, we launched one of our newest services. It’s called Exploring Your Potential, which is an educational program designed to help young people identify their career opportunities and aspirations and goals so they can use that information to maximize their educational experience orienting toward (a) career goal.”

A majority of students wander through higher education not having a specific major or goal, he said, and change their minds three to four times in college.

“The idea is if we can identify for young people early on what exactly do you want? What’s your passion? What’s your interest?” he said. “That kind of discovery learning is very important for today’s young people.”

Peregrine finished building the service about a year ago, partnering with a company in California for the content. Peregrine provides it online through its platform.

The four online courses are used in 15 schools in the U.S., many in a blended format.

“It’s really dynamic, really engaging and aimed at young people ages 18 to 24,” Robbins said.

Then there’s the B School Bloomberg partnership with a magazine that’s been two years in the making. Peregrine has finished some additional features this spring and should fully launch the remodeled program in the fall.

Soft skill need

Oedekoven said he’s also working on the challenge of developing soft skill assessments after hearing questions about that need. Peregrine has focused so far on knowledge-based assessments and this would be a big departure from that.

“Part of the thing that’s been rolling around my mind the most lately has been the area of soft skill assessment,” Oedekoven said.

Those skills aren’t specific to one discipline, such as criminal justice, accounting and finance. They are universal skills employers are asking universities to put more emphasis on.

It includes assessing someone’s skills in “teamwork, leadership and communications and time management and honesty and integrity,” Oedekoven said. “It’s what we would call the soft skills of employability.”

Universities and colleges have asked Peregrine if it provides an assessment of that.

“In a way we do, because that’s what we do in our leadership,” Oedekoven said. “But to assess soft skills ... who is the best person to assess your teamwork skills? Well, it’s probably not you. It’s your team.”

Oedekoven said Peregrine uses a 360 assessment model for its leadership programs, a common practice that’s been around a long time. Now he’s thinking about how to use something like that to build a service that can be used by colleges and universities.

“They want us to assess, but we really can’t do it, philosophically, I don’t think,” he said.

 

Still, that is an area Peregrine likely will pursue and try to answer those questions and those needs. He hopes to have that program available online sometime in 2019.

Making a difference

Those questions generated by organizations and educators across the globe are what drives Peregrine.

“The best way we’ve discovered to do this is to go engage a bunch of people and get a diversity of perspectives from around the world,” Oedekoven said. “When we can pool that diversity together, nine times out of 10, we come up with something pretty good.”

“Yeah, they’re not all our ideas, that’s for sure,” Robbins said.

Oedekoven calls it “inspiration from prior sources.”

“To me, that’s the fun part of this company is to meet and talk to people around the world and get a different perspective of things,” he said. “Some of the best ideas, I think, flow from that.”

One of those ideas that likely will provide growth for Peregrine is in non-degree certification programs, Robbins said.

It’s the ability to provide continuing education or teach additional skills and training to those already in business. Robbins said it’s a need that’s becoming more important for universities and colleges.

So Peregrine is partnering with the Forbes School of Business at Ashford University to create a Knowledge and Innovation Center, which will focus on non-degree continuing education. The company will offer some online courses and face-to-face workshops in its areas of expertise, as will other organizations.

“We’re kind of excited to see what kind of opportunities this might bring,” Oedekoven said.

“Our mission statement is to make a difference in the world by growing values-based leaders and improving the quality of education, and this may be an opportunity for us to truly make a huge difference,” he said.

That is the cornerstone for this Gillette business and its co-owners. It’s why they do what they do. It’s not all about finances or making money. It’s much deeper than that.

“Growth for growth’s sake is not why we do what we do,” Oedekoven said. “I would say growth if we’re making a difference, that’s what it really comes down to. We don’t sell things just for the sake of selling them. We sell them to make a difference.”

Growth to him may mean something different than it means to others.

“I wouldn’t say I’m excited about the growth. It’s what the growth can mean beyond financially,” he said. “I think its an opportunity to leverage talents around the world as we continue to grow, meet new friends and build new relationships around the world, and that’s probably what excites me the most. Hopefully, it’s what makes a difference.”

Robbins agrees.

“That’s what’s rewarding, knowing if you do the right thing. We will continue to grow the business. It’s really about helping people,” she said.

And doing that from their home base of Gillette, Wyoming.