Interview with veteran graphic recorder Michelle Boos-Stone

By Alece Birnbach

Entrepreneur Michelle Boos-Stone is the owner of Five Elements Consulting Group, based in Long Beach, CA. Her clients are leaders within Fortune 100-1000 companies, and her firm’s objective is to create fun, engaging, powerful learning experiences that her clients will never forget.

As one of the members of the Five Elements team, I can attest to the effectiveness of the work she does for her clients.

So I was happy to sit down with this seasoned entrepreneur to learn more about her mission. Scroll down for our Q&A.

Alece Birnbach: Tell us about your business model, and why so many major corporations and organizations are excited to hire you.

Michelle Boos-Stone: I think organizations hire me because I tell the truth and I don’t compromise on authenticity. By being authentic, I make it easy for people to see themselves in me, and they develop a sense of trust that enables them to truly listen to what I have to teach them.

Alece Birnbach: How did you get into this industry?

Michelle Boos-Stone: I grew up in the field of organizational learning. I was given a great gift earlier in my career to work with some of the best thinkers around systems thinking and organizational development.

I began to understand that everything had meaning, that pieces came together to make something much bigger, and that individuals needed to be developed before processes and models. And that everyone has the capability to live up to their individual potential, if you can help them glimpse it.

Alece Birnbach: Tell me a little about your background. Is this your first business?

Michelle Boos-Stone: I went to business school at State University of New Paltz because I knew I wanted to run a business, plus I enjoy bossing people around (just kidding; well, sort of). I was that odd kid, who from an early age just wanted to work.

I started my first business at age 10, and by the time I was 19 I’d had five different companies and sold two of them. I have always been an entrepreneur at heart and love the challenge of exceeding my clients’ expectations in every aspect of business.

Alece Birnbach: You recently re-branded your consulting business. Why?

Michelle Boos-Stone: I’d had the same business name since I was 17 years old, and continued to like the symbolism of the original company name (Gecko Graphics) because geckos tended to blend in with their environment, and that’s what I saw myself doing with the organizations I’d worked with.

Then a few years back I started expanding my business in terms of offering a more well-rounded set of services to our clients. We were now not simply focused on graphic recording, consulting, and visual communication—but also able to look at client engagement from multiple layers: digital storytelling, sketch animation, social media, branding, marketing, and developing a company’s vision for future growth.

I had also had gathered an absolutely amazing team of creative professionals that could implement this type of engagement with our clients. It was time to move from the “I” to the “we.” So after a lot of research, Five Elements Consulting Group was born. Or RE-born!

Alece Birnbach: Is there one aspect of your business that you particularly like best? And what do you like least about what you do?

Michelle Boos-Stone: I really love when we make “the magic” happen. That’s when someone you’ve coached or led through a workshop comes back and says, “I get what I need to do now in order to be happier/more successful/grow my business/be a better leader.”

It’s the same when a participant you’ve just trained in facilitation skills comes back to you the next day to share a template design they created overnight to use in their next meeting. When I see the people we touch with our work shifting behaviors and their beliefs about themselves, that is the best gift I could imagine in this work.

What I like least is when I don’t get the opportunity to collaborate with others. I’m completely energized when I have the ability to bounce ideas off of others, and to grow my own thinking with others. For me, that is what takes this work to a whole other level.

Alece Birnbach: What are your goals, professionally and personally, for 2013 and beyond?

Michelle Boos-Stone: I am in a constant state of learning. I read about eight magazines a week cover-to-cover from all different industries and areas, and I read business books, blogs, and I do research constantly. I feel that knowing a little about a lot of things makes me a better consultant and graphic recorder. I also love to talk to people and hear their stories, and through those stories adjust how I live my life more authentically.

In 2013, I want to understand more about how to think about the future, so that I can begin helping my clients figure out what they need to do now to prepare for their most successful futures. I also want to know more about what keeps a plane in the sky (but I’m afraid to ask!).

Alece Birnbach: How would someone get into your industry if they were just starting out?

Michelle Boos-Stone: If you are an aspiring graphic recorder, the best way to get into the industry is just to do it. Start practicing drawing icons and mapping out conversations, attend graphic recording 101 workshops. For dates and details, visit the the International Forum for Visual Practitioners.

If you want to become a facilitator or consultant, I suggest you first ask yourself this most important question: Do I care enough about people to let go of everything I know in service of their learning? If yes, then great, start your journey.

If no, find something else to do. Because a great facilitator must create outcomes in service of the group, they must ultimately care about the people in the room, and they must listen, listen … and listen more. And then they must dance. But my, oh my, that dance will be outrageously amazing.

To learn more about Boos-Stone’s firm, visit


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