Can You Spare a Smile?

3 Ladies Smiling
The Value of a Smile

Almost everyone has heard of the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, but how many of us have actually read it?  My Monday evening group is going through it, some for the first time and some as a review, and I would like to share something that jumped out at this sometimes dour and grouchy individual.  Mr. Carnegie shared an advertisement a New York department store ran in recognition of the pressures on its salespeople during the Christmas rush.  Don’t get hung up on Christmas – this applies every day!


The Value of a Smile at Christmas

It costs nothing, but creates much.

It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give.

It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.

It creates happiness in the home, fosters goodwill in a business, and is the countersign of friends.

It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and Nature’s best antidote for trouble.

Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody till it is given away.

And if in the last-minute rush of Christmas buying some of our salespeople should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you to leave one of yours?

For nobody needs a smile so much as those who have none left to give!


A smile can be the first step to opening up a conversation with someone and making a connection.  What if you don’t feel like smiling?  Tough.  Smile, and you will find pretty soon your mood and attitude changes, and you have a genuine smile all the way to the eyes.

Today, more than ever before in my life, I think there are a lot of people who have no smiles left to give and are sorely in need of one.  Would you please be the person to share one of yours?

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Leaders Bring People Together!

Leaders Value People & Build Teams

Are you happy with the divisiveness in our world?  I’m not!  I am frustrated and angry that our society is so divided, and in many places it appears there is no desire to come together.  I think this is partly because our news media and politicians are focusing on things that divide us, not the things that unite us.  It appears to me that this divisiveness has spilled over into our day-to-day interactions.

John Maxwell and Rob Hoskins open their outstanding book, Change Your World, with a quote from Augustine of Hippo:

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are,

and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.

Anger I have. Courage to see that they do not remain as they are? Courage to do what?  I don’t pretend I have the answer to instantaneously turn things around.  The news media and politicians will continue to focus on things that divide us no matter what I do.  I think the answer lies with smaller actions, but consistently applied.  Applied in smaller groups like my Rotary Club or the road association I am in for a mountain community.  I am going to focus on changing MY world, not THE world.

The road association was an interesting example.  Leading up to our annual meeting the emails between members became increasingly rancorous.  Admittedly, it was an extremely stressful 18 months or so leading up to this annual meeting.  On top of the uncertainty of the pandemic, the largest fire in Colorado history had threatened the community and the wettest Spring in recent memory took a toll on the road.  Patience wore thin.  Most of our communications were via email, which seemed to increase our isolation and lent a veneer of impersonality to the situation.  We kicked off the meeting by discussion some of the points that follow, and several members commented afterward it led to a shift in attitude, and the meeting was much more pleasant than any of us expected.

First, we all have a choice.  Do you choose to focus on things that divide us, or do you focus on things that unite us?  What unites us?  What do we agree on?  We should be able to agree on the purpose – the purpose of my Rotary Club (eliminate polio, make my community better) or the road association (affordable access).  We can have reasonable discussions on differences about HOW to achieve that purpose when we focus on the shared purpose.

We can also agree on values.  Let’s just start with one value – integrity.  Can we all agree we should tell each other the truth?  Can we also agree that a half truth is a whole lie?

Next, we should assume our neighbors have good intentions.  Most people are good people, and until they prove differently we should assume they have good intentions – they want to achieve the shared purpose and are going to tell us the whole truth.  This assumption has a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you enter an interaction with the assumption the other party has good intentions, your communication – your body language and voice – communicate this even if the words are neutral.  On the other hand, if you assume the other party has nefarious intention your communication will communicate that, too.

Will any of this change THE world?  Absolutely not.  The media will still try and divide us.  Politicians will still do whatever accumulates the most power to them.  Will it change MY world?  I believe it will.  At least, it will change the way I look at my corner of the world.  If you are also angry about the way things are, and you want to change your world, visit and learn more about how to apply your courage so things do not remain as they are.

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Relius Medical sees sales grow by $3M!


Relius Medical LLC, has been a real success story.  BtenConsulting was brought in to help Relius improve their processes and skills of the team members.  As a medical manufacturer, the paperwork accompanying the products are extremely important; without the proper certification the surgeon can not use the product shipped.  BtenConsulting helped streamline and update the document control process.  Along with other local partners like Pikes Peak Community College, BtenConsulting trained the workforce on Lean Principles and implemented many of the principles on the shop floor along with helping the leadership with Leading Lean.  As a result, Relius saw $3M of increased sales and retained an additional $1M of sales that were at risk.  

Additional details are at

Relius Medical LLC is now part of Eptam Precision Machining Solutions.

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Leading Change at Elward — Better Processes Save $62K

Elward Systems Corporation designs and builds exterior wall cladding systems.  In business since 1953, this employee owned corporation is a close-knit group with relatively low turnover.  Jim Helgoth, company president, realized that while the stability spoke volumes about the great environment and high morale of the team, it also made them comfortable with the status quo.  Elward sought an outside viewpoint and brought in BtenConsulting.  Together, we used Value Stream Mapping to improve processes and reduce lead time and applied Lean Manufacturing principles to reduce waste and meet customer requirements.  As with any change in the business world, Leading Change is the leadership challenge to make the changes permanent and successful.  Elward reported they had retained sales of $1.5M and cost saving of $62,500 due to these efforts.


More of this story is at


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The right quality product at the right time

ConcealFab designs, manufactures and delivers the right product at the right time for critical on-time delivery to the customer. As the leading provider of innovative concealment solutions, including antenna shrouds and steel antenna mounts, “Hide in Plain Sight”, ConcealFab works with both government contractors and commercial cell providers to expand coverage while simultaneously camouflaging that technology from the public eye. Founded in 2007, the company’s original focus was the manufacture of architectural or aesthetic sheds, “maintenance shelters,” or screenwalls for hiding rooftop ventilation equipment, satellite dishes and cell phone antennas.

CEO Jonathan Fitzhugh knows that “Our biggest challenge is trying to time the market, putting resources in place in advance of demand in order to support our clients in a timely fashion”. ConcealFab grew their product line through key customer relations. They knew that they had a sound product and their commitment to rapid delivery of a high quality product would be well received. But they could not have fully anticipated how rapidly the concealment market would expand in the coming years. How could ConcealFab develop and implement proven processes in order to reduce lead-time, increase workflow, and expand their supply chain throughout Colorado? At that point, they contacted Manufacturer’s Edge to assist them with their goals and help them stay competitive in a rapidly growing market.

“The training and consultation in Value Stream Mapping, Kanban, and supplier scouting, coupled with the hands-on approach utilized by the Manufacturer’s Edge team provided ConcealFab with the appropriate tools to separate them from the competition”, stated Doug Hinkley, ConcealFab Chief Operating Officer. This success also created more good paying jobs in Colorado. As a testament to their growth and reliability, ConcealFab was recently honored with the Ericsson Supplier Award. They continue to expand their highly skilled workforce through a variety of means. One such resource leverages the successful ongoing partnership between Manufacturer’s Edge and Pikes Peak Community College in order to offer internships to students. As a result of these efforts, ConcealFab has increased their workforce by 25%.

And they still hold true to the basic principle that the right product made at a high level of quality and delivered rapidly at the right time is the true path to success and longevity. It seems to be serving them well so far…!

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ConcealFab designs and manufactures electronics and antennas for wireless communications that are hidden in plain sight. Communities want the communication equipment in their neighborhoods but consider antennas an eyesore.  These communities establish requirements to hide the antenna, such as this example from San Diego

The components are designed into light posts or other items in a neighborhood.  Many communities want a custom design, so design time is an important factor in selecting a source for these items.  BtenConsulting helped ConcealFab develop a streamlined design process which cut lead time to a matter of weeks.  BtenConsulting also helped organize the workshop and implement lean processes.  As the company grew, BtenConsulting helped lay out the work flow in a new, much larger, manufacturing facility and mentored the shop floor managers on implementing Lean Principles.  Over this time ConcealFab greatly reduced lead time, while improving quality and productivity.  Working closely with the VP Operations at ConcealFab, BtenConsulting helped the company double revenue three years in a row.

Picture source:

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Fire Within Sells a Dream – Freedom!

Fire Within is actually a small Colorado manufacturer, but they sell a big dream – freedom for entrepreneurs who want to create their own business.  In addition to manufacturing mobile wood fired ovens for making pizzas, breads, and an assortment of amazing appetizers (bacon wrapped figs, anyone?), Fire Within helps owners learn how to operate the ovens, deal with local health departments, and run their business.  BtenConsulting conducted leadership coaching, streamlined office processes such as sales and metrics tracking, and consulted on the manufacturing process.  As a result, Fire Within increased sales $250,000 and was able to retain $350,000 of sales while reducing costs by $290,000.  

You can find more at

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Scotland success story

BtenConsulting was invited by a confidential Scottish client to help find a new manufacturing facility and set up the production flow.  They said their line was maxed out and could not possibly produce any additional product.  They were so convinced that they were committing £ 500,000 (approximately $750K, at the time) of company capital and loans to the project.  On arrival I met the highly stressed owner and we talked about the company and I started making some observations about how the owner led the organization.  It was clear he was shouldering everything, and his sons and the team in the office were underutilized.  After a short tour and some discussion with employees, I advised them it was good to keep evaluating potential new locations, but to avoid committing resources for a bit.  We started looking at office processes, developing the office team to take ownership of their work, and delegation skills.  

In addition to the business changes we discussed, we started a Lean Program, including 5S* to start organizing their production floor.  The ownership team and employees fully committed to the improvement effort, and six months later the shop floor looked about one third empty.  The owner was significantly more relaxed, and the team in the office was engaged and productive – and much happier.  The shop was clean, neat, and had freed up significant space.  The owner told me production was up 40%!  That statement gave me a thrill – that’s why BtenConsulting exists!  We had made real, sustained, changes that added value to the business and people.  The shop floor was calm and focused, and stress was reduced to the point that one of the employees pulled me aside and said he was worried that they needed more work – the 40% increase in production felt too slow for him.

Eventually, this business will still need to expand.  The local authorities want them to have more room to store some of the (slightly flammable) materials they use before they increase the amounts they keep on hand.  They have much more time to plan the expansion, and more of it will be done with company capital and not require them to leverage the company to a risky level.  The existing work force is much more productive, and when the time comes to expand the work force they can plan the on-boarding and on the job training much more efficiently.   The work force is more engaged so the leadership team is more comfortable delegating

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At the moment, our focus seems totally consumed by the news – how many more got the virus today, what restrictions are added, how many more businesses closed, how many events are cancelled, how far the stock market dropped. Given our 24/7 new cycle of sensationalist headlines, it is easy to forget that
_                                            This, too, shall pass!

In the relatively short future, we will figure out how to improve the situation. Our immune systems will start defeating the virus (tragically, not everyone but almost), businesses and schools will reopen, and the economy will rebound. In the meantime, it is up to leaders to provide hope. Allowing fear to take charge can have disastrous consequences for an organization. Fear will paralyze thinking, innovation, and creativity. It is the leader who will help the organization to be prepared, not scared.

A Gallup Business Journal article* states followers want their leaders to provide trust, compassion, stability, and hope. A leader will have to balance stability in the moment while giving leaders hope for the future. Organizations with individuals that have higher hope have higher retention rates, employee satisfaction, commitment**, and productivity***. So, what does a leader have to do to build hope and achieve these benefits?

First, we need a clear direction for the future. We have to do more than manage a crises, we have to paint a picture of a much better future. Give our teams specific things to look forward to. We have to have faith and optimism that we can achieve this future. Next, we need to provide guidance on how we are going to move the organization into that future. Part of this effort will be to do everything we can to eliminate hopelessness. Hopelessness acts like fear, and robs us of creativity and innovation. Get your team to spend more time initiating and less time responding. Identify opportunities, not just solutions. Problems can be fixed by solutions, but opportunities create a future. Talk to your teams about what can be accomplished, not just what should be done. Create an attitude about dreaming of a future vision, and have the team focus on that.

A large part of creating hope is the leader’s day to day attitude, but one way to help build hope is to re-evaluate your Vision****. Revisit, rewrite, and clarify your vision. To paraphrase Ray Popham, it is easy when you are on top of the mountain; it is tough when the mountain is on top of you. Recast your vision full of hope. Hope can be the entrepreneurs’ best friend. Help your team cast a hopeful vision, and share confidence in your team’s ability to achieve it. Remember, our current situation is temporary. Build hope by looking forward, and find those opportunities that create the future.

  • Malik, Efficacy, Hope, Optimism, and Resilience at Workplace – Positive Organizational Behavior.
  • Popham, Positioning Yourself as an Agent of Hope Teaching Call, John Maxwell Team Mentorship Program, 16 March 2020.
  • Popham, Nurturing Hope When it Ain’t Happening Teaching Call, John Maxwell Team Mentorship Program, 13 Aug 2019.
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Attract and Retain Great Talent

Gen David Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff, had some interesting things to say about leadership while praising MSgt John Chapman, Medal of Honor winner*.  Gen Goldfein’s comments apply far beyond the military, and apply to each and every organization that wants to attract and retain great talent.

Allow me to share some comments from Adam Hebert’s editorial*:

Probably the most important thing we can do to keep people in the United States Air Force  . . . is to put in inspirational commanders and leaders, both officers and NCOs,” Goldfein explained.  The wrong leaders create hostile environments and send airmen heading for the exits.

“Our airmen are far too smart to walk by or not see a say / do gap,” Goldfein said, referencing leaders who would tell their subordinates one thing but behave differently.  “If they see me saying one thing and doing another they’re going to see right through it.”

This is another way of stating John Maxwell’s Law of the Picture, from his 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  People in all walks of life respond to the leaders’ examples.  The hypocrisy of “do as I say, not as I do” will drive people away.  That hypocrisy is part of what creates a hostile environment, and causes good workers, not just airmen, heading for the exits.  It is absolutely true that people do not quit a job – they fire their boss.  Good people want to work for a good boss where they are challenged, they know their work is important, and they can make a contribution.  The good boss extends well beyond just the business owner or C-level suite.  A poor leader in a mid-level position or as a direct front line supervisor will drive people away as rapidly as a poor leader at the top level.

From the same source, “The right leaders rally the troops behind them and create a culture in which airmen will eagerly go the extra mile to ensure success, whatever the mission might be.”  The mission is your vision.  Do your employees, the troops, go that extra mile to take care of the customer?  Do they spend extra time with a customer even though it is time to go to lunch?  Simply put, in business terms, the right leaders have an engaged workforce in a culture of accountability.  These employees will achieve your vision and more; without the right leaders the workforce watches the clock for quitting time, and does not go that extra mile, and does not take responsibility for achieving the vision.

What does this mean for you?  First, what are you doing to become a better leader?  The very best leaders understand continued growth is the first mark of a good leader; are you growing your leadership?  What about your team?  Are they developing as leaders?  What are you doing to grow your leaders?  If you don’t have ready answers for these questions, let’s talk!

*Air Force Magazine, Oct/Nov 2018, p2.

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