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.  

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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.


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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.

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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.  

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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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As Your Entrepreneurship Grows . . .

A successful entrepreneurship is a wonderful thing – signifying the success of a small team that has done EVERYTHING it took to build a business.  Generally, a founder adds a few trusted people, and everybody pitches in and gets the job done.  Roles and responsibilities are understood, but not defined or documented.  When needed, the sales person jumps in and helps production or shipping.  Processes are flexible, and undocumented.  No two days are the same, it is exciting, and the company achieves tremendous growth.  Everybody is busy.

As the business grows, and there is more budget available, more people are added.  Quite often these new people don’t have the same drive and enthusiasm.  Most businesses find at this point the need to start documenting “stuff.”  Policies are developed telling people to show up on time, when they can take breaks, how much vacation they get, and pretty much anything else required to answer questions somebody asks.   Every time there is a problem a policy is created so the problem “never occurs again.”  Nobody ever intended to build a bureaucracy, but all of a sudden the founder looks around, and there it is.  A bureaucracy.  And, running the business is not fun anymore.

Paul Palmes mentions this:  “While policies are important, personal policies of the organization’s leadership are extremely so.  The progression from entrepreneurship to bureaucracy can be slowed significantly through demonstrated policy-based behaviors that true leaders exhibit throughout the day.  Leaders use, practice, and embrace policy to everyone’s advantage; the organization is understandable and its practices consistent through just watching and listening to its leaders.  Rather than emphasizing reliance on requiring an employee to remember organization policies, leaders know that employees learn most directly through observation of how they interact with all employees.”  (Sustaining Success, Quality Progress, April 2018, p49).

With apologies to Mr. Palmes, I see this as a wordy version of “IT’S THE CULTURE, STUPID!”  One way of defining culture is the expected and accepted behaviors in an organization.

Let’s go back now and look at our growing entrepreneurship.  At the point new people were added that did not have the same drive and enthusiasm as the original team, the original team had assumed the new members were going to perform just like everyone else on the team.  However, it quickly became apparent these people were not engaged to the same extent as the original team.  At this critical point, nobody set expectations for the new people.  Nobody wanted to have the uncomfortable discussion, nobody set clear expectations and gave feedback, and that is when the company’s culture changed.  This new behavior was accepted, and every new employee sees it.  The founder becomes frustrated, and starts writing policies to address every situation, and BOOM.  There is your bureaucracy.

At some point, the business will grow and some documentation is required.  Any process that needs to produce consistent results and is performed by more than one person will need to be documented.  This usually starts with things like assembly processes – every single widget has to perform according to customer expectations, no matter who assembles it.  When onboarding new employees is done by more than one person, we need to start documenting expectations – usually leading at some point to an employee handbook.

I am still certain, however, we should only document what we absolutely have to.  Creating a policy to fix every problem leads to more and more paperwork.  We should not create policies to relieve supervisors of the responsibility of being a leader.  When there is a performance or behavior problem, the leader needs to address it with the individual, not write a policy affecting everyone else in the organization who are doing a great job!  While we praise in public, correct in private, word does get around.  People see what behaviors are accepted, and adjust their behavior appropriately.

The other point I see in Mr. Palmes statement is the Law of the Picture (The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell).  Leaders must demonstrate the behaviors they want the team to use.  Clearly, teams must treat each other respectfully.  Leaders must demonstrate this behavior.  Don’t confuse respectful behavior with lack of conflict.  I expect conflict, sometimes passionate disagreement, on teams.  The conflict is about ideas, not people!  Setting the expectation of respectful behavior makes it clear workplace bullying is not acceptable.  The leader who corrects disrespectful behavior right away avoids getting to the point where workplace bullying is occurring and a lengthy policy is required.

As your company grows, be deliberate about the culture you create.  Decide what the culture should be, and set the expectation on what behaviors you will accept.  Then, within that culture, you can establish the minimum policies and documentation needed to support and sustain that culture.

If your entrepreneurship is growing, and you are not deliberately creating a culture, one is being created for you.  Let’s talk so you can create the culture you want to work in!

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Creative Leadership to Grow Your Business

I’ve been trying to catch up on some reading this summer, and found a very interesting article in the July 2018 issue of Toastmaster magazine, “Creative Leadership” by Stuart Pink.  I particularly liked the concepts of Creative Strength versus Creative Stamina.  Creative Strength is the idea generation phase of BtenConsulting’s Customer Focused Growth.  Every company should have a process to generate LOTS of ideas.  Idea generation is about regularly and repeatedly generating new, profitable, ideas.  The transition from Creative Strength to Creative Stamina is prioritizing those ideas.  Creative Stamina is the time to evaluate those ideas and determine, before investing a lot of money into product development or developing the service, if the idea will generate a profit.  Your company should be able to consistently, each step along the way, demonstrate the risks and potential for an idea to generate profit.  Customer Focused Growth will document the assumptions and help you evaluate and track the risks and profit generation potential of your idea.

Please Contact Us if you want to know more about Customer Focused Growth.

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