Ken Abbott and the Hannah Grimes Leadership Circle

Successful business owners often experience a frustrating and lonely sense of running hard but not getting anywhere. Pressure and stress can interfere with their vision for their company. The Leadership Circle program at Hannah Grimes brings together like-minded, high performance business leaders who share wisdom, resources, strategies and skills. They work together to build upon—and enjoy—their achievements.

One of the original participants is Ken Abbott, President, Founder and Chief Engineer of ABTech Inc. in Swanzey, New Hampshire. ABTech manufactures ultra-precision gages and air bearing motion systems. The company’s customers include NASA, Boeing, Los Alamos National Labs, Rolls Royce Jet Engine facilities, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, MIT and Timken. Abbott says, “Our customers have access through the Internet to search for and work with other precision manufacturing companies anywhere in the world. They choose to work with us because we take the time to understand their challenges and design an optimized solution for their specific application. We have both the specialized knowledge and the ability to engineer, machine, grind, lap, assemble and test our products in-house at an incredible level of skill.”

Abbott majored in mechanical engineering technology at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, where he received his BSMET degree in 1986. He founded ABTech in 1998. “When my business began struggling,” he recalls, “I thought if I just worked harder and longer everything would be fine. It was so draining. It was tough on my family. I was absolutely on my own and with nowhere to go. I walked into Hannah Grimes one day specifically looking for help. The Leadership Circle gave me comradery, information and support. You can’t buy the type of support you get from this group. It has turned my business around, and it’s so much more enjoyable to run it now.”

Started in 2009, the Leadership Circle program networks twelve non-competing business owners from a variety of fields, ranging from banking and retail through manufacturing. The members, admitted by invitation only, meet once a month to discuss the problems and solutions common to any company with employees and substantial revenues. A typical Leadership Circle meeting begins with a round table check-in, where each owner has three minutes to provide a business update or raise pressing issues. The group might then concentrate on one issue, launch into a discussion of a pre-determined topic or hear from an outside speaker.

Mary Ann Kristiansen, Executive Director of the Hannah Grimes Center, facilitates each meeting. She says, “One of the great predictors of business success is the business owner’s ability to network. Networking makes business owners more efficient and effective. In the Leadership Circle, the expertise they need is almost always right there in the room. By sharing their knowledge and resources, they move forward faster. The Leadership Circle gives business owners time to be strategic. It shows people that they have more control over their businesses than they realize.”

Abbott is very aware of the difference the Leadership Circle has made in his own business. “The Leadership Circle gives me confirmation that I’m doing the right things to have a viable business and I’m not alone. For example, we worked together as a group on a Smart Goals program, setting company goals that are in line with the strategic objective and then drilling down so that each employee has three goals also in line with the objective. People need to know they are working to a goal. When you share those goals and show how they can contribute to the company, they grab hold of it and run with it.”

In addition he credits the Leadership Circle with introducing him to skilled outside professionals such as lawyers, writers and website developers; resources like the E-Myth Revisited; and ways he can give back to the community, providing a positive impact on the local economy. Abbott asserts, “The people in the Leadership Circle are hard-working entrepreneurs who take the time to get together and share their experiences. They are honest, caring, ethical people who have helped me in ways I never thought possible. Something I learned from Mary Ann Kristiansen is my social responsibility as an entrepreneur to participate, get involved and contribute, which I intend to continue to do. The Hannah Grimes Center and the Leadership Circle are unmatched and extremely valuable to our community.”

For more information about the Leadership Circle, visit or call 603-352-5063.