STP – Smile Transfer Protocol – Original Application @ YQR Regina Airport Authority

Howdy friends.

The stuff I describe below got me into a lot of trouble.

It even got my boss into trouble. His boss’s boss phoned me to stop what I was doing from spreading to other area properties under their management.  It worked – I only lasted 4 months with this company. 😉

I wrote these words in 2006 about my discovery of STP and the initial application of its powerful ability to alter reality. I realize now that the story is a bit windy but like wisdom, brevity for me is coming with age.

Thank you to Cornell University School of Hotel Administration for originally publishing this work for me.


STP - Smile  Transfer Protocol | By Barry Williams

Good Day Good People of Hotel Land!

Yahoo! I’m back in the saddle again!

I’ve scored a job managing a group of cleaners for our local airport and am practicing some hospitality voodoo science on them that I want to share with you. I’m going way out on a limb here and will tell you all about my nefarious contrivances and whether or not I get fired for attempting this…

First – the set up.

The previous cleaning contractor for our fine airport was of your typical flavor; ride the employees hard, pay them nuttin’ and treat them regularly to a dirt sandwich. You know – kinda like the way they’re considered in most places…with indifference.

So, when my new body lords unwittingly hired me, I thought I’d try to mix things up a little bit and use some wacky management principles on my unsuspecting flock of soil organizers. Please understand, this here’s an ongoing interpersonal study and my missive today is just an initial report to you, my esteemed colleagues.

Knowing everything there is to know about double blind experiments (I’ve been married twice), I chose to keep any of the old staff that would be brave enough to cross over to the unstable side of the road and join my band of merry char persons. I then took the 50 applications that had been sent in for this mundane charade and set up appointments for interviews. (And phoned the people whom I didn’t hire or interview…;-)

Regina Airport Authority Logo
Our Small City Supports An Awesome Airport

Employing all the human resources tricks I learned in my own recent adventure of applying for jobs, I interviewed 15 applicants in 4 hours. I avoided using the standard opaque screen which real HR people use to hide interviewee’s physical traits so’s they don’t accidentally discriminate against folks who apply for their plumbest of positions.

I wound up with 20 trusting humans, all looking to me like I give a squat about their well being. (Fortunately for them, I really do care.)

I adorned them with uniforms that make them look and feel like professionals. I sponsored an orientation about customer service and told them that each person was hired because of who they are – not what they’ve done in the past. (I’m doing something really “way out” here – employing people based on their desired futures.)

I promised that they would be treated with dignity and respect and asked each of them to treat our customers the same way. I also told everyone that if I did my job right, they would become better people AND outstanding cleaners. They listened in muted silence.


Smiley Face
If You’re Happy and You Know It Bend Your Mouth!

The first day of work (I’m into day 4 now) I told these trusting people the story of Management By Numbers. You know how this works. Some manager thinks he’s the wisest keener on the planet and judges himself to be an eight (bordering on nine) on the one to ten scale. He purposely hires workers who rate a tad bit less than himself (which is nearly everybody) on the old scale-aroosky. Maybe 7’s or 6’s.

Some of those loyal employees stay on with the corp. and following their hero’s lead, they hire 6’s and 5’s. Pretty soon the company is being run by 3’s and everybody wonders why the goods and services are so lousy. And the three’s don’t give a dang.

I told my people that they’re better than me – and they are. (Or soon will be) I confessed that there’s plenty I don’t know and said that they should learn everything they can about their jobs and then tell me all about it. I admitted that I’m likely to make some mistakes and that it’s OK if they do, too. We’ll learn together – they’re the leaders now.

Yeah, they were a bit bewildered, but they got over it in one day.

Day 2 I told them who was managing them – themselves. I explained to each person that they had to exercise self discipline and that my job was to set the parameters for our tasks. I’ll keep them out of the ditches and congratulate them for staying on the road. Again, some confusion and deer in the headlights looks with some smirks from the “old” company people.

Day 3 I described Kaizen – continuous improvement and what it looked like in this job. I also had to verbally warn a “previous” supervisor for coming in late.

Smile Tranfer Protocol (STP) Fire Logo
Watch Out – This Stuff Spreads!

Day 4 (today) I had to warn another “cross over” person about being late for their shift.

I also implemented a contest – STP (you know airports, they LOVE acronyms…) which stands for “Smile Transfer Protocol”. One lucky cleaner will win a dinner for two next Sunday (Feb 12) for creating the most smiles from our customers – the people who use the airport. All my people have to do is smile and say hello while counting the number of people that smile back. The person generating the most smiles in one week wins.

Today was a practice day for the contest and I personally caused eleven people to smile on one round trip from my office to the restaurant. I felt pretty dang proud because I’m the only person who will be posting my smile count; everyone else must keep theirs secret until next Sunday. It’s the honor system.

I was blown away by what I saw as I made my way back to my office. One of the “cleaners” was encouraging a group of approximately 100 Japanese tourists to “SMILE” as she mischievously took the group photo she had offered to snap for them. She had them laughing and smiling all over the place! I wondered if that was cheating…

You should have heard her bragging about her “smile tally” at break time… incredible!

More than 900,000 people a year use this airport and the way my people have cleaned it up over the past 4 days is nothing short of amazing. I can see that they’re taking ownership of their responsibilities and winning complements from everyone who works in the place. And now they’re actively seeking ways to create happiness. I am truly humbled.

Smile Transfer Protocol – it’s a science you can use.

I think it’s gonna be a fun week.

Stay tuned, my friends.

Barry out.

Walmart once thought smiley face was the cat’s meow. Then they tried to copyright it…


Barry Williams

Much of what I write will be quite understandable to insane folks.

The rest will be, uh, less understandable...

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  1. 1
    Barry Williams

    I, I, I – this story obviously is all about the wonder of me…

    Gratitude does not begin to describe what I feel for the wisdom of my experience since these events took place.

    And my understanding is growing that everything is not all about me, me – me.

    There, that feels better.

  2. 2
    Barry Williams

    A clarification is in order: The company I worked for during my discovery of STP was and IS a very professional organization.

    THEY provided the uniforms and THEY provided the initial training of these cleaners and I wouldn’t have considered even joining them if they didn’t treat people with respect.

    And that’s my point with this story.

    If even a well managed and compassionate company like them can put the kibosh on a happiness parade, what chance do cultures operating on the nasty edge of “professional” treatment have?

    Republishing this story got me to thinking not only about who I was when it happened but also provides an emotional yardstick for measuring how far I’ve come.

    Not far, by the way, but its all up hill with no safety net.

  3. 3
    Kathy Dobson

    Hi Barry,

    I have no doubt at all that you would be over the top fun to work for/with 😉
    Your idea of STP…was a very clever idea to get your workers to use their most valuable tool…their smile. I am sure once they realize the impact that it has on other people…they will want to keep up this impressive exercise.
    I hope you tell us who wins and how many people they made smile 😉 😉
    Thanks Barry,

    • 4
      Barry Williams

      Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I will have a follow-up story to this one but I can tell you that it was very successful.

      I put a Grin Bounty on the head of the airport’s CEO (at the time it was Rob Slinger – one awesome, awesome dude) and any cleaner who could encourage Rob to beam happily could rack up 10 smile counts for their brave effort.

      After enduring five bewildering days of cleaners smiling at him like there was no tomorrow, he queried me by email to see what was going on. When I informed him of STP he cracked up big time and that’s when the shite hit the fan.

      The CEO of the airport was so enamored with the idea of STP that he emailed my boss and his boss to commend them on the program. He said he had gotten dozens of positive comments about something being up with the cleaner’s attitudes and he approved heartily of the effects being achieved.

      My boss was initially very happy about what I had done and his boss was impressed at the outset, too. However, when the managers above those guys found out that I was operating a “clandestine” campaign, everybody’s attitude changed and the giggle gala screeched to an abrupt halt.

      Although this program ran for only one week, here is what I learned:

      1. Buy in from the cleaners was 75% at the end of the first week. Fifteen of twenty people reported results.
      2. Those fifteen people generated 1850 smiles – on average 25 smiles per cleaner per day. The winner of the contest generated over 250 smiles! As I pointed out to the airport’s CEO – my staff could have provided our guests with more than 90,000 smiles annually. How would that have effected the way folks felt about Regina’s airport?
      3. Staff morale in my department went through the roof and several managers around the place reported their people acting happier during the program. Morale took a deep plunge when we were unable to continue and I found it interesting that people did not continue sending smiles to strangers on their own accord. They needed a process to follow!

      Organized properly, Smile Transfer Protocol will work anywhere, anytime and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to set up. My dream is that other companies will borrow my idea and run with it to a higher level of morale than they thought possible with such a simple system.

      Okay, this long, long comment may have just saved me another post!

      Thanks for asking, Kathy. Have a grand day.


  4. 5
    John McNally

    Great story Barry, but I still don’t understand why STP had to stop? It seemed to have only positive effects, and I bet productivity was up, so what was the problem? …….Just realised what the problem was, you were working for a BIG company – no deviation from the norm allowed. 😉

    I’ve never experienced this type of frustration, luckily I have been self-employed most of my working life. 🙂 At least you are in complete control now with Internet Marketing.


    • 6
      Barry Williams

      @John McNally, As you know, I generally wait 10 – 15 months before replying to comments and so thank you for yours, John.

      STP had to stop because it was a boat out of channels. Those boats don’t float, even if they do.

      Big company – schmigg company – we were working with humans but most people in management are at least one step removed from human.

      Like citizens.

      And THIS is why I wait so long to reply to comments:

      “At least you are in complete control now with Internet Marketing.”

      You are a dork similar to myself but just a short time ago I would not have been able to tell you this.

      Even after two whines and many months, I love you more than ever, brother.

      I am smiling right now.
      Barry Williams recently posted..I Must Be Mentally ill Or I Wouldn’t Be Doing This

  5. 8
    Barry Williams

    Rob Slinger Rob Slinger Rob Slinger.

    This guy deserves his own book. He was instrumental in bringing the /canadian light source to saskatoon, saskatchewan.

    dude is a genius and i hate to say canadian hero just because he wants to make and has made stuff work for this country.

    nationalism is the issue here Rob.

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