Force Protection ( FRPT) sure seemed to get its act together after hiring a consulting firm with ties to its CEO.

The defense contractor, which makes blast-resistant vehicles for the military, was a real mess just a few short years ago. Back then, the company was still losing money and searching for a viable business strategy.

Only after tapping Gordon McGilton as its CEO in 2005 -- and spending half a million dollars on his firm's leadership training program in the year that followed -- did the company seem to stabilize.

McGilton's firm, known as APT Leadership, sounds far from routine. McGilton's partner there, Heero Hacquebord, claims he learned his skills from none other than W. Edwards Deming, "the man who re-engineered Japan." On his Web site, Hacquebord also claims to have "pioneered the Statistical Thinking Courses in the USA" two decades ago.

Last fiscal year, for a total of $563,120, APT Leadership provided Force Protection with consulting services, training seminars and business software. It also sold the company a license, costing $50,000 annually, for use of its diagrams and such.

Force Protection Vice President Mike Aldrich credits ATP Leadership for some of the company's recent success. But critics question the company's investment -- and seem worried about its future -- nonetheless.

"Why the need for this leadership training?" asks David Phillips, an investment specialist known as the 10Q Detective. "The company is selling armored vehicles -- not burgers."

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