Author archives: Acumen

How to Thrive in a Time of Video Interviews

By Molly Norton


To all of our Valued Clients, Candidates, and Community Partners,

While COVID-19 has brought all of us a great amount of uncertainty, it has also allowed us opportunities to thoughtfully plan and prepare to push forward towards imminently better days.

Our motto since we started Acumen has always been “We listen…We care…We deliver.” We continue to listen deeply, even more so than ever before and we continue to truly care for our clients, candidates, and community as we navigate this uncertainty together.

What is your organization doing to adjust to today’s challenges? Acumen has always had an effective, flexible, remote-work model in place and will continue ensuring the safety not only of our team, but the safety of our clients and candidates through virtual meetings and interviews. So, it’s a great time to level up those video-interviewing skills.

Here are a couple resources to help get you started navigating this virtual world of interviewing.

The first link is a free guide that provides a range of solid tactical tips: (FREE)

If you subscribe to LinkedIn Premium, Jenny Foss, who is a celebrated local LinkedIn Learning Author and Founder of Job Jenny, has a LinkedIn Learning Online Course that is helpful for anyone who is about to embark on video interviewing, on both sides of the table. Note that this course is included free with LinkedIn Premium.

In this series of enjoyable short-courses, Jenny suggests asking your recruiting team to help you prepare (that’s our job!). Some good questions to ask about a video interview include:

  • How many people will be on the call?
  • What’s the hiring team going to be looking for?
  • Do you have some prep materials to share?
  • For a one-way interview – ask if questions can be reviewed in advance, if available
  • How do I handle a technical snag? Is there a backup plan?

As with any interview situation, Jenny (and we) recommend:

  • Do your homework – study up on who you will be interviewing with – LinkedIn provides a treasure trove of information.
  • Do some online sleuthing to see what’s going on with the company and the industry.
  • Dig into their products or the services they offer.
  • Get an idea as to their culture by reading blogs and social media accounts, which will also help determine if you have good cultural alignment with the organization.
  • This due diligence will hopefully lead to a list of thoughtful, insightful questions that you can have in front of you during the interview to show how thoroughly you’ve prepared – and because you are interviewing the organization too.

We wish you good health and we look forward to connecting with you — virtually and emotionally.


Acumen Facilitates Succession Plan at the Eleventh Hour


A mid-sized aerial services company with a family environment was looking to hire its first Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to help the succession from generation one to generation two. The company was forced into transition, as the co-owner and active President/CEO was stepping back and handing over the running of the company to his two sons. This co-owner had great urgency due to serious health reasons.

Acumen Executive Search (Acumen), was retained to lead this search. The President/CEO needed someone who was seasoned in business, aware, and capable enough to prepare his sons for leadership.  This someone would need to instill confidence and help transition the sons into senior roles within the company. He needed an extraordinary, thoughtful, and calm CFO that could be a coach-mentor to the new President/CEO.


A critical situation that had the potential to become disastrous was averted as the right person to lead the transition was quickly identified. Mitch was that person. He had many years of high-level finance and accounting experience and was a roll-up your sleeves, get things done leader with high EQ and the ability to lead through influence as opposed to ego. He was unique as he had experience in operations as well as finance, which was a bonus to the organization – experience they needed during this critical transition period. The company felt Mitch’s background and his supportive coaching style would make a solid addition to the organization, help guide the company forward, and to lead the sons through a successful transition.


Sadly, the owner passed away shortly after Mitch was hired. Although Mitch felt he didn’t get enough time with the owner, he successfully ramped up the heir apparent, who has assumed the President/CEO position and has benefited immensely from Mitch’s wise counsel and business acumen.  This position was an ideal fit for Mitch as CFO and has allowed him to help move the company forward with the next generation actively in place.

All companies should have a succession plan. Succession plans should ideally be 8 years in the making (bare minimum 4 years) — not weeks. The former owner had a plan, but it had not been implemented because, like many business owners, he thought he had enough time. Thanks to Acumen’s superior and thoughtfully selected candidate, the company not only survived the transition of leadership to the sons but has flourished in the months since Mitch came on board. The sons are more confident and capable because they have an ally and mentor-coach in Mitch.  The company has had zero turnover during the transition, and in fact, they have added staff.

Lunch & Learn: What’s Next

Acumen’s Suzanne Hanifin and Karen Anderson are hosting:


Lunch & Learn – What’s Next

June 12 12:00 pm- 1:00 pm


Portland State Business Accelerator (PSBA)

2828 SW Corbett Avenue, Portland, OR 97201


So much to accomplish in so little time: deadlines to meet, investors to attract and please, regulatory hurdles to achieve and, hovering above it all, the unrelenting competitive and investor pressures to be the first to market.

If you are a member of the Biotech community, the screen image of your computer is barely faded from closing the last file you were working on before you have to ask yourself, “What’s Next?” – and then pivot both your body and brain to charge after it.

Having a great product is important; however, a top tier team to deliver and take the company to the next level is essential.

Suzanne and Karen will address how Biotech firms can secure funding while attracting and retaining the best and most talented players.

Topics covered will include:

  • Viewing your company within a 360 degree lens
  • Assessing talent gaps, team and synergy
  • The role of corporate culture
  • Vetting the best Attracting the best: the offer
  • Selling the best: the role of your corporate brand
  • Assessing your team building, recruiting and on-boarding process
  • Forward thinking – What’s next and the talent required to do it

This interactive session will help you think through critical items you may have been too busy or reluctant to assess and face. Join us for this supportive, informative and valuable presentation.

To attend the event:

The Cost of a Bad Executive Hire

Maybe that new executive you just hired, the one everyone thought was so great – isn’t.

But, to be fair, you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, so you let him keep working on the critical new product initiative for which he was hired. Maybe he just needs a little more time. Maybe she is just misunderstood. So, you wait. Things will improve. Maybe.

Here’s the thing. Even if that executive does improve, perhaps you should consider how much their poor performance is really costing your business in the meantime.

Let’s delve deeper.

If your team is not functioning well, you are probably experiencing product or project delays. Product and project delays typically delay revenue, earnings and market share growth. The result is that where your company finds itself, is nowhere near where it would have been had you hired the right person.

Let’s look at the graphic below to illustrate the negative impact of a bad hire over a Product’s Life-Cycle:

Lost Economics:

Economic Impact of Product Delays


The green line is ideal. It depicts a product that is developed smoothly – without major delays. The product is introduced and grows to maturity quickly – capturing the good margins and market share it deserves for its innovative value.

Now let’s look at the impact of poor executive talent on that same product – the red line.

Slow development delays growth and creates frustration. Perhaps, forcing termination of the executive working on it.

That termination then delays growth further as development and product improvements are delayed during the re-recruiting and on-boarding process. During that time competitors grab market share that should have been yours if the product had been completed and released earlier.

That lost share is nearly impossible to recapture. The lost profits are gone forever. While you were dealing with your bad hire, your competitor wasn’t. They are now, for this product, permanently ahead of you and your reputation has been harmed.

There may be organizational damage as well.  Employees, some of them talented, may experience frustration and burn out – resigning from the added stress of playing “catch-up”.


Lost Time:

In addition to the economic impact, critical time is lost.

Initially, it takes 3 to 4 months to hire a person, another 3 to 6 months to admit this person is a bad hire and then at least a month of discussions to finally decide to let them go. Then it takes another 3 to 4 months to rehire, with another 3 to 6 months to determine if this person is a good hire. Overall, you are looking at 12-18-month delay to effectiveness.

A bad hire is something that your company may never recover from. Nobody wants that.


Preventing a Bad Hire:

Most important approach to improving the probability of success in finding, vetting and recruiting excellent executive candidates is to use a proven process.

By proven we mean, the process delivers candidates with:

  • A proven and vetted track record
  • A high probability of early integration
  • A high probability of long term retention
  • A close cultural fit
  • A strong complementary personality to the rest of the team

Partnering with an executive search firm that has demonstrated repeated success mitigates greatly the risks associated with the consequences of a bad hire.

The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Harvard Business Review wrote an excellent article “The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture” to help define your organization’s culture and shape it to fit your strategy.

Many leaders often don’t understand culture, ignoring it or handing it off to HR. That can often lead to their plans for their company being derailed. Align culture with strategy and leadership and it drives your organization forward. You can hire and retain great employees, improve morale, and increase profits.

To learn more about culture and how you can use it to shape your organization, read this informative article.

Congrats to Avery Pickard, OEDA’s new Executive Director

Acumen Executive Search is proud to announce the successful placement of Avery Pickard as Executive Director for Oregon Economic Development Association (OEDA).

OEDA is a volunteer board, made up of members with other full-time jobs. When it came time to initiate a search for an Executive Director, the board members determined that they didn’t have time or expertise to devote to the challenges of a complex search process. They reached out to Executive Search professionals and fellow OEDA members Acumen Executive & Talent Search (Acumen) for help finding the right person for this critical role. Acumen stepped up to the plate, putting into action their unique, customized 9-step search process. Reaching into their deep candidate pool, Acumen quickly developed a list of 5 highly qualified candidates and presented them to the board. Ultimately, the board decided to hire Ms. Pickard, who not only had the right skillset for the job, but was a perfect cultural fit for OEDA.  Sara Means, board member for OEDA said, “We at OEDA are thrilled to announce Avery Pickard as our new Executive Director.  With Avery’s leadership, we look forward to the great things ahead for this organization.  The experience we had with Acumen in the search for our Executive Director was superb.  OEDA highly recommends Acumen to anyone looking for assistance with an executive recruitment.”

About Avery Pickard:  Avery Pickard will be reporting to the OEDA Board of Directors. She will have the overall strategic and operational responsibility for OEDA’s programs, expansion, and execution of its mission. Ms. Pickard will manage the day-to-day details and will serve as the face of this organization. She will help develop and implement a new 5-year strategic plan for the merged organizations (AORA & AOI), now known as OEDA, helping bridge the urban/rural divide, and help launch a new professional development program in partnership with the professional development committee. “I am grateful to the board for the opportunity to direct this exceptional organization. OEDA will continue to strengthen its role providing advocacy, collaboration, and education for Oregon’s economic development professionals. I’m excited to work with the entire OEDA network, and to unite our distinguished membership as the primary champions for Oregon’s economy.”

About OEDA: OEDA is a statewide non-profit membership organization that works to support its members – the state and local economic development professionals who are on Oregon’s front line in diversifying and expanding the state’s economy. OEDA believes the success of Oregon’s economic development is accomplished through its core values of advocacy, education and collaboration. OEDA is newly created from merging the Association of Oregon Redevelopment Agencies (AORA) and Association of Oregon Industries (AOI). More information about OEDA can be found on their website at

About AcumenAbout Acumen:  Since 2007, Acumen has been the premiere boutique, woman-owned Executive Search firm in Oregon with global clientele. Acumen works holistically and strategically with their clients to deeply comprehend their business and culture, to facilitate critical hires who can help solve meaningful problems. Visit

Congrats to Sarah Garrison – New PNDC CEO/President

19.03.2018 Acumen Uncategorized

Acumen Executive & Talent Search is proud to announce the successful placement of Sarah Garrison as Chief Executive Officer/President for Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition (PNDC).

The PNDC search committee invested much time and effort in a complex search process when on a quest for their new CEO/President. The committee then determined that an objective third party search firm was key to finding the right person for this critical role, they reached out to PNDC member Acumen Executive & Talent Search (Acumen) for their deep search expertise to help them identify a pool of high caliber candidates.  Acumen quickly implemented their unique, customized 9 step search methodology and within three weeks, had developed a list of 5 highly qualified candidates. Said Board Chair Judy Johnson “We saw a comprehensive approach provided by ACUMEN that included a thorough gathering process of Board input through our Executive and Search Committees as well as comprehensive individual staff interviews to really understand what the needs were. They presented fully vetted candidates covering a wide dynamic range giving the Search Committee members ample contrast and choice.”

Ultimately, PNDC opted to hire Sarah Garrison, who not only had the skillset to do the job, but was the right cultural fit for PNDC. “Our choice was Ms. Sarah Garrison who brings our organization new energy, expertise and experience that will carry PNDC to the next level. Her humble work ethic and clarity of focus on the needs of our members are exactly what we needed and I fully expect all existing and future members of PNDC to be completely delighted”, said Ms. Johnson.

About Sarah Garrison:  Sarah Garrison will be reporting to the Board of Directors of PNDC and will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for PNDC’s programs, expansion, and execution of its mission.  She will work collaboratively with PNDC’s board, members, staff, and strategic partners and will ensure successful planning, budgeting, and management of staff.   Ms. Garrison has a proactive approach in addressing and solving planning and operational issues, and can use this approach to influence, plan, and implement change in PNDC.  “I am humbled, thrilled, and excited to lead PNDC into their next chapter and look forward to listening and engaging with the members and stakeholders, to guide and serve together, taking this great organization to new heights”.

About PNDC: The Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition is an association of over 275 Northwest defense and security industry businesses. PNDC strengthens our members’ business growth, our region’s economy, and our nation’s security through training, direct counseling, business-to-business networking, and federal governmental advocacy. More information about PNDC can be found on their website at

About Acumen:  Since 2007, Acumen has been the premiere boutique, woman-owned Executive Search firm in Oregon with global clientele. Acumen works holistically and strategically with their clients to deeply comprehend their business and culture, to facilitate critical hires who can help solve meaningful problems. Visit

Hiring and Retaining Top Talent

Vistage Research Center conducted a survey of over 1300 SMB CEOs in December 2017.  In their article “Five Ways the Best Companies Hire the Best People” they found that 71% of firms are planning to hire more people this year, up from 60% last year.

Hiring the right talent is the single most critical decision facing CEOs this year.  Vistage said, in part “getting talent decisions right will play a major role in the success of any SMB in 2018”.  In this tight job market, everyone is competing for top talent.  Vistage had some insights for hiring the talent you need and retaining the talent you have.

Talent comes before growth.  Having the right people in the right job is the basis for businesses.  It’s even more crucial for SMB, where depending on one person is greater than for a large company.  In fact, it’s crucial for survival.  Whether you are trying to make investments in your company or increase business, not having the necessary people can cost you money/lost income/revenue.

Retain your current employees while looking for new hires.  In addition to bringing on new people, you need to hold onto the ones you have.  Other CEOs will be looking in your company to hire your people away.  In a small business, the loss of a single employee can cause the collapse of your current processes; you lose knowledge and productivity.

Grow your employees.  Invest in their professional development.  It’s an easy way to help you retain your current workforce and will boost their productivity and improve their skills, increasing the likelihood they will stay with you.

Offer competitive wages to employees.  It is top strategy in hiring talent.  It’s also a smart way to retain talent as it keeps them feeling valued.  If they are deserving, offering them a raise can keep them from looking for employment elsewhere.  Don’t wait until they have an offer from another company.  It’s too late then.

Offer great benefits to potential hires.  It will give you a competitive edge.  Don’t forget to offer those benefits to your current employees.  It will help them feel satisfied and secure.  They will be more likely to stay with you.

You can increase your chances of getting the right talent by hiring Acumen Executive Search.  Cultural fit is our number one priority.  We have a 100% success rate for retained searches, with a 93% employee retention rate that is triple the national average.  Our searches are national.  We don’t just pull a resume from a database.  We go out and find you your next great hire.