Author archives: Claudia Haque

How One Well-Placed HR Business Partner Can Transform an Enterprise and Mitigate Risk

The Challenge

A decades-old international transportation company was urgently in need of a cultural shift in order to support safety, compliance, leadership development, and effective recruitment goals. They needed a strategic HR leader who had the ability to lead through influence following the strong Founder’s departure. The company HR department was sorely in need of solid policies, procedures, mission alignment, and effective leadership.

The HR Business Partner knew the opportunity would present big challenges going in due to Acumen’s transparency regarding the gaps — and he was excited to take them on.

The organization had recently lost their Founder. It was apparent that the right tools from a leadership, personnel, cultural, and compliance perspective were lacking. Leadership needed support and education. The Founder had a positive, “paternal” leadership style and was the person who generally “held everything together.” Upon his departure, the organizational gaps lead to a loss of trust between HR and the rest of the organization. As typical of mid-sized company business owners, he had a hand in every aspect of the company and was a natural born leader. “Many employees stated that he just ‘made the whole thing work.’ If there was an HR problem, he would listen to both sides and make a decision and everyone would say “yes, sir.” Any company with that kind of leader is going to be successful when they have a maestro making it all happen.”

Once the Founder had departed, the new HR leader would have the challenge of transforming the culture and introducing policies and procedures to remedy the lack of effective HR management. It would be crucial to implement compliance and establish a safe, positive, inclusive work environment that mitigated risk.

This HR Leader would need to work as a true partner to the executive team, understanding the history, the business strategy, the diverse personalities of the employees, and HR law to be effective. He would not succeed if he was a “my way or the highway” type of individual; he would need to be a leader who could lead through influence and engender trust to get the job done. Needed was a kind, collaborative leader who listens, while explaining why being compliant was beneficial and essential to the organization as a whole. He also needed to be a knowledgeable HRBP who was able to command the respect of the executive team to allow him to execute on leadership development initiatives.

The Solution

Acumen quickly identified 3 strong potential candidates for the role that had the dual experience in both HR and Safety the role required. Jon not only had the right mix of industries in his background, but he was a hands-on strategist with experience overseeing the facets of HR that needed the most help. This included championing a big cultural change through change management – moving a large organization into embracing compliance and leadership development. Executive Leadership acknowledged him to be a strong cultural fit – a strategic HR Leader who was thoughtful, knowledgeable, and collaborative while being an expert in safety, compliance, training, leadership development, and recruiting. He was a leader who made promises and fulfilled them. He got the job done.

The timeline from when Acumen identified Jon as a strong candidate to when the organization made him an offer of employment took two weeks. Thanks to the great partnership with the CFO, the process ran smoothly and effectively. While placements of HR professionals in more rural areas generally take much longer, Acumen credits their strong, efficacious network which supported the swift identification and relocation of Jon.

Results

Within a few weeks, Jon addressed many organizational gaps and started performing a cultural overhaul. Executive leadership was impressed with the HR training he developed for all management which had employees flying in from both international and multi-state locations. He put together a

5-hour session “HR 101” to ensure cohesion and that everyone was “singing from the same song book” to encourage alignment to avoid liability. The session focused on leadership training and accountability. They reviewed employee lifecycles, progressive discipline, and termination. They were also provided with structured interview processes, “here are the 5 questions we are going to ask all candidates and then there will be 4 that vary for each work group.” Jon implemented effective hiring practices, suggesting that there must be at least 2 people interviewed for every open position. “I helped install rules and procedures, leveraging myself as a business partner, rather than internal affairs.”

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and went from “I don’t want to be here, I’m being forced to do this” to “This was exactly what we needed” and staff and management appreciated the skill required to put together and deliver good, meaningful content. “It was personable – interactive, but not cheesy. We focused on accountability vs. responsibility. Managers may be good at what they do but they don’t always have a good handle on what they do. It’s about developing others and holding them accountable. For example, I don’t need the Director of Maintenance to be best guy to use a wrench – his job is to manage, coach, inspire and be a leader more than having operational skills. It’s about making sure they know what accountability looks like.”

“Initially, there was a fair amount of resistance (to compliance) and it’s legitimate, I’m just the HR guy – I’m not turning the wrenches.  There are a lot of crazy things that can happen in the world today. We need to control every single thing we can control, so crazy doesn’t take over. Let’s be prepared and wear the harness. We need to wag the tail – not let the tail wag us.”

Jon worked with the Executive leadership team to conduct salary reviews.  “Everyone saw an increase. We haven’t done significant increases for everyone in years, so this was a big positive. We pay well in some ways and in others we don’t. What we saw was cost of living going up and inflation. We had lots of people who have not seen a raise in 10 years. We had to make that right and compensate for insurance premiums going up. The next round of increases will be performance-based. I will be installing a review process – the President really wants to do this. Hopefully by third quarter.”

Jon has also had some creative ideas around recruiting, and how they can attract candidates from larger markets. He is also working with leadership to craft vision and mission statements and define the organization’s core values. The process is slowly unfolding, and he is coalescing all employees around their greater purpose.

Satisfaction with Opportunity

Jon feels he has been given a “seat at the table” and that the opportunity was a great fit for him. “I have been invited to the table and as I prove to be valuable and demonstrate how vital my role is and my ability to do that role. I definitely feel valued and appreciated and have the ability to make positive changes – and do it quickly.”

Jon foresees a long-term relationship with the organization. “They are supportive, responsive and appreciate me.”

When it comes to effectiveness with the staff: “Everyone is cautiously optimistic. It’s important that HR has credibility, that HR models the change we suggest, and follows through. If I say, I’ll get back to you tomorrow, I’ll get back to you tomorrow – I make sure of it. If someone asks for something, ask when do you need this by? And I’ll commit. Then that puts the pressure on me and gives them an experience that I can be counted on. Once you have credibility, everything else falls in place.”

Working with Acumen

“Your team (at Acumen) are very communicative – a big pro. Anyone who works through the process is going to be happy because you are always communicating. I could call and ask questions and you were very up front. Your process is really good. I ended up with a great job that I’m happy at where I get to make real change. My manager is smart, supportive, and a great mentor. I want to be him when I grow up.”

“HR is so important—I touch about 180 members of staff and their lives. I think Acumen was honest about the company and the opportunity – I think the issues ran even deeper than they knew. We were out of compliance for many years. It’s not an overstatement to say that I saved the company liability.”

By Molly Norton

Acumen Executive Search is proud to announce the successful placement of Ted Allen as Consulting Chief Financial Officer for PlusPoint Consulting.

Acumen Executive Search is proud to announce the successful placement of Ted Allen as Consulting Chief Financial Officer for PlusPoint Consulting.

 

About Ted Allen: Ted comes to PlusPoint with over 25 years of finance and operations experience in SaaS software, technology, Big 4 public accounting, higher education, and services organizations.

Ted has experience working for a range of different types of organizations: from small, entrepreneurial software organizations experiencing successful exits to global, publicly traded Fortune 500s.

He shared that the PlusPoint model deeply resonates with him as he enjoys the “art” of consulting, which is reliant on skilled problem-solving and identifying opportunities for optimization. He enjoys working at the intersection of finance and operations while optimizing people, processes, and technology; building efficiencies; guiding and directing transitions; and everything in between.

About PlusPoint: PlusPoint allows you to supplement your accounting and finance team by outsourcing with PlusPoint’s professionals who provide immediate support and skills in times of change or transition, as well as knowledgeable planning, executive counsel and direction over the long term.

About Acumen: Since 2007, Acumen has been the premier 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. Our clients experience higher retention rates (over 3X the national average) which result in lower costs and higher productivity. Visit https://www.acumenexecutivesearch.com/

Finding True Professional Fulfillment

By Megan Castleman

For the majority of today’s workforce, more waking hours are spent during the week dedicated to our professions than spent with family and friends.  For many, our professions blend into personal time as we check emails in the evenings, maybe send off a quick note we didn’t get to during the day or even take calls from a different time zone to accommodate a client.  The point is, a significant portion of our lives is focused on what and who we are professionally.  Why, then, is it so many find themselves dreading getting up in the morning, forcing themselves into the shower and on to work only to arrive back home completely depleted and devoid of energy, making it difficult to enjoy their precious family time?  Or finding themselves losing the early morning battle with that inner voice who is insistent they stay in bed, end up calling in and subsequently dealing with a horrible sense of guilt for doing so?  Or even struggling with resentment towards their employer, management or peers because they feel undervalued and unheard?

We all have rough periods of time at work.  Perhaps we have a huge client presentation due and have been burning the midnight oil for the past few weeks.  Maybe it’s tax season or we’ve been scrambling to meet the deadline for a large technology implementation resulting in long hours being fueled only by cold pizza from the breakroom.  These types of relatively short-term, cyclical exceptions happen in a lot of professions and it’s completely normal to feel worn down and even needing to take a day or two off to recoup.  What is not normal is losing the battle with that inner voice for the 3rd time this week only to realize it’s just Wednesday.  If the latter is happening to you, it is time for some serious introspection because something is amiss.  You should start by asking yourself these three questions:

  • Are you excited and fulfilled by the primary objectives of your profession?
  • Do you have a strong alignment with your employer’s culture, vision and mission?
  • Do you have access to quality leadership?

When you are in a profession you love, are closely aligned with company culture and values, and feel valued and heard by leadership, the paradigm will shift.  You will find yourself passionate about, as well as excited, energized, and fulfilled by, your profession.  You will feel strongly about your company’s values and mission, working together with your peers towards a common goal while receiving strong support from leadership.  No longer will it be a constant struggle to rouse yourself from your warm, cozy bed in the mornings and, rather than using your time in the shower bemoaning the fact you must “adult” today, you will find yourself strategizing about potential accomplishments and goals for the day.  You will be more present and engaged during family time.  You will be more productive both professionally and personally.  You will feel impactful and valued.  You will experience a deep personal satisfaction and increased professional drive.

At Acumen Executive Search, we are a group of professionals who are deeply passionate and knowledgeable about the impact of having cultural, mission, and core value alignment between our client companies’ and the leaders we help place.  This alignment is so absolutely critical, it is our number one focus from the time we begin the discovery process with our client companies, continuing with the sourcing, interviewing and recommendation of candidates, through our follow-up case studies and long-term client relationships.  We know true success only occurs with genuine alignment, we have proven it.

It can be scary to realize you are not a fit for your current company culture or in the wrong profession altogether.  Change can be difficult for all of us and coming up with a plan of action can be a daunting task.  However, there are many resources available such as career, personality and core value assessments which can help you narrow your field of choices and career coaches who can help you implement a plan of action.  Yes, it can be overwhelming to think of such significant change but the rewards are invaluable.  Do not waste any more time trying to fit the proverbial square peg into the round hole.  The ability to live your dream now is a life changer and, I strongly believe, life is way too short to spend it any other way.

Outsourcing & Company Culture

By Megan Castleman

I recently attended a seminar on using outsourcing as a strategic business tool and it provoked some thought. It is oftentimes a fiscally sound decision to outsource certain business operations or even as a short-term, cost-effective way to manage implementing important initiatives where long-term human capital would not be needed. However, I had to think of the potential effect on what I believe to be one of the most important aspects of any business – culture. Is it possible to outsource certain functions while minimizing impactful effects to company culture? I believe the answer is yes when great care is taken in selecting the right outsourcing firm while ensuring you have the right internal personnel providing oversight of the outsourced function.

–         Determine the “Why”: Understand why you need to outsource a particular function. Do you lack internal staff with the necessary expertise? Is this a one-off project that you need additional human capital resources for implementation but not for long-term maintenance? Is it more cost-effective to outsource than to pursue an internal hire? You should be come to the table with a clear understanding of the “whys” behind your decision.

–         Define your Needs: Before even starting the process of finding an outsourcing provider, you should clearly define the scope of the function for which you need outsourced assistance. For example, you need to add human capital at the executive level and have decided to use a firm like Acumen Executive Search to help. You should have a basic understanding of the job description, experience and educational requirements, and timing. A good outsource provider will be able to fine tune these details but having this basic information to start the process is essential.

–         Interview: Any outsource provider should be interviewed as thoroughly as a potential internal hire and should be able to clearly articulate its mission, core values, culture and unique value proposition. If they are not able to do so or if what they are proposing doesn’t align with your own mission, core values, and culture, then they likely are not a good fit.

–         Do your research: The internet is a treasure trove of information, both good and bad, and a great place to start your research on outsource providers. The arrival of job engines such as Glassdoor and Indeed have provided a resource for employees to post, anonymously if they choose, the good, bad and ugly of working for a certain firm. You can get a good feel for what employees think about working there and, if they are not happy, you probably won’t be either. At the very least, you can address reoccurring issues with the stakeholders to understand their awareness of these issues and how they are addressing them. You should also read any testimonials on the provider’s website and realize you can, and should, request references. This is especially key when working with providers lacking a presence on job boards. Remember, you want honest, transparent feedback to ensure the provider is the right fit.

–         Assign Appropriate Oversight: An internal staff or leadership member who has a deep understanding of all of the above points should be assigned to manage the outsource relationship. This person should be knowledgeable and empowered to make key decisions, including ending the relationship if it is not working out.

In short, outsourcing, when managed correctly, can be an invaluable tool to accomplish business initiatives in a more cost-effective, timely, strategically advantageous, and culturally sensitive manner.

 

Stop Lying to Job Candidates About the Role

I recently read a Harvard Business Review article, Stop Lying to Job Candidates About the Role, https://hbr.org/2019/06/stop-lying-to-job-candidates-about-the-role, by Atta Tarki and Jeff Weiss. Atta and Jeff discussed the importance of “full disclosure” to candidates. This is what we at Acumen Executive Search have been saying for years. People need to come into a position with “their eyes wide open.”

Clear expectations need full disclosure and challenges need to be openly discussed in order to know if the candidate is a good fit and if the candidate finds your organization to be a good fit.

“Too many hiring managers avoid telling candidates the truth about a job. Their logic is that if applicants find out how hard they will work or how boring the core of the open jobs are, they will walk away. This is a mistake. To hire effectively, you have to be honest about what working at your firm is like and what it takes to be successful.” states the opening paragraph.

Acumen learned early in our 12-year history that it is about asking hiring managers the hard questions to determine “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of a position AND the company.  Then it’s about asking hard questions of our candidates to determine the fit.

I recommend the article for all hiring managers. Hiring needs to be a win/win for both sides of the equation in order to have a successful employee and to have a high retention rate. Why go through the process of hiring and then have to do it again 6-months later when the candidate realizes that the position is not what they signed up for?

I also recommend the article for people looking at making a career move. It is your responsibility as a candidate to ask hard questions too and to understand expectations to determine if this is the right opportunity for you.

If you would like to learn more about Acumen, please visit www.AcumenExecutiveSearch.com.

by Suzanne Hanifin

Acumen Executive Search is proud to announce the hire of Bryan Bast as CEO for Food and Beverage Innovations.

Food & Beverage Innovations’ Board of Directors was on a quest to find a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for their growing organization. Board members contacted long-time and trusted search partners Acumen Executive Search (Acumen) to locate an ideal candidate in an accelerated fashion. Understanding time was of the essence, Acumen swiftly leveraged their unique, customized 9-step search methodology and interviewed the Board Members to gain a clear understanding of the needs of the organization. Acumen next reached out to its broad network, searching for the right candidates to put forward. Acumen presented six exceptional, highly-qualified candidates from various complimentary industries for the Board to review. Although all candidates had the right industry and skillsets necessary for the job and were deemed solid cultural fits, the Board determined that Bryan Bast would be a valuable asset to the company with his strengths in sales, marketing, engineering, growing early stage companies, and expertise specific to the adult beverage industry.

About Bryan Bast: Bryan has a track record of success in the beverage industry as part of the executive team at Mirth Provisions, a leader in innovative adult beverages. Prior to his leadership at Mirth, Bryan served as Global Business Director and Head of Marketing as part of FMC’s Health & Nutrition division, recently acquired by Dupont Nutrition and Biosciences. Bryan received his MBA from Carnegie Mellon and BS in Industrial Engineering from Marquette University.

About Food & Beverage Innovations: Inventors of JEVO®, the world’s first and only automated gelatin shot maker. JEVO® ’s cutting-edge automation technology has been featured in Food & Wine, Esquire, Bloomberg, Buzzfeed, Bravo, Mashable, Inc., Huffington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. Read more about JEVO®, its history, and their offerings, go to: https://getJEVO.com.

Says Tom Wells, Board Member “Big thanks to all of you at Acumen.  You put several great candidates in front of us in short order and I feel great about where we landed. You have a permanent home my contacts!”

 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. Our clients enjoy increased retention and lowered costs due to the services we provide. Visit www.AcumenExecutiveSearch.com.

Suzanne Hanifin joins Professional 50

Suzanne Hanifin recently joined the Professional 50, a network of Greater Portland’s Elite Exit/Succession professionals. Each member of Professional 50 has been endorsed by others on the list, ensuring that only highly regarded experts are included. Congratulations Suzanne.

 

Suzanne’s skills as a top recruiter naturally lent itself to succession planning. Over the past few years, Acumen has expanded their capabilities to support companies in transition with succession. If your company needs help creating a succession plan, contact Acumen at 503-430-0294.

The Inside Skinny on Getting Noticed.

United Professional Women Accelerating Relationships & Development is hosting “The Inside Skinny on Getting Noticed“. Recruiters are 13% less likely to click on a woman’s bio on LinkedIn, but 16% more likely to hire a woman. Does your profile stand out? Are you owning your accomplishments? Does your resume cause a recruiter or a client to want to spend more than 9 seconds (average review time)?

Join Suzanne Hanifin and Amanda Szeto April 23 at 5:30 pm to explore tips and tricks for building an effective LinkedIn profile and optimizing your resume for job hunting, board positions, consulting, or whatever your goal is.

 

Congrats to Scott Cooper – New MEDP Executive Director

Acumen Executive Search is proud to announce the successful placement of Scott Cooper as Executive Director for McMinnville Economic Development Partnership (MEDP).

The MEDP board was looking to replace its outgoing Executive Director and called upon Acumen Executive Search (Acumen) to help fill this crucial position. Acumen quickly implemented their unique, customized 9 step search methodology and brought forward a pool of top tier candidates.

The board ultimately chose to hire Scott Cooper. Cooper’s innovative accomplishments and exceptional understanding of economic, business, community development, and extensive involvement serving as a leader within extremely different environments set him apart as a top tier candidate and the clear choice to lead MEDP.

About Scott Cooper: Scott Cooper brings over 20 years of economic development for both small and large communities to the city of McMinnville, OR. He has previously implemented economic initiatives that created jobs, recruited new companies, expanded existing businesses, and launched a tech innovations center.

Cooper feels that there is much opportunity, both personally and professionally, in the community of McMinnville that offers a great quality of life and wonderful residents. He is eager to learn and understand the history of McMinnville and learn and work cohesively with the board for the betterment of all.

Says Cooper “The professional team at Acumen really made a difficult process go very smooth. From initial contact through the successful outcome, I felt I had a partner in the process. The efforts of the Acumen team did not stop after accepting my new position, rather they have continued to offer assistance. I could not ask for a better experience.”

About MEDP: The Partnership includes the City of McMinnville, McMinnville Water & Light, McMinnville Industrial Promotions, McMinnville Industrial Promotions, the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce, and area businesses. To learn more about the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership, visit www.McMinnvilleBusiness.com or find us at facebook.com/McMinnvilleBusiness.

 About Acumen: Since 2007, Acumen has been the premier 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 www.AcumenRecruiting.com

by Christine Billett