Work Flexibility is the Key to Recruiting and for Building a Culture of Trust

The number 1 request from candidates is Work Flexibility. We, Acumen Executive Search, have been interviewing and placing Director-level through C-Level candidates since 2007, and this has been the case for 13 years. Today, with unemployment so low and top talent in high demand, it makes more sense for employers to be creative.

Many business owners, executives, and leaders talk about “work-life integration”, meaning that when they are on vacation, they check emails in the morning, play with the family in the afternoon, and return to work in the evening. If employees can practice this while on vacation, why can’t more businesses offer work flexibility to their employees? I know that there are industries that cannot offer work flexibility, but many organizations can!

I read a Harvard Business review article titledBill Gates says This 1 Employee Perk is Most Important. A New Harvard Study Backs Him UpI find the statistics amazing. When the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office implemented work-flexibility, they saw 13.5% increase in production from their workers. But what was interesting was that the work-flexibility did not require workers to work from home or from work 100% but allowed them to decide where to work. We know that with technology, we can work anywhere, including when we are on vacation.

The Acumen Approach – Now Backed By Behavioral Science

Acumen spends a great deal of time with our managerial through executive-level candidates.  First and foremost, as true partners with our client companies, we need this time to ascertain the candidate’s ideal position, cultural and core value alignments, and a multitude of other factors making them the one right candidate for our open opportunity.  Secondly, we genuinely develop meaningful relationships with our candidates and want them to succeed.  During interview coaching, one of Acumen’s most highly stressed suggestions is to never answer an interview question with a yes or no but rather, tell a story.  A story that doesn’t talk about what the candidate may have done in the past but instead helps the hiring manager envision how the candidate can be additive and help with specific challenges facing the organization.

Recently, I attended a Link event at which Mr. Larry Shoop was giving a presentation titled “The Science and Power of Story.”  I knew I had to attend on the title alone given the potential significance to one of Acumen’s core tenets and I am so glad I did. In addition to being with a dynamic and fun group of ladies and hearing an amazing presentation, I learned a statistic I was previously unaware of.  A statistic that gave the team here at Acumen further conviction in our approach.  I learned behavioral science shows a staggering 95% of all decisions are first made emotionally while rationalization and reasoning follow later.  As human beings we are wired to learn through stories, we are going to remember the stories which trigger an emotional response and those emotions are going to color our decisions.  I also learned the average attention span is now just 5 minutes; not a lot of time to leave a memorable impression and further underlining the importance of making an emotional connection with your audience.  Apparently, this is all simply science and the Acumen team couldn’t agree more!

As a recruiter I conduct a lot of interviews and my most insightful interviews occur when the candidate opens up and starts sharing applicable stories.  I am able to develop an essential rapport through shared stories.  I get to see what is really behind that nervousness as the candidate relaxes and I often gain valuable information I wouldn’t have otherwise received.  The content, structure and even subject matter of candidate stories help us to better understand their motivators, core values, personalities and much more.  With over 12 years of success following our proven process, it was exciting to hear about the science behind why it works!


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.

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.