Ask Brandie

Brandie Hinen, Founder and CEO

See the questions business professionals have submitted and the answers they have received below.

Have a question for Powerhouse Learning? We want to hear from you. Submit your questions or challenges and Brandie will answer them! No commitments, no fees, just answers.




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The biggest challenge is landing qualified people to fill opportunities at every level. What do you suggest?

- Mark, COO, NJ

View Answer

Mark, there truly is an art to "landing qualified people to fill opportunities at every level". This starts with culture and a strong recruiting foundation. Do you have a process in place so that your existing employees can refer someone and receive a referral fee? What about a process to ask their customers and vendors?

The wonderful thing about this process is that your employees, customers and vendors know the business intimately. They will have a pretty good idea what potential candidate will or will not fit in the existing culture.

Some other thoughts from our team:

Have you built relationships with the colleges or business/technical schools in the area so that they are keeping an eye on up and coming students and reach out to you when they find them?
There are many tests/profiles that can assist companies in finding and building on someone's natural talents. Just because someone doesn't have the skill set today doesn't mean (if they are the right candidate) you can't train them for tomorrow. These employees will be some of your strongest.

Do check all references and then ferret out your own. Check social media sites. If possible, avoid candidates who are not employed currently. Interview questions and other inquiries should be directed at getting qualified and experienced people with a high degree of "fit" for your organizational culture - no round pegs for square holes. Have HR and other department leaders interview top candidates first before the CEO or principal.

AND if you are interested in our Powerhouse Recruiting Program, reach out and for your efforts, we will give you our hiring practice check list and key interview questions as a free reference.


One of my main challenges is finding and developing the right people within our agency. Cultural fit is an important factor for our agency. What can we do to help with the divide between those that have the skill but not the will and those that have the will but not the skill?

- Quincy, President/CEO, NV

View Answer

Quincy, leave those that have the skill but not the will to your competition. Don’t consider hiring someone with a bad attitude because they will not fit into the culture of the organization that is so (rightfully) important to you.

The beautiful thing for those teammates that have the will is that have a deep ability to want to learn anything, and with that mindset, you can grow them and train them. In fact, our team just met with a community development leader who says he uses a metaphor for this. In his mind, you may have “purple squirrels” that you have forgotten how much you have molded them to your culture.

Finding someone as talented as one of these elusive “purple squirrels” is nearly impossible! So, instead, hire knowing you will hire a brown squirrel, a black squirrel or even a gray squirrel, and have a really exceptional mentoring program ready so they can someday become “purple squirrels” like the others in your organization.


The young adults entering the workforce seem to march to the beat of a different drummer. Finding young talent is challenging enough, but even once we find the "right" person, they often don't gel with our more senior workforce. Our older employees worked hard to get where they are today, and there is an underlying expectation that younger workers should have to do the same.

Email is driving me crazy! It seems like nobody wants to talk anymore. Email creates frequent miscommunications, is many times inefficient with complex communications, and quite frankly takes a lot of the "fun" of ongoing business relationships.

- Remmie, CEO, MD

View Answer

Remmie, you are addressing two different and significant challenges; one is a generational challenge and one is on a process that can be put in place to help develop expectations on building better relationships with/within your organization. Hopefully some of our answers will create an opening for more “fun” dialog as well!

First, on the generational challenges: As you have stated, it is not just the “younger generation” that seems inflexible; the boomer generation in your office can be reluctant to be generous and open to change in helping others along their journey. For ALL that have shown this reluctance, it is our opinion that you need to create rewards and consequences. For your boomers, do not let them any more than anyone else, get away with a sour, non-teachable attitude. Hold them to the same standards you would expect from any professional you do business with.

Create a checklist of items that they need to talk about including specific training or teaching curriculum that includes topics you know your younger generation needs to learn about the business or about the process of working on business. Have the younger team report specifics in staff meetings on the things they have learned from their “mentors”. Make sure the mentors are there to hear the encouragement and as a leader, you need to keep a written tally on what knowledge is being transferred (it will be a valuable log for future training).

On the email, we suggest sending a company-wide email to all internal staff and external vendors that states your feelings on the matter. Request that conversation of any complexity is now being asked to be handled by person-to-person conversation, either via phone or in person.
Share that if you receive an email that you see is more suitable for a person-to-person talk, that you will reply to the email requesting the action. AVOID THE TEMPTATION to address the item via email or you will defeat the purpose and intent of your original request and find yourself in a position where people will not believe you mean what you say when you make these kind of requests.


One of my long-standing clients is difficult to work with, and their engagements create more stress than with our other clients. Although this client was key when we first launched our business, we now are at a point where we have plenty of work from other sources and we no longer need to rely on this one to sustain our business. What should we do?

- Amber, Attorney, CA

View Answer

Amber, are you ready to let this client go? Unfortunately there are times in every work relationship where we must take a step backwards, in order to see a better future. If you do not have or want someone else in your firm that may get along with the client or be a better match to take this on, you need to meet with your client and let them go.

The best way to do this is to set a time to talk in person (preferably) or on the phone. Share that the firm is making alterations in your business plans, and after review of the year’s activity, you have determined that you will no longer be able to meet their needs the way you may have in the past. Have several other firm names ready if you feel it best to do so to help the client with a smoother transition. Some of my favorite words are, “I’d / We’d like to respectfully decline...”


So, once a company has sold but the former owners are still management, how do you keep them motivated?

- Rick, Client Relations, ID

View Answer

We’ve witnessed this happening and it's a tough place to be. All of this should have been spelled out regarding the compensation and what was expected during their remaining time on the management team beforehand. Obviously by the question this either didn't happen or the communication wasn't clear.

  • Ask powerful questions - Is the past owner clear on where the new owner wants to go with the business?
  • What goals can be created to help new owner get there?
  • What part does the old owner play in that?
  • (Depending on circumstances and again we don't know) Can additional compensation be given to old owner for new business, referrals, introductions?

Bottom line is that the old owner still needs to feel they are "part of" (and a critical piece to) something "new and exciting" or they will lose their enthusiasm to keep the vision alive for the rest of the team in the organization.


What is the best way to “warm” an executive who essentially will not discuss any matters outside of business related material? I recently landed a nice client but it is extremely hard to break the communication barrier with the Executive who is our Primary Contact – any suggestions?

AND will you also answer this question: Our firm holds Mid-Year meetings with our A clients, one particular client has a CFO and HR Manager that have continuously differentiating views that seem to come up in combustive fashion during these meetings. They both need to be present during the meeting, any thoughts on how to run this meeting in a potentially less volatile fashion? Should there be two meetings held?

- Newell, Client Development, NYC

View Answer


Regarding warming the executive, it may be helpful to work harder at establishing a genuine personal relationship. This may require doing some research on the exec - his family situation, personal habits, hobbies, social interests, career background, etc. Identify exactly what makes this a "nice client." You need to know what makes the exec "tick." Use the information wisely. Reach out to us for our FREE personal information sheet for help.

On combative colleagues, set a time to talk to Brandie one-on-one about the team dynamics so she can help. Differences of opinion are fine, but openly combative behavior is unacceptable and nonproductive for everyone. Short of demanding anger management for both, have Brandie offer some suggestions on the tricks and tools she uses with clients nationally.


For his first question I think it's important for you to remember different communication styles. Just because you think it’s important to "break the ice" doesn't mean it is so ... With that being said, the best way to communicate with the Primary Contact is to keep it at business. Or try to take one small side step like what's new in breaking news that may have relevance on the Primary Contact's business, etc.

As far as the mid-year meetings again it's important to look at the CFO and the HR Manager personality/communication styles. From there it's important they understand how their disruptive behavior is impacting the team and the meetings. Sitting them down together with a mediator of sorts to discuss their thoughts and differences would be helpful to move them toward an understanding of each other. As far as two meetings ... no way! Never change policy, procedures, systems because of behaviors change them because you are growing and moving forward as a team and company.


Newell, give it time. If your new client is a Pragmatic or Analytical they are more task-oriented, and “warming up” may not look the same from them as others. Don’t take it personally! The person chose you to represent them for a reason. When the time is right (I say make it relatively soon), ask them what were the determining factors of why they choose you or your firm. Ask them about their specific expectations so you have a road-map to follow in meeting those expectations. Gaining respect in this way from this kind of client will serve you well in your career.


On this matter, my opinion is for you to set the tone of the meeting and be in charge. Write up an agenda, send it via email, and have them bring it with them. Start out by sharing that you have noticed at times (never say never or always!) that they seem to have challenges coming to agreement on certain topics. Bring up a matter, and ask each of them their opinion or thoughts. Validate the professional opinion of each party in front of the other, and move on facts and strong business sense with specific action items. If they begin bickering again, tell them you cannot continue in this manner, that you are there to accomplish “X” today, and proceed. If it continues, ask them to resolve these matters before they come into the room with you, as your position is to provide “Y” (be specific) for the day’s meeting.