A Leadership
Culture

Taking the Lead

Successful businesses leaders are often subject to the tyranny of the urgent– overwhelmed with day-to-day challenges and wrestling with isolation with no one who really understands their challenges. Acumen’s diverse network of business owner teams confidentially share challenges and insights and create lasting bonds with other lead wolves who “get it.”

All things rise and fall on leadership: your company, personal life, neighborhood, community, country – even society in general. Yet high-impact leadership seems rare and fleeting. But many leaders don’t realize that their business, when healthy and successful, can not only create wealth, it can serve others for a common good.

What We Believe

Our Partners, Drew & Dan, know firsthand how powerful the platform of leadership can be relative to impacting the lives of other people: employees, employees’ families, customers, communities, suppliers and more. As followers of Christ, they believe they’ve been called to a higher standard of impact and influence.

These beliefs are the foundation Acumen was built on and it’s our mission to provide business owners and CEOs a resource to solidify their leadership skills and provide a positive influence on those they lead. We believe doing so will help leaders experience more success both professionally and personally.

Our Story

As a business leader, Drew had a vision to build an “impactful and region-wide” consortium of business owners and CEOs that were committed to a higher standard of excellence, influence and impact in their businesses. He wanted to build something that could become the gold-standard for how business platforms should be built and operated. One where participating organizations would be among the top performing companies in the region for growth, culture and excellence. This vision took root and began to grow near the end of 2015.

In early 2016, Drew and Dan connected over coffee and discovered they had common DNA. Different backgrounds, different companies, different industries, but each keenly aware of the challenges and advantages that come with owning and running a business including isolation, influence and the desire to make an impact.

There were times in their respective businesses when they were consumed by inspiring and motivating others, leaving little energy or time to devote to unplanned business or life issues. Worse yet, their individual dreams of making a lasting impact beyond the bottom line were on constant hold. They realized their businesses were running them.

Other times, they were hit with problems so big or so complex, they didn’t know where to turn or what steps to take. Where was the CEO and owner playbook? Who had the answers? “Not Knowing” can be an expensive, costly and game-changing predicament. “Knowing and not doing” can be even more so. They both have deep scar tissue to show for it!

Acumen, a community where CEOs and business owners would feel safe to share their biggest challenges and aspirations for business and personal growth, was poised for big impact. The parameters for joining were simple: only owners/CEOs of successful, growing businesses would be invited. They must be humble and teachable, and aspire to discover, exercise and celebrate their unique God-given talents to love others.

A best-selling guidebook for business leaders. It’s loaded with insights for the journey’s of business and life.

Our Team

Augie Grasis III

Growth Catalyst - Kansas City

Dan Cooper

CEO + Growth Catalyst

Drew Hiss

Founder & Chairman

Elizabeth Shandy

Growth Marketing Specialist

Jennifer Miller

Chief Marketing Officer

Jenny Trupka

Director of Finance & Operations

Jon Schram

Growth Catalyst - Kansas City

Scott Stanger

Growth Catalyst - Kansas City

Kurt Bragg

Growth Catalyst - Emerging Leaders

Steve Van Diest

President - Front Range Region

Pete Gazlay

Growth Catalyst - Northern Colorado

Tim James

Growth Catalyst - Kansas City

Acumen has helped me become a better leader. When I get the opinion of 13, 14 people at the same time, that really helps me become a better leader, make better decisions and have a more positive impact on my team.”
Jon Schram,
The Purple Guys
If I had to just point to business return and income revenue, we’ve tripled or quadrupled in my time since I started with the Acumen group.”
Bob Meyers,
President & CEO, iTedium

Who We’ve Helped to Sharpen Their Edge

READY TO SHARPEN YOUR EDGE?

Reach out if you are interested in:

  • Determining if you are qualified as a candidate for one of the unique affinity-centric Acumen teams.
  • Interested in learning more about the unique Acumen approach and model.

Augie Grasis III

Growth Catalyst - Kansas City

Click here to learn more about Augie.

August (Augie) Grasis is a serial technology entrepreneur who has founded and built four companies throughout his 35+ year professional career. He has a passion for businesses and the entrepreneurs who lead them.

Augie founded and led Handmark, a mobile industry pioneer which helped establish the mobile app and mobile advertising businesses. During its 13 year history, Handmark served millions of customers, raised venture capital from both coasts, grew to 100+ employees and $35M in revenues before its sale to Sprint in 2013. Augie was awarded E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year (Midwest, Technology) in 2009 and Handmark was named to Kansas City’s Champions of Business three successive years.

Prior to Handmark, Augie founded Foresight Resources, a Computer Aided Design (CAD) software company in the early days of the Personal Computer. Foresight developed the first CAD for Windows and invented the DIY Home Design software market before being acquired by Autodesk in 1997.

Most recently, Augie teamed up with his son and experienced transportation executives to co-found FreightorGator, a freight Industry tech startup with new approach to LTL freight booking. He was responsible for launching the company and building its online service before turning it over to partners in 2017.
Augie currently serves on the Board of Directors of Milbank, a family owned, industry leading manufacturer of electrical components and mentors business students at UMC & UMKC.

Augie lives at Weatherby Lake with his bride of 39 years. They have three grown children and four grandchildren (so far) and attend the Vineyard KC church. Downtime is spent restoring, collecting and racing vintage cars, leading an open water swim group, sailing at Weatherby Lake and skiing in Colorado with his family.

He serves as fundraising chair for the Jeremy Katzenberger Memorial Triathlon at Weatherby Lake which supports the Sua Sponte Foundation aiding families of injured and fallen soldiers. The event has raised over $100,000 in its six year history.

Dan Cooper

CEO + Growth Catalyst

Dan Cooper co-founded ej4, a video-based online training company, in 2003, and was its CEO until selling in 2012. During his time with ej4, he grew the company from a startup to a nationally-recognized firm, serving clients including Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper Snapple, Honeywell, Monsanto and Syngenta. Channel partners included SAP and Oracle. As of the 2012, ej4 was serving 1,000+ customers, delivering millions of program views, was highly profitable and debt-free.

Today, he is the CEO of Acumen, a mastermind community platform built for CEOs and Owners of strong and growing companies. Dan is also an ACC credentialed executive coach through the International Coaching Federation.

He and his wife, Ali, have three children and attend Cure of Ars church in Leawood, KS. Dan enjoys running, all things soccer — coaching, playing and watching —and burning all types of meat on the backyard barbecue grill.

 

Connect with Dan on LinkedIn.

Drew Hiss

Founder + CEO

Drew Hiss launched his outsourced payroll and HR technology solutions company, Checkdate Solutions, in 1994. The entrepreneurial venture was a classic bootstrap start-up whose launch plan underestimated capital needs and ramp up time by significant multiples. The adventure predictably included scrapping for cash, overhauling the business model, rebranding, refocusing, redirecting resources, shifting tech platforms, praying, seeking counsel and wisdom, etc.. Not surprisingly, deep entrepreneurial scar tissue was forged. Ultimately Checkdate Solutions became one of Kansas City’s fastest growing companies and was named one of the Greater KC Chamber of Commerce Best Businesses not once, but twice. Additionally, Checkdate Solutions ranked as one of KC’s top 100 fastest growing companies for nine consecutive years and was in the top 25 nationally in its industry.

Today’s workplace culture tends to compartmentalize personal virtues from commerce, creating silos and compartmentalization between business, family, community, values and faith. But as a CEO, Drew and his company grew when he “decompartmentalized:” on his journey, he learned to integrate his life of commerce and his life of family, faith and values.

Drew merged Checkdate Solutions with payroll industry leader Paycor, stepping away from the company in 2008 and serving on its board for eight years. Drew remains an owner in the firm. Today, Drew’s heart to help business owners leverage the influence of their business platform for eternal impact is at the core of Acumen which he founded late in 2015. Acumen is a catalytic iron-sharpening-iron environment forged from the fiery furnace of entrepreneurial battle, marketplace survival and integration of the timeless wisdom of the ages.

Drew and his wife, Sarah have been married for 32 years and have four children (plus two beautiful daughters in law) ranging in age from 28 to 22. In early 2020, Drew and Sarah relocated to Evergreen, CO, He is a raving-fan congregant of Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, CO, and enjoys snowboarding, hunting, cycling, hiking, and a variety of outdoor activities and adventures including running with his two dogs.

 

Connect with Drew on LinkedIn.

Elizabeth Shandy

Growth Marketing Specialist

Elizabeth Shandy graduated from Washburn University with a Bachelors in Public Relations. In addition, she received her Masters in Leadership from Grantham University. Her deep passion for leadership came from her role as a peer advisor for nontraditional and military students while studying for her Masters. 

Elizabeth is the Growth Marketing Specialist enhancing our brand awareness, content management and supporting regional and team marketing. She has several years of marketing experience as well as skillsets in recruiting and advising. Her favorite thing about being part of our marketing team is getting to make a creative impact every day. She has several certificates in digital marketing including social media, graphic design, sales support, and content management. 

Elizabeth and her husband, Nick, have one daughter and attend Prince of Peace. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring wineries, crafting, playing keyboard, and spending time with her friends and family.

 Connect with Elizabeth on LinkedIn

Jennifer Miller

Chief Marketing Officer

As an experienced marketing leader, Jennifer Miller has managed and built both sales and marketing teams from the ground up. She believes that at the core of all organizations and processes, people are what drive change and growth in a company. Her passion for supporting companies to build scalable processes has impacted many organizations over the years, one of which received the honor of the #1 Fastest-Growing Technology company in Austin and #86 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list. The range of experience Jennifer holds in both small startup and Fortune 100 companies have given her both scalable and strategic insight into how to build an organization’s brand. Through her organization, Strategically Connected, a Marketing Consulting Agency, she has thrived in supporting organizations find their purpose and growth path.

She served as President of the Austin American Marketing Association Board (a national organization focused on connecting and developing marketers) during the 2020-2021 Board Year and continues to be a part of the organization.

Seeing impact, both large and small, is something that Jennifer thrives on. Being a part of Acumen drives a path for strengthening not only organizations but the leaders that are a part of it. Her mission at Acumen is to support the organization through strategy and scalable growth paths to build a community of leaders that drive change.

She and her husband love all things mountains, lakes, and forests. They experience God’s incredible artwork each day in Leavenworth, WA, and attend Plain Community Church.

Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn

Jenny Trupka

Director of Finance and Operations

Jenny Trupka graduated from Kansas State University with a Masters in Accountancy and started her career in public accounting. Most recently, Jenny had been with an agriculture company for five years serving in several different roles assisting with marketing, accounting, and human resources, most recently as the Director of HR. Additionally, Jenny owned and operated a full-service event planning company. Today, Jenny is the Director of Finance and Operations at Acumen. Jenny and her husband, Tristan, have one son and one daughter and attend Church of the Resurrection- West. In her spare time, Jenny enjoys staying active, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends.

Connect with Jenny on LinkedIn.

Jon Schram

Growth Catalyst - Kansas City

Click here to learn more about Jon.

Jon is a husband to his wife Jill, a dad to Gracie, Cooper and Lucy and an unintentional serial entrepreneur.  Jon founded and led one of KC’s leading IT Support companies (The Purple Guys), regularly recognized on the Inc. 5000 list, the Corporate Report’s Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies, a Best Place to Work and being one of the KC Chamber Top 10 Small Businesses of the Year. Before that, he founded and grew an IT Staffing firm, growing from $0 to $10M in revenue in just 4 years, being recognized as Kansas City’s Fastest Growing Company. He’s passionate about leadership and businesses that impact their community. From experience he also understands the issues of an owner/CEO. Jon is an entrepreneur who likes to empower others to grow their business, become more efficient in all they do and enrich their story line. He has been a member of the Acumen community since its inception. 

Connect with Jon on LinkedIn.

Scott Stanger

Growth Catalyst - Kansas City

Click here to find out more about Scott.

Scott Stanger has an extensive business background with over 30 years as a CPA, consultant, and business executive/owner.

Scott grew up in Kansas City, but he has split his adult life living and working in Kansas City as well as Texas. He studied accounting at Baylor University in Waco, TX, and after graduating in 1988 he joined Price Waterhouse in Houston, TX in their business turnaround group. He returned to Kansas City in 1994 as the CFO and eventual President of his family’s construction company Stanger Industries which was performing multi-million dollar commercial and government projects across the country. In 2008 he ventured back to Waco to take on the CFO role of a start-up construction business that quickly became one of the largest in central Texas. In 2015 he returned to Kansas City to be near family and apply his diverse accounting and business knowledge to the benefit of his consulting clients.

Scott has been happily married to his wonderful wife Cheryl for over 30 years. Their son Nathaniel is following in his father’s construction footsteps at Stanger Industries, and their daughter Abby is also following in her father’s footsteps going to work for PwC in New York City.

Scott thinks outside the box while checking the box, as he is an avid reader with an eye for applying what he learns to ensure an organization’s goals are achieved and lives are impacted. Inspired teamwork, contagious excellence, and perpetual impact are hallmarks of Scott’s purpose-driven approach to life and work.

 

Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.

 

Kurt Bragg

Growth Catalyst - Emerging Leaders

Click here to learn more about Kurt. 

Kurt is a top-tier coach and facilitator with Sandler Training, a company of elite consultants and coaches who work with Fortune 500 companies, business owners, emerging leaders to senior executives to develop teams, companies, and lives that go beyond mere performance, and break through some of their biggest challenges.

He has also worked with Dr. Paul White, who along with Dr. Gary Chapman took the concepts of “The Five Love Languages” and applied those concepts to work-based relationships in their follow-up book, “The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace”.

While Kurt has lived all over in places like Pebble Beach, California, Chicago, Illinois, and New York City, however, he is a hometown son of Wichita, Kansas.

Kurt enjoys painting and creating live art events, serving at his nephew’s lemonade stand (Finnian’s Lemonade and Stuff), and taking pauses in life’s hustle and bustle to enjoy some freshly roasted coffee.

Connect with Kurt on LinkedIn.

Steve Van Diest

President - Front Range Region

Click here to find out more about Steve & the Front Range Region.

Steve Van Diest, President of Acumen’s new Front Range Region (Denver and communities to the north as far as Ft. Collins and south as far a Colorado Springs).  Steve has been married for 28 years to his wife Christine, and together they have 4 children; Jonathan, Benjamin, Isabela, and Jacob (ages 22-14).

Steve earned an undergrad degree from Cal Poly (Mathematics) and a graduate degree from Bakke Graduate University (Entrepreneurship). A University of Colorado football fan, he can be found cheering his oldest, an inside linebacker for the Buffs. #SkoBuffs! He spent the past dozen years as an entrepreneur and founder of 2 businesses in the fast-growing sleep space.

The first, a franchised multi-state retail mattress concept that grew to over 4 regions nationally (Steve also owned 4 area Denver locations), and second, a B2B and B2C e-commerce natural pillow manufacturing business. He spent the first half of his career in non-profit leadership internationally with Cru that took him to live in Chile, Spain & Mexico. 

Steve is quoted as saying he “loves the entrepreneurial spirit and seeing leaders make something out of nothing and radically impact their family, community, and companies.

Connect with Steve on LinkedIn.

Pete Gazlay

Growth Catalyst - Northern Colorado

Click here to learn more about Pete.

Pete Gazlay grew up in an entrepreneur’s family and caught the bug early with his own lawn moving and landscape installation company. The road to business ownership was never a straight path. The “five-year plan” got interrupted with children and Pete had to support his family and launched is career as a police officer. He rose rapidly in the leadership ranks, but saw his future with bureaucrats and politicians and new that he was a square peg in a round hole. He did the unthinkable at retired mid-career to launch his speaking career. He wasn’t quite as successful as he hoped and after three years he found a “real job” again.

He worked for an incredible entrepreneur in the Facilities Maintenance industry and was exposed to site operations and Fortune 500 companies and world headquarters in the US, Canada and Costa Rica. 

In 2009 he left that company and in 2010 he and Linda started Total Facility Care with zero clients and zero employees. A truly bootstrap company Pete did business development in the days and cleaned buildings at night get things off the ground. In 2022 Pete and Linda exited the company with sales in excess of $5M and 145 team members.

Pete attributes his ability to exit to two primary decisions. First he joined a Owners Accountability Group in 2015 that grew is network and gave him a place to process business and marketplace issues. In 2018, Pete lead the self-implementation of the EOS®  System in Total Facility Care and over the next few years the business became less dependent on Pete and more reliant on a leadership team. This increased the value of TFC and enabled Pete and Linda to make their exit.


Tim James

Growth Catalyst - Kansas City

Click here to learn more about Tim.

Tim James rose through technology ranks to lead companies in Healthcare, Scientific Research, Software, Publishing and Distribution, spanning both for profit and non-profit arenas.

In his most recent full-time engagement as President of PPM Information Solutions (PPMIS), Tim was hired by the company’s corporate owner to make the business unit viable and heathy by repairing the fragmented culture & portfolio while reversing a significantly negative bottom line. He was tasked with growing market share while improving client services with the underlying goal of positioning the software company for sale. After the successful sale of PPMIS to Bolder Healthcare Solutions in October of 2014, Tim led the transition with near-perfect client retention.

After the successful turnaround, marketing and sale of PPMIS, Tim started TCJ Consulting in 2016, focusing his efforts and leveraging his experience to help companies improve organizational health, and focus their strategy and leadership development to accelerate success.

Tim, and his wife Courtney, have four grown children and twin grandchildren. Tim and Courtney are active members of Christ Church Anglican in Overland Park where Tim serves on the Parish Council. Tim enjoys building, whether it’s healthy organizations, custom-designed furniture, or Beef Bourguignon. Creating something greater than the sum of its parts is where he feels God’s pleasure.

 

Connect with Tim on LinkedIn.