Search Case Study: Prep School Dir, Buildings, Grounds & Campus Operations

by Sami Barry
Prep school

Helbling partnered with a preparatory school, working closely with the institution's Head Master in securing a Director of Buildings, Grounds & Campus Operations. This is a significant role within the School's structure and the Director's responsibilities are broad and encompass strategic planning, capital asset planning and construction, campus maintenance, public safety, sustainability, energy management, and fleet management. Our client chose a candidate who was from a prominent university and she has positively impacted the School's facilities department in a short period of time. Her greatest achievements have been adding structure to the School's facilities department and implementing a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), taking the School's approach to facilities from reactive to proactive.

Our client's objectives:

Our client is a renowned preparatory school that was established in the early 1800’s. Because many of its facilities were built decades ago, it had a serious need to address deteriorating faculty residences, administrative buildings, and athletic facilities.

The Director of Buildings, Grounds & Campus Operations (Director) is a significant role within the School’s structure because it serves as the School’s senior manager of all activity and resources that are devoted to the physical development, operation, and maintenance of the School and its grounds as well as the safety of its people, operations, and assets. The Director’s responsibilities are broad and encompass strategic planning, capital asset planning and construction, campus maintenance, public safety, sustainability, energy management, and fleet management.

One of the dynamics of the search was that the School has an aggressive environmental initiative that focuses on green building, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and land and water management. The Director manages this program by ensuring that the School remains a leader in environmental sustainability and stewardship.

Our client was seeking a professional who could develop, lead, and continuously manage a positive work culture that focuses on excellence and high standards, values steady improvement, and builds mutual respect within the School community and the broader community outside of its gates.

Our Search Strategy:

For this search, we worked closely with the School’s Head Master and Chief Financial Officer. During initial discussions, they outlined their objectives of hiring an individual for the role and the experience desired in ideal candidates. It was clear that they sought an individual who was not only qualified in their experience with facilities management capital projects but who was also highly skilled in personnel management, budgeting, strategic facilities planning, and project oversight.

To ensure that we would identify all potential candidates with the applicable experiences and skills, we primarily focused on professionals from other boarding schools, colleges and universities, healthcare organizations, pharmaceutical firms, and cultural facilities in the Northeast. We targeted individuals who had at least ten years of experience in facilities management, five of which were at a senior level.

Search Results:  

The candidate selected by our client was Director of Mechanical Maintenance and Planning with a prominent university. In her position, the candidate was directly responsible for the management of the maintenance and planning departments which care for nine million SF within 700 facilities across five campuses. She has significant experience in all aspects of administration including human resources, budget, finance and procurement functions, space and facilities management, policy analysis and planning, organizational analysis and planning, statistical reporting, and strategic planning.  

In follow-up conversations with the School’s Head Master, she has expressed that the placed professional is a collaborative leader, and has demonstrated her willingness to listen to others' ideas and implement them along with her own to ensure the best solutions and generate the most effective results. She communicates well with all levels of the School’s staff and management, and is well respected.

Her most significant achievement thus far has been her success with adding structure to the facilities management department. She implemented a new CMMS which promotes better prioritization with maintenance tasks. The system also enables the School to (for the first time in its history) track preventive maintenance, such as scheduling repairs, to ensure that issues are identified before they become emergencies. As a result, she has transitioned the facilities management department’s approach from reactive to proactive.

Additionally, she is in the process of instituting a formal annual performance review process so her team has a clear understanding of their expectations as well as their performance regarding those expectations.