Director of Building Services for a public university

Helbling was retained by a large public research institution located in the Midwest with campuses covering more than 2,000 acres to secure a Director of Building Services. Our client was looking specifically for an individual who could spearhead the unification of the custodial department within academic, residential, and athletics facilities, and who could be forward-facing with students, faculty, and institutional leadership. 

Partnering with the Associate Vice President of Facilities, Planning & Operations and the Senior Director of Operations, Helbling secured a professional with 17 years of leadership experience, 10 of which in an institutional setting. The successful candidate has been very well received by the university’s leadership, bringing high energy and motivation to the newly unified department.

Our client is a large public research institution in the Midwest that spans more than 2,000 acres. The institution engaged us to conduct a search for a Director of Building Services due to the need to unify two departments: academic facilities and residential facilities. Bringing the two under one roof would allow for collaboration, forward-thinking, and a personal attention to LEAN programming. 
At the start of the search, the institution indicated that this professional needed to have executive presence and strong interpersonal skills to connect with both the senior leadership team and custodial maintenance team. Additionally, our client was also seeking a professional who would have the technical capabilities necessary to maintain their extremely high standard of excellence, and who demonstrated creative approaches to problem-solving in their past professional experience. 
As we all know by now, facilities departments acting separately have their own systems and processes. Therefore, the challenge was to attract an individual with a solid background of listening intently to differing ideas and implementing entirely new procedures. It was important that everyone from both departments had a say, so a part of these new procedures would include the development of an ongoing system for free-flowing ideas and continuous improvement. The type of leader who could ‘bridge the gap’ had to have a solid understanding of training and human development, as well as experience in department structure reorganization. 

Reporting to the Senior Director of Operations, the Director of Building Services is responsible for:

  • delivering custodial services to nearly 7M sf of facilities;
  • providing entertainment and athletic event support;
  • increasing improvements to custodial services;
  • team training, professional development, and all personnel functions;
  • high-level quality assurance and customer service, and
  • budget management. 

Despite the challenge of relocating someone to a rural area, our client is one of the most outstanding undergraduate institutions and has one of the more beautiful campuses in the nation. Helbling emphasized their prestige and high standard of excellence to attract professionals in the healthcare, hospitality, and education sectors. Partnering with the Associate Vice President of Facilities, Planning & Operations and the Senior Director of Operations, we successfully conducted a regional search for candidates. In guiding the search process, we assisted our client in determining which attributes were most important and streamlined our activity to focus on individuals with reasonable experience transitioning departments, managing a substantial operating budget, and leading problem resolutions with employee, vendor, and customer relations.

In addition to identifying candidates who had experience managing large custodial groups in a campus setting, it was imperative that the candidates had a proven ability to work closely and collaborate with the end-users as well as the community to preserve the integrity of the campus. Because this was a newly created merging initiative, it was also crucial that all candidates had the personality traits to create a smooth unification of the custodial departments and quickly gain the trust of both staffs.

Our client selected a professional with over 17 years of leadership experience and 10 years of institutional facilities management at a prominent Midwest institution. His multi-faceted experience in athletics, human resources, strategic development, and facilities management, gave our client confidence in his ability to unify the two custodial departments. In his previous positions, he provided leadership and developed strategies that ensured new custodial operations programs (integrated across all academic, athletic, administrative, and residential facilities) exceeded expectations. He also had both union and non-union experience, which provided our client the balance they sought. 

Throughout his career, the selected candidate worked directly with end-users on growth and development efforts, and had been instrumental in the implementation of successful customer service and technical training for his past teams. With the merger now complete, he is responsible for 200+ employees and has reduced employee turnover. Since his hire, the candidate has been very well received by the university’s leadership, bringing high energy and motivation to the newly unified department.

Learn more about Helbling's search process