Executive Director, Design, Planning & Development for a leading academic health system

A leading academic health system valued Helbling's long track record of success on similar healthcare construction searches as well as the capabilities of our individual team members.
A leading academic health system comprising one of the country’s best medical schools, a nationally ranked teaching hospital, a comprehensive cancer center, and an international institute for neurodevelopment disorders invited Helbling to submit an executive search proposal.

The health system’s director overseeing design, planning, and development planned to retire within six months, and they wanted to have a new leader in place by that time.

Helbling was one of three firms considered for the assignment. Our firm’s long track record of success on similar healthcare construction searches and the capabilities of our individual team members are two reasons Helbling was selected. There was also an instant rapport between our team and the client team and an aligned vision for how the search should be conducted.

The search was complex in that the health system was embarking on its largest-ever capital program—more than $7 billion across 10 years. The client needed to identify a successor with experience in capital program oversight of that scope and magnitude.

Helbling search consultants prepared for a national search that targeted individuals who had led, or were actively leading, the largest capital programs in the country within the healthcare industry. A small segment of the candidate pool came from higher education institutions within the same state; they likely had transferrable knowledge about how to work within the state system. 

The size of our client’s capital program was of interest to prospective candidates as was the opportunity to reorganize and scale the current department. Helbling team members excelled at assessing key qualities defined in the position description. In addition to project management and the delivery of strategic services, these included communication with health system leadership, internal and external stakeholders, and local organizations and outside agencies. Another important ability was human resource management as the incoming director would oversee a team of approximately 75 people.

Individuals approached for the role were primary healthcare-centric executives within the sectors of construction, design, and engineering. These included heads of design/construction and heads of facilities divisions. Client representatives—the Chief Financial Officer (who was also the hiring manager), the Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer, and the Vice Dean of Clinical Affairs (the two search committee chairs)—were respectful of Helbling’s experience and gave our firm free reign to set and execute the search strategy.

The eight-person search committee, which included key executives from across the organization, began evaluating candidates in a very regimented manner. Once finalist candidates advanced to the second round of interviews, they spent several days onsite. Their time included various meetings, a tour, and dinner with key stakeholders from the client team.

One candidate shined through due to his experience running a multibillion-dollar capital plan within a large organization while also possessing facilities management experience versus design and construction solely. He had the healthcare knowledge that was desired as well as communication and interpersonal skills that enable engagement with key contacts at all levels of the organization.

At his prior employer, he developed and implemented standardization initiatives and also brought experience scaling a facilities department. That knowledge proved to be useful early on as the selected candidate successfully began a reorganization of his department and made several key hires, including a newly created position. 

He has secured funding to make over 20 additional hires throughout this year in support of the large capital program. Under his watchful eye, they also celebrated the groundbreaking of a $1 billion biotechnology hub. It includes $50 million in affordable housing and a commitment to make 20% of onsite hires from members of the local community.

Learn about Helbling’s search process