La Salle College High School is an independent Catholic college preparatory school for young men of varied backgrounds. Serving just over 1,000 students in grades 9 through 12, it is nationally recognized for its technology and music programs, as well as its impressive campus facilities. Its long-term and highly respected Director of Facilities was planning to retire in the next nine months. Therefore, the school’s objective was to hire a new Director fairly quickly so that he/she would have time to work closely with the incumbent and make a smooth transition as his successor.
The Director provides leadership, coordination, supervision, and direction for facilities services and capital projects. The school sought a professional who understands the principles and practices of facilities master planning, day-to-day operations of buildings and grounds, and skilled maintenance, including preventative maintenance and replacement cycles. More importantly, they needed a professional who is knowledgeable and savvy at administration, budgeting, supervision, and training. The Director frequently makes presentations to the Board of Trustees and communicates regularly with school personnel, making professional communication skills a necessary trait in prospective candidates.
Our client was most interested in candidates who had experience with: work order systems; strategic facilities operations initiative implementation; key construction projects and how he/she overcame associated challenges to ensure success; and developing and managing budgets, including facilities operations and/or capital budgets. Other skills that were highly attractive in candidates were: a proactive mindset, and the ability to develop and execute innovative strategies and processes to support the school’s growth and evolution.
The ideal candidate would also bring a combination of abilities to manage operations of the physical plant, plan and lead capital construction projects, and manage and organize logistics and safety of multiple events over the course of the year.
For this assignment, Helbling’s team worked closely with the school’s President, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Building & Grounds Committee, and retiring Facilities Director. Together, we developed a search strategy that entailed identifying talent within colleges and universities, high schools and preparatory schools, healthcare systems and hospitals, corporate campuses, and third party facilities services providers. We flowcharted those institutions and organizations to determine the key individuals who were leading their facilities management.
We reached out to more than 200 professionals in the surrounding region and presented approximately 20 candidates to our client who chose to interview 9 individuals with a search committee, of which 4 scandidates advanced to the second round.
Helbling’s slate of final candidates encompassed individuals from a wide array of backgrounds, several of whom were passive and not actively looking for new opportunities. Our client noted all finalists as being impressive with one who earned particularly enthusiastic support. The professional is a native to the area and has extensive experience in facilities management, including as Director of Facilities Operations with another preparatory school in the region. She also held management roles with significant real estate firms. Her background entails the experience La Salle sought, including with capital planning, capital and annual budget administration, analyzing building systems to determine areas of preventative and deferred maintenance, and managing contract labor. She also possesses strong soft skills to interact with senior administration, the Board, donors, and parents.
Our client has expressed that it was a "model external search process", and they are incredibly pleased and grateful to have the candidate join them on the senior leadership team. Her energy, vision, creativity, and forthrightness impress all who encounter her. They are looking forward to working with her in the years to come.
We were initially a little hesitant to engage a search firm for our facilities management opening. But working together with Helbling & Associates quickly convinced us how inspired that choice was. Helbling staff worked with us through every stage of the hiring and onboarding process, from reviewing the job description to drawing attention to the posting to designing the interviews to negotiating the contract to introducing the successful candidate to our school community. Helbling & Associates actively promoted our opening among facilities managers in comparable area high schools, college prep schools, colleges, and universities. Their concentrated experience in this specialized dimension of school leadership led us to adding a member to our team we would not likely have found dependent on our resources and reputation alone. They proved to be a reliable and responsive partner.Brother James Butler, President of La Salle College High School