Our client, based in New York City, is developing one of North America’s largest and most complex projects, which includes infrastructure, hospitality, and multiple high-rise commercial office buildings. Investing billions of dollars into the development, our client needed to ensure its successful completion by securing leadership (multiple executives) who had the proven ability to provide effective oversight and management of the construction process and team, and of issues related to logistics, unions, and politics.
The size and scope of the development demanded extremely talented professionals with specific backgrounds and skill sets. Working closely with our client’s leadership and understanding the dynamics of the roles, and the technical expertise necessary in candidates, we agreed that the talent pool would be extremely limited.
To most effectively attract and secure professionals, we decided the best approach would be to initiate a search for the Senior Vice President of Construction role, and once he/she was secured, to work closely with them and other senior leadership in acquiring individuals for the Vice President roles. The acquired team would be expected to work very closely with each other in protecting the company’s best interests and ensuring strict adherence to budgets and schedules. Thus, their intrinsic skills, and professional and personality fits, would be crucial. Each would be instrumental in determining the success of the others.
With every executive search, our challenge is not only in identifying and attracting candidates who have the necessary technical qualifications and experiences, but whose personalities sync with the corporate culture of the organization. Working with this client on multiple prior assignments, we understand the type of professional who is typically successful within their environment. Therefore, we sought executives who are intelligent and refined, and who present themselves in a dynamic, polished manner. Candidates also needed to have enough aggressiveness and resilience to work within our client’s "Type A" culture, where things move very quickly and there isn’t always a clearly defined chain of command, typical of a real estate development firm.
As search consultants who have been working within the A/E/C sector for more than three decades, we knew that there was an extremely small talent pool, with most likely only a handful of professionals who could conceivably perform in the roles on a development of this magnitude. Therefore, we had to be diligent in our research to identify potential candidates with the required abilities and experiences. Because of our knowledge of the marketplace and our influential contacts, within a relatively short time period, we identified qualified individuals from major general construction firms and real estate developers that perform projects of significant size and scope.
Potential candidates are senior players in the industry, and they were deeply entrenched in their roles with their current employers and involved in high profile projects in one of the most active New York construction markets in U.S. history. Initially, we met with these professionals to simply discuss our client and the project to determine if they would have an interest in playing an instrumental role. All of the candidates were intrigued and had tremendous respect for our client and its objectives. However, they were cautious and sensitive because of their senior capacities and tenures with their current organizations, which meant attracting them was complicated, and we and our client had to be aggressive in our pursuit of them.
Over the course of two years, we worked closely with the project’s lead executive to secure the Senior Vice President of Construction and, following that placement, worked with both executives on subsequent searches for Vice Presidents. All three executives attracted are key players in the industry and extremely well regarded within the New York construction market.
Senior Vice President of Construction. Helbling secured a professional who had spent almost 20 years with his current employer, one of the most successful general construction firms in the industry, and he had a promising future with the company. He had been the project executive on numerous large and complex infrastructure and institutional projects. He was selected by our client for his reputation in the industry, his experience on some of the city’s most significant projects, and his ability to thrive within a very demanding and entrepreneurial corporate environment.
Vice President. The first Vice President secured came from a mid-sized general contractor. His 30 years of experience entailed working on iconic residential, commercial, and infrastructure projects in the New York market. His expertise in building steel structures was a critical trait for his role within the scope of the development and extremely attractive to our client.
Vice President. Helbling placed an accomplished professional with 30 years of experience in New York’s construction and real estate industry. During his career, this individual has excelled as a lead executive on high profile and complicated development and construction projects within Manhattan and in other major metropolitan areas. Our client selected him for his background in building prominent high rises and for his experience working within aggressive corporate cultures.
While this development project will take several years to be completed, these executives are successfully implementing processes and procedures to track the company’s costs for all projects within the development. They are ensuring that all projects maintain their scope, and remain on schedule and within budget, all of which will determine the ultimate success of the development.
There was only a handful of professionals who could conceivably perform in these roles. Therefore, we approached senior players in the industry cautiously and deliberately. Initially, we met with these professionals to simply discuss our client and the project to determine if they would have an interest in playing an instrumental role. All of the candidates were intrigued and had tremendous respect for our client and its objectives. However, they were sensitive because of their senior capacities and tenures with their current organizations, which meant attracting them was complicated, and we and our client had to be aggressive in our pursuit of them.Tom Helbling, President