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Real Estate Developer Search Case Study: Senior VP of Construction + VPs

Real Estate Developer Search Case Study: Senior VP of Construction + VPs

Helbling's long-term client, one of the most successful privately owned real estate developers in the nation, was embarking on its newest mixed-use development, currently one of the largest in North America and valued in the billions. The organization needed executive leadership to oversee the entire development, and given the project's size and scope, the talent pool was extremely limited with only a handful of executives having the necessary experience and capabilities. Thus far, we have been successful in attracting a Senior Vice President of Construction, and two Vice Presidents. These executives are collaboratively establishing processes to ensure that the development's projects remain on schedule and within budget.

Our Client's Objectives

Our client is headquartered in New York City, and is developing one of the most challenging projects in the country, encompassing hospitality, infrastructure, and commercial office space. Having invested billions into project, the company must ensure its success. To do so, it had to secure multiple executives with the proven abilities to provide leadership of the construction process, and of issues related to unions, logistics, and politics.

Due to the development's size and scope, it commanded highly talented professionals with specific backgrounds and skill sets. Consulting with our client’s leadership and thoroughly understanding the complexities of the roles, and the technical expertise necessary in executives, it was determined that the talent pool would be extremely limited with prospective candidates being significant senior executives in the industry. Candidates would have to be contacted carefully, confidentially, and aggressively.

Every executive search comes with its own challenges in finding and attracting candidates who not only have the required technical skills and experiences, but who also possess the personality traits that are compatible within the client's corporate environment. Having worked with this real estate development firm on many prior assignments over the past decade, we understand the type of professionals who thrive within their culture. Therefore, we knew our client would need highly intelligent, refined, Type A individuals with solid experiences and proven successes in the industry who were accustomed to working within a culture where things move very quickly without having a clearly defined chain of command.

Our Search Strategy

In understanding the project and its components, we decided the most optimal search approach would be to initially secure the Senior Vice President of Construction, and once he/she was hired, to work closely with that individual and the lead executive responsible for the development, in identifying and attracting professionals for the Vice President roles. The acquired team would have to work in close concert with one another in protecting the company’s interests, confirming strict adherence to budgets and schedules. Therefore, their professional and personal traits would be just as important as their skills and expertise. Their team's success would determine their own individual success.

With our experience of being search consultants within the A/E/C market for more than three decades, we were well aware of the extremely small talent pool. There are very few professionals who could fulfill these roles on a development of this size. Our research was narrowly focused upon certain individuals within the industry. Because of our strong knowledge of the marketplace and its professionals, and our extensive network of influential contacts, within a relatively short time frame, we were able to identify the few individuals from major construction firms and real estate developers who have the experience and ability to lead projects of this size and scope.

These potential candidates are key industry players who were in significant roles within their companies, and involved in high profile projects within one of the most active New York construction markets in U.S. history. We began our discussions with these professionals by meeting them and talking about our client and its project. In doing so, we wanted to determine if they would be open to playing a pivotal role in it.  Because of their professional mindsets and innate drives, all of the candidates were intrigued, and expressed their respect for our client and its goals. At the same time, they were sensitive to their current responsibilities and tenures with their employers. Needless to say, attracting them was complex, and we and our client had to be diligent in our pursuit of them.

Search Results

The entire search process to secure the three executives took approximately two years. We worked with the project’s executive-in-charge in attracting and securing the Senior Vice President of Construction, and following his placement, collaborated with both executives on the searches for Vice Presidents. The three executives secured are significant professionals in the industry, and are highly regarded within the New York construction market.

  • Senior Vice President of Construction. Helbling placed an individual who had been with his employer, one of the most successful construction firms in the nation, for almost 20 years. He had performed as a project executive on many complex infrastructure and institutional projects. Our client chose him for his solid reputation, his role in some of New York's significant projects, and his familiarity of working within a demanding and entrepreneurial culture.

  • Vice President. The first Vice President secured is an expert in building steel structures, a critical trait that was particularly attractive to our client. His 30 years of experience included well-known residential, commercial, and infrastructure projects in the city.

  • Vice President. Helbling placed a professional who has 30 years of experience within New York's construction and real estate industry. Throughout his career, he has successfully performed as a lead executive on iconic and complex development and construction projects within Manhattan, and in other major metropolitan areas. He was chosen by our client for his experience and knowledge of building distinguished towers, and for his experience of succeeding within aggressive corporate cultures.

It will take several years for this renowned development to be completed, and the executives secured are immersed in implementing processes and procedures to effectively monitor the company’s costs. They are confirming that individual projects retain their scopes, and remain on schedule and within budget, all of which will determine the development's ultimate success.