Insight Blog

Search Case Study: Vice President, Sector Leader - Life Sciences & Higher Education

by Sami Barry
Sculpture in front of hospital
After working with a management consultant, our long-term client created the role of Vice President, Sector Leader to enhance its growth within the Life Sciences and Higher Education sectors. The new Vice President has the ideal expertise our client sought - broad experience working within the construction industry on higher education projects, as well as direct experience working within higher education. With our client only 18 months, the professional has been able to acquire new customers and projects, as well as renew the trust and respect of prior customers.  
 

Challenge

Vice President, Sector Leader of Life Sciences & Higher Education

After working closely with a management consultant in refining its growth strategies, our long-term client, a national general contractor and construction manager retained us to conduct a search for a Vice President, Sector Leader (VP). The VP role provides strategic leadership, client relationship / business development, and project management oversight in each of the following key areas:
 
  • Exceeding client expectations and delivering bottom line profits.  
  • Creating new business opportunities in the higher education and life science markets.
  • Expanding the company’s brand locally and establishing a reputation as a top builder of life sciences projects in local and regional markets.  
  • Building teams of highly qualified construction management professionals to handle project execution and manage the profitable delivery of high profile projects.
 
The role demands solid business and financial acumen, and developed analytical and business development skills. Ideally, our client wanted to secure a professional who had 15 to 20 years of estimating, operations, and account management experience, and of course, a strong reputation. They needed a leader who understood complex business issues such as finance and profitability, and knew how to effectively manage staff.
 

Strategy

Working closely with the company’s New England Region Vice President, we conducted a regional search for the new Vice President. Because our client wanted a true seller/doer, the talent pool was extremely limited. 
 
Helbling cast a wide net that encompassed contractors, universities, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and architecture and engineering entities. We targeted professionals who were already in seller/doer roles, or who were ready for that next step in their careers. All individuals had experience either working directly for or on projects within the life sciences and/or higher education sectors. We enhanced our research by networking with our industry contacts for referrals.
 

Results

The majority of the short-listed candidates were employed within the construction sector, with one having come from that industry and was now with a higher education institution in the area. Our client selected this individual due to his extensive experience working in senior leadership roles for contracting firms in New England where he secured and subsequently managed higher education and life science projects. Beyond liking his technical skills, our client appreciated his inner drive to excel, especially with developing solutions to complicated projects. They were also impressed with his personality and leadership style, and were confident he would be a great cultural fit.
 
The individual was open to exploring our client’s opportunity due to being in an interim director role with an Ivy-League institution where he had previously done projects for while employed with a prominent construction management firm. Although he enjoyed working on the owner’s side, he missed the faster-paced environment on the contracting side and desired moving into a more challenging role. He was eager to transition back to the construction side of the business in a seller/doer role where he could leverage his strong relationships within higher education and life sciences to help the firm increase their business in those respective sectors. 
 
In following up with our client several times since securing the new Vice President, he says the individual quickly earned respect among his peers and is admired for his knowledge and capabilities. His broad expertise in the construction industry has been highly valuable. One of his greatest attributes is his willingness and ability to provide solutions to challenges. He is a tremendous asset during the preconstruction phase and notices details that most do not. Beyond his technical skills, he is an effective communicator and decision maker, and his enthusiasm has made a positive impact on his team. He is admired for being a collaborative leader who welcomes productive dialogue and enjoys mentoring his team. He has high expectations for his team, and when they need support, he’s there to teach and support them.  
 
The Vice President has been able to get our client company back in good standing with multiple former clients because of their extremely positive experiences working with him previously, and their trust that he would closely oversee their projects to ensure they stayed on budget and schedule. This resulted in our client being awarded projects from multiple institutions with whom they hadn’t worked in several years.  
 
We have also maintained a close relationship with the Vice President, and he has expressed that he made the right career decision. In his 18 months with our client, the role has been extremely rewarding, and he is excited about the anticipated successes over the coming years as the company continues to gain market share in the higher education and life science markets.
 
Contact Joe Wargo to learn more about this search and our experience in securing executives for architecture, engineering, and construction organizations.