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Search Case Study: Executive VP Operations for Infrastructure Contractor

Search Case Study: Executive VP Operations for Infrastructure Contractor

Helbling worked closely with one of our long-term clients, a heavy civil contractor, in identifying and securing an individual who has strong credentials and experience in profit and loss; safety; operational performance; business development; and overall leadership. While these technical attributes are attractive, our client selected him for his cultural fit, work ethic, and integrity. Within his one-year tenure, the selected professional has demonstrated his capabilities through his involvement in many strategic initiatives.

Our Client's Objectives

Our client is a heavy civil contractor that serves the industrial and commercial sectors in the U.S. and Canada. When the President & Chief Executive Officer (President), whom we have known for decades, made the decision to create the role of Executive Vice President of Operations, he retained us to perform the executive search. His objective in adding this position, which reports directly to him, was to have a key executive who would focus on the firm's North American region, which boasts revenues of more than $500M, and has completed projects in more than 40 states within the U.S. The President wanted to acquire an executive from another major heavy civil contractor who would analyze the company’s existing organizational structure; evaluate and improve operational delivery; increase profitability; and help build their depth of operational management talent.

The ideal candidate would be a capable C-level manager who was motivated to thoroughly assess a broad project portfolio and regional operations. He/she would possess field operations experience in a self-performance construction environment, and knowledge of safety, planning, staffing, performance excellence, business development, and client management. He/she would be a polished leader with a solid financial acumen and capabilities to oversee profit and loss for a $500M+ business.

Search Strategies

Working closely with the President and the Vice President of Human Resources, we developed a strategy that would target companies with similar levels of revenues and a strong North American presence.

The search plan called for a comprehensive national outreach which primarily focused on candidates within prominent heavy civil contractors, and large engineering and construction conglomerates with heavy construction business units. We also penetrated certain layers of the architecture/engineering community as sources of non-traditional candidates.

We approached individuals at the levels of Vice President, Senior Vice President, Executive Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer based on their companies’ sizes and organizational structures, and narrowed our focus to those who were running similar-sized units in a similar capacity within large and well-respected companies.

Search Results

The selected professional was from a major Southwest contractor where he was managing a large business unit with full responsibility for profit and loss, safety, operational performance, business development, and overall leadership. Having been with his company for more than ten years, he had a strong reputation with peer contractors, subcontractors, and clients. He had a fast-track career progression that promoted him to senior executive roles, and he had a proven track-record of performance. Without a doubt, he had the capability to perform in the Executive Vice President role from day-one and to also eventually assume additional responsibilities.

While this candidate had very strong technical credentials, the major driving factor that led to our client selecting him was his cultural fit. Our client places significant value on work ethic, integrity, willingness to connect with field-staff, and executive and operational abilities. The candidate had spent the early part of his career in field operations, and therefore, he understood the impact of executive decisions from the ground up. He also possessed the ability to quickly identify issues with projects, processes, procedures, and existing talent.

After one year of being with our client, the new Executive Vice President of Operations has been involved with many initiatives, and he has:

  • Hired in excess of ten new key executive managers in various regions to strengthen internal talent.

  • Begun to realign the organizational structure to develop a more efficient, effective, and unified corporate operation across the company’s broad geographic regions.

  • Assumed additional direct reports and responsibilities among the executive team.

When our client hired this individual, it was with the expectation that he would address internal challenges and improve upon them. The candidate has created positive momentum within his one-year tenure, and he has expressed continued positive execution of plans and changes to further enhance the organization.