Case Studies

Major Midwestern University

Business School Dean

January 10, 2006

Business School Dean Search:  Case # 2

Our client was in a bit of jam. Over a ten year period, the Deans hired through various approaches (national search firms and search committees working without the assistance of a search firm)  had not produced the results needed by the University.  During this time the school, centered in a major metro area, was suffering from inconsistent leadership and lack of strategic direction.   As a result,  enrollment was declining, programs were shrinking and the quality of faculty was diminishing. The president and provost were not only concerned about reaccreditation of the business school, but also, its longer term viability in a highly competitive market region.    Transformational changes would need to be made across the board —and quickly—or the business school was in danger of being closed.
The provost contacted KULPER & COMPANY as a result of a direct referral from a current client.   The provost knew that our firm offered highly personalized service and would work hard to attract a great slate of candidates but he wanted to meet me in person before we closed the deal.   Within a few days, I was on my way to his city for our meeting and a detailed discussion of the issues.   Importantly, the provost was very experienced working with larger search firms many of whom only specialized in academic search.   The provost elaborated;
“ I have experience working with many national search firms whospecialize in academic search.   The service we need and want simply does not come forward from them in the way we need it.  I find this disappointing and very frustrating. We are ‘sold’ the search by a partner and then the work is shunted off to a lower level functionary—much less experienced—and less able to attract and develop the right candidates. Consequently, we have found that the quality of the candidates is spotty and we have suffered the consequences.   Our faculty led searches have been equally frustrating; we need to do things very differently this time—can you help us?”.
We talked about how I would be personally handling the search from start to finish with assistance from the KULPER Team which includes professional researchers and experts from academia.  He liked the fact that we would be focused on his search/committed to producing the results he needed and felt confident in moving forward.  Bottom line: the provost knew what he needed in the way of service and felt that our firm could deliver for him.   Never easy to make a “buy” decision!   But we try to bring forward plenty of information to make the decision easier. The fact that he had a personal recommendation to use our firm made him confident in working with us before he even contacted me.
We commenced with preparation of the Position Spec and later that day I was introduced to the search committee chair. He told me that the search would be very tough and that I was in for a great deal of work!    I told him that I had heard that before…and that we were up for the challenge and ready to help him and his associates.   I made him promise to have his wife make me a great Pakistani dinner if the search turned out to his satisfaction. He agreed!
The marketing of every search we conduct is tailored for each client. We discuss the likely sources for qualified candidates with our client and how we plan to approach candidate sources and specific potential candidates. Like most search firms we rely heavily on email and the internet to spread the word about the opportunity to candidates who are actively seeking a new position as well as those who are not looking at all.   We know that “A” level candidates are always interested in career development so it often just a matter of getting into a conversation with a potential candidate willing to learn about it.   A clear and concise job specification that presents the opportunity in a compelling manner is essential as well since it provides background about the hiring institution, job expectations and other important details. 
Within several weeks we had developed a group of well qualified/motivated candidates who we introduced to the search committee chair for initial review and assessment.   Soon thereafter the first search committee member led telephone interviews commenced and candidates were qualified.    Several finalists emerged over the months ahead and were invited for campus interviews.   Because the school wanted an experiencedtransformative leader the provost was not going to rush into making an offer…. but within several months a finalist emerged.   He was a national level candidate very well regarded and interested in the position.   We talked over several weeks but just as we were about to close the deal he informed us that he could not pursue the opportunity any further; family responsibilities emerged he withdrew.   We were disappointed but undaunted.   We had several candidates in the hopper but the provost was not going to offer the job to any of them!   We would need to find another candidate of quality similar to the one that had been forced to back off.   
We restarted our candidate ID effort —-and within several weeks another excellent candidate emerged who we had not spoken with before about the opportunity.   We were catching him at just the right moment.   He was a nationally recognized Dean and leader in the field. At the time he was Dean of a major business school and well-known among his peers in the industry.   He had the experience to transform our client’s school and the desire to tackle the challenge.   Soon after he interviewed with the provost and the search committee and was offered the job after we completed a detailed reference report that included verification of all academic degrees, job experience  as well as direct comments from personal references.
The hired candidate began the transformation of our client’s business school within weeks of arriving on the job.   He had the experience, contacts and strong support from the provost and president to move forward quickly to start bringing in new faculty, creating new programs and attracting the right students.   The Dean is celebrating his 5th year of service as of the writing of this case study.   The school is thriving by all measures.   We are very proud of this outcome.   It happened this way because the provost knew what he wanted and we were able to develop a great pool of candidates.  
Oh, and we all enjoyed that homemade Pakistani meal promised to me by the search committee chair. I have to say that was one of the best parts of the entire assignment.