Horizon Pharma is Ready for Anything

It's hard to surprise Jerry DiCola in his role as director of facilities operations at Horizon Pharma

Jerry DiCola, Horizon Pharma

In 2008, Horizon Pharma was a small startup with a handful of employees and no office space to call its own. Since then, the company has evolved into a global biopharmaceutical company with more than $1 billion in net sales and over 1,000 employees.

That kind of growth presented special challenges to Jerry DiCola, Horizon director, facilities operations—challenges that were spelled out before he even had the job.

“During my interview, we walked the space and discussed how I could help use it most effectively,” DiCola says. “And the second day on the job, the COO explained how I would be a strategic partner by creating an environment that would help people be as comfortable and productive as possible.”

That strategic position was heightened when Horizon moved to its new US operations facility in Lake Forest, Illinois. In the new location, the company took over 135,000 square feet that accommodates 535 people with 23 conference rooms, 8 smaller collaborative spaces for unscheduled meetings, a large café with a full-time barista, and a 1,000-square-foot full-service kitchen. However, three days before moving, DiCola was told that Horizon had acquired another business in the same building, which meant that he was suddenly responsible for an additional 16,000 square feet of space and 30 new employees.

Horizon Pharma’s new facility in Lake Forest, IL, is outfitted with sleek, modern furniture.

He immediately contacted 3MD Moving to make sure the new employees were included as part of the team. Since they were shifting to a different part of the building, they were given crates and moving supplies, and even instructions on the safest ways to load and unload filing cabinets.

“Accommodating an influx of new people was all part of being adaptable and coming up with multiple backup plans to deal with every eventuality,” DiCola explains.

Ultimately, the move was successful, with only one missing crate (which was found within hours). In addition to 3MD, DiCola gives credit to real estate brokerage firms CBRE, Clune Construction, Henricksen, and BOS, as well as architectural firm Nelson for their support and coordination throughout the entire eight-month relocation process.

DiCola’s affinity for facilities management is somewhat surprising, since when he first came into the field, he didn’t actually know what a facilities manager’s job required. He began his career in HR management, then left the corporate world to open a deli and catering business with his wife. Several other detours led him to sales training for an HVAC company and then to a law firm that was looking for a facilities manager.

A game room, complete with arcade games, video games, and comfortable seating, provides the perfect spot for employees to have fun together.

The hiring manager there felt that DiCola’s combination of experience reviewing leases and handling operations and procurement made him the perfect candidate for the job, and she suggested that he join the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).

Following through on her suggestion set the trajectory for the rest of his career. “IFMA provided me with educational, networking, and training opportunities I never would have had otherwise,” DiCola says. “It’s a highly supportive group of people who I can reach out to for help with anything, from how to handle a particular emergency to where to find a specific kind of chair.”

One of the basic lessons he learned through the organization was how to work and communicate with upper management. For example, presenting a request with a like-minded partner or demonstrating how a recommendation aligns with an existing strategic priority both help increase the likelihood of success.

As baby boomers ease their way into retirement and millennials come to dominate the workforce, DiCola knows facilities managers will adapt appropriately. “We always need to meet the needs and preferences of the people we work with,” he says. “We constantly monitor details of changing trends so we can accommodate how people work and use the environment around them.”

The Horizon workplace supports and engages employees with flexible work schedules, lunches from local restaurants delivered on-site by Fooda, fresh fruit and other healthy snacks, and activities like ping-pong tournaments and cupcake contests.

All of these efforts are clearly paying off. Because of DiCola’s collaboration with senior management, Horizon has received six Best Workplace awards over the last three years from Crain’s Chicago Business, Fortune, and the Chicago Tribune.

“As a pharma company, we take care of patients, and that spills over to how we treat our employees,” DiCola says. “That makes my job easier, since I have the support I need to create a work environment that makes people feel comfortable.”

Photos: George Burns Photography, Halkin Mason Photography