The Dalton Company
Founded in 1940, The Dalton Company Ltd. has been providing professional building services to customers throughout the greater Toronto area for more than 75 years.
Today the family-owned and operated company is run by third-generation owners Randy and Andrew Dalton. The brothers head up the company started by their grandfather, with Randy and Andrew serving as president and CEO, respectively.
The Dalton Company works throughout the greater Toronto area as well as British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, serving clients in the commercial, residential, institutional and industrial sectors. In addition to project and construction management, The Dalton Company offers a full-service division aimed at performing vital projects with non-intrusive methods than ensure minimal disruption to active workplaces and facilities.
As a business largely based on repeat clients and referrals, the company has developed a niche in the academic sector, and also completes projects for private clubs, broadcast/media companies, cultural and heritage institutions, and other nonprofit, nonpublic organizations, such as performing arts centres.
Collaboration is key
Throughout its history the company has refined its key differentiator in what it calls its Alternative Approach to Building. This approach enshrines a holistic approach to project management that involves early and frequent collaboration among key stakeholders to gain a better understanding of their purpose, vision, objectives and limitations.
“The more adversarial approach within the building industry has been predominate over the years, which has led to litigation, mistrust and poor relations,” says Randy Dalton, president of The Dalton Company. “That old approach does not work effectively in my opinion. That’s why we’ve developed the Alternative Approach. We’re focused on working in a more collaborative fashion with the architect, general contractor and owner. It encourages collaboration from the onset and results in much better success in terms of quality, schedule performance and value.”
This commitment to the Alternative Approach to Building is more than just a marketing tactic. Dalton has specifically focused on specific market sectors as a means of ensuring that The Dalton Company never gets so large that it loses the personal touch and attention to detail that has served it so well throughout the years.
“The technical aspects of the job are often the easiest part, but it’s all that other stuff — building trust, honest and open communication, making sure you don’t lose that personal touch — that makes it difficult,” he says. “We minimize the risk inherent in the building process so that clients can build confidence through trust.”
Tracking workplace trends
Dalton has recently seen an increased focus on adaptive reuse and restoration in the market, especially in young, urban areas like Toronto’s Liberty Village neighborhood, one of the oldest settlements in the city. “20 years ago areas like that just would have been knocked down, so adaptive reuse is a very positive trend as far as I can see,” he says.
The Dalton Company has completed a number of such projects in the area, including recent work for computer animation firm Stereo D. A subsidiary of Deluxe Entertainment Services, Stereo D has completed 3D imaging work for some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, including the most recent Star Wars film.
These adaptive reuse projects are especially popular among companies like Stereo D, which have a younger workforce whose taste in workplaces is distinctly less corporate than their predecessors. “New, entrepreneurial-type firms with younger people are very interested in working in historic buildings rather than glass office towers and that’s a trend that’s gone on for a number of years,” says Randy.
In 2013, the company completed one of its largest restoration projects to date at Artscape Youngplace in Toronto’s West Queen West neighborhood. A cultural institution focused on creating creative and social space for members of the local community, Artscape Youngplace offers studio, gallery and community space as well as learning and creation labs.
The Dalton Company worked to renovate the 75,000-square-foot building to LEED standards, although the company did not seek actual LEED certification. “There are considerable costs involved in that and the way the Ontario building codes and regulations are written now they’re almost at the LEED level,” says Dalton.
Building ties with trades and suppliers
There are a number of factors that can negatively impact the relationship between a company like Dalton and it’s tradespeople and suppliers. The team at Dalton has identified a number of these common factors in the building industry, which include poor planning, miscommunication, lack of procedures and policies and low bidding by contractors that encourages costly change orders.
In a bid to strengthen its relationships with tradespeople and suppliers, Dalton has implemented a trade relations program. The initiative includes a partner relations quality certification program, which enables the company to proactively build trust and communication between trades and suppliers throughout all stages of a project.
"Partners account for approximately 85 percent of our project costs, so maintaining positive trade relations is a critical factor to achieving success on each project as defined by our customers,” he says. “We proactively build trust and open communication with our trades that encourages collaboration, which ensures a project team is focused on project outcomes, rather than individual goals.”
Based on the Alternative Approach framework, the certification system is driven by a performance rating that measures partners on overall performance on each project, with factors such as communication, quality of work, scheduling, managing change and sustainability all playing a part.
“For example, if there’s an issue on the project site, sometimes only part of a story is heard, which means the full scope of the problem isn’t addressed. We head this off by regularly holding project meetings with our partners that encourage open, honest communications so potential issues can be avoided and expectations are clearly established,” says Randy.
With this new program in place, Dalton hopes to ensure consistent delivery standards, create value and loyalty with tradespeople, create positive customer relations and give all stakeholders a competitive advantage in the market.
A loyal following of repeat customers, a unique, collaborative approach to project management and a commitment to integrating the next generation of workers into the company will surely spell success for The Dalton Company well into the future.