Xanthoreaaustralis
When the plants going into the holes are around 1,000 years old like these Xanthoreaaustralis, it’s a comforting feeling to know that each of your team knows what they’re doing.

BUILDING A GOOD TEAM

If a business is ticking along nicely, it’s often thanks to the obvious: good demand, good staff, good relationships with clients. And while these factors may be ‘duhh’ to most of us, it never hurts to wave them around every now and then as a reminder of where we should probably be heading. Take Horizon West’s landscape business, for example. They’d be the last people to pat themselves on the back for having a good in-house culture: they’re too busy getting on with the job. But that’s exactly what they’ve created and it’s working well for them and for the people they work with. Gavin Dalton gives us a quick, unembellished look in...


He’s a good choice to act as tour guide, given he’s a relatively new addition. For 18 odd years he worked at Dawson’s Garden World, liaising with customers, offering them his horticultural experience to sort their garden challenges. And for the last four years he’s run Horizon West’s landscape maintenance section. “There are three arms: construction, irrigation and maintenance, and with a staff of around fifty we cover the metro Perth area, as far north as Two Rocks, east to Ellenbrook and down south as far as Mandurah.”

Started nine years ago by Allen Ryan and Brad Hagen, there’s not a lot Horizon West don’t do. From domestic scale construction and the follow-on maintenance of these landscapes, to larger public spaces associated with new housing developments. Streetscapes, passive green pocket parks and active playing fields – they’re across it all. So how do they stop themselves from being spread too thin? How do they prevent standards from slipping?

“To begin with, for us, it’s all about service. If you get that right, everything looks after itself.” Anyone working in the horticultural sphere appreciates how tricky it can be to manage dynamic living systems to meet set standards. Gavin’s first step in the process is client liaison: seeing what the client expects.

Secondly, expertise and knowledge are the best tools to build thriving green spaces and keep them that way, so once Gavin and his clients have agreed on where they’re heading, he turns to his team to make that happen. “It’s about finding the right people to work with you. They need to be a good fit within the team, not only in terms of personality but also bring a skill or knowledge that fills a gap. And they have to be passionate for outdoor work because when it rains, we work; when it’s sunny and hot, we work.”

In practice Gavin’s maintenance teams work to a schedule, but arriving on site they organise themselves so that each can offer the job maximum benefit from their personal area of expertise. “They’re good staff because we can trust them to take responsibility for the results.”

Which brings us back to the initial point, why a business like this succeeds. They offer skilled people and straight up, direct customer service. “There are plenty of jobs out there and our efforts to take pride in our work has spread by word of mouth.”

Four years after making the move from Dawson’s, Gavin has no regrets. “I was ready for new challenges – it was time for a change. And while I’m still in a customer service role I’m also actively applying my horticultural knowledge in a much broader context. Every day is a challenge and it’s exciting.”


The Village at Wellard
The Village at Wellard, which sits roughly 40 kilometres south of Perth, has been built from scratch with people’s real lives in mind. It has a train station, a shopping strip, public parks and gardens, wetlands and 17 hectares of conservation bushland. Horizon West was part of the build and its now responsible to maintain a large percentage of the public open spaces. The success of projects like this depends on keeping standards high and Gavin’s team knows this.

Wembley Golf Course and the City of Cambridge
For combined clients Wembley Golf Course and the City of Cambridge, Horizon West constructed this surreal landscape filled with a mini putt putt course, playground and function pavilions.