Founded in 1940, The Dalton Company is a full service builder that provides a variety of services within the building industry. A family-run, professionally managed business, its services include project and construction management, feasibility studies, professional quantity surveying and master planning, as well as other consulting services.
The company is known for its "Alternative Approach to Building," which offers a unique and integrated approach to projects.
Dalton adapted to significant change in the building industry by developing a trust-driven model of doing business. Based on accountability and leadership, the approach fosters a culture of trust that is inclusive of both its staff and clients. The company regards trust as a tangible, not intangible, quality that is a core part of its business model.
Building on Principles
Though other companies founded around the same time have not realized the same longevity, The Dalton Company has remained strong throughout its history.
"That speaks to the commitment of not only my brother and me, but the people that work at Dalton,” President Randy Dalton said.
The commitment of Dalton’s employees runs throughout the company, as the company’s culture is one not only of pride, but of growth and reflection.
“We take our work very personally,” Dalton said. “There's a pride in being involved in an organization where we're all part of a group with consistent goals and objectives that are part of a bigger picture. We're trying to succeed both as a company and as individuals.”
As a learning organization, the company is also willing to invest in its employees to get the success which they’re all striving for.
“We encourage growth from our employees,” Dalton said. “We have always assisted them with any training, coaching, or academic undertakings they want to pursue outside of their day-to-day work at Dalton and we'll continue to do so in looking to advance individuals. We've had some people who have been with us for 20-plus years and started in very junior positions. Now, they’re in the senior management of the company. We believe it’s our approach that helps us recruit and retain the best staff.”
Dalton’s core values and beliefs extend to the company’s building processes. Project management methods and standards are coupled with predictive analysis and measurement tools. The result is project teams empowered to serve clients as partners with open communication throughout a project’s lifespan.
A common theme across all of its projects is the trust that Dalton establishes with its clients. Built into their project management process is a means to build, leverage, and even measure trust. The aim is to preserve the integrity of the client’s vision, schedule, and budget.
Dalton’s “Building on Principles” approach serves clients across a range of sectors, from academic, residential, and broadcast media to private clubs and religious institutions. A common theme across all projects is how Dalton’s way of doing business resonates with its clients.
The company was recently involved in the renovation of Toronto Artscape’s Wychwood Barns—dilapidated structures that now serve as a major creative cultural space in the community. It was also one of the first LEED Heritage Gold projects in Canada. Taking on these types of sustainability and community-focused projects wasn’t part of The Dalton Company’s original plans, and they’ve become a large part of the company’s portfolio.
“It just fits with that we're all about,” Dalton said. “Most of the corporations we deal with in not-for-profit are concerned about sustainability and good practice, so it's just a logical fit with what we're all about and what our customers are typically looking for.”
An Alternative Approach to Building
Customers often look for certainty at all stages of the project and Dalton’s “Alternative Approach to Building” offers that by placing a heavy emphasis on pre-planning, and working with the client to establish their “Definition of Success”.
“If you're not involved early, you'll find you'll never get caught up with the subject matter,” Dalton explained. “If the design professionals are hired early and the builder is brought in later, it's very difficult to understand the subtleties of what was discussed at the inception of a project. From our standpoint, the earlier we're involved the better. For our clients, it's the same way.”
Dalton points to the example of its work at Upper Canada College. Planning for projects next summer is happening now in conjunction with the school and consultants, ensuring there are no obstacles when the project actually gets underway.
“Cost certainty is a very important aspect of that as well,” Dalton added. “If all the elements of a project are monitored at the early stage, then the likelihood of success improves exponentially going forward. If a lot of the design work and planning is done without understanding cost right from the commencement of a project, it can often lead to surprises down the road.”
Avoiding surprises and keeping certainty high are hallmarks of Dalton’s Alternative Approach. This has kept customers such as Upper Canada College, Bell Media, and the Anglican Diocese of Toronto coming back for more than 10 years. Dalton explained that the bar is set very high by both the company and its customers and maintaining that quality of work is an active, engaged process.
“We’re constantly monitoring and measuring what we're doing and reporting to our customers on an ongoing basis, getting feedback from them as to where they see things,” he said. “A cornerstone of our Alternative Approach is the client's definition of success, which we approach them to establish. Often times, their definition of success is different than what the project team might have assumed without having asked.”
Of course, Dalton is always looking for ways to refine and improve its approach, always looking toward its upcoming projects, such as the renovation of the Bata shoe factory in Batawa, Ontario. The shoe factory, once a cornerstone of the community, has fallen into disrepair since its decommissioning. Now, it’s set to be repurposed as residential community space.
“It's part of rebuilding the whole Batawa community,” Dalton said. “We're working with the Bata Development Corporation directly, to see their vision through to fruition. It's very interesting being part of the rejuvenation of a community that was once thriving and the conversion of the shoe factory will hopefully re-instill the purpose and spirit that the town was founded on.”
Ultimately, The Dalton Company hopes to set an industry standard for others to follow and they know that’s easier said than done.
“There are other very good companies,” Dalton explained. “We're not the only one. We're hopefully showing a different way of doing business that will be beneficial not only to our company but the industry as a whole. Our approach has bolstered our competitive advantage, greatly increasing our repeat and referral work.”