Celebrating its 25th Year

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-By John Boley

Half a century in earthmoving is quite something. That’s what the founder and head of J Davison Nominees has behind him, and in August the company he founded comes up for a 25th anniversary.

Partly to coincide with this birthday, the company is being repositioned a little with the name Davison Earthworks. But the basics remain unchanged: a proud family company, with founder John and his wife Leanne joined by son Paul (as chief executive officer) and Len Condo (as general manager).

“It started off with just my wife and myself,” explains John, “and now we have 38 full-time employees plus subcontractors, so a total of about 50 staff. We still operate as a family outfit and we will probably try to hold it in at that range, because if you get too big you start to lose the family contact, the personal contact” and the company becomes more of a faceless administration.

In fact it started a lot further back than 1986 when J Davison Nominees was founded. John, whose experience actually goes back fifty-one years, came from a dairy farm in Tasmania. “At the age of 14 I was driving a tractor and milking cows. At this time – the late 1950s, early 1960s, education was pretty average because I came from a part of Tasmania where everyone worked on a dairy farm and education was not a priority.”

John suffered a bout of ill-health and subsequently moved to South Australia. “I had to get a job at 15 years of age and the only thing I knew was earth-moving machinery. That’s how I progressed from the dairy farm.” John then worked for a major Adelaide company before starting out on his own, “which was really the start of Davison Earthmovers.” He formed a company in which he had a 50 per cent share until he sold it in 1986 and started J Davison Nominees. “It’s been upwards from there. The company is only as strong as the people around you and the number of key people here are what effectively builds the company. That’s critical, I believe – get the right people in the right place and the company will thrive.”

J Davison Nominees has been steadily building ever since into a well-recognised, South Australian based, owned and operated, industry entity. The company undertakes earthmoving in the commercial, industrial and civil sectors.

“With our eye on the future and building a strong company, Davison Earthmovers has grown from small beginnings into a sound, well-structured business.”

From just two pieces of heavy plant, a small workshop and a home office, the company has grown to more than 20 pieces of heavy plant, modern offices, a large workshop and yard. Davison Earthmovers continually strives to develop and utilise innovative work practices and advances in technology – be it latest plant and machinery, innovative construction methods or up-to-date management systems. “Most of our machinery is less than 4 years old; we keep everything right up to date.”

While the business has grown and gained wide recognition, says the family, “we haven’t lost sight of the details. We are client focussed. ‘Your project is our project’. We take pride in our work and have developed a closely monitored project management style – a personal touch that ensures projects are completed on schedule, under budget and exceeding expectations.”

The Davisons are “proudly South Australian. We undertake works throughout the state. Our projects vary considerably from bulk earthworks using heavy machinery to drainage, kerbing, landscaping, line marking and other works. Since 1986 we have predominantly undertaken commercial and industrial earthmoving projects.

“Today we aim to diversify our range of work in order to serve existing customers better and increase our offering to a broader range of clients. Our size and structure gives us an edge in project management by maintaining the personal touch. Diversification has seen us progress into design and construction. Managing a project from start to a finish, we design a pavement to suit the needs of the client, taking all design considerations into account and seeing the project through to realisation.”

The company is proud of its safety credentials. “We ensure a safe workplace. Working in a high-risk industry we continually update workplace safety procedures. We implement a high level occupational health and safety policy, emphasising preventative measures, to avoid incidents or accidents.

“We work today to build for the future of everyone in the community and we know that our practices need to be sustainable.” In an industry that needs to look after the world we live in, the company takes current best practice seriously. “We are always conscious of clean methods of construction and minimising environmental impact. We implement preventative measures before commencing work and continually strive towards clean and environmentally sound finished projects.”

With an eye to the future and the health of the industry, Davison Earthmovers has been a member of the Civil Contractors Federation since its founding in 1986, as well as enthusiastic participants in many varied boards and directives.

The company says it sees the education and training of industry workers as “imperative to the future of the industry as a whole.” Davisons featured in training the winner of the inaugural Harry Wauer Memorial Medal – an award given to the apprentice earthmover of the year.

Something like 90 per cent of Davison Earthmovers’ business is in metropolitan areas, apart from some rail work on the interstate lines. Also, 90 per cent of work comes from repeat business from clients that know and trust Davison. “We do tender on the open market but a lot of our work is referrals.” This, they acknowledge, is an enviable situation to be in but “it’s hard work to keep it that way.”

Adelaide, says John, is probably the most competitive city (in terms of this industry) across Australia. “It’s a very competitive market and you have to work very hard to hang on to what you’ve got.” He says the media and government probably have not accurately represented the fact that there is a downturn in the business in South Australia. There is, true, a lot of big-project work available but many large companies have come into the ‘local’ market to compete for this slice of business.

“If you look at major works, they are going fairly well at the moment but a lot of interstate companies have come into Adelaide for that – but if you look underneath that, the industry in general – earthmoving, building and any other industry you talk to – is starting to see a fairly significant downturn” similar to and just a little later than that being experienced further east. “The middle-of-the-road contractors are starting to feel it but because of the major infrastructure projects that are going on we are getting a false indication of how everything is sitting, adds Len.

John certainly doesn’t sound like he’s about to hand over the reins – far from it. “Our vision for the future is to continually push to be at the forefront of technology while producing the best quality of work for our clientele. The strength in our company for today and the future is our strong emphasis on family values and the unique quality this gives to our clients.” Davison Earthmovers looks set to rack up its half-century in due course, weathering any economic storms on the way.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

June 1, 2020, 7:05 AM AEST