Local Landmark

CHS Group

At its centre is Horsham, a town of some 15,000 people situated around 300km from Melbourne and the home of CHS Group.

Horsham electrical business CHS Group has celebrated over fifty years in business servicing the Western District. In 1962, Cecil Hopper commenced the electrical contracting business known then as Cec Hopper. His two sons, David and Barry, formed a business partnership with their father in 1972 to become Cec Hopper & Sons and worked together until his retirement. In 1987 the company became known as D & B Electrical Pty Ltd trading as Cec Hopper & Sons. Both sons David and Barry continued establishing and growing the business.

Early in 2007, David and Barry’s sons, Timothy, Christopher, Ashley and Simon became owners and directors of the company which became known as CHS Group Australia Pty Ltd. As Tim Hopper explained to us, through solid management and strategic planning, CHS Group has undergone significant increases in its growth, with business expanding to branches in Warrnambool and Geelong region as well as servicing the wider Western District.

The company’s growth has enabled it to expand into diverse industries, with capabilities to deliver a broad range of services including mining, high voltage, water treatment, grains, engineering, mechanical, stainless, solar, plumbing, civil, landscaping and irrigation as well as labour hire. “We are at the forefront of technological and service evolution and advances are bringing us in line with the industries’ requirements ensuring we meet our obligations given the different fields of work performed,” Tim explains.

“The fundamental change,” he says, “is that the group has undertaken to focus on the diverse range of capabilities it has acquired and developed. By bringing these together through structure, it means we can offer our services as principal contractor as opposed to the traditional approach of offering subcontractor services.”

He believes the integration of these divisions “gives this company its uniqueness in the industry.” The five trading divisions are: Cec Hopper & Sons, handling electrical / data contracting, high voltage, mining, water, water treatment and grains; CHS Plumbing & Civil; CHS Solar, which provides both installation and maintenance; Wimmera Aquatrail, which offers water and soil advisory; and Onsite Engineering Services, a team of engineering and mechanical contractors.

The company employs around 120 individuals, all from the Horsham and Wimmera district, and has created many employment opportunities including apprenticeships and overseas employment schemes for local people with different skill sets. CHS has a history of people remaining within the company over the long term throughout their career which attests to the company’s dedication and philosophy toward looking after its people. Indeed, Tim proclaims that, “CHS Group people are among the best in the business.”

CHS has worked closely with Workco for eighteen years, creating employment opportunities for approximately fifty employees from the Horsham district who have completed their apprenticeships as electricians and plumbers with the company. It also operates a work experience programme for young people within the area, currently taking on thirty to forty local students.

“We also conduct other in-house training specifics to the industry standard to include Tool Box meetings, refresher courses on new plant and equipment as well as any other computer based training to ensure all staff meet industry requirements,” shares Tim.

CHS Group also reinvests money back into the community and all owners and directors are actively involved with community and not for profit groups. The company also supports and encourages a philosophy of multiculturalism and, over the years, has seen many people from different cultures become part of the team. Tim mentions someone whose introduction to the company was largely coincidental but has now become part of the company family: William Omwega, who was born in Kenya, “has brought many attributes to the company and in return has also helped the company to engage and embrace their interest in the life of Kenyan people.”

The state of the local economy inevitably reflects the national situation, says Tim. “It currently filters through from tough trading globally, nationally, by state and regionally. At the bottom of this, we are feeling the effects. The tough times have made us a stronger business; we have had to make some tough decisions and investigate and challenge all cost lines in P/L statements. I don’t want quite to say that these are the tough times that we needed to have, but when we trade out of this, we will be better for it.”

Tim cites moving into new regions as one particular challenge CHS Group faces. “Growing into other areas and not having the ‘history’ of the town and not being a local status of the town,” he says, is potentially difficult. Another current industry challenge is in building strong relationships with clients and “holding on to long standing clients whilst things are getting tough and other service providers are approaching our clients.”

The company is now winning new commercial contracts with multi-trade tender submissions. Examples include the electrical / landscaping bid for the Horsham Special School Project, the civil / landscaping winning tender for a number of CFA site redevelopments and recently the electrical / civil / plumbing winning tender for the Grains Innovation Park – Glasshouse project. “We have extensive staff resources along with plant, equipment and technology to deliver enormous capacity on any large-scale project,” Tim asserts.

CHS Group has recently designed and rebuilt its website to reflect the structure of its business. “We believe this is an important marketing key to help our business break though the geographical barrier and to represent and advertise the company’s diverse services to potential clients. Given we have been operating for over fifty years, we are well established and recognised within the community. We have largely been recognised as electrical contractors but since our fifty year celebration and launch of the refresh of our company’s logo, website and brochure, our company’s identity of becoming diversified is now widely known.” The web presence has certainly supported the company in growth opportunity and has helped to reinforce the strong credibility it has within the industry.

At the end of the day, reputation and local links remain dependent on delivery of service and quality. “Establishing a reputation for high quality results in all our diverse range of services and appreciating our clients’ interests, evidenced by meeting their requirements is the directive of our management. Our strength emanates from our distinct culture, strong and close relationships with our clients, customers and employees’ competence and loyalty.”

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’?

July 14, 2020, 1:47 PM AEST