WA’s Leading Builder Continues to Move Forward

WA Country Builders

WA Country Builders is Western Australia’s most awarded builder. It is also the largest, which allows customers to access a refreshing variety of options at a reasonable price. “Just because you live in regional WA, you shouldn’t have to accept limited choice,” the company insists.

Now, after a recent expansion and internal restructuring, the team is able to offer their trusted, comprehensive services to more people than ever before.

WA Country Builders’ personalised service begins with a dedicated design team. “A lot of the other builders in town just have specific plans, whereas at WA Country Builders we have a design team that can literally design a one-off home based on what the client is looking for,” General Manager Darren Burr explains. This means that any complications customers may be facing – such as difficult blocks – need not be a concern. “If they’ve got sloping blocks, difficult shapes and sizes, we can design a style of house to suit the block and maximise the space,” Mr Burr explains.

Of course, the designers also work closely with customers simply to create their dream homes, whether or not there are underlying complications. “People want something special,” Mr Burr explains. “Something bespoke. A one-off design. We work with the client to create that for them.” WA Country Builders also has hundreds of standard home designs on hand for customers who want to choose from an existing plan.

WA Country Builders also designs and constructs a wide variety of buildings in addition to houses – from commercial buildings and offices to chalets and retirement villages. Notable projects include the St Ives retirement village, St Ives resident’s club house, Great southern community housing projects, Honda car showroom and the Albany race club.

A new direction
The family owned business has enjoyed over two decades of success, but the team is still busy moving forward. For starters, WA Country Builders has just opened a new office in Esperance. “Esperance hasn’t really had any type of project builder there,” Mr Burr explains. “So for us, being in the Great Southern, it was the next logical step to move to Esperance and provide our offering.” The existing competition were “smaller, one man band builders,” Mr Burr adds, “who do not have the range of product that we have. We’ve got hundreds of plans that we can bring to the people of Esperance – as well as building quality homes at a good price.”

The team has also recently remodelled its existing Stirling Terrace offices. “We have revamped and recreated the entire office,” Mr Burr reports. “When you walk in off the street, you walk into a completely new office.” The company’s new Home Administrator and Colour Specialist, Jody Bushell, created a warm and inviting space that showcases WA Country Builders’ capabilities; the entire area resembles a home. The external façade utilises the same stone cladding and external lights that many of the company’s homes feature. The waiting area resembles a living room, while the client room is set up like a dining room. Ms Bushell included as many finishes as possible throughout the office so that customers can get a feel for what their new home will look like. The prestart room also includes a fully array of samples so clients can see and feel each product before selecting it.

The company’s offices aren’t the only thing getting revamped – WA Country Builders has also recently undergone management changes and internal restructuring. Mr Burr replaced the previous General Manager in March of last year – and has brought a host of new ideas with him. An engineer by trade, Mr Burr was able to provide the company with a fresh perspective and a unique skill set. “I have a very different background to the previous GM,” he explains. “I specialised in quality control processes, process improvement, and quality systems… I have been applying a lot of my skills into the business. We are implementing new processes and refining old processes.” The new system efficiently tracks and controls documentation to ensure that the company runs smoothly and can guarantee the highest quality product to its clients. “Basically, it all comes down to what we can do for the clients. We want to improve the experience for the client and make sure that we cover everything.”

Mr Burr has also focused on restructuring the company. “It was a very flat structure before,” he explains. “Everybody reported to the GM.” Mr Burr created departmental heads to improve communication within departments and increase overall efficiency. “Now the departmental staff report to the departmental head and the departmental heads report to me.” Other key positions were created as well, such as the one that Ms Bushell now occupies. As a result, the company is better structured and the staff’s talents are being used to their fullest.

Mr Burr credits his top notch staff for the company’s improvements. In fact, he believes that employee input has been integral to the company’s new direction. “The staff are involved,” he says. “They are actually having an input into the decision making, which is something that hasn’t really gone on here previously.” Staff involvement helps ensure that management sees the whole picture, as well as facilitating personal development and creating a more positive environment, Mr Burr explains. “Getting the staff involved in the decision making is a massive thing, especially when you are making so many changes.”

Mr Burr has broken down the company’s plans and visions into clear goals that can be addressed quarterly. “We look at our top five quarterly priorities,” he explains. “That could be anything in the business, from a price list to a process to something that we want to achieve. That is really how we tackle the day to day and any type of internal projects that we are working on. We break it down into small chunks and just work on those for that quarter.” This system not only keeps the company moving forward, it also maintains employee motivation. “We reward ourselves based on our achievement. So, as a team, if we complete our targets and objectives for the quarter, we reward ourselves. A major thing for us is to have fun. We spend time with the staff and have a few drinks and enjoy it.”

Looking ahead
WA Country Builders has managed to stay ahead despite a slow market. “The industry, especially in the Great Southern and the region, has been tough for a couple of years.” Fortunately, however, things are on the mend. “We are starting to see it improve.” It will take time, however, to reach full recovery outside of urban areas. “Perth is obviously always the first to drop off and the first to pick up,” Mr Burr explains. “Once you start seeing some improvement in Perth, it does take a while for it to filter through to regions, especially Albany and Esperance.” Increased regulation is also slowing things down. “The whole process – from point of sale to getting it started on site – is becoming more complicated. It has become more difficult over the last couple of years,” and homeowners are also frustrated by the extra red tape. “It is always a challenge, especially when you’ve got people excited about building their new home, and [they run into] all of these new hoops that you’ve got to jump through. Obviously we want to try and minimise that as much as possible.”

Overall, the future looks bright, and the team has stayed busy over the last year preparing for it. “We’ve had so much change here,” Mr Burr points out. “Expansion, remodelling, restructuring, new processes – it’s been good.” A huge focus this year will be the new office in Esperance. “We are concentrating on getting Esperance up and running,” Mr Burr says. The team has hit the ground running and is already enjoying substantial success in the new location. “In the next 12 to 18 months we will start having houses come out of the ground. Sales are going really well.”

Mr Burr also plans to continue focusing on improving internal processes. “[We want to] keep improving; the clients will ultimately get the benefit of it.” Satisfied clients have already helped WA Country Builders grow into the state’s largest and most awarded builder. With a commitment to continuous improvement, the company’s footprint and reputation is sure to grow even bigger.

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’?

January 17, 2019, 5:07 AM AEDT