People that care
Sitzler is among Australia’s longest standing and most highly regarded construction companies. For over 40 years, they have been delivering quality projects in a progressively safer, more sustainable, and more socially conscious manner. They have evolved from a local Northern Territory business operating in the remotest parts of the country, to a national professional and trusted industry specialist – with over 250 projects built throughout the Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia, and with over 40 prestigious industry awards to testify to their excellence.
Most recently, the company was honoured at the National Business Leadership Awards, hosted by Master Builders Australia. Those awards recognise and celebrate successful building and construction businesses that harness best practice and innovation, exemplify ethical commercial conduct, and make positive contributions to their communities. In 2019, they named Sitzler ‘Large Civil Construction Business of the Year.’
According to Managing Director Steve Margetic, that accolade is particularly meaningful to him and his team, because it was in recognition of the whole business, not just a specific project.
“Our business is made up of a lot of people, not just project staff, and they are all essential to maintaining our reputation,” he said, upon accepting the award.
“Our reputation is everything,” he added, in an interview off-stage. “The clients we have invariably use us based on our reputation. We’ve worked really hard to maintain that, to treat people the right way, and to be known as a company that people actually want to deal with. To be recognised in this environment for that – for the work we do and how we present our business – is absolutely thrilling.”
Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia, said the award was a reflection of Sitzler’s “outstanding capacity and capability” to deliver large projects that meet their client’s needs while also achieving environmental and social outcomes. She added that Sitzler is an “iconic name in the construction industry across Australia’s north,” and they have built “a national presence as a preferred contractor.”
Denita went on to praise the company’s recent history of successfully delivering civil projects – over $300 million worth in the last five years alone – and the wide range of civil disciplines they cover – including bulk earthworks, road construction, bridgeworks and piling, major flood mitigation projects and construction of subdivisions.
She also commended their heavy investment in new plant and equipment, which has significantly increased their ability to provide civil solutions for their clients.
“A fully-equipped earthmoving fleet and a team of highly experienced multi-skilled key personnel has enabled Sitzler to self-perform the majority of civil work in the past five years,” she said.
“Sitzler’s ongoing success in the delivery of complex and challenging projects in remote and isolated locations has demonstrated their ability to overcome the unique challenges faced in such conditions whilst maintaining a record of on-time completion,” she added.
Finally, Denita applauded the company for the opportunities created through the work they have done within Indigenous communities.
“Importantly for a business delivering major projects in Australia’s north, Sitzler has maintained their commitment to respectfully engage with local Indigenous communities at all levels across their projects. This has allowed Sitzler to create significant employment opportunities and hands on experience for local Indigenous people.”
Proactive and pragmatic
Civil construction is a growing sector for Sitzler – the civil division has tripled in size since forming in 2009, and is staffed by a team of highly experienced supervisors and leading hands – but it is far from all they have to offer. The company’s work is varied and diverse. They are active and well-regarded in the defence, space innovation, community and civic, commercial, and industrial building sectors, among others.
Recently, they have been recognised for their work in the healthcare space in particular. At the 2019 Master Builders NT Excellence in Building and Construction Awards, for example, Sitzler won the categories for ‘Health Facility’ and ‘Commercial Construction $5 million to $10 million.’
Both awards were in recognition of the company’s work in the Royal Darwin Hospital, on the PET and Second CT Scanner Facilities. Those facilities offer additional cancer care services for the patients of the hospital, and they are the first of their kind for the Northern Territory. The project scope comprised of demolition, concrete ground slab and suspended slab, blockwork internal partitions, glazing, internal fit out, medical gasses, and new mechanical plant.
Prior to being awarded that project, Sitzler had completed a multi-million dollar upgrade of the same hospital’s paediatric ward and negative pressure isolation rooms.
The first stage of that refurbishment – itself valued at almost $16 million – included more single rooms, a dedicated adolescent lounge, redesigned floor space to create a more child-friendly layout, a day-stay treatment area, a play therapy space, respite lounge for parents, and a school room.
The second and third stages – it was divided into stages to minimise the impact on the operation of the hospital – involved demolishing existing wards, the removal of 90 tonnes of masonry rubble, building a new ward, and clearing extensive amounts of hazardous asbestos from above the ceiling. The new ward included a nurses’ station, isolated rooms, ensuites, a staff lounge, training rooms, and administration support facilities. The team that completed the project included five Indigenous employees and four apprentices.
According to Steve Margetic, Sitzler was awarded all of the above projects – at least in part – due to their reputation for taking on challenging work.
“We’re a mainstream contractor in many senses, but we tend to do the more unusual and the more one-off type work,” Steve says. “We’ve been involved in most of the key infrastructure projects in the north for the last 30 years. That includes health facilities. It’s something we take a lot of pride in.”
“We’re a company that puts a lot of emphasis on preplanning, and we have an incredible team in place,” he explains. “Our methodologies are very well considered, our staff have a very high skill level, and our relationship with our supply chain allow us to take on these more unusual projects, and effectively manage them.”
That ability to take on projects with unique challenges – and hand them over successfully – has enabled Sitzler to build longstanding relationships with many of their key clients. Some of those relationships go back 40 years – they have been working with the Department of Defence, for instance, since the late 70s.
Steve explains that loyalty:
“We build trust with our clients,” he says. “We do that by being dependable, and not just when things are going well. We believe the measure of a contractor is revealed during tough times. That’s when you truly know who’s going to stand up and do the right thing. That’s our approach. We believe that, above all things, we have to do the right thing. We have to look after the client’s interest.”
“That key principle is embedded in all our people,” he continues. “All of our site people, our contract administrators, our pre-contract teams – their focus is on building trust, and on making sure clients are comfortable dealing with us, so that when we have to, we can have the conversations that need to be had. We know it’s very difficult to have those meaningful conversations during the course of a project if you don’t have those relationships in place.”
One of the meaningful relationships Sitzler enjoys is with the NT Government Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, their client at the Royal Darwin Hospital. That relationship goes back at least 20 years, to when Sitzler first delivered a $43M upgrade of the hospital as part of a joint venture. That project was also highly technical and challenging, and also multi-award-winning.
Sitzler followed up their success on that initial project with continued work at the hospital over the past 20 years. As the projects have come up, Steve says they have always been interested in throwing their hat in, because they like the challenge inherent in that work.
“Health projects tend to have higher levels of planning and quality requirements,” he says. “They are ideally suited to us, to the way we do business, and to the expectations we have of ourselves.”
Steve adds that he’s grateful that the NT Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics put that trust in them, because the company’s work at the Royal Darwin Hospital is among the work he’s most proud of – the paediatric ward upgrade, in particular.
“When you look at the quality of product that’s there now, in comparison to what was there when we started, it’s tremendous,” he says. “That’s a credit to the client’s vision, the design team, and to our team for delivering it.”
Again, Steve says that he doesn’t just include the people on site. He notes that Sitzler employs over 100 people, many of them longstanding, and he says they are all vital to the company’s success. He says the industry acclaim is a credit to all of them.
“We’ve got a fantastic staff,” he said, when he was interviewed after winning ‘Large Civil Construction Business of the Year.’ “Our business is nothing without our people. We’re eternally grateful for the support they continue to provide us.”
“Our people care,” he adds now. “They care about the legacy we leave when we finish a job.”
Steve also extends credit for the consistent acclaim to the company’s roster of subcontractors and suppliers, most of whom are also longstanding.
For example, there’s NT Electrical Group – a Darwin-based provider of electrical works, including installation, servicing, and maintenance for commercial, industrial, and residential projects. They are a company that takes pride in delivering projects with the highest quality electrical systems in the Northern Territory. Like Sitzler, the cornerstone of their business is their team, and their team’s focus and dedication.
It’s because they have partners like that, Steve says, that Sitzler was not only able to deliver their work at the Royal Darwin Hospital to a high standard of quality, but also deliver on time, and with minimal impact to the operational hospital environment.
Minimising that impact is, in fact, something that the team at Sitzler is particularly proud of, as it was particularly challenging. For example, the paediatric ward upgrade involved significant amounts of demolition, which is typically very disruptive. To reduce that disruption, they adopted specific work methods to reduce noise and vibration, such as using foam mattresses to hide the sound of falling rubble.
“It was quite laborious, labour intensive work,” Steve says. “There were a lot of challenges. But we were able to carefully plan around them and continue to manage them throughout the life of the project.”
“We also kept in mind that we were in someone else’s space,” he adds. “That’s the view we take. We recognise that we can be an inconvenience to a client, and in fact, us being there makes their job more difficult – albeit, there’s a benefit when the project’s finished. We respect that and we make the process as easy as possible.”
At the Royal Darwin Hospital, Steve says that their team interacted with the hospital stakeholders daily, and often multiple times a day, to keep them up to date.
“We made sure that health staff that were on the ground, managing the public every day, always knew what was coming up, and they could answer questions when questions were asked of them,” he says. “Whenever possible, we made sure they would be able to respond in a manner that didn’t increase their stress or increase the difficulty of them undertaking their work.”
“It’s all about managing the relationship in a proactive and pragmatic manner,” he concludes, “so people can get on and do what they need to do.”
Moving forward, Sitzler aims to continue their award-winning streak. They highly value those accolades because they see them as validation for their staff.
“It’s validation of the approach our staff take when they’re delivering their projects,” Steve says. “These are their awards. It shows them they are doing business the right way.”
Sitzler also aims to continue winning projects in the healthcare sector. Those projects are particularly important to them.
“Healthcare in northern Australia is something that’s dear to us,” Steve says. “Health departments up here generally have huge challenges ahead of them, and they do their work very, very well. They have fantastic people in them. To be able to work with them to enhance their ability to provide healthcare is a privilege.”
“They’re also interesting projects for us,” he adds. “They’re not run of the mill. They are different. They provide important variation in the type of work our people get exposed to.”
The company’s core sectors, meanwhile, continue to be defense and infrastructure. As Sitzler continues its strategic and structured growth, Steve sees them taking on even more of those projects, and delivering them to the same high standard the company has become known for across the country.For more on Sitzler – including their diverse array of services, their professional team, and their long list of industry awards – visit https://www.sitzler.com.au/