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A career built on Rock

PILING

KEN CROMWELL graduated with a degree in civil and structural engineering from Sheffield University. 'I lived in Croydon at the time, and I wanted to see different parts of the country, ' he explains.

He got involved with piling while working on a sewage treatment works in Halifax for Kier.

'Simplex was installing driven piles and I was seconded there, ' he remembers. After working on the Dartford tunnel with Balfour Beatty he joined Rock & Alluvium, and has stayed with the company ever since. 'I've been here for 30 years and done virtually every job from setting out up to managing director. I've got employees who are far better at some of the roles than I ever was.

That's the art of delegation. I still get a buzz out of piling and Rock & Alluvium is a friendly company. I get up in the morning and want to go to work.' The company has grown considerably in Mr Cromwell's time there, with turnover climbing from £1 million to its current level of £17 million.

He gives parent company Galliford Try credit for allowing Rock & Alluvium to grow.

'They didn't milk us, ' he explains. 'Instead, we were allowed to invest our prof it in building up a good fleet. Unless you've got good kit you are wasting your time in this business.' Rock & Alluvium has doubled in size in the past five years. It specialises in bored displacement and continuous flight auger piles and has seen a major expansion in its provision of retaining walls. 'We've looked several times at driven piling but there's plenty of competition out there already, ' Mr Cromwell says.

'The investment wouldn't pay off. We stick with what we're good at, which is drilling.'