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Joy division

Working lives - Scott Wilson director Ron Wall recommends looking for a new job when you are at your busiest if you want to make the big leaps in your career.

Just before Easter consultant Scott Wilson held a party to celebrate the opening of a brand new and much larger Chesterfield office. The fact that the company can do this is down to the huge success of its Midlands operation, run by divisional chairman and main board director Ron Wall.

Wall has been in charge of the division for the last five years and in that time business has grown an average 22% a year.

Turnover is more than £35M and staff has grown to 800.

Midlands is now rivalling the South East division, based at the Basingstoke head office, as the largest in the Scott Wilson Group.

It is already the most profitable.

If you ask Wall what he has been doing right he points to the staff. 'Repeat business is a large part of our success, ' he says. 'The people we employ are the backbone of that - they have to get the job right first time and offer a service that is fundamentally better than everyone else for clients to come back to us.

'The way I think I run this business is to give ownership, ' Wall says. 'The managers have that absolutely. It is very tempting to dive in and help, but you have to let people get on and make their own mistakes.

We operate a series of sector boards in the region with their own profit and loss accounts and their own budgets, which helps keep a foot on the accelerator.' That system is likely to be introduced throughout the Scott Wilson group, he reports.

Wall is understandably delighted with the success of the Midlands region, not least because unlike many of his peers, the 57 year old has not been with Scott Wilson man and boy but joined 'only' 20 years ago. Wall was bequeathed to Scott when the consultant took over the engineering function of the Commission for the New Towns in Telford.

Wall had arrived there during a career that started when he left school before completing A levels and went to work in contracting. 'I couldn't get construction out of my system so decided to study it properly, ' he says.

He did an HND and then a degree in civil engineering at Liverpool University, starting at the mature age of 21. He was pitched out of university into the road building boom of the 1970s and spent time at Warwickshire County Council working on the M42, before moving to Telford.

'The amount that was being built then was astonishing, ' Wall recalls. 'I couldn't have got better experience.' Well actually, he could. Because when he arrived at Scott Wilson he found that he could tap into a natural ability for, and a fascination with, the profit and loss side of the construction business.

'It's the commercial side of things that gives me the kicks, ' he says, 'and I'm driving the commercial side of the Scott Wilson business very hard.' Wall's commercial talents meant he moved quickly up the company hierarchy, becoming divisional chairman in 1998 and joining the main board in 2002.

His advice to engineers starting out on their careers would be to avoid being pigeonholed. 'You need to be associated with an employer that offers opportunity at every level. You need more than the technical in your quiver to succeed. If you are not getting that where you are, go out and find it somewhere else.

And do it when times are busy, like now, as that is when the opportunities are around.'

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