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Quarter century man

Names & Faces - One of contracting's most popular characters, is celebrating 25 years with Dean & Dyball.

There was a bit of a do at Dean & Dyball (D&D) the other day to celebrate its charismatic non executive chairman Martin Hirst's quarter century with the firm.

Hirst, 57, is working part time now, indulging his love of sailing in the time he is not involved with the contractor's business activities. And he says he can claim no credit for the company's excellent last results which saw turnover rise 35% to £249M and pretax profits increase to £3.8M.

'It gave me real pleasure to sign those figures off and know that they had nothing to do with me but with the rest of the team at D&D, ' Hirst says in praise of his colleagues.

What he can claim credit for though is the growth of the business since he and his fellow directors at the time set up the modern D&D in a management buy out back in 1989.

'In view of the recession that hit virtually straight away, it might not have been the best time to do that. But we had a business free of debt and actually did pretty well in difficult times.' The MBO is one of the highlights of a contracting career that included a civil engineering degree at Southampton, graduate training with John Laing spells with Southern Counties and Walcon before has final move to D&D.

'I've spent my career in Southampton, ' Hirst says. The attractions: first it was where his wife was and second where his boat was. The move to Walcon and then D&D was prompted by the involvement of the two firms in marine and marina work.

Hirst is a big advocate of a career in contracting and is living proof you can have a great life in it. 'It's dealing with the people that's the attraction, and being part of a team. I absolutely recommend it, especially now that the pay is better when you start out, ' Hirst says.

Q&A Martin Hirst I wish I had: met my wife Tina six months earlier so I could have taken her on my six months sailing sabbatical to the Med in my twenties.

I wish I hadn't: believed the fitters on the M27 job when they told me, aged 21, that I could drink half a pint of neat whisky.

I'm glad I: photocopied the advert I was asked to pass to someone else for a job at Dean & Dyball and applied for it.

You don't know this but: John Cleese was one of my teachers at school. I had dreadful writing and I have a report card entry from him which reads 'Hirst, your writing resembles the meanderings of a ruptured crab.'

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