13 years on from the beginning of the Ground and Water story (actually a little more than that, as you will see) Dipalee Jukes reflects on a journey from humble beginnings to proudly being one of the leading companies in our field – and plenty of other people’s fields as well!
On the 28th of September 2022, Ground & Water is celebrating its 13th Birthday. 13 might be an unlucky number for some, but I consider it lucky seeing I was born on the 13th!!
Turning 13 is considered as a coming of age in many cultures. It means maturing, growing up, taking responsibility. It certainly feels like that for me. Ground & Water is my oldest child, and like any parent, I have given it a lot of love, care, and attention over the years so that it can one day, flourish and carve its own path.
In the words of our late Queen, “we all need to get the balance right between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock”. I admit I am sometimes guilty of not celebrating the wins enough and moving onto the next thing too quickly. So, I am taking heed of this wise advice and reflecting on the past 13 years of Ground & Water.
It was September 2009, both aged 29, that Fran and I were sat around his dining room table at his house in Alton, deciding whether to set up a company together. I had taken a year out to go travelling and had recently arrived back home, with no work on the horizon.
After probably a few too many glasses of wine, we started brainstorming what we would call ourselves. There must have been at least a dozen contenders, some of which make me cringe a little – Patel Williams Ltd, PW Ltd, Bedrock Geoenvironmental. We finally and thankfully decided upon Ground & Water!
A few days later, I registered the name on Companies House and Ground & Water was officially born. We didn’t have any investors or any previous clients; so, we self-funded the start-up and spent hours every single day, for months, cold calling prospects. Three months later, we got paid for our first project, just days before Christmas, and I was ecstatic.
I’d love to tell you that we had an incredible business plan with goals and targets mapped out. Truth is, we didn’t. We enjoyed our work, we knew we were good engineers, we found satisfaction in producing high quality technical work that would serve our clients well. That’s what drove us to get up, carry on and continue forwards after each fall.
Those early years were tough in every possible way, especially financially. We had very little cash and couldn’t pay ourselves for quite some time. To add to our challenges, I became pregnant within a year of starting G&W, which forced our hand to hire our first employee, Roger Foord, who is still with us today. The rest they say, is history.
I have experienced every emotion possible through this journey so far – from fear, overwhelm, burnout, anxiety and worry to pure elation, joy and tears of happiness. I have been frantically working whilst starting the onset of labour, done countless 4am night feeds whilst working and typing one handed, worked through every maternity leave, and pretty much everything in between. Was it worth it?? The simple answer is yes. Because I care so deeply about this child of mine.
Some of our first clients, McHenry structures, RI Building Services, Red Squirrel Architects, Croft, Andrews Newby, Willton Homes, Tallisman Homes, Drew Smith, Neils Foundations, Arcadia, TA Fisher, Mildren Construction, William Lacey, are still with us today, and we are so grateful for your loyalty and repeat custom. We believe in building lasting and trusting relationships with our clients. For us, this is part of business success. Thank you so much, we appreciate you.
The present day…
Thirteen years later, Fran and I have 5 “actual” children between us, 22 amazing team members and have recently been commissioned on our 5000th project. I still remember our very first project, which was a house extension in Chelsea. Whenever I drive past it, I always point it out proudly to my kids!
Fran and I have known each for over 24 years, he is both a very dear friend and quite literally, my work husband. We have both been there for each other through our studies, our first jobs, relationships, weddings, children and now leading G&W together. Our diverse upbringings and obvious gender differences, alongside shared values, have allowed for a very special family to be created at Ground & Water, one that exhibits equality and diversity at the top. The bedrock of our company (sorry, not sorry) is friendship and trust. These values lead our everyday decisions, from hiring practices to performance management, company culture to how we serve our clients. We work amongst friends and that makes work fun, purposeful, and fulfilling.
You might be reading this as a client and wondering how this all impacts you?! Well, over the past 13 years I have been busy working on the foundations of this business. Through hard work, failing many times over and being patient, I have learnt that committed, fulfilled and happy people with a higher purpose will go above and beyond for our clients. And that starts with being the role model, leading the way for others, inspiring others to do their best, keeping yourself on the hook and being courageous every day.
Appreciating the past and present, reflecting on how we got here and showing gratitude to everyone who has played a part in the success of Ground & Water, is what propels me to show up every day and do my best, to serve my team and my clients.
We have some ambitious plans for the future, and we are working hard behind the scenes to build and create the next set of leaders to take our company forward and keep serving our wonderful industry.
Ground & Water is proudly celebrating 13 years of service, and I have no doubt we will be celebrating many more birthdays with the great team we have alongside us.
A special thank you to our spouses, Will Jukes and Anna Williams, who have always been there. We wouldn’t be here without you both.