We speak to our Managing Director, Phil Foster to find out how he made it here and what has happened along the way.
Why did you go into recruitment?
Like lots of people I left university and needed a job. A friend was running a regional office of a national recruitment company specialising in construction and tradespeople so I joined as an office junior. Initially, I didn’t see it as a career, more of something to earn money while I looked for something else until I was given the opportunity to set up a new area of recruitment for this big company by establishing a desk for the marine industry.
Armed with just a copy of the Yellow Pages and a telephone, I contacted every marine company that was listed in the UK and built a new cell of operation for the company. I loved it and had the opportunity to set the agenda, which was to work with good companies of all sizes and develop relationships with quality and reliable contracts that got the job done. I really did love it and I was hooked on the independence of recruitment.
Why did you set up Ocean Edge?
I set Ocean Edge up as I became disillusioned with the recruitment business I had worked with. They seemed more focused on money than doing what is right. My philosophy has always been to focus on doing the right and the best things and the money will follow.
I remember the day I resigned from my job and came home to tell my girlfriend I was going to start my own recruitment business. We had just bought a Victorian house that needed complete renovations and she was a bit shocked, to say the least. But that was nearly 20 years ago and although I was young and had never worked in a management role I knew I could make it work.
Starting out was scary. I had no customers and no clear definition of what I was going to do but I was determined to make my recruitment business different from the rest. I wanted to develop my business with the ethos of giving my customers a quality and transparent service that wasn’t driven purely to make money. I believed (and still do) that my recruitment service should always recognize the impact it can have on people’s lives and an organisation’s future. Yes, it’s a bit of a cliché but I did not like the mentality of many recruiters who were simply in it for the money and only cared about each fee rather than seeing the bigger picture for both clients and customers.
I wanted my business to become known for delivering an excellent recruitment service that considered the long term benefits for organisations. I believe that good recruitment organisations should work openly, honestly and deliver outstanding results for their clients. In return, they should expect loyal clients who understand the value of the service they are receiving. I strongly believe that people are not manufactured on a production line. You cannot speed up the process by making the machine work faster. I have built Ocean Edge on the principles that you need to focus on quality and not quantity and that you need to offer true consultancy services providing honest and valuable advice and guidance. Companies and candidates need to trust their chosen recruiting partners and be driven by quality.
Where did the name come from?
I know Ocean Edge is a funny name for a recruitment company but hopefully, it has become synonymous with good quality recruitment. The name came from a place in Florida where my parents lived for several years. I have very fond memories of holidays spent there and even went back to get married! I decided to bring some Floridian sunshine to the UK recruitment industry and chose the name as it wasn’t connected to recruitment. I want Ocean Edge to further develop into a quality brand that covers many different areas. We are already established in the PR and communications market and are pushing into software development and I have thousands of ideas about what else we can do.
Why did you choose the housing sector?
I think the housing sector chose me! I was just in the right place at the right time. I was initially working with private developers in the commercial and residential markets and then became aware of RP’s and began speaking to them and meeting people in the sector. I have a degree in social policy and was genuinely interested in the field of social housing. I believed and still do believe in the product and services they offer. However, I still feel there is some way to go to drive the agenda and take true credit for what these organisations bring to our communities and people’s lives. I still feel there is a wealth of untapped talent that Ocean Edge can help develop and there are people currently outside the affordable housing sector that we can bring into the market place.
Whilst we are known for our housing work we are continuing to expand our recruitment services into other niche areas such as offshore, IT, healthcare etc.
Have there been any major turning points in the history of Ocean Edge and what has been the biggest inspiration for you?
There have been so many. It’s been incredibly hard work, long hours, no holidays or breaks but the impact you have on other people’s lives and other organisations is amazing and makes it all worthwhile. The main impact on me has been made by people. I have always loved and enjoyed working with people and seeing people develop. Both people within Ocean Edge and people we have worked with as clients and candidates. It’s been amazing to see members of our own team develop and flourish. It really is the reason I go to work, and I really hope that all Ocean Edge employees past and present can reflect on their time with us as a positive effect on their lives.
Watching people change, develop and grow is inspirational.
Any great events or learning curves that have occurred along the way?
I have been honoured to speak with many of the thought leaders and future thought leaders within the industries we operate. Picking up on their enthusiasm and vision is infectious.
Meeting James Averdieck, the founder of Gu desserts and hearing his story was a real motivator.
The most important things I have learned are quite simple:
- Build a great team
- Trust your great team
- Stick to your values and beliefs, don’t compromise on these or it will never work
- There are no rules, always challenge what doesn’t make sense
- Be yourself
- Love what you do and laugh as much as you can