Wisbech business Foster Property Maintenance profiled

An aerial view of the Foster Property Maintenance headquarters in Wisbech

An aerial view of the Foster Property Maintenance headquarters in Wisbech - Credit: Archant

FOSTER Property Maintenance was originally set up in 1976 as Foster Industrial Protection by John Foster, who still plays an active role as chairman of the company.

Foster Property Maintenance Recruit More Apprentices. Left: Jonathan Carver, Lewis Jones, Daniel Ma

Foster Property Maintenance Recruit More Apprentices. Left: Jonathan Carver, Lewis Jones, Daniel MacDonald and James Ellis, Contracts Manager - Credit: Archant

FOSTER Property Maintenance was originally set up in 1976 as Foster Industrial Protection by John Foster, who still plays an active role as chairman of the company.

John and Steve Foster (right) at the headquarters of Foster Property Maintenance in Wisbech

John and Steve Foster (right) at the headquarters of Foster Property Maintenance in Wisbech - Credit: Archant

But the future of the business now rests with the next generation and his son Steve, a construction economist, who has helped to build the family business and the Wisbech business park site – designing and project managing the whole scheme.

John and Steve Foster from Foster Property Maintenance outside the firm's Wisbech headquarters

John and Steve Foster from Foster Property Maintenance outside the firm's Wisbech headquarters - Credit: Archant

The two men are happy to show me around the impressive site – meeting the team and looking around the new Foster Renewable Energies showroom, where you can see examples of energy efficient heating systems in use.

The new apprentices at Foster Property Maintenance, Jonathan Carver (left), Lewis Jones (middle), D

The new apprentices at Foster Property Maintenance, Jonathan Carver (left), Lewis Jones (middle), Daniel MacDonald (right), and James Ellie (far right) Contracts Manager - Credit: Archant

As a newly appointed Green Deal scheme provider, the business is hoping to win work retrofitting homes to make them more eco-friendly.

Foster Property Maintenance has won an £82m contract

Foster Property Maintenance has won an £82m contract - Credit: Archant


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It is a new and promising strand to the business which also includes two other divisions, Foster Renewable Energies and Foster Property Developments.

Foster Property Maintenance has won an £82m contract

Foster Property Maintenance has won an £82m contract - Credit: Archant

Its fleet of vans and lorries is also an increasingly familiar site on the region’s roads as it works on major housing contracts.

Green Deal Provider Foster Property Maintenance Get Thumbs Up From Minister Greg Barker

Green Deal Provider Foster Property Maintenance Get Thumbs Up From Minister Greg Barker - Credit: Archant

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Beyond its Wisbech HQ, the firm has bases in Norwich, Needham Market and Grantham.

In fact, the firm, which already works with about 30 social housing landlords, is set to grow into a £50m-a-year business in the next two years.

But as John Foster explains, the key to its success has been anticipating market changes, helping the business to evolve and thrive.

“A lot of the industrial work started to dry up in the 1990s and there was less spending on aircraft bases,” he said.

“I’ve experienced several recessions and changes to potential markets. I tend to look forward to see where the markets are going.

“House building is definitely going to take off – and is taking off. There is a massive pent up demand and not just social housing, but from the private landlords as well. There is so much opportunity.”

One idea he is ruminating on is a new type of housing scheme aimed at older people which falls somewhere between a retirement home and sheltered housing.

“My favourite phrase is ‘thinking out of the box’,” he added. “But I am often accused of throwing hand grenades! But if you stand still, you won’t last long.”

Like many family firms, the business employs several family members. Steve’s mum Sheila still works in the accounts department, while his sister is a residential liaison officer and his nephew and uncle also work for the firm.

Steve said: “That’s been part of our success, to have like-minded people around, and we’ve also been able to grow our staff numbers by word of mouth.

“Some of the people working here have been here more than 35 years. The culture side has been very important to us and because we are growing, it’s now more important and probably more difficult to maintain.

“But we are putting a lot of funds into that side of the business. It’s very important for example that the people in Great Yarmouth know what’s happening elsewhere in the business.”

Corporate social responsibility is also important to the firm, which invests about £100,000 every year in a range of community initiatives.

John Foster said: “It’s part of our mantra that we try and employ local people. We also try and take on apprentices as well.”

Both men concede that as the business grows it could change the nature of the company, but they are keen to make sure it stays true to its roots. But what is the secret of the firm’s success?

“It’s simple – recruiting the right people,” Steve said. “We have recruited some really good senior operational staff. If people need an answer, they get it fairly quickly without going through a load of bureaucracy to get there. We can think on our feet.

“You are only as good as your last job. That has helped us get repeat business and it helps us bring new clients in.

“Our customer satisfaction levels are 98 per cent and that’s something we put lots of emphasis on.

“The main thing going forward is the environment and how we are going to help save it – that’s why we set the renewable energies side up as a bespoke offering.

“We have been banking land and we are starting our own affordable housing scheme this year.”

He said the hope is that the business will be able to offer a full range of services, from house building to property maintenance and green deal retrofitting work.

The firm has also been involved in trying to boost skills in the industry – but suffered a setback after a joint bid for government cash failed to secure backing.

However, Steve Foster says the bid fits with its belief in thinking ahead: “We’ve also got aspirations for a green training school on site to gear ourselves up for the green revolution, so that when it happens we have got the skills.”

Foster Property Maintenance won the business of the year award at the 2012 Fenland Enterprise Business Awards. The company is also a supporter of this year’s competition – Foster Property Maintenance sponsors the Pride of Fenland Award and the Foster Renewable Energies division sponsors the Rural Enterprise Award.

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