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Q&A Feature - as seen in Portfolio - Stuart Foster

Stuart Foster

You

What is your business background? 

I have been with Peregrine for nearly 14 years and have been a director for 10 years. I moved to the Island as a trainee accountant in 2004 having previously worked in various locations around the UK. After graduating from University, I tried a few different roles, working in public utilities as a business customer relationship manager in Leeds, in the settlements department of the Bank of New York in Liverpool and for a credit card company in Chester.

What was your very first job? 

My very first job literally lasted one night! I was asked to stand in for a friend who had a job washing dishes in a local Italian restaurant in Liverpool. At the age of 15, I wasn’t ready for the unique motivational techniques of a gang of Scouse-Italian chefs so I took my £15 wages and never returned. A year or so later I got a weekend job in the menswear department at Lewis’ department store in Liverpool which I can safely say lasted longer than my job at the restaurant.

If you hadn’t chosen your current career, is there another career path you would have liked to have pursued? 

After I realised I wasn’t going to make it as a professional footballer, I would have liked to go into retail logistics and planning which was a subject I studied as part of my Geography degree at University. I was particularly interested in the detailed research and planning that goes into considering locations for new stores.

Who is your business role model? 

I don’t have a specific role model, but I try to learn from the people I’ve worked for (and with) over the years, particularly the self-made entrepreneurial clients of our TCSP business. When working with someone on a regular basis, I try to identify the traits I like about them that make them successful. I also try to learn lessons from the worse behaviours that I see in business and hope I don’t repeat them.

What’s the best business lesson you’ve ever learned, and how did that come about? 

Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know the answer and ask for advice. Managing a relatively small business requires you to take on lots of different responsibilities. It’s impossible to always have the answer to questions raised by clients, staff or other parties with which you do business. I quickly learned many years ago that offering a best guess at an answer is not good enough if you want to be considered a valued advisor. It is better to admit you don’t know, take time to research the answer and call back with the right information.

What’s the best thing about your job? 

The people I work with are great, and in particular I enjoy the interaction with our clients. I love learning about our clients and how they became successful in their industries. I try to take on board any advice they give me and put it into practice in my own business.

What is the best business advice you could offer to anyone? 

As an accountant, I would say look at how your business is going to generate cash and profit. Ideas are great, but they can only get you so far. You need to know how you are going to turn the great idea into a stream of income from which you can make profits that will contribute to the success of your business and to improve your life – in most cases that is ultimately why people are in business.

Digital age

What are your favourite gadgets?  

The voice activation button on the SkyQ remote is great and I am far too attached to my iPhone.

What websites do you visit most? 

I’d probably say Twitter as it’s a quick and easy way to catch up with the latest news and everything that is of interest to me. I use Twitter to such an extent that, unless specifically directed to a site by a recommendation, I will only now find websites via Twitter. I am also a regular visitor to the BBC Sport football gossip pages when the transfer window is open.

Do you shop online and if so what for? 

Pretty much anything if it saves me from going to the shops, but I particularly like clothes shopping on ASOS. This is an example of a company that has a great idea at its core and (in my opinion) gives the customer a great experience. It also now seems to have started making decent profits.

Personal

Where in the world would you most like to visit and why? 

North Korea – I’m intrigued to see somewhere that is completely different to anywhere else in the world. I know a couple of people who have been on guided tours of North Korea and said it was an amazing experience. I’d also love to experience the remote wilderness of Alaska, although in comfort if possible, I’m not a fan of camping, especially when there are bears roaming about.

What is your favourite TV series?

My current favourite is Gomorrah, but I usually go for total escapism in programs like Games of Thrones and the Walking Dead.

What is your favourite single?  

Can you still get Singles? My favourite band of the last few years is the Courteeners so I will say one of their singles.

What is the most memorable event you have attended? 

Apart from the births of my children which were all memorable for different reasons, I would have to say being at the old Wembley in 1995 to see Everton win the FA cup. Little did I know I would still be waiting to see them win another trophy 23 years later!  

Name 3 things you would like to do before you die?

  1. See Everton win a trophy, although it’s looking increasing unlikely;
  2. Live in Spain and learn to speak Spanish;
  3. See my children grow up into happy and healthy adults.

What is the best piece of personal advice you could offer? 

Don’t give advice unless you’re sure it’s wanted/needed, it’s safer that way!

Current

Please discuss a topic of your choice, relevant to business…..

Differentiate the Isle of Man & attract new residents

I believe that if we are going to grow as an Island, we need to attract new people and new businesses to the Isle of Man and to do that, we need to promote the things we have that are unique. I will be watching very closely the Government’s efforts in 2018 to promote “Our Island” and I hope the program is successful in promoting all that is great about the Isle of Man to the rest of the world.

When we have “sold” people on how great it is to live in the Isle of Man, they need to be supported to move here. I feel strongly that the Government needs to re-evaluate the work permit system and the effect that such protectionist measures have on our economy, society and culture.

As somebody who was given the chance to move to the Isle of Man for work many years ago, I feel extremely lucky to live in such a wonderful place. At a time when there are historically low levels of unemployment on the Isle of Man, my business has been eager to offer opportunities to others to make the move to the Isle of Man, I hope the Isle of Man Government will support us in offering such opportunities.