Our popular Meet the client series reveals the inside story on the companies we support with legal services. We talk to Anna Plaster of specialist aerial inspection start-up OASIS, about how work-life balance is at the centre of the company she founded with her husband in 2018.
Name and job title
Anna Plaster, Founder and Managing Director, OASIS (OASIS stands for Offshore Aerial Survey and Inspection Services) Ltd.
What is it your company does?
OASIS uses UAVs – drones – to remotely evidence the condition of high-value assets such as wind turbines, solar farms, aircraft and critical infrastructure. We’re based at Cranfield University, a world-leader in aerospace aviation.
We survey assets that are in hard to reach or dangerous environments. Carrying out inspections with drones dramatically saves time, money and reduces the risks to human life.
We combine drone platforms with state-of-the-art thermal cameras so we can collect data which shows defects, such as lightning strikes, surface damage and cracks. Early identification of these things can avoid costly and even catastrophic situations further down the line.
OASIS has an agile team of industry specialists driving the business: we are subject matter experts providing support to a range of academic institutions, government bodies and NGOs.
Who do you work with?
Our clients are aerospace, maritime, utilities and renewables organisations, including asset manufacturers, operations and service suppliers and strategic industry partners, from the UK, Europe and the US. We hold a number of Tier 1 and 2 contracts.
We also carefully select partners for R&D projects and for our own internal business development.
Our stakeholders include the Civil Aviation Authority, Cranfield University, The FD Centre, Barclays, and the European Enterprise Network.
How long have you been in business and how has your business grown?
OASIS incorporated in March 2018. While we experienced some bumps on the way, we’ve had great success in general business development, building our incredible team, and engineering a robust structure for the business framework. As maritime specialists, we had originally focused on offshore work, but as our business has developed, we now attract interest from a wide range of sectors, including nuclear, emergency response and environmental.
What inspired you to start your business?
Even though I was born in London, I grew up on the beach in Australia, have a degree in Ecological Sciences and was always going to be involved with something maritime. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 19. I ran a Royal Yachting Association sailing school in Spain for many years with my husband: we scaled it, sold and exited, moving back to the UK to be with family. I then joined an aerospace start-up that really put me on the right career path for where I am now with OASIS. The idea for OASIS came out of a conversation with my brother-in-law, who was in the military. We were talking about offshore operations and maintenance work in dangerous environments, got on to drones and that’s when the light bulb moment happened. My husband is a captain and had been working offshore on wind farms for 4-6 weeks at a time. He had just decided to come ashore, as it were, given our young family and the importance of spending time with our children. Work-life balance actually fuelled the idea for the business from the start.
What have been the biggest recent challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Adoption rates of drone technologies in the UK are slow compared to the US and other countries, and that’s led to serious delays and frustration, although the start of 2020 was looking promising. Bringing in a General Manager at the start of 2020 has been a game-changing move for us.
The current situation with COVID-19 has been distressing and disruptive. Contract awards have been delayed, there has been confusion and added pressure to cashflow. Work is always secondary to health and family, so at the start of lockdown, I was checking our people were doing ok, well-resourced and understood the way the company was working under sometimes frightening conditions.
I am lucky to have hired two of my closest friends Jade Lopez and Katherine Talbot as senior managers, and our Financial Control Officer Alan Cutler is the reason I can sleep soundly at night! I have a lot of respect for every member of my senior management team, and I admire how calm and collected they are in most situations. They have taught me so much about resilience, compassion and patience over the last couple of years.
What are your hopes/goals for the next 1-3 years?
To survive the storm! And not only survive but grow the business into something which brings great benefits to the sectors we operate in, which in turn will enable us to become the beacon business we are all working so hard to build. We are ensuring our company culture is something we all can be proud of, which supports and nurtures our team and adds a tremendous value to us personally – and economically.
What has it been like to work with Harper James?
Knowing there are people you can count on to protect you in such a volatile and risky environment is invaluable. The support from Harper James means I can focus more on the things that only I can do within the business.
How has working with Harper James benefited your business?
We’ve benefited from support with commercial, academic and shareholders agreements and an intellectual property audit. Whilst reviewing contracts and legal documents is far from my favourite thing to do in business, being able to work closely with people you can trust alleviates a lot of anxiety when moving through critical stages.