Chief encounters: Susan Aktemel on going from running Impact Arts to starting up a letting agency

Web largs coast housing

The coast of Largs - an ideal location for Susan's dream home

Susan Aktemel is director of Homes for Good, Scotland’s first social enterprise run letting agency. She previously founded Impact Arts in 1994. 

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18th October 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

Homes for Good (HFG) started in 2013 – for those not aware of you can you tell us a bit about what it is?
HFG is the first letting agency in Scotland to be run as a social enterprise. We manage properties for landlords, and also have created our own portfolio of housing, through raising investment, for people on low incomes with limited housing choice

What is the difference between a traditional letting agency and a social enterprise one?
We reinvest any profits we make in developing our services for people who are vulnerable. We believe that everyone deserves a quality home, so we have a specialist tenancy support team who work with tenants who require additional help to rent a property with us, and keep it. We don't know any other letting agency in Scotland which works in this way.

How did you end up in your job?
When I decided to leave Impact Arts, the idea of Homes for Good was fairly well conceived in my head – I just had to make it happen. I was already a private landlord myself, and had received a poor service from the letting agents I used, so I had a clear idea of what I wanted HFG to be. So I just started again, from scratch, creating a new Community Interest Company, and accessing start-up grants from FirstPort.

Chief encounters: Susan Aktemel on going from running Impact Arts to starting up a letting agencySusan Aktemel

HFG is an ambitious venture. But I already have started thinking about what I will do next and have a couple of ideas...

What is your dream home?
That's easy – one of the beach side bungalows down along the Largs/Fairlie coast. Or a big old tenement in the Eixample in Barcelona, with all the art deco features. Maybe both...

Is this a step on the ladder to success or your final destination?
HFG is an ambitious venture. I plan to do this for another eight or nine years, so it feels like my final 100 miles an hour destination. But I have already started thinking about what I will do next and have a couple of ideas...

What motivates you?
I'm motivated by solving problems, and the trickier the better. Looking at something that needs to change, coming up with a solution, then finding the resources to do it. I also love creating employment opportunities for people where I can.

What is your biggest achievement?
In my current role, it needs to be when we secured our first investment for the housing portfolio. That came at the end of a 15 month negotiation, lots of lawyers, a massive learning curve, and something I had been literally dreaming about for months.

And what has been your biggest disappointment?
The only time I am disappointed is when people around me don't act with integrity, or betray my trust. It doesn't happen very often, thankfully, but it gets me down when it does.

If you were your boss would you like you?
Of course! I try to balance being friendly, with pushing everyone hard to be successful.

What’s your management style?
Informal, results focussed rather than a clock watcher, and always looking to help people grow, usually by throwing them in at the deep end. 

What’s your favourite film and why?
I don't watch many films but I love the story of Evita, and loved the film - the rise and demise of a poor girl, determined to lead her country, even if it does go wrong in the end and she is a baddy, after all.  Buenos Aires is on my bucket list as well. 

What is your favourite charity and why?
I've become a doggy convert in the last five years, so it has to be Dogs Trust. I also love Mary's Meals, for the sheer scale of the operation and how it has grown across the world.

Would your 18-year-old self be impressed with where you are now?
Hmmm - I think so! When I was 18 I was focussed on going to work in Europe, which I did, but didn't know what I wanted to do. My daughters are nearly 18, and they seem quite impressed, sometimes, does that count?

Which Brian Cox?
The actor – science was never really my thing. 

Susan Aktemel is director of Homes for Good.