Campion Homes joint Managing Director Susan Jackson has won three Commonwealth Games medals for Scotland – now she leads a business that completes hundreds of homes each year.

Joint MD Susan Jackson

Susan proudly holds a “full set” of Commonwealth Games medals for Scotland – achieving a gold, silver and bronze as a rifle shooter. Now she hits a different set of targets as the joint managing director of Campion Homes.

Starting 35 years ago, with just three staff, today we have a workforce of 160, and we complete around 250 homes a year.

Shooting for success

Campion Homes was founded by Susan’s father Peter Bell with Marjorie Scott and George Cruikshank.

Its first development was six retirement flats. From there is quickly grew as it started delivering developments of all sizes for Kingdom Housing Association. This collaboration provided financial stability during early years and also aligned with Campion’s mission to deliver affordable homes.

Conversations about the business were frequent at the dinner table when Susan was growing up. As a teenager, holidays were spent answering the telephones and doing filing.

When she went to study at Edinburgh University, her passion for sport came to the fore. She said: “When I was a teenager, I was a member of Dunfermline Rifle Club and I was taken there by my father.

“At Edinburgh University, I was introduced to the high performance end of my sport. “I was encouraged to push on and aspire to compete at a higher level.”

Bronze, silver, then gold

Her 12 years representing Scotland and Great Britain coincided with working for Deloitte as a chartered accountant.

At the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games, she won the bronze medal in prone rifle pairs. Four years later, in Manchester, she took the silver medal.

Then in 2006, in Melbourne, she triumphed by winning the gold medal with shooting partner Sheena Sharp.

She said: “I enjoyed training to get better, pushing for higher performance and being surrounded by others who were doing the same thing. The opportunity to compete for Scotland was such a driver for me."

“You train, prepare and try to deliver the best performance on the day. That’s something I’ve taken into business as well. If you do all that, the outcome will be what it is. The gold medal was excellent. I had been competing at that level for a very long time and I was disappointed not to have done better at the Manchester games."

“To conclude my Games career with the gold medal was something very special. I was also a member of the Great Britain shooting team. I shot at four European championships and one world championship.”

Joining Campion Homes in Fife

Susan, 51, stopped competing in 2007, the same year she left Deloitte to join the charity Winning Scotland which had a focus on developing young people through sport.

Starting as a programme manager, Susan then became the senior director and led the charity. But her interest in Campion Homes never went away and when her father approached her to join the company in 2013, it felt like the right time.

Initially joining as a financial controller, she became finance director and, since 2017, joint managing director with Dougie Herd.

The mum-of-two said: “I didn’t have a particular career plan that I would join the business but when my father approached me about it and we talked it through, it was something that I was pleased to do.

“I think I brought more corporate business experience that perhaps others didn’t have. Dougie brings the construction and commercial experience and together, I think we make a great team.”

When Susan joined Campion 11 years ago its turnover was around £15 million. Last year sales topped £36m.

The company focuses on projects in east central Scotland. In its 35 years, it has completed 3,200 homes. “Campion has grown significantly over the years I’ve been here,” she said. “We currently have projects in Crieff and Glenrothes and are looking to start a 100-home development in Meigle in Perthshire this autumn. “But even in the relatively short period of time I’ve been here, we’ve had our ups and downs.”

Surviving Covid and rapid increases in costs

Susan says navigating the business through Covid, and retaining all its staff, is one of her proudest achievements. However, the period which followed, when the sector experienced significant price inflation of materials was equally challenging.

“Most of our affordable housing work is done under fixed price contracts and so we were impacted by price inflation,” she said. “This affected our results last year, but we have a very strong balance sheet and we were able to sustain that. “What my father has definitely taught me and the rest of us in the business is that there are ups and downs and economic cycles. “He has brought Campion Homes through very many of those over the 35 years that the business has been around.”

She credits resilience as one of the key things she has taken from her sporting days as something that helps her in business.

Private housing sales were slower last year, Susan said, as higher mortgage rates and the cost-of-living crisis led to fewer purchases. However, sales are stronger this year as confidence returns to the market.

She is hopeful of a further boost to sales if the Bank of England reduces its base rate later this year. She said the planning process was the number one challenge in the sector. “The requirements to get a site through planning have increased significantly,” she said. “It’s very resource intensive and extremely time consuming. I also think there is an under resourcing of planning departments.”

Campion Homes Joint MD Susan Jackson standing in front of company logo

Campion Homes growth plans

Despite the challenges, Susan said she loves the variety of her job as joint managing director where she gets to work with “excellent leaders” in the business.

As well as employing 160 people directly, the company also makes extensive use of sub-contractors. It has provided 50 apprenticeships across all areas of the business.

Susan takes great pride at the quality of homes produced. The business was recognised at the Homes for Scotland awards this year for a development in Alloa.

“The award was for the transformation of a derelict site into 60 dementia-friendly apartments,” she said. “We build beautiful homes for people who need them and want them in places that they’re needed. It gives me and the people who work here a lot of pride. “We’re also proud about how we’ve grown in our 35 years from a small company building six retirement flats to completing up to 300 homes a year. “We’ve had some quite significant growth over the last 10 years. Our future growth plans are about steady, achievable and maintainable progress.”


Source: Susan Jackson - Interview with The Courier