A co-owner and manager at Brunel Associates, a lettings, insurance and property management firm based on Stapleton Road, Arif Khan is also involved in a number of community projects. He has earned awards for his work to improve community cohesion.
How did you start out in business?
Our father worked in insurance and mortgages, so we grew up learning about property management and insurance and things. I always had an interest in this field but when I left school, I went to work at Rolls-Royce as an apprentice fitter.
My brother, Tariq, and I purchased Brunel Associates in 1990, with the help of our father. It’s been a family business ever since.
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If you knew then what you know now, what mistakes might you have avoided?
I wouldn’t say that I have any regrets. But, if we’d had the knowledge in 1990, we’d have implemented the changes we are making now sooner. We’re now working alongside housing associations and we work closely with Bristol City Council as well, helping to make the area better for all.
We feel that we’ve got a very good relationship with all the communities in and around Easton; we’re well known, and we know the neighbourhood and we really appreciate the customer loyalty.
What advice would you have given yourself when starting out?
I’d say to anybody who starts any kind of business, do your homework first and know what you’re doing and what you’re getting into. It’s better to know the business rather than be thrown in at the deep end and risk facing difficulties or financial problems along the line.
If you knew what you know now would you have still be sitting here?
Oh yes. Tariq was already working for Brunel Associates as an employee, so when it was offered to us to buy, we discussed it and decided we would run it as a family business. Hopefully our generations to come will benefit.
What do you know now that you didn’t know then?
I didn’t know that there was a wonderful neighbourhood around here, I didn’t know people were so friendly, so loyal. The neighbourhood is key, I believe public relations is a must for any business.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?
If somebody walks through that door with the hope that you can help them and you can help them, don’t turn them away. Do your best to help.
I’ve been doing and will be doing a lot of community work. It’s all about diversity and community cohesion and building the bridges. I’m strongly in favour of that.
What is your business highlight?
Being able to use my position to help in the community.
We try not to turn anybody away. Many housing companies only deal with professionals. Here, we deal with people on housing benefits as well.
What is your business low point?
I can’t really think of any to be honest. Even during the recession period, it was the customer and client loyalty that kept us going so that we could cover our overheads and pay our bills.
What keeps you awake?
When you own your own business, you’re thinking about it 24-seven. There are times when I even receive calls at 10 or 11 O’clock at night saying the boiler has broken down or the roof’s leaking and you have to help.
What’s changed from when you started out?
My age. I’ve gone grey, and I’m older and wiser.
I’ve learned a lot over these years at Brunel Associates and I wouldn’t change anything other than to keep making Easton and Bristol better places to live.
What’s next for you in business and personally?
Hopefully, in a few years, I should retire. I have two sons and two daughters, and if anyone was interested, they can certainly take over from me and keep it as a family business and keep it going.
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