Nicki Ackerman working at her desk.

Q&A: Nicki Ackerman, CEO, Avana Foundation

Our Manager of Communication and Media, Chris Harris, had a chance to sit down with Nicki Ackerman, Avana Foundation CEO, and leave the shop-talk behind for a few minutes. Here’s how it went:


Is there anything that you’re currently reading? If we were to look at Nicki Ackerman’s bedside table? What book would we find there?

Right now, you would actually find something out of the ordinary for me; I am reading “The Nightingale,” which is a novel that outlines the experiences of a family that went through World War Two. It’s a fascinating book and a tear-jerker. However, as I said, it’s not something that I would typically read. A few years ago, I started to invest more into my personal growth and development. So until now, for the past couple of years, that has kind of been my go-to. But just for over the winter, I wanted something a little bit different. So that’s what made me sort of transition. I would say 95% of the time that it would be personal growth and development you would find.

What is the last personal growth and development book you read, or one that sticks out?

One of my favourites is “The Code of the Extraordinary Mind.” It teaches you kind of about the “B” rules in life. And I don’t know how much we can say here. “B” rules are bull**** rules. So as you grow up, you’re trained to think a certain way.  This book explores how to break down those thought patterns, recreate your own rules, and live by your values and beliefs. So I think that was really pivotal in my personal growth and development: learning to live by my own values and beliefs, not necessarily what I was taught growing up.

When we talk about personal growth, do you have any advice or maybe a methodology you might implement after reading one of these books? Something that helps you take an introspective look and apply the readings to your everyday life?

I actually started journaling about a year ago, it wasn’t something that I thought that I would ever need to dive into. I think people, including myself, look at journaling as time-consuming and it is, but when you actually take the time to journal and give yourself the opportunity to honestly and thoroughly reflect on things like books you’ve read, or events that have happened to you, it really makes the time you spent doing those things worthwhile. It helps you understand those things and apply them to your life.

Do you ever go back and read your journal?

Yes. I try to make a point, usually once a month, or every couple of months to go back. It is a very important part of the process, it’s a chance to remind yourself “I forgot that I should be doing that”, or “this helped me”. One of the biggest things that I’ve learned from my mentors is that the learning never stops. You often hear people say “I put in the work, I’ve done the work, I’ve done the things”. The truth is, it never actually ends. You have to continuously put in the work. 

Grooming your own personal growth is evidently a big part of how you approach life and it has obviously brought you success. What about Avana? Was there a moment when you realized the company you and your family had created had realized a pretty impressive level of success?

I would say for me personally, it was when we shifted our focus to being purpose-led. In the beginning, we had goals and ambitions and dreams and what we wanted Avana to look like. It was very cool. It was a job, We were building these homes and we were building a great business. When we actually shifted our sole focus to being a purpose-led company, it felt like, this is what we were meant to do. This is what we need to do. We can’t stop now. Look at the impact that we’re having; all of the work we have accomplished with the YWCA and Sofia House. Those are the success stories.

Every time I’ve mentioned success. You have positioned it to be about someone else, you haven’t really said “my success”. Why?

A few years ago, I actually I was interviewed for a radio fundraiser. I was asked what makes your company want to give back? My answer is one I reflect on quite often. I said that we’re not actually successful unless we’re bringing up the community with us. We can’t find success without our residents in the community, without the tradespeople that we work with, and very importantly, without the people that are in our offices and in the field. To me, to us, it is very important that we acknowledge that although we started this, and we got it here, but not without all these other people. I feel like giving back is the ultimate way to show our appreciation to those who made us part of their lives.

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