Leadership In The Cost-Of-Living Crisis: When To Be The Goose And When To Be The Swan

With electricity costs up 205% and gas up by 576%, Lindsay Fyffe-Jardine, CEO at Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, discusses the impact of the energy crisis, and its shock-factor, on our work.

Losing your composure as a CEO isn’t really the done thing, it’s certainly not something I’m known for. However, I have no shame in admitting that when we received the quotes through a week ago for our electricity and gas I was floored. It took all of me, and some emotionally intelligent colleagues who happened to be there at the time, not to melt onto my knees in the middle of the office. The Home received in that email the shocking reality that our electricity costs are going up by 205% and our gas by 576%. This comes to around £130k of unknown costs that we suddenly have to deal with, and all of these costs are not luxury, they are in fact critical to running a safe, warm and loving Home like we do. These figures don’t even factor in the already known £200k extra in supplier costs we have been building into our budgets and cash flow.

Protecting Families Through The Crisis

We don’t have the option to shut the doors for a few days, we can’t just turn the lights off or not put the heating on. There are dogs and cats in our care who need rehabilitation, comfort, love and support. 7 days a week. Not only that, we have a dedicated staff team who don’t get to opt out. We have a duty to provide not only a safe and comfortable place of work but also a moral one to make work a haven. Heating and lighting shouldn’t even factor into the basics for them.

As demand grows for our services, the phone calls are increasing each day, 7 days a week and the human foodbanks we’re supporting with pet supplies such as food, blankets and leads will be reaching close to 70 by the end of the month. In the past month alone its more than 3,000 pets we kept with their families as far as Fife, Falkirk and the Borders. We’re relentlessly continuing our work because we know that we’re avoiding a pet care crisis here at the Home by supporting these pets and their owners to stay together. We also know that this prevents trauma and isolation to those people who wish to keep their pets as core to their family.

A Time For Vulnerability

Being a leader through times like this is beginning to move beyond the over used word of ‘unprecedented’. It feels like running a hurdles race but through quicksand. I’m a relatively new CEO, only being in post for 2 and half years, and I’ve become used to the shock factor of how quickly things have changed and shifted. But these energy bills left me shook to the core. Getting the human balance of being a CEO during tough times is the hard bit to master. Learning when to show your vulnerabilities can often come down to moment-by-moment judgement. When to be more goose and less swan in so many words. You’d think I’d have learnt by now through COVID, but this current crisis has hidden depths I’m aware I haven’t explored yet.

Only time will tell how much the impact of bills like this will affect us in the long term. All I know if that the community we serve, whether they are pets or their owners, need us to stand strong and not step back from our mission. It’s my job to stand at the front, leaning in and shouting into the wind as it tries to push us back.

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