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Today’s episode follows the long awaited publication of the Advanced Executive Fluency CEO report. To coincide with the report’s launch I hosted a webcast with a number of executives and development professionals to get their initial reactions to the research.

If you want to access the report, you can download it at:

If you’d like to hear more either about our Advanced Executive Fluency development programme for executive teams or our programme that helps your executive team develop the foundations capabilities of enterprise leadership, called Zenith, you can reach out to me by clicking here to have a conversation:

The webcast attendees who are featured in this episode are:
Pauline Holland, Dorry McLaughlin, Sandra Blake, Heather Lee, Mark Adderley, Craig Jasienski, Andrew McMillan, Peter Allen, Sonja Blignaut

The organisational peak is a perilous environment. It is more complex and challenging than anything that has gone before. And consequently, both executive tenure and corporate longevity are decreasing. To survive and thrive at the perilous peak, executive leaders need to balance their functional leadership, a focus on execution with enterprise leadership, that is ensuring the organisation adapts in our new world. That is what we will be exploring in the Advanced Executive Leadership podcast. Welcome. I’m your host Jacqueline Conway. I’m the Founder and Managing Director of Walden Croft, a consulting practice dedicated to helping Executives and Executive teams anticipate, navigate and lead at the perilous peak.

In this episode I am in conversation with Gordon Dewar, the Chief Executive at Edinburgh Airport. Gordon had presided over many years of exponential growth. At Edinburgh airport before COVID and lockdowns saw passenger numbers reduced to a mere half of 1% of what they had previously been. Of course, that disruption has continued and, we have seen that travel and tourism have been the worst affected sectors from the pandemic. Gordon, whom I have worked with for several years, talks about what that kind of disruption has been like for him and for everyone at the airport. I hope you enjoy the episode.

Tell me your story Gordon, how did you come to be the Chief Executive of Edinburgh Airport?

Gordon Dewar (1:53) 

I summarise it as quite a linear progression of skill development and the focus of what I do through a varied set of organisations and industries. What I mean by that is, it has always been transport based and it has always been commercially driven. From the early days of consultancy, after I graduated it was always about how to advise operators how to invest, how to design profitable and commercial projects and so on. And always using that sort of commercial transport, we are trying to be quite innovative. So, one of the early adopters of simulation, modelling, and transport for example. Again, this theme of data driven, how do we do better analysis? How do we understand the market better? How do we invest better? that has been fundamental. And then the variability, I have been bounced around between consultancy, trains, buses, and ultimately airports since 2007. But for me, that felt like a natural progression that was always about getting into jobs that I find fascinating and getting into jobs that very few people seem to do or think about, or certainly think about in the way that is obvious, and therefore, kept on getting options to do something similar in a slightly different spectrum. Thankfully, that ended up being in the airports which has been by far the most enjoyable because it’s just such an exciting agenda and dealing with international travel and all that means, not just for the industry and for the company and for me personally, but what it means to Scotland in this case, and what it’s meant for however we delivered. Weather it’s in this country or in Bahrain when I had my couple of years as well. So, jumping about geographical and in different sectors within transport, but always that principle of data driven commercial focus on how we’re going to make more money and how we’re going to invest it better.

Jacqueline Conway (3:47) 

So obviously, you know, the data side of it is fascinating isn’t it, because you make your forecasts, and you work to those forecasts. I’ve been around and about your business as you’ve been doing that very, very successfully. I remember conversations we had in December 2019, about what the forecast for 2020 might be, then of course, 2020 arrives and up ends the entire world doesn’t it. We saw the impact on Edinburgh Airport and the impact on airports more generally, has been devastating. Do you want to say a little bit about what that was like and where you’re at now?

Gordon Dewar (4:27) 

It was really, it was scary, to be honest. It was horrendous because you know the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my career was the one where we lost a third of our colleagues through redundancy because it was a matter of survival. We were a business that to be honest thought we were a fixed cost business, no revenue, suddenly things were pretty scary. Prospects were not highly leveraged, but we have carried a lot of debt as many infrastructure companies did. Therefore, the priority was to make sure it was survivable in terms of not running out of cash and not getting into significantly more difficulties. All of that in an entirely unpredictable world. Even at the start of that when we were at the lowest point of total crisis lockdown in March 2020 I think even then we thought a disaster would be three months of that. And here we are 18 months later. I think while that uncertainty was deeply uncomfortable, while it was horrible to lose colleagues, to see some of the work we have done undone, and with no doubt another number of years before we get back to where we were in 2019, all of which is frustrating, annoying, and particularly when I think some of it’s unnecessary, it’s a bit depressing. But what we have always done is just deploy what we’re good at, and what I mean by that when I talked about forecasting, we have used this time to get into ever more detail about where can we strip costs in the short term? where can we model recoveries? Where can we find additional revenue or better yields? or find ways of encouraging airlines to come back quicker to Edinburgh rather than somewhere else, if it’s about a market share, play.  I think what we have done again, is deploy what we’re good at, which is data driven analysis of our business and the opportunities, and then communicate that internally and externally to give ourselves the best chance. I think the one thing I am absolutely confident about is by the time we’re back to our 2019 levels of passenger demand, which is a bit just short of 15 million, we will be in a far stronger position relatively speaking than we were in 2019. What I mean by that is, as a market share in Scotland and the market share beyond Scotland actually, and in terms of the mix of airlines we have and the view they have in our marketplace. We will have done so many other things within the business to get more productivity, expand our revenue opportunities and just have used that time to really fundamentally rebase the business. And therefore, I think in a funny sort of way, if you’ve got the patience, which I haven’t, if you’ve got the patience to wait until 2024 or 25, this may look like one of the best outcomes we’ve seen for the airport in terms of an external view of what is the strength of Edinburgh airport in our market.

Jacqueline Conway (7:06) 

But let me ask the question that might be on a lot of listeners minds, because of course, you’re just along the road. I know that Biden flew into here as many of the world leaders did, and then scuttled the long road to COP26, just a few weeks ago. Climate is on the agenda, sustainability is on the agenda, has the impact of lockdown and COVID changed your thinking on that? And do you think it’s changed people’s thinking more generally, potential passengers thinking?

Gordon Dewar (7:39) 

I’m not sure I think it was coming anyway. I think COP26 brought a real focus in Scotland obviously. And I think therefore, that has changed the short-term dynamic, and the attention and the detail and some of the challenging questions. But I think the industry has been working on this for a number of years now in the full knowledge that for many on the environmental side, we are seen as the fifth horsemen of the apocalypse in terms of they cannot see the solution, and therefore their answer is stop doing it. We as an industry are confident that we can see the solution to net zero and actually ahead of UK government targets. Sustainable aviation and umbrella organisations for airlines, airports, engine manufacturers, aircraft manufacturers and fuel providers are all bullish about what we can do, how we can take certainly very early gains on the carbon intensity of a passenger trip. But actually, a longer-term view is how you get to zero using things like hydrogen and electricity, but also sustainable aviation fuels. While jet engines are a trickier technology than many other parts of society to see a rapid path away from it, if there is a sensible debate about the value that transport and aviation provides in terms of broader value, and we can just have a more time conscious view of how do we get to net zero, and maybe not the first or the second, but that we all understand where we are, I think we can make a really big contribution to some of the other solutions as well. A great example of that is Scotland’s biggest employer is tourism, we’ve got a pretty aggressive anti aviation debate going on around some, I think fairly ill-informed without anybody suggesting well, what does that mean if we can’t get here? Because there are no other options but aviation to get to the north tip of a north west, European Island. So you know, I think I’m a bit frustrated by the single issue and knee jerk stuff because if people actually look at the data, look at the proposals, look at the way the industry has responded already, I think that there’ll be a lot more than converged about the opportunities in front of us and instead of saying stop it, we should be saying, well, how do we demonstrate the best behaviours that others might want to follow?

Jacqueline Conway (9:55) 

Let’s go back to the data point because you’re talking about being data driven, I’ve observed that kind of up close here at Edinburgh Airport, and data is a wonderful thing and making data driven decisions for periods of continuity. But for periods of extreme discontinuity, it’s less helpful. How has that been for you? Because we’ve probably experienced the greatest period of discontinuity in all our lives. So what impact has that had on data being a key driver of decision makings?

Gordon Dewar (10:33) 

 I think that’s a really interesting view. I mean certainly what we’ve got is no confidence in any forecast. And that’s an uncomfortable place where we’re really good at that, you know we used to be within two or three percentage points, just about everything in the business. Because we have that continuity, we understood that history. What we’ve pivoted to now is deepening our understanding of relationships and outcomes. What I mean by that is, a really practical example is in the past, we had pretty good understanding about the different implications of an inbound and an outbound passenger, as an example, so somebody flying in from abroad and spending time in Scotland versus a Scot going off somewhere. And it didn’t really matter that much because you had continuity, where there was a sort of a growing trend toward more inbound as a whole, but it was quite slow moving and therefore wouldn’t make a profound impact on your forecast if you got it slightly wrong, or worse, slightly misunderstanding what’s going on. But now what we’re seeing is this massive discontinuity that we’ve decimated inbound demand, because the UK for all sorts of reasons is a very unattractive place to come at the moment. We’ve therefore got a massive focus on outbound then. Why does that matter? Well, people don’t bring their cars with inbound passengers, don’t pay for car parking, outbound passengers don’t buy car rental, and so on and so forth. For example, Scots don’t buy tartan scarves as gifts, we’ve got to get into that understanding. And we’ve been forced to really understand that in much more detail. Now, there is no more data in the marketplace than we have ever had. But this is the biggest experiment you’ve ever seen, because we’ve got data points that we’ve never had before, because we’ve never seen behaviours and outcomes like this. There is one example of what we’re doing is deepening our understanding of the subtleties of the data. Not because we’re producing a forecast we are any more confident about but we’ll know what to do when we do know what the answer is and therefore, we’re going to be far better harvesting, benefit planning for the shifts when they come, responding quicker because we’ll know what we’re looking for. And we know what to turn on and off that at the right time. So, you know, we will come out of this with another layer of understanding about how our business operates and where the opportunities and risks lie.

Jacqueline Conway (12:46) 

 As we sit here, we’re 18 months into COVID, maybe even more, and you know, it’s winter 2021 /2022. What’s on the horizon then for Edinburgh airport?

Gordon Dewar (13:02) 

 I think we’ve seen these different waves come and go, I think there’s a couple of things that we are very confident about. We’re really confident that the underlying demand for aviation is going to bounce as soon as people are allowed to travel. We know that different market segments will respond differently, business travel will be different from leisure travel, we know that inbound will be different to outbound for various reasons. But what we know is inherently people still see the value in travelling and come back. So, this is a case of when not if we’re going to get back into that growth trajectory and as I say, I think will actually strengthen our relative market position. We’ll recover faster than most, we’ll end up better and stronger than we started from, and so on. I’ve got no concerns whatsoever about the longer-term strength of the business, our ability to be successful and our ability to move forward. I’ve got utter uncertainty about when do we get back to 15 million passengers, when do we comfortably predicted we’re not going to see yet another lockdown or travel restrictions coming in. And there’s no point in worrying about that, in a sense, you know the one thing we have certainly learnt is government doesn’t pay any attention. So, we’ve stopped beating our heads against a wall. We just started trying to give government options and some requests that I hope will respond to their interesting decisions about how they go forward, so none of it is a long-term worry. We’ve also seen even with a relatively modest level of recovery, because we were so good at cost reduction, we’ve been back in profitability, cashflow positivity for the last four months despite being still down at sort of less than half of the traditional demand that we’re used to. Now that in itself is a massive success, nobody thought that we could get that level of cost reduction. And actually, when we benchmark against every other airport we can see data for, we’re miles ahead as well.

Jacqueline Conway (14:50)
Why is that?

Gordon Dewar (14:53)

I think part of it is we just aggressively went after it from day one, because we’re prepared to do so we’ve got the tools, we’ve got the individuals with that mindset, we’ve got a whole concept that everything is done on a bottom up basis. You don’t say “oh, it’s all too difficult” or “that’s a fixed cost base, we’ll never look at that”. We went round every single budget item and said, what’s needed? what’s necessary? what can we do to reduce it? If we reduce it now, can we keep it out? We’ve done some really, really creative things, and what’s interesting is, we hope to keep at least 25% of the savings permanently as well. So, these are not all emergency crash, beat up the supply chain or do one off things, some of this stuff is actually going to profoundly change the productivity of the business. I think, again it comes from the combination  the attitude of, “we have been massively successful” attitude of confidence in the long term and therefore deploy what you know, deploy the skills you have and harvest what you can in the short term and be ready for the recovery.

Jacqueline Conway (15:53) 

So, let me ask about that “harvest what we can in the short term”, because before the crash, there was always an energy around Edinburgh Airport. There was always a sense, with everyone from you right down to baggage handlers and people in security. And I experienced that as someone who was consulting here but also as a regular passenger, there was an energy and a vibrancy that it’s a hugely action orientated organisation. Then the action was kind of ripped out from under you. So, psychologically, what’s that been like for you and for your people to go from, a momentum where you’re going at a really fast pace, making decisions, implementing things quickly and well to being in a very radically different situation?

Gordon Dewar (16:42) 

 I don’t think anything has changed around fast pace rapid implementation, it’s been a lot less fun and it’s been a lot less certain as we’ve talked about, but fundamentally the sort of culture of nothing’s impossible, let’s look again, let’s go back to first principles, let’s challenge ourselves as much as possible, is motivated by something entirely different now. In this case, survival and then into recovery it’s a lot less fun, because you’re not celebrating root starts, you’re not celebrating the off the scale growth, and record after record. But nothing’s really changed in terms of the approach you bring to that, because I think it’s founded on good business principles in the first place, which as we know is what makes our business successful. It’s not a difficult prospect in terms of understanding the model of growing volume, attracting new airlines, giving passengers choice, getting more of them, and giving them things to spend the money on when they get here, none of that’s changed. But you’ve just got to apply yourself to the new scenarios, the new challenges the new essential, where do you spend your time today? And I think we’re really good at that, we’re just very action oriented, saying “well what’s the next challenge in front of us?”

Jacqueline Conway (17:57) 

And let’s talk about the team because obviously, my key focus with you here is at the executive level. How are your executives stepping up to these challenges that you’re describing?

Gordon Dewar (18:11) 

Well, the first thing I’d say is its quite new exec, there’s been a lot of change. I mean one of the things we decided when we knew we had to have massive cost reduction is we had to lead from the top. We’ve had people taking early voluntary retirement, we’ve had people sort of stepping away into other opportunities and we’ve deliberately thinned down the exec. All of the people that have stepped up into that new role are from within, which again is great sign of the evidence of what we’re invested in, how we develop people, that bench strength that we’ve developed over the years that we’ve now used. I’ve got less exec and there’s a lot fresher faces if you like, and some of the longer serving people have taken a step back. Nobody kind of went the way that we went, well, that’s not true, we had to look at particular functions, things like our projects. Clearly when you go from a 60 million capital spend to five then you know you’ve got to change into that. There were certain roles that we had to, unfortunately loose through redundancy but everyone that’s now in exec has either stepped up to a bigger or broader role or has just stepped up into what was their previous boss’s position. But again, that has been evidence of that investment in the culture, the training the capability. So, what does that mean now? Well it means we’ve got a really enthusiastic bunch of people who are totally committed to the business. I think this is the first time I can remember where there’s zero friction within the exec, sometimes a bit of constructive tension is good as we know, but this isn’t the time for it, this is about everyone pulling in the right direction. A great example is we’ve lost our chief operating officer in a good way down to Gatwick, they took on a role to try and replicate what we were doing up here down in Gatwick where they weren’t being quite as successful at the time. The two individuals who have stepped up in his absence, instead of potentially competing have actually forged a really effective link of well, how do we cover each other’s back, help each other out and that was a big step forward in their career paths. I think it’s been an absolute exemplar of it, whether we’ve come at that where again, database, what do we need to work on together? Let’s not get too hung up on job titles and you know, which particular segment we’re in we just all need to sort of put a shoulder to the wheel. It’s been really impressive. I think about the flexibility people have brought, that’s massively impressive about the workload that people have shouldered and really rewarding to see just how well our teams come together.

Jacqueline Conway (20:49) 

You’ll have heard me talk before about when you get to the executive level, like an infinity loop, you’re trying to hold in balance, executive leaders tend to hold and balance their functional responsibilities. So, if they’re a chief financial officer, they have financial responsibilities and if they’re kind of public affairs, and comms and sustainability the responsibilities in that. The other side of it is there is the responsibility of adaptation, for up and out, looking up and out rather than in and down at what’s next, and what’s new, what we would call enterprise leadership. How is the executive team balancing those things between the functional responsibility and the enterprise responsibility?

Gordon Dewar (21:36) 

 I think it’s about keeping space for sort of general conversations about what’s new, what’s worrying us being open and honest about the fact we don’t have the answers. We’re in the middle of a budget process and imagine what that’s like, we’re going to a year of the biggest uncertainty ever. I think we’ve been really good about saying, well let’s establish the kind of strategic intent. Let’s think about how we can answer some of the questions. Let’s think about some of the risks and issues, with recruitment being one of the biggest for everyone at the moment. If you believe as we do that, we’re going to be back with a strong summer next year, then it’s about everyone looking across the table and saying well do you look like you need help? Do I feel as though you’ve answered all the questions I might have, and not been hung up around this sectional stuff. You know, just because you are finance doesn’t mean you can’t think about communications and HR. We’ve actually designed the functions around that, I don’t think we’re now looking at a particularly traditional mix of roles. Gillian in HR is one of the best examples because she now covers business planning, she looks after the customer contact centre, she looks after all the sourcing honestly, so a really wide range of things. Communications, now runs sustainability and part of that’s because we’re just trying to spread the load with less people in a busy environment. But a huge advantage of that is that you get people who are much more multi tasked thinking, much broader about what they’re doing and understanding how they can either get the help of others or to contribute to others. I think it’s also more personally rewarding, while we’re all flat out, and a bit tired at least you feel as though you’re getting that mix of interests and personal development as well as just doing the graft and getting the job done. I’m not sure if we have claimed that we really sat down and said “are we getting that balance right?” but what I would say is, I don’t think anybody’s feeling as though they can’t. On the two weekly meetings we have employees raise any issue, and they get a sensible response from people where people will want to help or people want to engage in the concern or the issue or how we go forward. And we are working in more innovative areas, because it’s kind of a necessity but also because we think that our new threats that need that innovation, that approach. One of the strangest things I suppose coming out of it is we’re now building a solar farm in the middle of a crisis. We would have probably struggled to justify that because we were too busy doing the day job three years ago, but because we’ve actually not had the day job to do in that sense, everything’s been new and challenging. We’ve managed to get that really exciting project around sustainability as well as the business case behind them off the ground, and we’ll be in construction very soon. I think that’s an interesting example of how we’re not just marking time waiting to do what we used to do, we’re now doing things very differently.

Jacqueline Conway (24:31) 

Okay, and what would you say then as you look ahead to 2022 are the kind of essential things that your executive team needs to be focused on.

Gordon Dewar (24:43) 

We’ve got some of the really clear deliverables, we just need to execute against recruitment being probably the biggest one across the campus. We’ve probably got to recruit and not just us this is our partners, retailers handling companies. We think the campus needs over 1000 people to come by next summer, even with the fact that we’re still down probably at 2014/ 15 levels of demand and this is the tightest employment market we’ve ever seen and it’s inflationary. So that is probably the single biggest risk we have and therefore, we’re utterly focused on the execution of not just our recruitment, but helping the campus get there because it doesn’t matter, if we’re ready if the rest of campus isn’t,it is not going to be a good summer. So that’s the sort of practical thing we do. The other thing that we’re utterly focused on is being incredibly attentive to the data, we’ve now developed not just a budget model but a business analysis model that is more capable than I’ve ever thought possible to respond to nuance and data as it comes in. We know when to turn off X /Y and Z, we know when we can engage in investment and this that and the next thing, and we know how we’re going to respond almost under any sort of growth scenario whether it’s where we hope to get to 11/12 or 13 million passengers or if it’s only maybe hitting 10, we know what the answer is. We’ve managed to get comfortable, which has been quite a struggle for people that are used to certainty and used to being really data driven when forecasting. We’ve managed to get really confident, I think with that uncertainty and just being ready to act as and when it’s required, that’s probably the biggest thing. And then the other one is getting out there and just reassuring people, particularly in light of the latest setback in terms of testing, don’t lose faith, this is going to be fine, we are going to come out of this stronger than we were before. I’m not sure many people outside the industry would think that’s even plausible but we are utterly certain it’s going to happen because of all the work we’ve done and because of the fundamentals of the business. In a sense, we are a lot more confident about all of this than people might expect but it’s about delivering against the risk that we have.

Jacqueline Conway (26:56) 

Let me ask about culture and the role your executive team play in kind of cultivating and being role models for your organisations culture.

Gordon Dewar (27:06) 

Datums are not a cultural thing I know, but I think it sets the platform for the culture. If you’ve got evidence, or lack of evidence, actually as important, about an issue you think is important, we will have a conversation no matter where you sit in this organisation. So, somebody comes up with a great idea about improving something or somebody comes up with a worry that they don’t think we’re addressing. I think the culture of the organisation is one of assess, and if we’re all agreeing there’s a problem, and that could be an HR problem that could be, are we doing the appraisals right? That could be are we doing health and safety right? So, you know it could be anything across the piece and not all commercial by any stretch, I think will get the attention of people to go and help identify the issue and then look at the solutions and how we do it. I think it’s turned into a really good action oriented collegiate approach. We’re really good at setting up multifunctional teams and getting projects and initiatives looked at. I think, before this crisis we did ask ourselves the question, do we give ourselves time to sit back and look at the more complex stuff? The things that don’t naturally fall into that. And to be brutally honest, I think we’ve realised there was some work to do that. But that’s probably been parked in the short term, we’ve got to get back on to delivering the basics, and then we come back to it. I think what we’ve done in the interim is actually going to set us even better placed to achieve that, because we’ve already blurred some of the edges around where people feel comfortable operating, where people feel they have a say, where people feel they have expertise that they can contribute. The other thing I think about the culture is, the one thing we’ve proven ourselves is, the value of investing in our people. We have used all of the assets on the bench so, we now need to repopulate that bench. We’re going to have to accelerate staff development, staff training, , giving people the tools, not just the practical and the operational side. That leadership type stuff that you’ve worked on with us for many years. So, we’ve got to recognised how valuable that’s been and we now need to do more of that and faster.

Jacqueline Conway (29:14) 

And what does that look like for your executive team next year collectively?

Gordon Dewar (29:21) 

I think it’s going to be another year of hard work and not a huge amount of fun, I suspect. It will be about making sure that we don’t lose sight of that need to repopulate. So, we are going to have to find room in very, very tight budgets, that look pretty unappetising, to get people in training courses and pay for that development and release people from the day job and all of the things that come with that. I think we’re going to model our behaviour we’re going to show people that despite this being an ongoing crisis, that it is the right time to be investing in things that you know will only pay back in a year from now or two years from now, but it’s if you don’t do it then you will regret it come the next time you’ve got a challenge.

Jacqueline Conway (30:02) 

Well, I guess what you’re saying is that the work that had been done before lockdown and COVID happened, actually was part of what helped you then deal with that in the most effective as you did.

Gordon Dewar (30:14) 

Absolutely, if you look at the exec team now, everyone that’s taken a step up into these new roles has been through at least an element of our leadership development programme, or through some of the other side training stuff that we did around leadership and values, and so on so forth. I don’t think that would have been possible, if they hadn’t spent the many years in advance of that not just delivering it, but telling people we thought it was important so that they invested in it as well and demonstrated our work. And what better example, than to look around that exec team, all of our promotion and recruitment was internal, which I think is a real testament.

Jacqueline Conway (30:51) 

Okay, great. And so just one final thing. What else would be good for listeners to know, that I haven’t asked you?

Gordon Dewar (31:04) 

I don’t know. I think the sort of thing we reflected on right from the start is given when you’re confronted by something as big as this is giving yourself space to just express concerns, almost unsubstantiated concerns, the what are you worried about stuff. And I think if you’ve got people that know their stuff, as well as everyone on the team does, and trust the cohort, that is a really, really interesting place to be. It’s not necessarily very uplifting on occasion, when you hear another raft of things that you haven’t worried about before but now you should be. But my God, it lets you think about where you should be spending your time. In the end, there’s always going to be pay back. So, I think the biggest thing I’ve taken from this is in the middle of the crisis, find the quiet moments and have the conversations about what the hell’s worrying you, and sometimes find the opportunity you never thought about in there. So as bad as everything is, or can be there’s always a way of improving it or mitigating the problem or making it slightly better than you thought it otherwise would be.  I think that’s been a huge lesson, but it comes from giving yourself the space to sit down and go, right, what’s important? what can we contribute? And what are we going to stand for in the coming months?

Jacqueline Conway (32:39) 

Let me just ask one question on the back of that Gordon, what impact has your ownership structure had on your ability to ride this out? And can you anticipate that had there been a different ownership structure you would have been more constrained or less constrained in the decisions that you were able to make?

Gordon Dewar (33:03) 

That’s a really good question. I’ll talk about probably culturally, I would say the ownership structure has been fantastic, we are a reflection of JIPS focus on data and analytics and ambition and all the rest of it. We are absolutely benefited by the fact that they are long term investors, which is quite, it’s almost an oxymoron for a private equity based asset company. But their whole view, even though they intend to sell at some point and this has probably delayed that process. The whole view is that you’ll get value by looking at the long term, and really thinking through the fundamentals of the business. I think also just their intrinsic confidence in us and the sector as a long term investable means they’ve not panicked, they’ve not been thinking about offloading us or anything else. So, you know, they’ve invested time, effort and resources. And have been incredibly supportive now of all the propositions we brought to the table. So, you know, I went to them and said, I don’t think we need to do external recruitment, I think we should back up people that development reached and they take it at face value. They do that because they’ve seen it being developed over time. I think an awful lot of externals will want to parachute people in and you will have lots of help from headquarters, which as we all know, is such an enjoyable experience. We’ve had the support, but we’ve not had the uninvited interventions, because there’s been that confidence in us as a team and confidence in the sector. So that’s been really helpful. Would another structure make a difference? I would certainly not like multiple owners, that would be horrendous at the moment. It’s difficult enough to rationalise and deal with uncertainty internally. If you’ve got to have five or six key shareholders all which have different views of the world, that would be really difficult. I think you’d spend an awful lot of time just talking people through stuff rather than achieving anything. I’m glad we’ve got private owners I look around at everyone, I mean you’ve got to acknowledge that the National Health Service has done great things but I’ve looked at the way they’ve been asked to deliver, and I think it’s disgraceful. I think the waste, and ineptitude of the government oversight of that is really, really damaging. It’s one of the most frustrating things I’ve seen, the poor people in the NHS are left to pick up the pieces and do things that nobody should ever be asked to do. And it’s been a success of one sort, but my God, it could be a lot better if people had just applied a bit of logic and a bit of leadership. So yeah, I guess I’m trying to think of other models that may or may not have helped. I think I’m quite pleased I’m not part of an airport group as well, I think that would be a complicating factor. We’ve got a really good sort of sisterly airport relationship with Gatwick, but we’re not governed as a group. So again, people are not trying to impose one size fits all stuff. I think that’s one of the messages is that, when you’re looking for creativity you really need to look in the detail, and then the specifics of your business. So, I think these are all generalities, but these would be the observations I would imagine would be true. But I’ve not spent a huge amount of time thinking of that because we’ve got great owners who have been supportive.

Jacqueline Conway (36:17) 

Yeah, great. Okay. Well, thanks so much. That’s been a really great conversation, and it’s been lovely to catch up again. So, thank you, Gordon.

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What’s required from Executive Leaders has changed. Find out how executive leaders and executive teams can survive and thrive in our disrupted world. Interviews with CEOs and insights from Waldencroft’s Dr Jacqueline Conway.

By Jacqueline Conway…

Dr Jacqueline Conway works with CEOs and executive teams as they fully step into their collective enterprise-wide leadership, helping them transform their impact and effectiveness.

Jacqueline is Waldencroft’s Managing Director. Based in Edinburgh, she works globally with organisations facing disruption in the new world of work.