They say you should "always expect the unexpected," but the impact of COVID-19 was not something anyone could have anticipated within their strategic business plans. The effects of the pandemic have been felt personally, economically and financially.

In this article we will discuss challenges faced, adaptations made and the positive learnings as a result of the pandemic, drawing on our own experiences and those of some of our clients including John Laurie, Managing Director of the Glenturret Distillery and Andrew Duthie, CEO at Greenbelt, one of the UK's leading specialists in the stewardship of public open spaces.

Initial impact

At Brodies we had anticipated that COVID-19 restrictions would be introduced a week prior to the UK Government's announcement. In the interest of colleague and client safety, and having the appropriate infrastructure already in place, in a matter of days more than 600 colleagues were supporting our clients from their homes.

For Greenbelt and Glenturret, both with prominent client facing businesses, the restrictions and social distancing measures resulted in an immediate suspension of client facing work. But that didn't mean that the work stopped completely.

Commenting on the initial impact, Andrew Duthie at Greenbelt, said: "[Social distancing measures] plunged the company into a frenzy of work and planning." Greenbelt had 65,000 households on its books where the grass didn't stop growing and the bins kept filling up. Its main aims were to "protect staff, customers and the viability of the business." These aims ring true for all businesses during this time. Greenbelt prioritised internal and external communication. Good communication and planning was fundamental, and so it was able to continue assisting its clients within three weeks of COVID-19 restrictions being introduced. This was greatly appreciated by housebuilders and homeowners alike - particularly given a new found appreciation for green open space.

For Glenturret, the tourism side of its business felt the greatest impact. Having previously welcomed as many as 100,000 people to the distillery in one year, there was no choice but to close as a visitor attraction. Once restrictions were lifted, however, Glenturret successfully re-opened, welcoming small socially distanced groups of no more than six people at any one time for tours. With visitor numbers expected to be significantly reduced this year, the company has used this time positively to refocus its offering, which includes plans for a global media launch to be held virtually.


Social distancing measures have brought into sharp focus the different ways technology can enable business resilience.

At Brodies, in line with our values of collaborative and collegiate working, video calls and document sharing have allowed us to stay connected with clients and colleagues to ensure as little interruption as possible.

We asked Glenturret and Greenbelt about the ways in which tech has enabled their businesses to keep operating and whether some of these systems and processes will be here to stay.

Andrew Duthie agrees that technology has been crucial: "This time has underlined the value of our long-term investment in IT development without which we would have sunk."

Similarly, the successful use of technology has meant there is less need for business travel as clients and customers become more accessible. John Laurie noted that, "The rise of Zoom and Teams calls was essential to begin with and we now find that most businesses seem to have overcome the concerns regarding commercial etiquette with video calls now being a very accepted form of communication." Having reflected on the success of video calls within the company, he adds: "Using this tool when appropriate will save organisations like ours tens of thousands of pounds in international travel with many days of productivity added back into the business as key personnel are no longer out of contact when travelling to a meeting."

Flexible working

Ensuring the mental health and morale of colleagues has been a huge priority for many businesses and again provides food for thought in terms of how businesses might operate in the future.

Andrew Duthie adds that for Greenbelt, teamwork was crucial. He states: "Without a fantastic, loyal and motivated team we could never have responded in the way we did... For the longer term we can now confidently embrace more flexible working and more effective job sharing and home working which will be great to further our goals of diversity and inclusion into our workforce."


In all aspects of our personal and professional lives, we are adapting to live with the pandemic. Just as in the experiences shared by Glenturret and Greenbelt, many businesses have learned valuable lessons from the challenges that COVID-19 has presented and will ultimately be stronger and more resilient for that.


Neil Burgess

Head of Corporate and Commercial & Partner