Friday 26th June, 2020

Lockdown from the perspective of our Chairman, Brian Welsh

How have you coped in lockdown?

How have you coped in lockdown Brian?

This is actually a difficult question to answer as it has affected my business life and my personal life differently.


From a business perspective the first week was working out how the different businesses I have an interest in would continue to be able to service their clients in the way in which they had pre-lockdown.

As businesses we were fortunate that working from home was not an alien concept at all. The next was how to make sure all the wonderful team were going to cope with working from home for what was an unknown period of time. Within days we had a regime of daily huddles for the different teams and weekly get togethers for the entire team in each business. They have panned out differently in each business but the overriding thing for me is that I have gotten to know each and every member of the team much better than I would have pre-lockdown, mainly because I can see what is behind them on zoom calls.


There was some unavoidable apprehension at the beginning about the survival of the businesses and how the lockdown / pandemic was going to affect our customers and therefore ultimately our own businesses. We did what every business did and ran the numbers to see at what point we needed to make any decisions that we didn’t really want to make. Fortunately the affect has thus far not been as bad as it could have been so I am thankful for that. It has been a lot quieter that is for sure but it has given the teams the time to look at what we do for our clients and change some things to make our clients journey with us even better.

Product and Service is extremely important to me and right from lockdown I was saying “Right what can we do improve things for our clients to support them through this and allow them to come out of blocks sprinting when the world wakes up again”. It has truly been an inspirational time for me.

I have had a lot of time to reflect and a couple of weeks into lockdown I stepped down as CEO of Insight and took up the role of chairman. I had a fabulous successor sitting in the wings (Tim Smith) and he has approached the role with gusto. The reason for making the decision was because I knew we needed to have strategic plans in place to get the business through the pandemic and I knew I would struggle to do that effectively with all the other responsibilities as CEO. My passion is strategy, leadership, people, culture, values and everything that makes businesses great, its just a shame it took a pandemic to get me to make the decision to step back and concentrate on all these things.


From a personal point of view putting a workaholics desk in their living room is not the best idea for a work life balance that was already a tad skewed as my partner, my kids and the dog will attest to.

I have always wanted to cycle and my eldest son is a keen cyclist so shortly after lockdown started I bought a road bike. I spent way more than I intended because they became like gold dust pretty quick after lock down. Shortly after, the charity committee of one of my businesses, decided we were going to do an office dash challenge for our charity of the year. On a Friday evening virtual team drinks. after a couple of glasses of wine, optimistically I piped up and said I would contribute and do 500 miles on my bike and walk Arthur (that’s the dog, a miniature golden doodle) over the 30 day challenge.


It was touch and go but I completed my 500 miles on day 29 ! I have to admit to thinking about Bill Gates saying that lots of people over estimate what they can achieve in a year but underestimate what they can achieve in 10. Okay I know it was only 30 days but I seriously overestimated what I could achieve. The biggest issue was the Scottish weather, don’t get me wrong I would play golf in the rain and don’t dislike the rain (how can you living in Glasgow) but 16.5 stone on a bike with tyres less than an inch wide with no grip on wet cobbles is not going to end well, so I ended up having to do about 40 miles on day 29. But I loved every minute of it, the clarity of thought when cycling is just such a release and I will definitely keep it up, maybe just a couple of times a week though.

The only other thing I waned to do in lockdown that I haven’t achieved yet is to learn to play a musical instrument, my mother always told me I was tone deaf but I’ve always wanted to try so what did I choose?, the bloody saxophone!  My partners daughter used to play so there was one in the house and it took me a couple of days to even get a sound out of it. I haven’t got any further with it yet as I need to learn to read music first but I am determined to give it a go over the next few months.

Overall I think I have coped pretty well, I do worry about all our people, working from home, mental health and also if we will ever get them all back in the office like we did pre-lockdown.

The one thing I think I will always have to work on is how to get the energy of a board room or meeting room into Zoom. I think my energy comes across but I find it difficult to feed off the room when on virtual calls. I did a LinkedIn Video on the subject a couple of weeks ago and a pal of mine messaged me with “Microsoft Whiteboard man – get a grip”, I probably hadn’t explained properly. Lots of companies all over the world have been using this technology for years but I used to visit the HO of each business at least every 2 weeks and so I’m so used to the connection of the board room, the buzz of a meeting room, getting up walking round the room. I have really struggled with that but I am getting used to it.

Right Arthur – walkies….



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