Mhairi Friel is a leading practitioner in the field of orthotics and specialist foot and leg care. Her business, The Foot and Leg Clinic on Hyndland Road, treats some of the country's top athletes. The practice was going from strength to strength when coronavirus struck. She admits she was totally unprepared for the crisis - but says her business will come out stronger when restrictions lift.
How was business before lockdown?
The business has been going for 12 years this April. I upscaled the business about three years ago, and in the first year I made a few mistakes. Then this last year we totally had it right.
The week before lockdown we were out for dinner celebrating because we had been doing so well. We were totally starting to fly with the right team - and then coronavirus kicked in.
What has happened since March?
I have just put everybody on hold. It’s not been good. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. We can’t be in the clinic. We are not sure what will happen to a couple of the admin girls - we will just have to wait and see.
I’ve put a little bit of cash aside just to keep people going a little bit - but there is only so much I can do. Two of my clinicians are self-employed so they don’t qualify for help.
The hardest thing is making the ruthless decisions and I am not like that. That is just the hardest thing you will ever do. People have got families - and you're just like, ahh. It’s horrendous.
How have you been coping?
It’s been totally emotional. At first, you are just devastated and then you go through different stages - through anger and the rest of it.
And now we have absolutely, completely 100% accepted it is what it is and you’ve just got to do your best. It’s a moment in time and it’s not forever. You’ve just got to keep your head down.
One of the things we've been doing is using our workshop at Hillington to make PPE for frontline staff.
Myself, my brother and a bunch of lovely friends have been sourcing materials and doing what we can to help. It's given us a purpose and hopefully helped a little in the situation.
What have you learned about yourself over the last months?
I need to get better at business! You think you have got a good business, but actually you don’t. You’ve just got a list of patients and a data base and you have to know how to make them work better.
The real positive that I am going to take from this is I am going to build a real solid business structure so that it’s not so reliant on me.
I will really invest in clinicians and being the best. There are so many lessons from Covid.
If you take away the bigger picture, then the small positives from Covid are good.
What's it like having a business in the West End?
It’s brilliant. I was in the southside before and moved here four years ago. I love walking around the corner and along the street and just knowing everyone.
I think of the West End as a village - sometimes I miss the banter of the east end, but the west is great too.
It’s really good fun. you know lots of people and everyone is the same.
It’s a really nice, light, friendly atmosphere. It doesn’t feel stressful, it doesn’t feel like work.
'I think of the West End as a village - sometimes I miss the banter of the east end, but the west is great too'
What are you most proud of in business?
I have created what I wanted to create which was a team of really nice, good people who are also really good clinicians who care.
Loads of the patients say that to me. They love it when they come in through the door. It’s just a really nice feeling.
The friendly atmosphere is there with the whole team, the whole way through - and that’s exactly what I wanted.
Outside work, I have lots of really nice people in my life. Loads of friends and family. And I like to I think I’m a good person.
How do you feel about the future?
I’ve been listening to business podcasts. They made a point about this being like a grieving process.
At first, I thought the business was just not going to be what it was. It’s not going to be.
The economy is going to be a right mess for the next couple of years.
But we are pretty confident that we are going to be busy when people come back.
We will be back up and running. The set-up will be slightly different, because we have to keep everyone safe.
But the service will be every bit as good as it was before - if not better.
- You can find out about the full range of services at The Foot and Leg Clinic at www.thefootandlegclinic.co.uk. The business is also on Facebook and Instagram.