Name: Stuart Clark.

Age: 37.

What is your business called?

Russell & Russell. I am managing director.

Where is it based?


What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We are business advisors and chartered accountants.

To whom does it sell?

Mainly to business owners. Being an owner can sometimes be a very lonely place – you can’t talk to your team about your issues, you’re often flying by the seat of your pants and you’re expected to know everything. Sometimes we are more like therapists and people come in and just unload and talk about their problems which we can then help them to resolve or make a plan as to how to move forward. We also know that accountancy is viewed as the “dark arts” and so we want to help our clients to understand their key numbers.

The coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic has obviously had a huge impact on businesses around the world and whilst some people have effectively mothballed their businesses, as accountants, we are busier than ever.

Whether it is navigating the plethora of Government updates – it is almost like every day is Budget Day - helping clients with their cashflows or just being there for moral support and a chat. I have had, I think, up to 30 client calls a day.

We have seen some clients that have had to shut down completely, but we’ve seen others pivot and create new opportunities, which is always the case with something like this.

There are negatives, but there are also going to be opportunities and so by contacting our clients regularly we can help them plan for the next stage. Not just surviving but thriving. Currently, though, it is survival mode for many businesses.

How many employees?


We started preparing for flexible working about 15 months ago and so when Covid-19 hit we were able to move swiftly to maintain our service to our clients.

We used Zoom regularly, even to the extent of carrying out stock takes in Shetland remotely, and we continue to do so for our daily huddles.

We have also started using WhatsApp, more for internal team communications and morale, Microsoft TEAMS to share updates with our clients and holding weekly web events to discuss the latest updates.

When was it formed?

Forty or so years ago. The firm is currently family-owned and under the control of Ken and Alastair Russell. Together with my colleagues, Rosslyn McMaster and Ian McMonagle, I have put a succession plan in place with Ken and Alastair that meets all our needs. We were only able to do this by sitting down and discussing what we all wanted to achieve.

When we first discussed succession planning with Ken and Alastair the thought was that the buyout team should raise the funds through extra loans but the idea of taking out a “second mortgage” didn’t fill me with joy and neither of them wanted a lump sum and they still want to be actively involved in the business. We decided that the shareholders should be paid out over a period with the profits generated from the business. This is working well, and the shareholders are content with the arrangement.

Why did you take the plunge?

I originally qualified as a physiotherapist when I left university, but I had chosen the course when I was 16 and had no idea what it involved. I soon realised that it wasn’t what I wanted to do.

My parents are farmers and I found I enjoyed helping prepare the financial books before our family accountant took them away and drew up the accounts. I liked the clarity in accounting – something either reconciled or it didn’t, whereas in physiotherapy the reasons for a sore back were endless.

When I had become disillusioned with the practical, day-to-day realities of physiotherapy I decided to apply to Johnston Carmichael, the accountancy firm, as a trainee accountant.

What are your ambitions for the business?

We aim to triple our profits over the next five years, but this should be a by-product of getting everything else right.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

The support the Government has put in place in response to the coronavirus, although fantastic, has not always been fit for purpose and there are people still falling between the cracks.

For example, many people who are owner/directors of businesses usually take pay in the form of dividends. However, people in this category don’t qualify either for the furlough scheme or for the help available for self-employed people.

The procedures for claiming under the furlough scheme are incredibly complicated even for accountants. They are set to get even harder to navigate following the introduction of the arrangements for flexible furloughs.

The recent announcements regarding exit plans have at least provided some details so that business owners can start to plan ahead but there are still a lot of unknowns, such as when schools will go back. It will be difficult for many parents to return to work until then.”

How do you relax?

In the past my answer would have been going to the cinema and playing five-a-side football but I have to admit that I am finding it a lot harder to switch off when “working from home”. My wife is still working in hospital and so I have a two and four-year-old at home during the day. I start my working day at 5pm and regularly find myself working until 2am at the moment.