Caroline Theobald, chair and co-founder of FIRST
Chloe Shakesby

Bdaily Festive Focus 2020: FIRST co-founder Caroline Theobald is ready to unwrap an "exciting" 2021

For the next installment of our Festive Focus 2020, Bdaily spoke to Caroline Theobald, chair and co-founder at skills specialist FIRST, on appreciating the little things, adapting to new technology and heading into the season of goodwill.

How has 2020 changed the way that you live, work, and think?

“2020 – what a year, but with one huge benefit. It’s really made me focus on and appreciate the small things that make life worth living.

“At work and at home: respect for others’ feelings and sensibilities, friends and family (even if they’re on zoom) small acts of random kindness and how much pleasure a smile and ‘friendly hello’ gives people, particularly those who might not have seen anyone else all day.”

What has been your single biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?

“Single biggest work challenge has been coming to terms with technology and making it work for me.

“I’ve found not being able to see people ‘in the flesh’ really hard.

“The usual ‘social clues’ in a conversation are missing. I feel I’ve had to learn a new language, I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s made my brain hurt.

“What’s been great is seeing how the FIRST team have all responded to delivering our services with their customary sense of fun, friendliness and professionalism online as opposed to face to face.”

What has been the biggest unexpected positive to come out of this year?

“My biggest positive is learning to love my house/home as a workplace as well as a place for relaxation.

“I’m very lucky to live in the country so this year has really made me appreciate the gift of my location.

“It’s also moved me much closer to FIRST, the company I founded with Charlotte Windebank in 2014.

“Having to adapt to new ways of working and innovating was like being a startup again, but this time with a clear sense of purpose and direction and a dynamic and growing young team.”

What does your ideal Christmas look like?

“My ideal Christmas involves snow and enjoying seeing as much of the family as we’re allowed.

“I’ve only seen my children and their families once since March. It’ll be lovely to catch up ‘in the flesh.’ Sadly my siblings all live too far away, but we’re all dab hands at zoom now!”

How do you think people and businesses can support each other during 2020’s festive season?

The festive season will be no different for FIRST than the rest of the year. We’re very clear that people do business with people and that givers’ gain.

“The festive season is the season of goodwill. We have that in our company’s DNA and will continue to support people in both practical and emotional ways to gain the skills they need to reach their potential.”

What does 2021 look like for you and your business?

“2021 looks exciting. We’ve taken on two great new people at FIRST, invested in a new website, and our growing a band of talented and committed associates.

“In the new year we’re going to focus on the accredited level one in enterprise we’ve developed to help those who’ve unexpectedly been made redundant or are thinking of setting up a business.

“We’ll also be celebrating regional talent as it emerges through acquiring the necessary skills to startup and scale a business. This celebration will take shape over three focused days at the Startup Awards North East.”

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