I got my first taste of self-employment while studying at Queen’s University Belfast in the early 1980s. Even then I wanted to work for myself; so while other students were pulling pints to pay their bills, I was running a painting and decorating business.
After finishing university, I went into business full-time in 1987 opening one of Belfast’s first pizza takeaway and delivery businesses and running it successfully for 14 years. In 2001, I became the Northern Ireland sales agent for a UK business membership organisation. Over the next 12 years I met with and spoke to over 10,000 business owners, listening to their business challenges and problems and bringing them effective solutions to support their business.
Helping businesses with 'peace of mind' benefits such as, Health and Safety, Employment Law, Tax Legislation, Auto-Enrolment and other compliance issues is the foundation of what we do and where I find business owners have the most concerns and challenges. But having been a business owner myself, I saw that there was also a need and a desire out there to add something more aspirational - how to get more business, how to educate, train and reward you team and how to make sure my business is successful.
A good business owner works hard to promote, sell and deliver their products or services to their customers but more and more recognise the need to spend precious time and money complying with today’s increasingly complex business environment.
That’s why in June 2014 I launched Business First Network. It gives business owners peace of mind that essential business legislation and compliance are being taken care of without it eating into their precious time and profits and because I wanted to give something back to entrepreneurs in the shape of events, masterclasses, workshops, networking and trading opportunities and the perks and treats of Membership Plus.
Deliver immediate access to essential business advice lines
Make all business compliance affordable and easy and protect business owners from detrimental prosecution and investigation
Drive sales and profits for members and also save them thousands of pounds
Grow a network of inspired, empowered and fulfilled business owners
Complying with industry regulations, getting the best deal on insurance and business expenses, having proper employment contracts in place for your staff, meeting your auto-enrolment pension requirements - Making sure all those crucial boxes are ticked. "It's just good business".
Marketing your business, staying in touch with your industry peers, forging business connections, staying on top of news and developments, keeping your skills and knowledge up to date - All essential for continued growth and development. "It's just good business".
But none of it matters if you aren't happy. If you're bored, lonely, running on empty, overwhelmed or uninspired - it won't be long until the business suffers. If your heart isn't in it, whose is? As a business owner, feeling rewarded, fulfilled and supported is the emotional fuel in the tank for your business. You've guessed it - "It's just good business."
Carol Townsend is a co-founder and Director of the Business First Network, based in Brighton. Her focus is to grow the organisation’s presence across the UK to meet the demand from small businesses for affordable, specialised support.
She is a passionate advocate for the small business owner, having played a key role in her husband’s business. Carol was sales director, but also had a hands-on approach to dealing with issues around health and safety, employment issues, staffing and HMRC. This experience led her into a small business organisation, where she spent 20 years serving the UK’s entrepreneurs.
She says: “I believe business success is vital to Britain, small firms being its lifeblood. I pay tribute to the thousands of men and women who every year take their ideas and courage in their hands and stride out to build their future. It is my intention that Business First will do all in its power to support and aid their progress.”
Carol lives on a smallholding with her husband and outside of work, her passion in life is caring for their array of animals. She also loves spending time with her grandchildren.