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    When was the last time you packed a bag, said goodbye to the office, and went in search of the truly exciting new ventures that could change the world?

    That’s a trick question. I know that most of us are far too busy. And anyway, how would you know where to start? This is why I was honoured and delighted to be invited on a recent technology mission that made that dream come true.

    Last week, I joined executives from MasterCard, British Airways owner IAG, and Citibank on a trip to Israel to meet some of the entrepreneurs building outstanding businesses there. The two and a half day trip started in Jerusalem and ended in Tel Aviv. It was a whirlwind tour, organised by UK Israel Business, packed with meetings and seminars designed to foster new trade links and show off the nation’s top talent.

    I must have met about 30 brilliant entrepreneurs over the course of the mission. I can honestly say it was one of the most inspirational things I’ve done in my life.

    I’d like to tell you all a little about the people I met and the incredible ventures that I discovered on this journey. I hope that you too will feel inspired – and perhaps pack that bag and go in search of your own inspiration too.

    The Startup Nation

    Israel is an extraordinary startup ecosystem. With a population of just 8.7m, the nation achieves twice the level of startup investment than any other country in the world. The unique Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) model means that conscripts are trained in all kinds of skills that help spur innovation. Professor Eugene Kandel, chief executive of Startup Nation Central, explained to me that IDF also has an unusual approach to military training. People are encouraged to question the status quo and make suggestions. No one salutes his or her superiors in the Israeli army, so it’s a hugely different culture. Crucially, soldiers are encouraged to develop their innovations once they leave the army, which helps explain why between 1,100 and 1,380 startups are established in Israel each year.

    Tomorrow’s healthcare giants

    Dr Yossi Bahagon is the man behind Qure Ventures, a venture capital vehicle that aims to back the start-ups that will revolutionise healthcare. He told me about one new company, which will help make virtual doctor’s appointments even more useful. It has invented a medical device that doubles as a stethoscope and thermometer. In future, you’ll be able to send your readings straight back to the doctor, over Skype, in real-time, to get a precise diagnosis. Imagine how much time and money that could save our NHS?

    Then there was Ziv Aviram, whose hi-tech glasses are about to significantly improve the lives of the blind and visually impaired people across the world. The glasses can sense colour and describe the outside world to the user – they can even read a newspaper. Orcam Technologies is Aviram’s second venture; he sold his first, Mobileye, to Intel for $15.3bn.

    When business trumps politics

    Nothing saddens me more than the ongoing clashes between Israel and the Palestinian people, which is why I think the work of venture capital firm Sadara founded by an Israeli Jew and Arab Palestinian is so important to publicise. It’s a $30m fund that invests solely into Palestinian tech companies, helping to combat unemployment – in the West Bank & Gaza – and building links between the two. It has already made six investments and is backed by the likes of Google, George Soros and Cisco. This was an important reminder of the role business can play in international relations and helping to make the world a better place.

    As an entrepreneur, you only know your own business and your sector. This was a rare opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and see what brilliant innovations are out there. If you can, talk to embassies, trade bodies and start-up organisations and see if you too can take part in a delegation like this one. I promise you won’t regret it.

    These are just a handful of highlights from the trip. To find out more, drop me a line or visit https://ukisrael.biz/


    Martin Port
    Founder & CEO

    Sherwoods, the FM building services company, has assisted its business with a 5 in 1 mobile management system from BigChange.

    Sherwoods’ field service engineers are equipped with the latest ruggedised tablets running a completely paper-free system. The mobiles are live connected to the cloud hosting a complete management solution from BigChange that covers everything from CRM to routing, purchasing, job scheduling, certification and invoicing.

    Founded in 1970, with a 48 year history and still family owned, Sherwoods provides a genuine one-stop-shop range of services and has grown to become one of the fastest growing sustainable FM building services providers, covering all of the South West UK. The company has grown organically with successful apprenticeships underpinning growth.

    Kevin Sherwood, Managing Director of Sherwoods, comments:

    “We invest in people as our primary focus, our people are everything. They are central to our success and our future. Many of our key people started with us as apprentices, with 2 of these apprentices now Directors and owners.”

    “By coincidence it was the BBC show The Apprentice that increased our interest in BigChange when we read one of the show’s winners set up a new business utilising BigChange. We also discovered that the Marketing Manager at BigChange also starred on the show.”

    Sherwoods has long been an early adopter of technology with vehicle tracking first employed back in 2003, and digital service management software and PDAs employed across all operations since 2007.

    Sherwood explains:

    “When we saw BigChange for the first time we realised that the JobWatch apps could really help us make a positive difference, and assist our mission to become the FM Building services partner and employer of choice across the UK Southwest region.”

    “The BigChange team understood logistics and why real time, open, accessible, transparent and visible information is vital to us continuously improving communication, managing compliance and risk, and delivering the best service experience possible for everyone involved throughout the life of a job.”

    Sherwoods has a 35-strong team of mobile field engineers, residing across the region and working from home providing comprehensive coverage across the UK South West region, including Hampshire, Bristol, South Wales and Cornwall and all postcodes in between. Services include Compliance, PPM, Project, planned & reactive maintenance 24-7 365 days a year.

    Being a true one-stop-shop, the Sherwoods’ multi-skilled, in-house directly employed team of 50 take care of everything from a permanently manned Opsdesk, roofing, electrical, plumbing, drainage, gas, oil, LPG, HVAC and all exterior and interior building fabric. ‘Roof to Drains and everything in between’

    Sherwoods’ mobile field engineers use JobWatch for everything from timesheets, jobsheets, signature capture and certification – with photographs. JobWatch is used 100% of the time to provide an evidential record of all works, with GDPR compliant, real time data, always available online.

    Sherwood added:

    “We really like the fact that with JobWatch we write our own workflows and customise it for everything we do. It is a flexible system and being a cloud service, it allows us to grow in line with our sustainability agenda without being burdened by IT capability or capacity.”

    “The apps and tracking are only one part of what BigChange provides; it is a complete end-to-end solution. BigChange like to call it a 5 in 1 system but it is actually a lot more than that. For us it provides a seamless solution between our office, field, client and suppliers, that is used all the way from initial customer enquiry through all communication to resource management, procurement, service delivery, KPI reporting and invoicing.”

    With conservative plans to double the business turnover by 2022, Sherwoods work with private and public organisations, with a diversity of clients and sectors that include local, regional, national and international brands.

    Sherwood states:

    “Our company values are to be adaptable, fun, honest and committed; we live and breathe these values. Those are values we see in BigChange as well, and it makes for a good partnership.”

    “The team at BigChange are open and transparent and they want their clients to talk to each other to improve each business and their product. JobWatch facilitates our mission and vision and shows our values providing data that is open and accessible. We share GDPR compliant data with our clients; nothing hidden, we are completely transparent, building trust which is also completely central to everything we do, and always will be.”

    It’s been a hell of a week for Theresa May. It was like watching a political soap opera, seeing her MPs mount a full-scale rebellion.

    On the 15th November, seven ministers resigned, citing her draft Brexit deal as the final straw. The letters calling for a vote of no confidence are piling up. Despite all of this pressure, she has coolly and calmly pressed on with her deal as though nothing’s happened.

    Whatever your feelings about Brexit, the fact is that we’ve had two years of uncertainty because of the decision to leave the European Union. May clearly doesn’t want to have two more years of sluggish growth and muted productivity. She’s a Remainer, but she is also a pragmatist and wants to do the best thing for this country. I’m watching her systematically cut out all the noise – the noise of resignations and political dissent – and focus on her strategy.

    I think that a lot of business owners like me will have a newfound respect for the Prime Minister after events of the past week. As an entrepreneur, you are the captain of your ship. You ask questions, and listen to what people think but at the end of the day, the buck stops with you. May is acting like the chief executive of UK plc and you have to respect that.

    As a business owner, you need to bring people on a journey with you. You need to inspire and lead your team. May tried to do that, when she presented her deal at Chequers. But if they can’t get on board with your plans, then they need to go – either to resign or be fired. Again, she has accepted the losses without batting an eyelid because she knows those people don’t belong on the journey any more.

    Watching Boris Johnson in his dogged pursuit of power has showed May in a new light. She’s not putting on a show. She doesn’t care what people think of her. She wants to do her best for this nation, no matter how much she suffers in the process. Our politicians should be in power to serve the nation, and not for personal gain.

    In business, you are similarly committed to the health of your organisation. This is why you see entrepreneurs making huge personal sacrifices, even stepping down if they are no longer the right person to lead.

    As a nation, we need to accept that May probably knows more about the ins and outs of Brexit than any of us do. She’s had face-to-face meetings with all the major players in this saga. She’s been in the thick of it for two long years. And she believes that this is the right course of action. When you run a company, you have to go with your gut feeling. At BigChange we have rules and process and governance but if I need to make a quick decision, I can.

    One in five (20 percent) UK drivers, some 7.5 million road users, experience road rage at least once a week, while six percent – over two million drivers – get it every day, according to new research from BigChange, the mobile workforce management software company.

    The study of more than 1,000 drivers showed that regular road rage was most common amongst younger drivers. Almost half of 18-34 year olds (42 percent) admitted to experiencing road rage at least once a week, while 14 percent of younger drivers said they got angry at the wheel every day. One in five (20 percent) drivers aged 35-54 and just seven percent of those over 55 admitted to experiencing road rage on a weekly basis.

    The survey, which was conducted for BigChange by the consultancy Opinium and published as part of Leaders for Life, a new campaign to help business leaders promote safer driving at work, revealed that female drivers were also more likely to experience road rage than their male counterparts. More than a quarter (27 percent) of women who drive regularly for work admitted to getting road rage at least once a week, compared to less than a fifth (18 percent) of men.

    Drivers of convertible vehicles were particularly prone to experiencing road rage, with almost half (44 percent) getting angry at the wheel every week and a quarter (23 percent) doing so on a daily basis. By contrast, MPV drivers were the calmest road users, with just nine percent getting angry at the wheel each week.

    Amongst drivers of the most popular car brands on UK roads, Audi owners were the most likely to get angry at the wheel, with more than a third (36 percent) saying they did so weekly and almost one in five (16 percent) every day. By contrast, drivers of Peugeot and Renault vehicles were the calmest, with only 11 percent of them experiencing road rage each week.
    Martin Port, CEO of BigChange, said:

    “Our research shows that road rage is a major problem on UK roads, and while certain groups are statistically more likely to experience it than others, it is an issue that can potential affect everyone. We know that road rage, alongside workplace stress and the pressure of running late for appointments, is a major contributor to dangerous driving behaviours on UK roads. People who plan ahead and leave a little more time for their journeys tend to experience less stress while driving and pose less risk to themselves and others.”

    Paul Hackett, Founding Partner of The WellBeings.London, a health and wellness insight-led growth consultancy, said:

    “Working hard, late-night shifts, tight deadlines are among the litany of workplace factors that have a psychological impact on employees. If those employees then carry their stress with them behind the wheel, we know the likelihood of them driving erratically is significantly higher. A stressed or anxious driver’s heart rate can accelerate from a typical 70bpm to over 180bpm; a dangerously high rate for many. Anger narrows a driver’s focus of attention, most often resulting in the driver becoming territorial and impatient – which, in turn, means the driver is more likely to speed or commit other inappropriate driving behaviour.”

    Portable sanitation providers D-tox have rolled out a real-time mobile and office management system to eliminate paperwork and boost productivity.

    The 5 in 1 system from BigChange incorporates mobile apps running on rugged tablets and vehicle tracking, live connected to back office software for job scheduling, CRM, invoicing and management reporting.

    Entirely cloud-based and seamlessly integrated, the solution from BigChange has replaced three separate systems and added new levels of automation for the business.

    Established for 25 years, D-tox provides portable toilet and welfare facility products and services, with tankered liquid waste collection and non-potable water delivery. Servicing construction sites, outdoor festivals, shows and events, the West Midlands based company operates a fleet of effluent tankers and smaller vehicles for servicing, delivering and collecting portable units.

    Christian Heritage, Managing Director of D-tox, comments:

    “We realised several years back that we wanted to move to electronic POD’s and remove the need for paper notes, after a couple of years searching for a suitable system we found Big Change and have been actively using the system since then.”

    BigChange integrates with Inspire, the hire management system used for invoicing equipment hire jobs. However BigChange handles the complete business process with call details entered into the system for job scheduling, routing with optimised allocation to vehicles and drivers.

    Heritage explains:

    “The good thing about BigChange is that it ticks more boxes that anything else on the market. What we really want is a single system to do everything, simply and seamlessly. And that’s what BigChange does,”

    “With our hire system unable to handle jobs such as tank empties, BigChange was easily configured to manage all non-hire jobs including the invoicing.”

    D-Tox drivers receive their daily jobs on their Samsung tablets running JobWatch; the BigChange mobile worker solution. Providing Google Maps navigation to site, electronic job sheets and time sheets, a JobWatch workflow takes the driver through steps that include risk assessment, photo capture and POD with customer signature sign off.

    Heritage added:

    “BigChange is a great management tool. By giving us instant access to all the information we need, when we need it, it greatly reduces our response time for customer queries. Any system that helps raise our levels of customer service is a great bonus.”

    “We can instantly see any unallocated or incomplete jobs and crucially invoicing is linked directly to the work so as soon a job is complete we can invoice. Ultimately this means jobs cannot be invoiced unless they have been completed.”

    Heritage continued:

    “There are several aspects of the system that we are still looking to utilise more and these include the customer portals and job collaboration. When we have implemented these parts fully we hope to allow our customers to view their booked in jobs and PODs online. The collaboration tool will be a great asset as it allows other companies using BigChange to work with us when they want us to service units on their behalf.”

    Heritage colcludes:

    “We are impressed with BigChange, they seem to be constantly innovating and when we ask for things they listen and get on with developing the system. Like many family owned and operated business D-tox pride ourselves on our service levels and BigChange has really helped us improve in this area.”

    First, a warning: This post is going to be divisive.

    Half the people who read on will think I’m talking sense, and the other half will think I’m completely wrong. It probably says quite a lot about me that I’m going to write it anyway.

    I want to talk about political correctness, offence, and the modern workplace.

    This all started when someone from an agency who works for BigChange came into the office. I meet everyone who works for BigChange, whether they’re on the payroll or external. I like to know who I’m dealing with.

    I did what I always do. I asked about her background. What is your family like? Are you married? What have you been up to recently? She was shocked and complained to a colleague that I’d been asking about her private life. “What’s it got to do with him?” she asked. “Doesn’t he know it’s illegal to ask personal questions?”

    I’m going to come out and ask what I’ve been thinking ever since that meeting: What is the big deal?

    I’ve been in business all my life. I never went to university, so everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned my own way. When I’m employing someone, I want to know as much about them as I can. Every scrap of information they give me helps me build a picture of them as an individuals, their strengths and weaknesses, and how best to manage them. If someone is married with a stable family life, that tells me something about that individual. That’s not to say I wouldn’t give the job to someone who was struggling or had personal problems; on the contrary, that knowledge would help me understand and get the best out of that colleague.

    I believe in creating a fair and fulfilling work environment. I would never discriminate against anyone. I don’t care about gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or disability, as long as you work hard and do a good job for me. But, these days, I’m starting to feel that I – and other company bosses like me – are instantly judged to be prejudiced dinosaurs. The revelations about Harvey Weinstein and now Philip Green haven’t helped. But we’re not all like that.

    If I’m trusting a person I’ve never met before to join my business, why can’t I ask a few probing questions? We’re a family here, and I want to make sure that you’re going to mesh well with colleagues.

    I’m sure that when we eventually take on a full-time HR person – we’re recruiting right now – they will have a quite a bit to say on this. But, for now, I stand by my interviewing style. Business is based on relationships and relationships are based on trust. How do you build trust without getting to know each other? If you want to ask me anything, go ahead. I won’t be offended.

    Other companies go about this the long way round. They set psychometric tests and check people’s Facebook and Instagram pages for personal information. I don’t do that. I come straight out and ask what I want to know.

    I feel we live in a time where political correctness is merging with the new culture of offence, which means that people are more likely to be upset and insulted than ever before. How can we live in a time where people are free to be whomever they want to be, yet as a society we aren’t allowed to notice or ask questions about it because that’s too personal or discriminatory? Surely openness should go both ways?

    In business, the contradictions are coming thick and fast. We are told to aim for a diverse workforce but god forbid you say you’re looking to hire a woman for a role. If I’m emailing in a hurry, and send a one-word reply to an urgent email, suddenly I’m a tyrannical boss. If I don’t reply because I don’t have time to compose an essay, I’m negligent. Everyone wants laughter and banter in the office but if a joke isn’t to an individual’s taste, suddenly managers are forced to mediate, which is a total waste of everyone’s time.

    Am I alone in finding all this slightly ridiculous? Do people have nothing better to do than become obsessed with small slights these days? What happened to giving others the benefit of the doubt?

    Sometimes I feel like I can’t say anything without offending someone. Maybe I should say I’m offended that people find me offensive, and see where that gets me…

    I’d love to know what my fellow business owners think. Please get in touch, whether you agree with me or, even better, if you don’t!


    Martin Port
    Founder & CEO

    Eurofins, the international analytical testing company, is employing the latest mobile and cloud technology to transform its logistics operation.

    The company has begun rolling out a 5 in 1 system from BigChange that integrates mobile and back office apps to provide live operational control of a fleet of 50 Eurofins vans that collect food and water samples from clients across the UK.

    Called JobWatch, the BigChange system automates processes with digital workflows that replace traditional paperwork. Eurofins has invested in the complete end-to-end solution combining vehicle tracking and mobile apps, connected to back office CRMrouting and job scheduling.

    Chris Evans, Head of Logistics Food & Water at Eurofins, comments:

    “Eurofins is an acquisitive company and expanding fast in the UK and internationally. That creates real challenges for management when looking to integrate different operations with their legacy IT and varying procedures,”

    “Introducing BigChange technology company-wide is very important as it will allow us to centralise our fleet operations as well as standardising working practices across all regions.”

    Eurofins a respected world leader in bioanalytical testing with a global network of 250 laboratories across 40 countries. BigChange is being introduced initially within the Food and Water division that tests mainly potable water and products from food manufacturers.

    Evans added:

    “Eurofins became aware of BigChange following the acquisition of Exova in 2016, who had successfully implemented JobWatch. With the growing business we faced a real challenge to get everyone working as a team and it quickly became clear that BigChange provided the solution. It will provide one system for all allowing for centralised planning and national coordination.”

    Eurofins is equipping its 50 drivers with rugged Samsung tablets that replace traditional paper trip sheets. On arrival at customer sites or collection points, drivers use the tablets to enter details of samples being collected. Collection and handling requirements vary and are very critical, for example should a sample be transported in the ambient or chilled compartment of the van.

    Evans continued:

    “Digital workflows have been set up in JobWatch to ensure the correct procedures are followed and that is vital when dealing with food products and water.”

    Eurofins will use BigChange back office functions, such as CRM, job scheduling and routing, to manage everything from order to collection and customer service. The fleet is also being fitted with BigChange vehicle tracking which not only provides live monitoring of the fleet but useful driver performance monitoring.

    Technology is amazing, It can make us better people, help us complete tasks faster and more effectively, and has brought about incredible opportunities that would never have been possible a decade ago.

    But it can also be poisonous.

    This week, I’ve been talking to my wife, Amanda, about this contradiction. She is increasingly worried about the effect that too much technology – an overdose on smartphones and social media – has on young people. If you’re interested in what sparked our conversation, it’s this video by Simon Sinek on “The Millennial Question” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vudaAYx2IcE&feature=youtu.be

    The statistics are quite shocking. Young people’s anxiety levels are going through the roof. Loneliness is a major concern. The younger generation seems to be getting more and more isolated.

    I’ve started noticing some alarming trends in the workplace too. People always bring phones to meetings and are constantly distracted by new messages or social media posts. Team members tend not to pick up the phone and call clients; they want to do everything over email these days. They are increasingly sleep deprived because of staring at the “white light” device screens emit late at night. This not only creates stress, it also means that many people struggle to focus.

    I’ve been in business for over 40 years, so I have seen the impact these trends are having over time. It worries me. So I’ve decided to do something about it.

    Ban phones from meetings

    I’m initiating a new campaign at BigChange to ban phones from meeting rooms. Unless someone on the team needs a device for note taking, or to demo an app update, all phones will be going into a box at the start of the meeting, and they will be returned at the end.

    The world will not end if we are separated from our phones for an hour or so. I really want to encourage people to focus on the matter at hand during meetings, and to break the hold that devices seem to have on my team members. It’s like they’re physically attached to their smart phones.

    Recognise that social media and phone use is an addiction

    When we think of addiction, we think of gambling or alcohol but phones and social media can be just as problematic, and just as bad for our health. I was shocked to learn that getting “likes” and texts can give the brain a surge of dopamine, which is the brain’s “reward” chemical. If you don’t get your hit, it can cause a chemical imbalance, which manifests as depression and anxiety.

    From now on, at BigChange, we want to recognise that too much technology can be damaging. I want to help educate my team about the importance of “unplugging” and having time away from devices each day. I’m looking at ways that we can use coaching and workshops to reduce our dependency on our phones.

    I will be part of the change

    I have to hold my hands up. I’m a big part of the problem here at BigChange. I often check my phone late at night and send emails at 2am. There is also a total lack of separation between the workday and our downtime, because we carry our emails and Whatsapp groups (that’s one I don’t do) with us wherever we go.

    I thought that it didn’t matter when I sent emails as long as I made it clear that I didn’t expect an immediate response. But I understand now that it’s not that simple: when you see that nagging red bubble above your inbox, telling you there’s a new message, it’s hard to ignore.

    I’m going to work hard to change my email habits so that I’m not contributing to my team’s work stress. I already take a phone break for 25 hours each Friday night / Saturday, because I observe the Sabbath, but I’m going to try and take a break from emailing through till the end of Sunday too.

    This really is an urgent issue. I would like to start a movement and encourage more company bosses like me to help their people conquer technology addiction. Not just because employee productivity will soar if we look after our team members’ mental health and help them to focus at work, but because we risk damaging a whole generation of young people if we don’t act now. The phone was invented to encourage conversation but now it seems to kill it dead.

    Let’s fight back.


    Martin Port
    Founder & CEO

    BigChange

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