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The UK’s Environment Agency has updated the septic tank regulations, with far-reaching consequences for consumers and industry professionals.

Systems that discharge to a river, stream, canal or ditch must be replaced from January 1 this year amid fears that this may contaminate drinking water sources and pollute the environment.

Under the Septic Tank Regulations 2020, owners of septic tanks in England are no longer allowed to discharge to a watercourse. For those working within the industry, this means a surge in septic tank conversions, as existing systems are made compliant.

Under the new rules, a drainage field or soakaway system must be installed so that the septic tank can discharge to ground instead, or the septic tank must be replaced with a sewage treatment plant.

Protecting the environment is a priority for all of us. However, every tweak to the rules creates red tape and extra process for wastewater professionals. The general binding rules for septic tanks have been updated several times over the last few years, creating an administrative burden for the industry that adds both cost and complexity.

I founded BigChange back in 2013 to help relieve the compliance burden for professionals dealing with changing legislation and complex regulation. Our JobWatch platform is now being used by 40,000 office and mobile users across multiple industries. The platform automates all of the paperwork associated with meeting standards and adhering to regulation, in an efficient and intuitive way.

For businesses that need to prove that their septic tank upgrades or replacements are fully compliant, JobWatch is the ultimate solution. It keeps a log of all work carried out and the parts used; a verified audit trail.

Each JobWatch-enabled tablet enables users to take live pictures of sites, septic tanks, new installations, and parts and link them to a specific job and worker within the software. Progress can be tracked remotely and signed off by management. If the legislation should change again, or should disputes arise, the system offers complete protection: proof the job was done correctly.

The system is already being used by companies from across the drainage sector to drive efficiencies and streamline complex processes. One company has reported a million-pound boost from using the software. Kirk Mason, who heads up operations at Subscan UDS, the nationwide utility, drainage, and survey company, told me:

“Our previous system only offered partial automation and we wasted a lot of time double touching to keep different systems up to date. What we needed was a seamless flow of data from start to finish with an audit trail of activity. In the end there wasn’t anything that matched BigChange for functionality; it gives us that seamless connectivity and it has replaced 5 separate systems – saving us time and money.”

It is impossible to control regulatory changes but it is possible to mitigate their impact. By allowing JobWatch to do all the grunt work, drainage professionals are free to focus on what they are good at – growing their businesses.

There is a famous Monty Python sketch called The Four Yorkshiremen – if you haven’t seen it, I recommend you have a look.

It’s as funny today as it was when the sketch first aired in 1967. It is performed by the late Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and Terry Jones, who sadly passed away recently. They are sitting around in white tuxedos, sipping “Chateau de Chassilier”, and talking about the old days, when they were impoverished and couldn’t even afford a cup of tea.

These Yorkshiremen then start trying to one-up each other with stories of hardship. The sketch soon becomes totally bonkers – “We lived in a rolled up newspaper in a septic tank”.

Whenever I watch that clip, I laugh, but the sketch also serves as a sober reminder of how important it is to remember your roots, and appreciate how far you’ve come in life – and in business.

I never had to work down a mine or live in a shoebox, but times were much tougher in my younger years. Even in the early days of BigChange, when we had no money and were trying to forge a new path in a competitive industry, every day was a battle.

I didn’t draw a salary for two years. We had no money to pay top salespeople but one amazing individual was so excited by the business that he offered to work for free until we were generating revenue. He’s still with us today, and has been rewarded with share options and a six-figure salary.

I will never forget the people – customers and colleagues – who took a chance on me back then. They had faith in the vision, and me as an entrepreneur, and helped me to realise my dream. I owe those people a real debt of gratitude.

As your business grows and becomes more successful, it is easy for an entrepreneur to appear arrogant or seem less accessible. When you’re a small start-up, customers feel like they can phone you for a quick chat, and colleagues wander into your office whenever they have a question. I loved that open dialogue, as it kept my feet on the ground and helped me to stay attuned to what the people who really matter to this business thought and felt.

The other day, I bumped into a customer – someone who started with us seven years ago. They bought just two systems from us in the beginning, which wasn’t a huge revenue generator but we needed that business to help establish the company. This customer said to me: “You’re growing so fast now. I bet you’re too big to talk to us now.” I was devastated by that comment. I would never want any customer to feel they were too small to be important to me.

I reassured the customer that my door was always open, and when I got back to the office, I decided to take a hard look at my role, and how it has changed over the years, to make sure I’m not losing contact with important stakeholders like that individual.

That review has prompted me to make some changes. I have brought back my weekly catch-up calls with key people in the business to talk through issues great and small. I am committed to the BigChange Network, a networking event that travels around the country, bringing customer together to talk shop and thrash out solutions to their business challenges. These things really matter to me.

If you are a customer or a colleague, I want you to know you can talk to me any time. I put my mobile number on the internet so I’m easy to find. I’ll never be the big-shot CEO who hides behind layers of management. Just like those four Yorkshiremen, I remember where I came from, and I know who to thank for how far I’ve come.

Loyalty means everything to me, and it doesn’t matter how big we get, I won’t forget you.

Two years ago, Larry Fink, the chief executive of investment giant BlackRock, shocked the business world when he published an open letter to his fellow business leaders, calling on all of us to make social purpose our top priority.

“To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society,”

he wrote.

“Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”

His words resonated with me: I have always been passionate about creating businesses that generate more than profit, and create lasting positive change in the wider community and through the charities they support.

This is why I am absolutely delighted to announce my new appointment to the board of Business in the Community for Yorkshire and the Humber. It is an honour to be a part of such a brilliant organisation, and I will work tirelessly to support its future success.

I have been a member of the charity since 2008, when I joined as the founder of Masternaut, my previous business. I saw first-hand the power of grassroots organisations like BITC, whether providing emergency aid after floods, or ensuring disadvantaged young people stay in education to get the vital skills they need to prosper.

I stayed an active member, even through the start-up years of BigChange. It is extremely important to me that business works in tandem with local communities to build a better world.

This isn’t blind altruism. There are many benefits for businesses that choose to partner with the BITC. The team here wants to work for an organisation that cares, and BITC’s benchmarking programme helps to showcase our successes in areas such as sustainability, philanthropy and employee welfare. That boosts both staff retention and our ability to hire great people.

I am humbled to join a group of heavyweight industry veterans on the board, from the likes of KPMG, Deloitte, Asda, Aviva and Eversheds. I will be flying the flag for small businesses and helping BITC to connect with more entrepreneurs like me.

This is a proud moment for me, and I look forward to building on BITC’s success. At BigChange, we are committed to driving positive change, both through our JobWatch platform, which eliminates paperwork, manages compliance, health & safety, and cuts carbon emissions, and as a charitable partner, donating all we can to good causes. I look forward to making even more progress on this shared mission over the coming years. If you would like to get involved, please leave a comment or drop me a line. We need you!

Introducing ‘Job Hints‘ – BigChange has introduced an exciting new feature that will help you schedule your jobs more efficiently.

Have you ever found yourself visiting the same site/client several times over in a short period of time, when you know deep down you could have combined the visits?

When creating or scheduling a job from the back office, it is useful to know of any other jobs waiting to be scheduled, or already booked in, at the same site. This information allows you to combine jobs, therefore reducing travel costs. The JobWatch system now displays this information as a useful hint when creating jobs. As a job is created and a contact is entered, a hint now appears below the contact name detailing the number of scheduled jobs within the next 7 days and unscheduled jobs for this contact.

You can watch the guide video below for full details of this great new feature from BigChange:

BigChange, the mobile workforce management technology company, today announced that it has hired Michelle Dewberry as an ambassador.

Dewberry will support sales and marketing activities for the BigChange Collaboration Network, which allows customers to collaborate with others across the UK via the BigChange platform, winning new business whilst improving efficiency and the services they provide.

Broadcaster and businesswoman Dewberry shot to fame in 2006 when she won the second series of BBC reality television show The Apprentice. Since working for Lord Alan Sugar following the programme, Dewberry has founded three startups and consulted to organisations including Comic Relief, Tesco, and Merlin Entertainments on digital transformation.

At BigChange, Dewberry will promote the company’s interests alongside two other well-known ambassadors: former England football captain and manager Kevin Keegan OBE, and the British racing driver Nicolas Hamilton, who supports BigChange’s campaign to reduce the number of people killed on Britain’s roads by people driving for work.

Michelle Dewberry comments:

“BigChange is an amazing company with a fantastic workplace culture and the potential to make a big positive difference globally. The company is at the forefront of digital transformation, liberating businesses from paperwork and plate spinning so that they can grow and focus on delivering for their customers.”

Martin Port, founder and CEO of BigChange, comments:

“We’ve been talking to Michelle for over a year about how we might work together and we are delighted that she is now a BigChange ambassador. Michelle is an inspiration to the team, she has a wealth of experience in technology and digital transformation, and she shares our values. We’ve no doubt that she’ll be a valuable asset for the business as we expand the Network and grow internationally.”

Over 1,200 organisations and 40,000 individual users currently use BigChange’s pioneering mobile workforce management, JobWatch, which combines CRM, smart job scheduling, vehicle tracking, and a series of mobile applications to eliminate paper records, automate manual processes, and facilitate collaboration between companies on the go.

Michelle Dewberry presentation

I find it hard to hear customers talk about using workarounds on our platform. The definition of workaround is “a method for overcoming a problem or limitation in a program or system”.

It suggests there is some kind of flaw or glitch within JobWatch that needs managing, and there isn’t.

What people really mean when they talk about using workarounds is that they are used to doing something a certain way, and they don’t want to change. Even when the change is really small.

Or maybe they have been using a different system that takes care of a small part of a process, and they like using that system (even if JobWatch could do it better, faster, with 10 fewer steps).

I understand that – it’s hard to change a habit of a lifetime.

However, we have 40,000 users on our system right now and I would say that 99% of the people using JobWatch are doing so without any so-called workarounds. Businesses tell me that JobWatch is directly responsible for increasing efficiency and profitability. It has been designed to eliminate paperwork and bureaucracy from the life of a mobile worker, and streamline processes, while creating more opportunities for growth – and that’s exactly what it does.

JobWatch has glowing reviews from across the whole spectrum of industries. This is why I am banning the word ‘workaround’ from the BigChange lexicon. I don’t want to hear it any more. There are no limitations, no problems to overcome. The system has been honed and tweaked to be as close to perfection as possible. Instead, I want customers to talk about making a ‘small change’.

By making very minor changes to the way they operate, updating their approach or process very slightly, they can benefit from the wealth of efficiency that we have to offer. The small change doesn’t affect the business at all – the output and results are exactly the same. It’s the just the method – the path to getting to the goal – that alters a tiny bit.

It’s amazing the impact that words have. By moving away from the negative connotations behind ‘workaround’ towards the positive and progressive meaning behind ‘small change’, I feel that we can help customers to embrace the new, and encourage them to evolve with the technology.

All of us could benefit from making small changes. By trying to do things a little differently – or taking someone’s advice over a new approach – we can all evolve and become more successful.

Ficep, the supplier of structural steel and plate fabrication equipment, has deployed the latest mobile technology as part of a real-time management system that has transformed customer service.

Supplied by Leeds-based BigChange, the cloud-based mobile resource management system sees Ficep field services engineers equipped with tablets that synchronise in real time with central systems as part of a completely paperless system.

First established in Italy in 1930 and celebrating 20 years in the UK this year, Ficep manufactures machine tools for the metalworking industry. The construction industry worldwide relies on steel work made to measure and fit using Ficep’s equipment. With UK headquarters at Europort Wakefield in West Yorkshire, Ficep has a team of engineers installing and maintaining machinery across the UK and Scandinavia.

Richard Clark, UK Service Manager at Ficep UK Ltd comments:

“Our steel fabricating machinery plays a key part in preparing steel for construction and keeping the equipment in optimum working condition with minimal downtime is crucial. We have been improving our engineering support services to support an increasing number of installations and the introduction of BigChange has completely transformed our customer service,”

Previously Ficep engineers filled out paper services sheets and other forms by hand which were then sent to the office for processing and actioning, such as the ordering of parts, the production of quotes and issuing of invoices. This paperwork and administrative work was becoming untenable as the demand for Ficep equipment grew and the company decided to look at the best way to switch to digital working.

Clark explains:

“Previously it could take 2 or 3 weeks to get a quote out to a customer; now we achieve that within 24 hours. It’s the same for invoices and with electronic sign offs from customers onsite we can invoice almost immediately. As a result there has been a much better and quicker conversion rate of quote to order and queries on invoices have virtually disappeared,”

BigChange gives Ficep customer service teams and management up-to-the-minute visibility of every service job. Engineer movements are continually tracked and displayed on maps and this will allow automatic estimated time of arrival notifications to be sent to customers, so they know exactly when an engineer is about to arrive.

Ficep’s engineers receive their jobs on their tablets which provide navigation to site and allow access to all documentation, with workflows ensuring proper procedures are followed and information reported from site. The devices are used to take photographs which are, together with time and GPS location, matched to service sheets for the job. This provides an accurate and indisputable record of work done.

“The tablets have really revolutionised the way we work giving engineers instant access to the information they need,”

says Clark.

Clark continued:

“We now have service sheets customised for each machine that identifies the correct parts and even gives the engineer a complete history of previous service work and parts used. It really helps them do a good job every time and helps ensure machine downtime is minimised. Customers have been markedly impressed with the system and the information it provides.”

As well as the benefits to the field engineering services, Ficep has reported significant time savings back at the office.

“By eliminating paperwork we are saving about 20 hours a week in administration time and as managers we spend much less time sorting out customer and service issues as we have all the information we need at our fingertips 24/7; no longer do we need to track back into paper records or call an engineer to ask about a job,”

says Clark.

Clark concludes:

“The support from BigChange is fantastic,”

“There is always someone ready to answer our questions over the phone and when they say they’ll call back, they do, and we never have to wait.”

BigChange Ficep work

As an entrepreneur, you are always fielding questions about your plans for the business and growth strategy.

One question that comes up again and again is: who are your competition and what are they doing better than you?

I hate this question. In all my years as an entrepreneur, I have never once tried to copy a rival product, or pretended to be a customer to get access to a sales deck. I have always felt it unethical to obtain this kind of information – especially through underhand means. More than that, it damages your own brand to be too focused on what other companies are doing.

For me, the competition is a distraction that I don’t need. Their plans, their goals, their products, are nothing to do with us. If we start trying to look at all the rival platforms out there, and try and shoehorn things we like into our own system, we risk destroying the beautiful technology we have created.

I don’t wilfully ignore rivals. I talk to our customers about what they want and systems they have used. This means that I’m hearing about competing brands anecdotally, and constantly trying to ensure that our system is the best on the market. But my focus remains zeroed in on BigChange and making small improvements to what we have built.

Obsessing about the competition is the worst thing an entrepreneur can do. While you are trying to copy someone else, they are forging ahead. You never know what the next release will look like – what they’ll add and take away, and why.

Entrepreneurs who try and gain intel on competitors don’t get the full picture. So often, a huge part of what makes a brand exciting and popular is its customer service: how the company supports the product and the way the customer relationship is managed. You can’t accurately assess that from a slide deck or quick demo.

If you knew every detail about all your rivals in the market, maybe you wouldn’t bother to try at all. You can be blinded by information, and overwhelmed by all the spin out there.

As BigChange grows, we will have to be more open with our own systems and expect that the competition will know a lot about us. Companies like Salesforce let you download a trial version of their software for free. It has nothing to hide. We want to be that big someday. If we are afraid of what people will see, then we will be in a pretty bad position.

I’m in the US again – Seattle, this time. As I scan the shelves in Whole Foods, I see hundreds of versions of the same product. If you want eggs, they come in 50 breeds, colours and qualities. The drinks fridges are packed with soft drinks, all just slightly different. Ultimately, the customer benefits from more choice and variety, and all these drinks companies are successful.

As an entrepreneur, you have to believe in your own vision, and back your own offer. That’s not possible if you’re always watching other people, terrified that they are doing things better or faster.

Luckily, I’ve never been afraid of a little healthy competition. I barely remember it’s there. There’s no point looking in your rear-view mirror when you’re miles ahead of everyone.



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