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What do you do when you want to solve an impossible problem? Give it to an entrepreneur.

The people who create businesses from nothing know how to overcome every barrier and think of a way through every challenge.

That’s why the global small business community needs to turn its attention to the climate crisis.

We have eight years – just eight years – to radically change humanity’s impact on the planet before the planet enters climate change catastrophe

It would be easy to read something like that and feel paralysed. Feel like there’s no point trying. Not the entrepreneur.

The business owner instead thinks of the small, incremental changes they can make to turn the tide.

At BigChange, we are committed to saving the planet and helping all of our customers do the same. We are saving more than 5,000 trees from the papermill each year through our technology. We are helping customers to radically cut their carbon emissions by having fewer vehicles on the road and operating more efficiently. 

Today, we have 40,000 users on our platform. This community can take the lead on sustainability, to go further and faster, well beyond simply going paperless, cutting carbon and minimising waste. They are delivering so much more impact than BigChange could accomplish on its own, amplifying the environmental benefits in all that we create, and creating a halo effect by educating their peers and industries on how to operate more sustainably. 

We work with some of the pioneers in the field of sustainability. Fleetsolve, which provides renewable energy solutions to help clients reduce carbon emissions, is now one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of biofuel Combined Heat and Power. Recycling Lives provides a total waste management service which supports the circular economy and increases the volumes being recycled. Smart metering company Providor empowers people and businesses to make better decisions about when and how they use energy. Companies like these prove that it’s possible to truly consider people, profit and planet in the creation of phenomenally successful models.  

It’s impossible to ignore the facts anymore. Canada is burning. Germany is flooded . Glaciers are melting. Rising sea levels threaten our seaside towns. Crops across the world are failing. I’m not trying to scare you. I know that these things can be hard to read. I’m just trying to explain why sustainability is now an absolute focus, both for me personally and for the company.  

When I started writing this blog, I wondered if it was a mistake. Who am I to tell anyone to do better? We aren’t perfect. But no company is perfect. We shouldn’t let that stop us. Let’s just make sure that every decision we make, every action we take, from this point onwards, creates less of a negative impact in the world and – ideally – generates environmental benefits instead. Every action – any action – is better than doing nothing. It will take 40 years for the impact of emissions today to be felt. Even if we miraculously fixed everything this year, we’ll still have to endure 40 years of climate change before things start to get better. It’s a sobering thought but one that should galvanize us all. 

I’m looking at you, my fellow founders and leaders. We are at the helm, and it is our responsibility to lead our organisations and set the example for others. We don’t have years to change course. We must be nimble now and make decisions today that we execute tomorrow. Let’s use that to the planet’s advantage. We all need to play our part in saving the world. Let’s start today.

UK technology company secures contracts worth £12.5 million for revolutionary mobile workforce management platform in the first half of 2021

BigChange, the revolutionary mobile workforce management platform, today announced that it has attracted 170 new customers and signed more than £12.5 million worth of contracts in the first six months of 2021.

BigChange revealed that 1,600 organisations worldwide are now using its software to manage their field operations in real-time, streamline activities and boost business performance. New customers include T&M Plant Hire, JBC Industrial Services, Countyclean Environmental Services and Environ Property Services.

More than a quarter of the company’s existing customers purchased additional licences to support their own business growth in the past six months.

BigChange has accelerated its expansion plans this year following a £75 million investment from private equity firm Great Hill Partners in February. It has appointed a new Chairman with experience running leading technology companies in Europe, Japan and North America, and hired 40 new employees, including a new Chief Marketing Officer to drive its expansion plans.

The company also embarked on an ambitious innovation programme to enhance its core Software-as-a-Service platform with new data, automation and payments capabilities.

Martin Port, BigChange founder and CEO, comments:

“Businesses grow stronger when they run on BigChange. We succeed by helping our customers succeed, win more work, increase the capacity of their teams and turn their customer experience into a competitive advantage. We’ve enjoyed a stellar start to 2021 and could increase revenues by up to 50 percent this year.”

When I woke up this morning, the world looked different. Brighter. Full of promise. Why? Because the night before, England had pulled off a triumphant defeat of Germany in the Euros.

It’s amazing how a win like that can change the way you feel about life. When that first goal went in, I forgot all my worries. When England scored the second goal, it felt like even the stresses of the pandemic were melting away. 

This is why politicians love a football championship. They distract the nation from what’s going on in Westminster. Matt Hancock and Boris have been booted off the front pages by England’s victory. 

In the first century CE, the poet Juvenal wrote that Roman emperors would use “bread and circuses” to keep the people distracted. Our modern-day emperors use the footie. But I digress… 

England’s win got me thinking about the impact of success. When you’re winning, you feel on top of the world. All you need is one thing to go right, and suddenly your whole outlook is different. But successes can also be distracting – they can take one’s eye off the next win, the next big goal. 

I have run a few businesses in my life and I have seen it time and time again. In one of my past companies, I noticed this phenomenon at play in the sales team. A person would have a bad run, then get one sale in and feel like they were on easy street again. It was great to see them find success but also worrying that that success meant they stopped trying. 

I’m conscious that as a founder, CEO and chief visionary, I must always be on the hunt for the next big achievement. The next milestone. Life doesn’t stop because you get a win. Of course, it’s important to stop and reflect on what we have done but, after a brief pause, it’s on to the next thing. 

When Great Hill Partners invested in BigChange earlier this year, that was a big win for me. That was my own personal Euros moment. All my life I’ve wanted to grow a business to a valuation of £100m, and I’d done it. It felt pretty good. But the next day, I had to think about the next goal – the journey to a £1bn valuation. 

I hope that England’s players are similarly focused on the next big win. We play Ukraine next, and it’s still a long old road to the final. I gave myself the whole of Wednesday to appreciate the England win but now my mind is on the next match. 

Are you hungry for your next success? Tell me what you want to achieve in the comments below and I’ll help keep you accountable.

This is it. Employers across the UK are gearing up to welcome some – if not all – of their employees back to the office. Freedom Day, albeit delayed, is now fast approaching.

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As every tech founder knows, it is almost impossible to create a new piece of software that is capable of supporting hundreds of thousands of users from day one. It’s just not commercially viable. Instead, we have to iterate as we grow, building in more functionality and developing our capabilities.

Back in 2013, when I launched my mobile workforce management platform, BigChange, I could only dream that today we would have 1,600 fantastic customers across the globe and that our technology would be used by 60,000 people. I had ambitions to build a £100m company back then, for sure, but I didn’t know whether I’d reach that milestone – let alone aim even higher.

Right now, we are on a journey that will see BigChange become a leader in every market we operate in across the world. We are currently live across several countries in Europe, and we are expanding New Zealand in Australia and the US. Over the next few years, I hope to reach a valuation of a billion pounds.

This is why right now, at BigChange, we are in the process of a major digital transformation. We want to future-proof our technology platform for this next phase of growth. This is a really exciting time, as we are laying the foundations for the next 10 years and beyond. This is going to involve some really big changes and improvements but we are doubling the size of our development team to help expedite all this work. We have called this endeavour Project Transform.

We are following in the footsteps of tech behemoths like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, who have always maintained a laser focus on innovation and made bold moves to ensure their technology is the best it can be. Over the years, I’ve seen these companies iterate, fail fast, and move on. Some have stumbled but they have always pulled through and emerged more resilient.

As a leader, I embrace change because it means we are constantly striving for more and better. Change can be challenging but those challenges are always constructive, helping to make us leaner and smarter in all we do. I look forward to showing my customers the fruits of our labours in due course, as we put all our plans into motion.

Sometimes, a bold decision today can alter the course of a company’s future. I feel like this is one of those moments for BigChange. Here’s to the next chapter.

Whenever I see a company offering different levels of customer service based on the size of spend, I feel incredibly frustrated.

How are businesses getting away with it? If you are a customer, you are a customer, end of. You have paid your money and the service should come wrapped around that purchase, regardless how much you spend each year or how many licences you hold. Platinum, silver or straw packages? No thank you. 

At BigChange – and in all of my previous companies – I have always treated every single one of my customers with the same attention and devotion. Here’s why: 

Small becomes big

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over half a century in business, it’s that if you support companies while they are small, they will remember you when they get big. If you treat a customer with 10 employees as though they don’t matter, as soon as they can take their business elsewhere, they will. Instead, we have seen many smaller companies – some micro businesses – flourish in partnership with BigChange, doubling or even tripling in size. Their success is our success and we can’t do enough to help them. 

It makes you smarter

Yes, you may have to invest more time and money into your customer service function but you will also be more innovative and effective. At BigChange, we have created a whole online knowledge bank full of useful guides and videos for our customers of all sizes, so that they know just where they can get an easy solution. We also realised that many of our customers often don’t have time to play with our technology and really experience the full functionality. So, we created the BigChange University, where we take them through a different feature each session. Customers don’t have to try and figure anything out in the evenings or weekends. Instead, they have a whole hour blocked out in their diary dedicated to getting to grips with the platform. It’s been incredibly successful, with thousands of attendees. And while it took forethought and planning to get the university up and running, it’s also an invaluable way to get insight from our customers and inform future product development.  

Innovation in all its forms

And on that point about innovation, smaller companies often really push boundaries when it comes to finding new and better ways of working. Keeping our ties with the ‘S’ end of SME means we are constantly seeing new trends, new industry needs, and new solutions. Working in partnership with smaller companies means we can get in at the ground floor, creating the features and products they need to tackle these challenges as they grow. We also learn so much from our enterprise clients, especially how to roll out efficiencies at scale. Working with businesses at both ends of the spectrum means that we can cherrypick best-practice across the whole ecosystem and apply it to our technology.  

It’s the right thing to do

We live in an age where it is no longer acceptable to behave unethically in business. It has been huge gratifying to see this shift, and to know that our values and commitment to customer service make us one of the good guys. Over the course of my career, I have kept in touch with many happy customers from both big companies and small – only to have them join my businesses or become customers again in new roles or ventures. In business, as in life, you get out what you put in. By treating people fairly, with respect, and always giving your all to help them when they need you, you create a social currency that is absolutely priceless.

Without a visionary at the helm, a business cannot succeed. It may have the best product in the world and the best team in place but without somebody in the hot seat driving the strategy and setting goals, it will stagnate and ultimately fail.

You’ve probably heard it said 100 times but it bears repeating: if a business isn’t growing, it’s going backwards. 

I was reminded of this yesterday when I watched a video with Simon Sinek, the leadership expert and author https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN9hIg-_Mhw. He said, “I don’t like the term CEO. Everyone else in the C-suite has their job in their title. CFO. CMO. COO. CTO. We know exactly what you do. It’s in the title. What’s the CEO? What does an Executive Officer do? It’s not a well-defined title. We need to change the title to Chief Vision Officer. Someone who owns the vision.” 

I have always found that describing myself as “Founder and CEO of BigChange” never truly explained my role here. Yes, I started the business but anyone can start a business. You just fill out a form in Companies House and – hey presto! – you have a company. Yes, I’m the CEO – but, as Simon so deftly put it, what does a Chief Executive actually do? 

The thing that sets me apart is that when I launched the business eight years ago, I had a vision for where this business could go. Crucially, I understand our customer: what they want, what they need, and what they expect from a technology partner. When I’m talking to a customer, sometimes I even know what they are going to say before they open their mouth. That’s how embedded in this industry I am. I have total empathy with the people in the market we are trying to serve. 

This customer intimacy helps me to create goals for the business that are ambitious yet actionable. I know that my customers aren’t asking for anything complicated. They just want reliable technology that makes their business more efficient and lets them grow sustainably, year after year. They don’t mind paying for the product, as long as it does what they need it to. That is my great strength. 

I am the visionary driving BigChange forward to meet each new milestone. Yes, I have a brilliant team that comes to work and executes every single day. They do their jobs far better than I ever could – I am humbled by the talent we have in this company. But no one else can do exactly what I do. When I say that I want to make BigChange the market leader in every territory that we operate in, I say it knowing exactly how we’ll get there. I don’t have my head down, trying to get to next month’s target or hit next year’s numbers. I’m thinking five years – even 10 years – into the future. That’s my job and the role of the visionary. 

My relentless focus on the customer means that when I say I want to be the market leader, I don’t just mean the de facto leader because of the number of users and businesses on our books, I mean the leader in terms of the positive impact we make on our customers’ success. Growth for growth’s sake is not the goal. It’s about the transformative effect BigChange can have on the whole ecosystem – the companies run by people who are not so different from me. They want to grow, they want to provide stable livelihoods for their employees, they want to solve a problem well and do it better than anyone else in their industry. I am my own target customer. I know how to humanise our technology so it’s not baffling or overwhelming.  

I know that I am doing my job well because of the customer testimonials that come in each and every day. “Our business wouldn’t survive without BigChange.” “We couldn’t grow without BigChange.” Without my vision for this business, and the values I have put in place to underpin that vision, there’s no way we could be creating this kind of impact.  

I’m not saying all this to blow my own trumpet. I’m saying this because there is a big difference between a visionary and an operative. As Simon says in his video, the two mindsets complement each other. They cannot succeed without each other. What is a visionary leader without a great Chief Financial Officer or a skilled Chief Technology Officer? They would have vision and nothing else. But the operative simply cannot do the job of the visionary. They have their heads down while we leaders have our heads up, and our gaze focused at a point on the far distant horizon.  

So this is why I am changing my job title. From today onwards, I’m no longer Founder and CEO. I’m the Founder, CEO and Chief Vision Officer. 

When Boris announced that the UK would begin its slow emergence from lockdown this summer, I had hoped to bring the whole team together for a big party to thank them for their extraordinary hard work and resilience over the past year and a half.

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Four months ago, Joe Biden was inaugurated, becoming the 46th President of the United States. At the same time, I was preparing to announce an American triumph of my own. 100 days ago, the US investor Great Hill Partners came on board, pledging both capital and expertise to help BigChange supercharge growth and reach new markets around the world.

It is said that the first 100 days of a presidency sets the tone for the entire term in office. So how has BigChange fared since the formation of its new partnership? 

Here are the highlights: 

Still the best company to work for

Few accolades mean as much to me as the Best Companies 2 star award. It recognises outstanding employee engagement, and has become the absolute industry standard. Achieving this accolade again means the world to all of us on the management team here. We know that BigChange would be nowhere without the extraordinary team who go the extra mile every single day, so I am proud and humbled that they love working here.

We’re on a mission

One of our first tasks after the investment by Great Hill Partners (GHP) was to review our purpose and mission. A lot of time and energy went into this process as it lays the foundation for the next phase of our growth. Some of our values and mission have remained constant since the beginning: to make our customers more successful, to raise the bar every day. But we have also put a renewed focus on sustainability. Our platform helps customers to slash their carbon emissions, reducing paperwork dramatically and helping drivers spend much less time on the road. This is now written large in our purpose, alongside new and important values such as building an inclusive and diverse company. 

Gearing up

A few weeks ago, I posted about how OKRs contributed to Google’s runaway success https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/goal-setting-strategy-took-google-1trillion-martin-port . Objectives and Key Results is a tried-and-tested management methodology for measuring and monitoring your company’s progress when you have big and exciting goals in sight. I’m glad to say that our OKR strategy is now up and running. We are now on a growth journey that I believe will take us from a valuation of £100m to £1bn. OKRs will be a vital part of this strategy, keeping us all engaged and focused on the next milestone. 

Wider share ownership

I’m passionate about employee ownership. I believe it is the best way to create and maintain an engaged, passionate team. GHP believed in my vision to make every colleague here a shareholder or have a loyalty bonus. Right now, every member of the team who joined before February is part of these schemes, and is right here with me on this growth journey, knowing they will share in our successes. It’s an exhilarating time for us all. 

A few new faces

The pandemic may have made hiring a little more complicated but our brilliant HR team and managers have successfully brought on 30 brilliant new starters over the past three months. And we‘re still hiring! We have also made some senior appointments that give us a real edge in this marketplace. People like our new chairman Richard Warley and new chief marketing officer Nick Gregory will help us dramatically accelerate our growth over the coming years. 

Investing in the next phase

So, how has GHP’s investment been deployed? The big focus is on Product Development and we have earmarked £5m to spend on innovation across our whole technology stack. The team here are already working on new features – I hope to be able to share more on that soon. We are also now officially on the acquisition trail and are actively looking for complementary companies in the US and in Europe too.   

Giving back

One of the best things about success is that it gives you the ability to help others. Ever since the launch of BigChange, we have consistently supported great charities and causes – this was true of my last business too. So, we haven’t let the excitement of the last 100 days distract us from giving, and we have helped four charities during that time, including the mental health charity Mind and Friends of Alfie Martin, which supports the neonatal units at St James Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary.  

Writing this has given me a chance to reflect on what we have achieved in a short period of time. I really do hope that the past 100 days define our new partnership with GHP; I can’t wait to see what the future has in store. 

How are you feeling? No, really. If you’re being completely honest, where are you on a scale of one to 10?

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Back in 2017, a young man arrived at the BigChange office in Leeds to give a Motivational Monday talk.

He wowed the team here with his story. Born with cerebral palsy, his parents were told he would never walk. But, even as a young boy, he displayed the resilience that marks him out as an exceptional human being. He went to a school for the able-bodied, and worked hard every day to manage his condition so that he could walk alongside his peers. 

When he got to secondary school, he had to carry a heavy school bag, and found himself struggling to keep up with classmates who ran between lessons, so he decided to try a wheelchair. 

Four years later, the muscles in his legs had wasted away and he was no longer able to walk. But he refused to give up. He taught himself to walk all over again, putting himself through a gruelling regime of stretches and exercises. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to stay inside stretching at break times while his friends had fun and chatted outside.  

All of this alone is enough to showcase this man’s indomitable spirit. But his story didn’t end there. 

Nic Hamilton has gone on to follow his brother Lewis into the world of racing. He has never let his condition stand in his way, and has competed in some of the industry’s most prestigious events, including the Renault Clio Cup series. He has to work harder than any other driver in the sport – a simple acceleration or use of the brake can cause him immense discomfort. “I think of myself as a Paralympian competing in the Olympics,” he once told me. “There is no one else like me in this sport, doing what I’m doing.” 

That chance meeting, four years ago, was the beginning of an amazing relationship between Nic and BigChange. I am proud to say Nic is now an ambassador for the business, and still engages with the team here on topics like resilience and the power of never giving up. He also goes out into the community and talks about our shared values: our commitment to road safety, the importance of building an inclusive society, and our passion for making a big change in the world. 

I wanted to talk about Nic today because I think that his story has never been more relevant and important. Many young people are feeling disenfranchised as a result of the global health crisis. Nic is an example of what can be achieved when you keep the faith and never give up. He wasn’t born into privilege: both he and Lewis are self-made men, who have worked hard to get where they are today. At BigChange, we prize that spirit and determination very highly.  

As a CEO, I think about the purpose behind this business every single day. I know that when people meet Nic, and hear about his extraordinary life, they will know exactly what we stand for as a company. As a Board Member of Business In The Community, I was delighted when Nic agreed to give a talk for the charity at a school in Bradford, in partnership with the Prince’s Trust. The kids were blown away by his strength, authenticity and humour.  

Nic has all the qualities I admire. At BigChange, we want to support the doers, give equal opportunities to all, reward hard work, consistently strive to be at the top of our game, and try and make the world a better and fairer place any way that we can. 

We recently pledged to continue supporting Nic’s career and upcoming races; it has been thrilling to see him compete in recent years. It has been an absolute privilege to be involved in his journey in some small way, and to watch his career unfold. I know that great things lie in store for Nic and I just wanted to express my gratitude to him for a wonderful partnership. Thanks, Nic. You are the best. 

Back in 2016, we entered a new industrial era: the digital revolution. Two years later, the buzz was all around the next technological trend – the big data revolution. Now, it’s all about smart data, machine learning, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things: the seamless communication between systems and the execution of data insight. 

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Have you heard the story about the guy who cleaned floors at Microsoft? He landed some share options, and then retired a multi-millionaire a decade later. Stories like that, showing the way that truly great companies reward the contribution of loyal employees, have always resonated with me.

I have been passionate about employee ownership for years. For me, giving your team a stake in the business is the ultimate way to grow faster, deliver a better service, and maintain an incredible company culture. The “John Lewis” model hit headlines after the financial crisis, when the government was trying to encourage the private sector to embrace a more inclusive stakeholder model. At that time, BigChange had already created its own employee ownership scheme.

Over the years, the scheme has grown and grown. Initially, just the management team had a slice of the company. Now, all my longstanding colleagues have a stake in the business, either through shares or via our “exit bonus” scheme. The minimum stake is worth £5,000 and I intend to deliver a 10x return on that investment within the next three to five years.

A lot of the team received an exit bonus during our last round of fundraising. This was a huge boost to morale when the UK was in the grip of lockdown and pandemic uncertainty. One colleague made 30x his investment when Great Hill Partners came on board. It makes me so proud to be able to reward everyone’s hard work, positivity and brilliant ideas, using our success to create holiday funds, home deposits and nest eggs for my incredible colleagues.

As an entrepreneur running a fast-growth business, you have to stay focused on three things: the hiring and retention of talent; the preservation of company culture; and innovation in all its forms across the business. When you have an engaged and incentivised workforce, these three things become that much easier to achieve. I hope that everyone who works at BigChange sees that everything they do to contribute to the company’s success ultimately translates into real value for them, way beyond their monthly pay cheque.

According to McKinsey, the global consultancy, creating an engaged company culture improves performance by between 30% and 79%[1]. I am biased, but I definitely feel like the team here performs at a consistently high level. I am in awe of the talent I see at BigChange every day. Here, no one suffers from tunnel vision. Teams help other teams across the business because their wins are to everyone’s benefit.

Employee-owned businesses also typically do much better than their peers during times of crisis. Research by Cass business school found that during the last recession, employee-owned businesses had a higher rate of sales growth and job creation than companies in conventional ownership[2]. A government paper also found that businesses which offer employee ownership are also much better at long-term thinking, making decisions for the enduring health of the company and avoiding short-termism[3].

It is my ambition to follow in the footsteps of technology greats like Microsoft, helping to give true financial independence to the people who drive our growth and prosperity. And we are well on our way. In the two months since we received investment from our new backers, BigChange’s £100m valuation is up by 10%. All credit to GHP who understood and supported our employee ownership structure from day one.

I now own 23% of the business, and GHP owns over 60%, the balance is owned by the BigChange team. If we hit £1bn in enterprise value, some of these people will become very wealthy indeed. In 10 years’ time, I hope to have created many millionaires. We all work hard here at BigChange but we all do it because we’re more than just a faceless organisation; we’re a family. We’re a team. We’re all united by the same common goals and dreams. That makes us unstoppable.

It’s no secret: technology as an industry is predominantly male. As the CEO of a fast-growing technology business with ambitious aims to become the biggest mobile workforce management platform in the world, this is a serious problem.

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All across the country, lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease. Families are finally reuniting in parks and gardens. Schools have welcomed back students.

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25th March 2021 – Quick question for you. How many flavours of KitKat are there?
If you think you can count them all on your fingers, starting with the Chunky and adding the odd seasonal “special”, prepare for a shock… It is likely that the number tops 2,000 or more.

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18th March 2021 – When I was 11 years old, my father would take me to work at his auctions. We travelled all over the UK and the hours were punishing but I never grumbled at the time.

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12th March 2021 – It’s a strange quirk of history that John Doerr isn’t a household name. Technophiles, entrepreneurs and management experts have heard of him, but otherwise he remains relatively obscure. 

Doerr is a venture capitalist – he backed Google in the early days. But what really makes him interesting is his other contribution to the success of the internet giant – and countless other companies and organisations besides. 

Doerr introduced Larry Page and Sergey Brin to a system for driving and managing growth that has ultimately led Google to become one of the most valuable companies in the world. 

He is the promoter of a management methodology called Objectives and Key Results – OKRs for short. Don’t let the bland title fool you: this is the stuff of legend. The full explanation is in Doerr’s book Measure What Matters – which I’ve just finished reading – but here’s the short version. 

OKRs are a way of focusing the efforts of everyone in your organisation on the same important things that generate growth. The “Objectives” are the goals – achievable yet inspirational. The “Key Results” are how you know you’re making progress towards those goals. These are always number-based, measured regularly, and a combination of short-term and long-term ambitions. 

Doerr describes OKRs as “a vaccine against fuzzy thinking”. 

Regular readers of this blog will know that BigChange recently took on a strategic investor, and that we are now on a growth journey that I believe will take us from a valuation of £100m to £1bn. 

OKRs will be vital in the pursuit of this ambitious goal. 

  • BigChange want to become a global leader in field service management – both in terms of growth and by reputation
  • BigChange want to deliver all our services to customers in a frictionless way
  • Build the BigChange network and empower other businesses to grow

There are key results associated with each of these goals. Everyone in the management team has their own list of OKRs, and we have processes in place to keep all of us accountable.

The idea is to distil everything we want to achieve into a structured approach. Don’t make the shopping list too long: the team needs to feel excited and empowered to reach these goals, not overwhelmed.

Alongside Google, Intel, the Gates Foundation – even U2 – have used OKRs to achieve their goals. It is so humbling to be taking our first steps along this journey. 

I’ve shared these OKRs with you, so that any other business owners interested in this process can get some insight into our approach. I’d love to hear about your experiences with OKRs too. In a few years, I hope I look back at this post and think, “That was the turning point. The time our growth trajectory reached a new level.”

4th March 2021 – Diversity in the workplace is a big topic right now and when it comes to gender, racial and cultural diversity, many British companies are committed to making positive change. But there is still one workplace taboo that has yet to be tackled: age bias.

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26th February 2021 – With just a week to go until you announce your Budget, like many business owners, I am worried that a move into austerity might derail the recovery.

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19th February 2021 – They say it’s darkest before the dawn. I think that right now, in the UK, we are at that point, waiting for the sun to rise. Our vaccination programme has surpassed targets.

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11 February 2021 – If there’s one thing that the last 12 months have taught us, it’s that no company can be successful in isolation. You need your suppliers to be successful, in order to provide the products or services you need, and you need your customers to be successful, in order to keep buying from you.

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February 2021 – This week is a big week for me and for the company I founded eight years ago.

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28 January 2020 – They say it takes all sorts to make a world. That phrase is often used with negative connotations, to highlight the differences between us. (more…)

 21 January 2021 – Like many entrepreneurs, I don’t sleep much. For much of my life, I have lived on about five hours a night. (more…)

14 January 2021 – Change is coming. As we look forward into 2021, full of hope for the successful deployment of vaccinations and the lifting of local lockdowns, we begin to notice the first signs of recovery. (more…)

08 January 2021 – I don’t know about you, but after I came back from the festive break, things felt a bit same-old, same-old. Nothing about 2021 felt like a new year. (more…)

23 December 2020 – I have a problem with New Year’s Resolutions. They sound great, in theory. Make a list of things in your life you’d like to change? Pledge to make improvements? All very positive, surely? (more…)

17 December 2020 – When we look at some of the successful entrepreneurs and CEOs of our time, it’s easy to assume that it takes arrogance, stubbornness and a hard-nosed attitude in order to build a booming venture.

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10 December 2020 – For years, I have been an advocate of kaizen or continual improvement. Sometimes, the best way to grow your business, win new customers, and create a product that everyone loves isn’t to make massive sweeping changes or introduce brand new ideas. It is to make small improvements, consistently, over time.

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02 December 2020 – The death of the British high street will have severe ramifications, not only for our economy but for life as we know it.

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26 November 2020 – If there’s one thing we all need right now, it’s faith. Faith that we will make it through 2020. Faith in our abilities as leaders, as managers, as entrepreneurs. Faith in our instincts and experience.

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18th November 2020 – We need to have a circuit breaker lockdown over the Christmas period. We need two weeks where stringent measures and penalties are in place to keep everyone at home: we need to stop COVID-19 in its tracks and we need to do it as soon as possible.

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13th November 2020 – This has been a big week for the world. First, Joe Biden triumphed in the US presidential election, ushering in a new era for the Democrats.

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30th October 2020 – As we approach the end of 2020, one of the most challenging years in living memory, I am sitting down to review the performance of BigChange in the third quarter of this financial year.

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23rd October 2020 – Video calls have taken over our lives.

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15th October 2020 – We need to face facts: COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon.

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8th October 2020 – We are all under pressure right now. The ongoing COVID crisis, the deepening recession, our inability to plan for the future, these challenges have all created a cocktail of unease.

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What do the greatest business leaders of the modern age have in common?

Is it single-minded determination, like Apple founder Steve Jobs? Or perhaps it’s the ability to roll out across the world at pace, like Starbucks’ Howard Shultz.

It turns out that there are far more important skills to have. I recently caught up with BigChange ambassador and mentor Kevin Keegan OBE, one of the greatest footballers of all time and a legendary successful manager and leadership coach. He told me the two most important qualities that truly great leaders much have.

We spent some time talking about these qualities and why they make for better leaders. The conversation just blew me away. Not all of his advice was new to me but the way he explained it all really resonated.

Honesty

Kevin told me that out of all the managers he has encountered throughout the course of his career, only a few really stick out as great leaders. “I knew I could trust them,” he says. “I knew they meant what they said.”

Kevin explained that the ability to be trustworthy and open is the mark of a really first-class leader. You always know where you stand with those people; you know when you have done a good job and when you need to improve.

You can only get the best out of people as a leader, he explained, when the team knows you have their best interests at heart and that you are willing to be open and transparent.

Kevin has hit the nail on the head and there has never been a more important time to fortify trust in leadership. Many people across the UK have had a challenging few months. Some may have been furloughed. Some may have experienced wage decreases. All of us need to spend more time checking in, talking to our people, and communicating exactly what’s going on in the business, and what we need to do to succeed in future.

At BigChange, we are currently in the process of developing a new five-year strategy. This will reflect all the changes that we have experienced as a result of lockdown and COVID-19. The cornerstone of this new strategy is people: how we find great colleagues, how we retain them and how we get the best out of them. Honesty is a crucial part of the process.

Fairness

Kevin told me a great story about one of the best leaders he encountered in his career. It really demonstrated why he places ‘fairness’ as one of the top two leadership qualities. While he was at Liverpool FC, he and his team mates would wear weighted clothing during training. “It was like having someone on your back,” he said. “They were so wet and heavy when we finished training that the lads used to throw them off.” One day, manager Bill Shankly pulled them up on their behaviour. “He said to Emlyn Hughes, who was the captain, ‘Don’t leave that on the floor because Jessie will have to clean it up. Pick it up.’” The Liverpool manager was telling the squad to think of the guy who looked after their kit – he, ultimately, would be the one to suffer if they left their clothes all over the changing room floor.

Kevin says that was a wake-up call for everyone. “[Bill] was so on the ball with what it meant to play for a football club,” he told me. “It’s very important for leaders to make the whole team feel part of it, and great leaders do it naturally.”

Kevin believes that that no single person is responsible for the success of an organisation or team. He has won the Ballon d’Or twice (and is the only English player to have won it more than once) as well as the Golden Boot, the award for the top goalscorer of the year. He says that while his name might be on these awards, he has never forgotten the people that helped him get the coveted title. “You don’t win on your own,” he says. “Someone has to pass you the ball.” He told me that everyone who works at a club needs to feel part of its success, from the nutritionist to the fitness trainer to the psychologist. “That’s key,” Kevin said. “To make everyone who is contributing feel recognised.”

On Tuesday night I held a virtual huddle with more than 100 members of the team. These are usually results-focused but this time I took a different tack. I thought about what Kevin had said and took the time to engage with everyone. I checked in on how they were doing and thanked all the teams for their work. The call became more of a conversation than one-way traffic.

I’m so grateful to Kevin for his brilliant advice. With all my colleagues working remotely, it’s never been more relevant to call out great work, and make sure every team knows they are seen and appreciated.

On Sunday, BigChange will be featured in the Sunday Times Tech Track 100 league table for the third time. It’s an amazing achievement, especially during these difficult times, and it is absolutely 100% down to the great team of people I have here. That’s not my award, that’s recognition for everyone in the business.

When you make everyone feel like they are part of the team, and show that you see their contributions, you don’t just boost their confidence and morale, you empower them. I want everyone in BigChange to be a leader, driving forward their own projects and creating their own goals. That’s the dream.

These sessions with Kevin are really helping me to focus on how I can improve and develop as an entrepreneur and manager. Check out the second video in the Kevin Keegan series visit next week on the BigChange website www.bigchange.com.

“They say you’re a born leader but there’s more to it than that. You learn from everyone you meet in your life.”

These wise words were recently shared with me by football legend Kevin Keegan. I am delighted to announce that he has become my mentor, and will be coaching me as part of his leadership programme.

Kevin, who became a BigChange ambassador last year, has a wealth of leadership knowledge: everything from motivating a team to inspiring extraordinary endeavours. When we sat down for our first coaching session, he explained the principles that have helped him become one of football’s all-time greats.

This gave me an idea. Why not capture some of these sessions so that we could share his insights with other leaders? This is how the Kevin Keegan Secrets of Leadership series was born. From September, I’ll share clips from our discussions, as he talks about the lessons he’s learned throughout his illustrious career. What Kevin doesn’t know about leadership isn’t worth knowing.

Next week, Kevin is talking about what makes a great leader. Natural aptitude is one thing, he says, but every leader must keep learning and developing if they are to reach their full potential.

“I learned this from my father at a young age,” he says. “He would say, ‘Son, go and learn from him now’ and would send me to work at a market stall in Doncaster.” You learn so much from environments where you deal with the general public, he explained.

My father also sent me to work at a market stall when I was young. It gives you an incredible foundation in sales, and also teaches soft skills like empathy. So many great leaders have started their careers from a market stall, from Matalan founder John Hargreaves to Michael Marks, who started Marks & Spencer.

Kevin says that he has always observed other leaders – both good and bad – in order to adapt his leadership style over the years. The big influences in his life were Ron Ashman, his first manager at Scunthorpe United. “His strength was communication,” he says. “Everyone knew where they stood. But he wasn’t great when you lost, so I learned not to be like that. ” Sir Alf Ramsay, the England manager who won the World Cup in 1966, also helped shape Kevin’s leadership style. “He had this air about him,” Kevin says. “Confidence without being arrogant. You felt so comfortable following him.”

Kevin got me thinking about the great leaders who have inspired me throughout the course of my career. People like Michael Dell, the technology entrepreneur, who is a great champion of intrapreneurship within Dell. He is one of the reasons I work so hard to encourage my BigChange colleagues to bring new ideas into the business and give them autonomy on projects.

Bill Shankly is another one of Kevin’s heroes. “He would say, ‘You are here for those people out there’. It made you think about being part of the community. Everyone comes into your life for a reason.”

To hear more from Kevin, take a look next week at the BigChange visitor website www.bigchange.com and please don’t forget to share a comment.

A few days ago, my sister-in-law and great friend Karen Harris posted a message on LinkedIn.

She wrote: “Feeling sad for my daughter. Straight A*s at GCSEs and school submitted A*A*A for A level grades. Exam board downgraded her to AAB so she has missed her uni places for computer science. Aren’t we meant to be encouraging women in tech? #womenintech #alevelresults”

A lot of youngsters are experiencing the fallout of the A-Level exam grades chaos right now. Even now the algorithm has been withdrawn and many have been awarded their predicted grades, some students may have missed out on a place at their top choice university. I feel a lot of sympathy and frustration on behalf of all those who feel they have been denied the education they have rightfully earned.

But I do also want to tell those people: all is not lost.

University isn’t the only way to a successful career, especially when you are studying a technical subject like computer science. You can go straight into industry and learn on the job instead. Arguably the skills you learn this way will be even more marketable and relevant to the modern world. If you still need the qualifications, your employer may even pay for you to do the degree part-time, or sponsor full-time study.

The Government’s recent Plan for Jobs pledge means that even more employers will be looking to create positions for smart young people. It will pay organisations £2,000 per apprentice and is introducing a bonus for businesses who hire apprentices aged 25 and over with a payment of £1,500.

The scheme will also subsidise six-month placements for young people on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, with the government covering 100pc of the national minimum wage for 25 hours a week.

At BigChange, we invest so much in our apprentices and young trainees that this support, while welcome, barely covers any of our costs. But we don’t create apprenticeships to access government funding. We do it because we need talented young people to help us innovate and grow. They bring energy, enthusiasm and a new perspective to the organisation.

We are hiring right now into our RoadCrew Customer Service, Onboarding and Technical teams. Young starters all begin their career in RoadCrew, so they can learn the business from the ground up, but for many that is just a launch pad to other areas of the business.

Over the years, we have seen both promising graduates and brilliant straight-out-of-schoolers rise through the ranks to management and even senior management. When I look at people like Ed Goodwill, who started in RoadCrew back in 2013 and became product manager two years ago, I see an incredibly driven individual who has become a seasoned member of the team. Or Jonathan Isaacs, who joined in a customer service onboarding role in 2016 and is now a product director, shaping our future product strategy. Also there is Kully, Simon & Serge in sales who have all benefited from working there way through the company from RoadCrew to Sales. RoadCrew have nurtured Danielle, Jake and Tom in accounts.

I have always been passionate about offering opportunities to young people, however inexperienced they might be. All I ask for is a good attitude and the willingness to learn and be a team player. Over the years, I have employed plenty of my children’s friends – even my youngest, Josh, now has a few friends working in BigChange. The great thing about raw talent is that you can develop them from the ground up, nurture their careers, and they live and breathe your values and culture.

Our BigChange University is here, and we always have places for talented students. Instead of paying to study computer science, marketing, software engineering, international business management, economics, data analytics, and many more, come to us. We’ll let you work virtually, pay you, and you’ll come out the other side with no student debt.

You can’t underestimate the power of education and a university degree but given the state of the world right now, it’s good to have options. I never went to university; I studied at the school of life. It worked out all right for me.

Last month, Boris Johnson told the nation that it was time to go back to work.

Public transport was now safe to use, he claimed, so go out and stimulate the economy.

If he expected a stampede of commuters on August 1, he was disappointed. Just a third of Britain’s workers have gone back to the office so far this month. This is the lowest figure in Europe. In France, that number is as high as 83%.

It can’t have helped that the same day the Prime Minister was trying to chivvy us all back to the office, his Chief Scientific Advisor, Patrick Vallance, was telling people to ignore the advice and stay home.

Schools will reopen and are perfectly safe, we are told. Pubs are breeding grounds for the virus and may be closed down again. Soft play areas are dangerous but nurseries are not. Clubs are bad but gyms are fine.

We have been receiving mixed messages from Government throughout this pandemic and we are tired of it.

BigChange, like many resilient British firms, has been operating throughout lockdown. It’s been ‘business as usual’ for us, with almost every member of the team working from home. We have pivoted to offer virtual meetings and support and we’ve been delighted by the response from customers. We’ve had many stellar reviews over the last few months, proving to me that the virtual model works for us.

But we do want to help support the economy. We recognise the plight of many local businesses, like coffee shops that rely on commuter trade. We also want to offer access to the office to colleagues who want to come in for some peace and quiet, or to see colleagues (albeit at a distance).

I recently asked my network for some help finding a health and safety expert to review our office facilities and check whether it would be possible to reopen. A customer put us in touch with a brilliant gentleman who came and did a recce last week.

We have 10,000 square feet of space at our Leeds office. More than 100 people usually work there. Yet, taking into consideration all the new social distancing rules, just 15 people can now be in our office at any one time.

This is because the social areas, such as loos and kitchen, are not set up for social distancing. If I’m honest, they were too small even before we had to keep staff 2m apart. That’s just how offices are designed these days.

If we have just 15 people in the office, they can easily stay more than 2m apart. But does that mean they will be completely safe? We don’t know. The Government doesn’t know.

We use air conditioning in our offices, like many organisations across the UK. Most modern office buildings don’t even have windows that open; air is recirculated between floors. Could the virus be spread through the vents? We are in discussions with the landlord to try and find a solution but shouldn’t this be a job for Government?

And if we ask people to wear masks into the office, what masks should we tell them to wear? We don’t know. There is still no British standard for masks. People can wear any old piece of cloth, even though it’s possible that anything less than surgical grade does little to protect others.

Some business owners are opting to leave all internal doors open to minimise the risk of spreading the virus on door handles. That’s not an option for us. Our internal doors are fire doors. Fire beats COVID-19 on my list of risks. So are we expected to hire someone to disinfect all our doors and stainless steel surfaces every half an hour? Will that mean just 14 people from BigChange can now return to the office?

This is just a taste of the complexity business leaders are facing right now. Government is issuing statements and practical guidance – but often these are conflicting or out of date. The threat of local lockdowns and second waves will be with us for months to come. This is why BigChange remains committed to working from home for the foreseeable.

However, we are setting up the office to enable limited use. Our employees will be able to book a slot if they need a better working environment or to work with new team members. Attendance will be completely voluntary. People can choose not to come to the office at all. In the meantime, we will continue to look for new and effective virtual approaches to developing company culture and building relationships between teams.

So my question to you, Prime Minister, is this:

How can you expect business leaders to reopen offices and get people back to work when regulations dictate that we can only have a fraction of the team in the building at one time? How can we reassure our staff we are prioritizing their safety when there is no definitive decision on all the risks they may face?

You may be able to chop and change and send out mixed messages, but I take the welfare of my people extremely seriously and I want them to know everything I tell them is correct, verifiable, and in their best interests.

So, come on, Boris. Sort out this mess.

Employees who feel valued are more productive, happier and will go the extra mile for their managers.

This sounds obvious but when you are running a business, and have a lot on your plate, it’s not always easy to find the time and opportunity to congratulate your people on their accomplishments, and thank them for their hard work.

Yet studies have shown that feeling valued ranks alongside pay, benefits and time off as a major contributor to job satisfaction.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), receiving expressions of gratitude can have a massive effect on workplace behaviour. In a field experiment, the authors found that a message of gratitude from a manager led to a significant increase in the number of calls made by a team of university fundraisers.

A separate study by the Journal of Applied Behavioural Science also found that when treated with respect, and trusted to make decisions autonomously, workers’ performance significantly improved. The key takeaway was: “Positivity can foster team member engagement and performance.” It recommended demonstrating “appreciation, affirmation, and respect”.

I am in awe of my incredible team here at BigChange but it’s not enough for me to say that in this blog, I have to show it consistently, every day. This is why, a few years ago, we created our Green Flag Report.

Everyone knows that red flags are a bad thing. We use red flags when we need to resolve an issue outside of our service level. But we have also turned the concept on its head, using the BigChange platform to assign green flags. These are used to highlight exceptional performance, great customer service, or people simply being a great team player.

We are super-users of our own platform, so it has been straightforward to train colleagues to use green flags to tell me and managers about the team’s achievements. Every Sunday, I read each and every one, and send an email to the whole company sharing the highlights and thanking everyone who went the extra mile that week.

It’s been extremely effective at motivating my colleagues: they know that I see how hard they work, and their contribution to this company. It also helps to drive home the vital role that every team plays here: for example, people in sales hear about the incredible work done by engineers out on the road – these individuals may rarely meet in person, if at all.

There are no financial incentives connected to the green flag initiative; it’s separate from our benefits and bonuses. This is about showing people that they are seen, heard, and valued. But it certainly sticks in my mind when I see the same names coming up again and again – those people are likely to go far in the company.

We have made this functionality available to all BigChange customers, free of charge, to help them create the same kind of engagement and culture of gratitude in their teams. There really is nothing like the buzz when people see all their colleagues applauding their efforts. Especially now there is no office and we are all working remotely.

We want to do our bit to help other business owners make their teams feel valued and important, and help unlock productivity now, when it’s needed the most.

There comes a time in every businessperson’s life when they start to think about giving back to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

You can spend years, even decades, striving to build a successful company, and get traction in your chosen market. During that time, you learn so much – you pick up skills you can’t hone any other way.

Once you learn what it takes to achieve your goals, you want to give others a helping hand. You know the blood, sweat and tears that go into launching a start-up, or generating growth, or making acquisitions. Perhaps you wish you’d known a little more of what you do now in your early days. You know you can lighten a fellow business owner’s load by giving them the benefit of your experience. Sometimes, mentoring is about sharing your smartest strategies. Sometimes it’s about telling them your worst mistakes so they can avoid repeating them.

I have started mentoring a young entrepreneur. She has recently taken over her father’s business. It’s an exciting challenge, and she is keen to get some guidance from an outsider. I am giving her an hour of my time every two weeks to discuss any challenges, share my insights and help connect her to my network.

When we were drawing up a rough plan for how our mentoring relationship would look, I started thinking about how many other people or new business owners could benefit from advice. Never more so than now, in fact – in the wake of the worst pandemic for 100 years.

We are in a period when many brilliant entrepreneurs have a little extra time on their hands. Maybe they have reclaimed the time they usually spend commuting by working from home. Perhaps business is slower than usual. Or maybe they have hit pause on some more complex projects.

This is the time to reach out to other business owners in your community and see how you can help. It’s so easy. Organisations like Connect Yorkshire exist to help connect business owners with seasoned entrepreneurs. Full disclosure: I am a paid up member of the organisation. But, truly, what a brilliant service. If you can afford £300 a year then I thoroughly recommend you join. You will be able to tap into business brains such as textile tycoon Sir Anthony Ullman, Boost Drinks founder Simon Gray, turnaround expert Richard Field OBE or the legendary IT entrepreneur Peter Wilkinson, who built and sold Freeserve back in the 90s.

Mentoring makes you a better entrepreneur. Every time I give advice, I have ideas for my own business. I’ve started making two columns in my notebook during mentoring sessions: one is about what I can help the other person achieve, and the other is for smart strategies I need to tweak or implement at BigChange. If you really want to learn, try to teach someone else what you know. It’s a really illuminating process.

I am keen to do more mentoring this year, and I’m also passionate about encouraging other entrepreneurs to dedicate some of their free time to helping the next generation. If this is you, and you are looking for some tips on how it works (how much time to give, when to schedule meetings and what is expected of you), then drop me a line. I’ll be happy to share the structure that’s worked for me.

email. martin.port@bigchange.com

When I was creating the business plan for 2020, I had no idea that this would end up being one of the most challenging, worrying, strange and illuminating years of my entire career.

Here are the half-year results for BigChange. I know we’ve weathered the storm better than many, and for that I’m hugely grateful to my incredible team and our loyal, fantastic customer base.

Going for growth

The last few months have been tough but BigChange adjusted quickly to the new trading conditions. The business generated revenues of £8.2m in the first half of 2020, up from £7.6m during the first half of last year.

This is an incredible achievement and is down, in part, to the 166 new customers we brought onto the platform. I’d like to give a special mention to Sunbelt Rentals Inc (formerly A-Plant), part of Ashtead Group Plc, the largest equipment rental company in the UK, which came on board at the start of 2020.

We have secured a record £13m-worth of new contracts during the last six months, and order values are up 25% on last year. I’m proud to say that the majority of new business now comes in through customer referrals. The business has grown well across all our target markets, including France and Cyprus.

Investing in innovation

We have continued to invest in new products and features. We have spent £500,000 on a new business analytics and artificial intelligence solution, which will be launched later this year.

During lockdown, we released a number of features to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19. These include: a new ‘no touch’ signature feature for mobile workers, and integration with some of the world’s most commonly used tools, such as Outlook and Word.

Our commitment to innovation was recognised during the first quarter of this year, when BigChange received the highest honours that can be given to a British company. We won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, in the Innovation category.

Proving our worth

Our customers have been our number one priority throughout this crisis, and I’m extremely proud that we have managed to help so many of them to trade on successfully using our platform.

Drainage company Eurotech has experienced a £1m boost to the business since going live with BigChange last summer. Moorhouse Heating Limited has doubled its turnover and tripled its field service engineering team without needing additional staff in the office. Europump has used BigChange to increase its first-time fix record tenfold, boosting the business by £100,000 a year.

Here are just a few of the customer testimonials we’ve received over the last few months:

“Being fully digital, cloud-based and completely free of paperwork proved critical during the COVID-19 lockdown. We literally flicked a switch and were all instantly up and running from home. We just carried on working as normal.”

Jack Aplin, Director, Europump

“During the Coronavirus lockdown we’d have been completely floored without BigChange. If we’d still been paper-based we simply couldn’t have done our job – as things were customers did not see any change at all.”

Mick Brindle, Director, H2O FlowTech

“We were able to shut down the office and be up and running at home within one hour. The BigChange No Touch Signature Capture App has been especially useful, allowing us to gain job sign-off without directly interacting with the customer; with many premises closed our usual contacts are simply not onsite anyway.”

Paul Roberts, Director Metroline Fire & Security

World-class customer service

We are so thankful to our customers for giving us a Net Promoter Score that rivals the likes of Samsung and Starbucks. We are now at 70 plus, up from 68 in the final quarter of 2019. A Net Promoter Score reflects a customer’s willingness to recommend you and anything above 70 is categorised as ‘world-class’.

The BigChange Network

At the start of the year we held Network conferences in Newcastle and Manchester, bringing together customers and partners to share insights and address business challenges. These events were supported by BigChange ambassadors Kevin Keegan and Michelle Dewberry. After lockdown, we held an online roundtable on supporting mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. More than 200 partners and customers attended the virtual event.

Tough decisions

Before lockdown was announced, we soon realised that we would need to cut costs if we were going to keep growing in a sustainable way. We have managed to do that, reducing the outgoings of the business enough to allow BigChange to break even.

Some of these efficiencies were achieved through salary cuts across the business. I opted to take a 30pc pay cut while junior members of the team have seen wages fall by just 5pc. We put less than 30 people on the Government’s furlough scheme and most have already returned to the business. This has helped to safeguard all our jobs and ensure that BigChange is in a much stronger financial position going into the second half. I’d like to thank my colleagues for their understanding and flexibility.

Virtual working

BigChange managed to move all 170 staff to remote working with zero downtime for our customers. We have made significant savings on travel during the last six months – and have reduced our carbon footprint, which is great for the planet as well as the bottom line.

As we have pivoted our business towards virtual working, we have also changed our offering. Many customers were forced to furlough workers, so we launched a series of online tutorials to help their staff learn how to use our core system. These training sessions covered everything from CRM to scheduling, and we welcomed hundreds of users to these sessions. We completed four tutorials a week over a 12-week period.

To help our customers to win new business despite lockdown, we launched our flagship Stronger Together campaign, advertising their services across our social media channels and on a dedicated webpage.

Our Motivational Mondays series has also gone online, and we have offered access to our incredible line-up of speakers to customers, prospects and partners. We are also supporting several charities through the initiative.

None of this could have been achieved without outstanding effort from the whole team, and the enduring trust and support of our customers and partners.

Thank you all.

The fortunes of local businesses have always been inextricably linked with football.

There’s a certain magic that happens when a city’s economy thrives and the local football team is at the top of its game. It’s as though the success of one magnifies the other.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. After 16 long years, Leeds was finally promoted back into the Premier League on July 17th. This was a momentous occasion for me, both as a lifelong Leeds fan, but also as an entrepreneur.

Throughout my whole career, Leeds United has been a partner in my success. When I was staying in a small hotel in Serenje District in Zambia, the gentleman at reception had not heard of Leeds – “But I know Leeds United,” he said. At meetings in Israel, saying that we were based in Leeds became a major advantage when everyone realised that our local team had featured sporting legends like Jack Charlton, Billy Bremner, Gary Speed and Norman Hunter.

BigChange Leeds United shirt

It’s a strange but powerful phenomenon: BigChange is all the richer from its association with Leeds United. Even during the darkest days at the club, when fans were chanting, ‘We’re not famous any more’, we were still trading on the longstanding value and currency generated by United. The name Leeds United is a form of free advertising, and a helping hand when doing deals with anyone who has a passing interest in football.

This is why I’m so proud that BigChange is now a Gold Digital Partner at Elland Road. Our logo is projected onto the field, and we will be back in the box supporting our team as soon as lockdown rules permit. Customers are already getting in touch, asking to come and watch games with us later in the year or in 2021. It’s an unrivalled opportunity to network; everyone in the room is united by their love of the beautiful game.

The Premier League creates an enormous amount of value for the UK economy. Each year, the League brings in an estimated £7.6bn through ticket sales, jobs, brand value and taxes. No one has analysed the economic impact of Leeds United in recent years but it is estimated that Manchester United generated £330m a year for Manchester.

Andrea Radrizzani’s full takeover of Leeds United in May 2017 brought a real buzz back to the game, and the city. Leeds United has pulled off an extraordinary turnaround to be back in the top flight. Right now, I can feel the renewed hope and enthusiasm in my bones.

It gives all of us Yorkshire leaders a boost, and a feeling that we too can achieve anything. Amidst all the gloom, it’s a shot in the arm.

Let’s keep marching on together.

I’ve done it. I’ve booked two weeks off in August.

This might not seem much of an achievement but I really struggle to take holidays. I love my job, and I am completely focused on building BigChange and improving the service we offer customers.

Sometimes, though, this makes it hard to switch off. Being ‘on’ all the time can be mentally draining. Recently, I’ve started looking at my packed calendar and I’ve felt overwhelmed, rather than energized.

You need to take breaks in order to recharge. I am always encouraging my colleagues to take holidays and have a rest but it’s hard to take my own medicine.

The COVID-19 outbreak has forced many of us to work from home. Leaders feared that this would adversely affect productivity: would staff be able to manage their time well? How do workers perform when there’s no one watching?

According to the Office for National Statistics, there was only a slight dip in productivity at the start of lockdown – down just 0.4% compared with the same period in 2019. Considering the level of disruption and upheaval, that’s a pretty incredible result.

Now that we truly understand that virtual working can be just as productive as an office-based environment, we must deal with another issue: people who are engaged, driven and ambitious will struggle to stop working.

A recent survey of more than 2,000 people by LinkedIn and the Mental Health Foundation found that Brits who have been working from home since the coronavirus outbreak have been putting in an extra 28 hours of overtime a month. This has taken its toll: more than half (56%) said that they felt “more anxious and stressed” about work than they did before the pandemic. Right now, 12% of workers are logging on before 7am and 18% are still working 12 hours later.

I’ve also noticed that my working day is creeping later and later. The time and energy I’m saving on travelling means I get an extra half hour in bed in the morning, but then I never take a lunch break and find myself still working at 11pm. I’m so much more productive at home and I have a PA yet I’m putting in extra hours. It shouldn’t be this way.

Strong managers will need to ensure that they enforce boundaries, and don’t allow team members to burn out by working long hours. But I am my own manager, and I need to take responsibility for my own mental health.

My wife and I both need to be mindful of ‘burn out’. When I told Mandy I’d booked two weeks off for us to take a holiday she said, ‘I refuse. You go. I’ll work!’ We are a pair of workaholics.

I’m hoping to win Mandy over by finding somewhere really brilliant to go. I don’t want to fly anywhere – I want to help support the British economy by having a ‘staycation’ instead.

I hope some of you reading this can help me out. Where shall we go? We like walking, golf, and we would love to take our dog with us – otherwise we’re open to ideas. We want to keep maintaining social distance, so we will need our own space – and I doubt I could convince Mandy and the kids to go camping.

Make sure you get a holiday in the diary too. I’m sure you need a break as badly as we do.

It’s a strange feeling, celebrating milestones under lockdown. 25 years ago today, I married my wonderful wife Mandy.

What’s also strange is that I’m not at all sad that things have worked out this way. If the last few months under lockdown have taught me anything, it is to appreciate the little things – and that family is extraordinarily precious.

If you would have told me, at the start of the year, that I would be spending four months inside my home with my wife 24/7, and living with my four children for the first time since they were all at school, I would have laughed at you. “I need to travel to see customers,” the old me would have said. “There will be so many arguments. We’ll tear the house apart.”

The reality has been totally different.

I have loved every minute.

This pandemic has had a devastating impact on so many people, families and organisations. It’s a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Yet that has only made me feel more grateful, more blessed for the people I love.

I love our new life. I work in the lounge and Mandy is next door in the dining room. We pop in and out, and always sit down to have tea together – usually with the kids too. Before lockdown, I can’t remember the last time I made it home in time for the evening meal. I was always working till 7 or 8 o’clock.

I used to travel constantly, hopping on trains and planes to visit customers. Now, when I think of all that unproductive time spent travelling, and the carbon footprint, I shudder.

Being at home has been a revelation. I start work earlier but I have the flexibility to take a coffee break with Mandy and finish work in time to relax in the evening. Meetings over Teams are structured and to the point. Everything you lose in banter and small talk you gain in productivity.

Sometimes, my son Joseph brings his Playstation into my “office”. He’s got headphones in, so the noise doesn’t disturb me, and I love having him around all day.

Mandy and I have always made a great team, both at home and at the office – she worked with me at my last business, Masternaut, too. But this experience has only increased my admiration for her, and all she does.

Back when I was spending long hours at the office, and she was at home juggling lead generation for the business alongside looking after the kids, it was easy to miss how hard she works, and take her talent and energy for granted. Now, I see all that she does, and the amount she packs into her day. We’re both workaholics but when we work side-by-side, it never feels like work.

She is so perceptive, a great listener, and remembers all the details that I forget! I’m a better businessman with Mandy around.

So, yes, I’m celebrating our 25th anniversary under lockdown. But in many ways, this is a gift; the best anniversary present I could wish for.

This blog is dedicated to you Amanda Port, an incredible wife and mother, and a vital member of the team at BigChange. Happy anniversary. I love you.

These are tough times for many charities. The pandemic has created financial hardship for a lot of the people who usually give to good causes.

They have been forced to stop their donations, while others have moved support from their usual charities to those tackling COVID-19.

A recent study by Pro Bono Economics found that as many as one in 10 UK charities is facing bankruptcy by the end of the year. The report pointed to a £10bn shortfall, caused by soaring demand for the services offered by these organisations alongside the massive drop in income due to coronavirus.

This is something that weighs on me heavily. Like many other business leaders, I had to make the tough decision to reduce BigChange’s contributions to charity earlier this year. We usually give upwards of £200,000 to different causes each year but, right now, my priority has to be the needs of my colleagues and our customers – and the ongoing health of the business.

We are still making donations to humanitarian causes but have been forced to cut back on other charitable spending. I hope that this will only be for the short-term.

However, this got me thinking. I may not be able to give as much as before but could I, as an entrepreneur, figure out a way to help charities generate more donations? What resources or assets could I leverage to help them, in lieu of hard cash? This is when I had a brain wave.

The first Monday of each month, BigChange invites an inspiring speaker to come and tell the BigChange team about their lives. The Motivational Monday initiative has been running for a couple of years, and has been extremely popular. We’ve welcomed a diverse range of fascinating people, from Toyah Wilcox to Eddie the Eagle to Holocaust survivor Arek Hersh. This month, we are hearing from serial entrepreneur and Queen of taupe Kelly Hoppen.

I am now teaming up with local charities to give them access to these Motivational Monday events, so that they can use them as a part of a virtual coffee afternoon to help raise donations. I’m delighted to announce that we have already signed up the first two charities who will be coming on board: Yorkshire Cancer Research, and the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which funds research into motor neuron disease.

I hope that these partnerships will help worthy causes to raise awareness and hopefully get them some much-needed financial support at this difficult time. When faced with a problem, even one that seems impossible, there is always a solution if we think hard enough, and explore all the options available to us.

I want to do all I can to help worthy charities right now, as they do such brilliant work in this country. We must all pull together to make sure they can keep offering the services that vulnerable, sick, and disadvantaged people need now, more than ever. But we must also do our homework, supporting only those charities that are well managed and funnel the majority of donations towards the people they have promised to help.

There have been recent reports of charities – some big names too – that have failed to provide an acceptable level of service and even allowed vulnerable people to come to harm. The onus is on us all to do our due diligence before giving our money and support. It may feel uncomfortable to do so, it may be time consuming, but it is worth it to make sure that charities that truly make a positive difference in the world get the support they deserve – and the bad ones don’t.

If you were unable to join the live event, you can now catch-up with Martin’s webinar on the 25th of June.

Hear how Martin has used his experiences in business across the years to develop and build the BigChange business system, focus on customer service, drive efficiency and improve culture. All through his tried and tested strategies, which he shares with you as a recipe for success for any business.

Featuring Rebecca Burn-Callander, former editor of The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph as the webinar facilitator.

Over the past week, there has been a lot of buzz around the benefits of the 4-day working week. Various politicians have called on the Chancellor to explore the option for the UK, as a way to generate more jobs.

At BigChange, we are way ahead of the curve. We are on course to move to a 4-day week in 2021. Right now, we’re on a 4.5-day week through our Flexi Friday initiative, which allows my colleagues to take a half-day every Friday – or when it’s convenient for them and their team. It’s been hugely popular and we have seen no dip in productivity – if anything, quite the reverse. The happier your people are, the more productive they tend to be.

When Microsoft in Japan introduced a 4-day week last year, while still paying employees the same salary as for five days, it found that labour productivity rose by nearly 40 per cent.

This is a difficult time for Britain’s workers. We know that the government’s furlough scheme is coming to an end in a few months. The forecast is for mass redundancies, especially in the hardest-hit sectors such as aviation and hospitality. This cloud hangs over everyone, and could mean that people are desperate to hang on to a job – any job.

This is why it’s so important for business leaders like me to stay committed to all the initiatives aimed at supporting and caring for our people, like the 4-day week. It would be easy to demand that employees work longer hours, citing the failing economy or industry pressures but that is just bad business.

I am still absolutely committed to introducing the 4-day week to BigChange. It’s important to note that this extra day off each week will be discretional, to be decided by the team member and their manager. We aren’t closing the office for a day a week, and if people feel that they need to work virtual on the fifth day to finish something urgent, then so be it. The aim is to encourage everyone at BigChange to work efficiently, and manage their time well, so that they can have a 4-day week without feeling overloaded or stressed, or like they don’t have time to finish projects.

I believe that our approach to the 4-day week will not only help my team to find a great work/life balance, it will also allow us to employ new people, creating more jobs for the British economy. Giving people an extra day off, while paying a competitive salary, not only allows them to spend more time with family, it also gives them the chance to learn new skills.

This is also a time of increased stress and anxiety. We all need the time and space to take extra care of our mental health and wellbeing, and look out for friends, family, and our communities.

The current pandemic has shown many leaders – including me – that we don’t need to be in an office to succeed, and that people perform really well when they are allowed to work flexibly. This will allow us to grow faster than ever. BigChange is an international player, working across multiple time zones. By allowing flexible working, we can start introducing night shifts, whereby UK colleagues can pick up calls from the US or further afield, all from home, knowing they have three days off ahead. We can also begin hiring people from deprived areas, instead of focusing on those within an easy commute to Leeds.

Where you live should not be a determinant of what kind of job you can secure.

It’s great that some politicians are waking up to the opportunities that a four-day week could bring but I would also like to see some tangible support for those of us leading the way. If the Chancellor wants to help, he could support the training and up-skilling of new employees, for example, or offer tax breaks to the forward-thinking organisations that are investing in a 4-day week.

I really hope that calling for the short week is more than a political move to try and win over voters. We need to work together to make the 4-day working week a reality. I know that it is what the economy, business, and workers need. The time is now.

BigChange

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