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Last year, I introduced the “Chairman’s spotlight on” series to celebrate some of the incredible people I have met on the BigChange journey. There are too many unsung heroes in British industry: people with fantastic stories to tell who are too busy building their businesses to shout about their experiences. That’s where I come in.

This week, I’d like to introduce you to Steve Cardwell. Steve founded Normanton-based Generator Power back in 1997 and has taken the business from nothing to a £50m turnover and is working towards being a truly national player – he currently serves customers from Inverness down to Reading.

Like so many BigChange customers, he founded his business because he had worked for other people in the sector, learned all he could (the good stuff and the stuff to avoid) and realised he could do it better on his own. “I had a real drive to build a business for myself rather than keep working for other people,” he tells me. “But the problem with generator rental is that it’s very capital-intensive. You don’t have a business if you have just a handful of generators. So I had to jump in with both feet. It took me two years to raise the funding to buy a fleet of generators.”

This is something I so admire about entrepreneurs like Steve: their ability to be “all in”. Steve left no margin for error. He put everything on the line to make his business work. Not many people have the courage and tenacity to make a call like that.

Once Generator Power was up and running, he didn’t sit back and hope the business would roll in. He knew he had to deliver a better service than the competition. This is one of the reasons Steve and I hit it off immediately: we are both obsessed with customer service. “If I have to rely on my wit, charm and boyish good looks, I won’t get far,” he jokes. “We have always focused on delivering something to the customer beyond what our rivals are capable of. That edge is what convinces the customers to write our name on the order, rather than someone else’s.”

He won’t say it about himself, but Steve is an absolute visionary; Generator Power was the first hire company to introduce a “power safe” product, where the fuel tank and generator are housed inside a secure and super-silent container. These were an absolute hit, as fuel couldn’t be siphoned out and the generators couldn’t be vandalised. The entire industry has since embraced Steve’s design and his rivals all now offer similar products.

Right now, Generator Power is at the forefront of innovation once again. “Dirty” diesel may be out of favour, but the company has been investing in renewables and hybrid alternatives for years. “We’re leading the field on this,” he says. “We have battery storage technology, solar arrays, you name it. If we see ourselves as a diesel generator provider today, we’ll soon be out of business. So we have evolved to become a provider of temporary power solutions.”

Markets move so fast these days: no business can stay still, or it will be left behind. After our recent investment round, BigChange earmarked a significant tranche of funding for innovation. “That’s the thing about having a “unique selling point”,” Steve tells me. “People copy you and pretty soon you need a new USP!”

One of the other ways that Steve stays ahead of the competition is through Generator Power’s partnership with BigChange. “We became aware of BigChange a few years ago,” he explains. “We had always used traditional paper-based systems. Our engineers would stand out in the cold filling in job sheets in duplicate – we had real issues with efficiency. The beauty of BigChange is that now we have ditched the paper, and our processes are instantaneous and reliable. If you do lots of work for your customer but don’t charge them enough because the paperwork isn’t there, your business grows but profits stagnate. Now, we make sure the right person is sent to the right job and we charge the right amount for that work in a timely manner.”

As Generator Power continues its journey with greener solutions, BigChange has also helped to bolster its environmental credentials. “Our engineers drive fewer miles and go to the right jobs with the right gear, which has delivered a significant reduction in our carbon footprint,” he says.

Steve has been in business 25 years and still has the same energy and ambition he did when he first started. “This is the best job in the world,” he says. “There’s a new challenge every day and I love it.” As an entrepreneur, you must embrace the high points and stay resilient through the tough times. “When we win industry awards for our innovation, and win contracts with blue chips companies, I’m on a high. But managing people is the biggest challenge. Ask me to deal with a generator, that’s easy, but when you have 284 people on your team, being a leader becomes a lot more complex.”

His philosophy in life is simple. “It doesn’t matter what you do in life but, whatever you do, you should do it with all your might. That’s the philosophy that’s worked for me all my life. Do what you do with enthusiasm. People who are driven, get on. And people who cruise, don’t. I’ve seen people sit in front of a fire and demand heat. If you get up and put wood on the fire, you’ll get heat. But you can’t sit back and expect the fire to light itself.”

If you missed my last “Chairman’s spotlight” you can find it here:

This week, IKEA and Wessex Water have made headlines for taking a controversial stance on unvaccinated employees. They have announced cuts to sick pay for unvaccinated staff who must isolate because of Covid exposure.  

I’m going to be brutally honest with you.  

When I first read about this, part of me thought: fair enough. We need to get our economy back on track. We must learn how to live with the threat of Covid over the long-term, which means a robust vaccination programme for all, not just a few. Business leaders cannot plan for growth – or even survival – when unknown numbers of people may be off work at a moment’s notice.

But then I took a pause.

Because there’s a very big difference between thinking that a move is logical and believing that it’s ethical.

Being a leader means that you are more than a steward of share price, you are responsible for the wellbeing of your team – your entire team, not just the people who are ideologically aligned with you or the needs of the business. That is non-negotiable.

I tried to imagine how I would have reacted to the challenge of unvaccinated employee absence when I was CEO of BigChange. The answer is that I would never have slashed their sick pay, especially at a time when many families are struggling financially after two tricky years. That is not something that would have sat right with me and the rest of the management team.

I’m not naïve about the complexity of this issue. Different businesses have very different needs and challenges. Do I think that the NHS should be allowed to mandate that all staff have a vaccination? I think I do. When your people meet vulnerable patients all day, every day, it makes sense to enforce such precautions. Would I have done that at BigChange, where many of our team work from home? I don’t think I would.

The Covid situation has never stopped evolving since the pandemic first started two long years ago. Right now, the Omicron strain seems to be less dangerous than previous variants, with most people (especially the vaccinated) reporting mild symptoms. To penalise the unvaccinated now that the actual risk is lower than before seems counterintuitive.

Businesses must be wary of taking actions that can be construed as corporate greed. There are always unscrupulous business leaders who see stories about supply chain issues, rising inflation, or increased labour costs, and raise their prices even though their company is entirely unaffected by all these challenges. Those leaders give business a bad name. 

Of course, there is evidence that individuals may be abusing the self-isolation rules to get out of coming to work, pretending to have had contact with someone who tested positive. Perhaps this might spur a business leader to take a tough stance. To my mind, this is no different to people who “pull sickies” and pretend to have the flu. If this is rife in your organisation, the issue is with the culture itself. You can either try and mete out punishments to prevent it happening or you can put your efforts into making your company somewhere people enjoy working. I know which route I would choose…

And then there’s the political situation. It’s unhelpful that every day there seem to be more revelations about parties at Downing Street that broke national Covid restrictions. Penalising regular people at a time when it’s clear our reigning elite are ignoring the rules with impunity is a risky move, in my opinion.

I am an entrepreneur and a business builder – I believe in making decisions that help your organisation to thrive. But before all that, I’m a human being who cares about the people around me, be that my team, community, or wider industry. Even when times are tough and our businesses struggle, let’s never lose sight of that humanity, or all is lost.

It feels like yesterday that I was writing our year in review for 2020. What a whirlwind the last 12 months have been. You think that when your business comes out of the start-up phase, things slow down. In fact, the pace increases alongside your own drive and ambition. Every success spurs you on to the next.

For us at BigChange, 2021 was a crucial year: we won significant investment and began building the foundations that will allow us to achieve incredible growth over the coming years. Here are some of our standout milestones and achievements.

Starting the year with a bang

In February, we announced that BigChange had raised £75m from Great Hill Partners, an growth specialist based in Boston, and that post-deal, BigChange was valued at £100m. This was an amazing time for me and the whole team here, as it crystalised that we were a market leader in our industry, and that we were really going for growth. We are aiming for unicorn status within the next few years, and we know we’ll get there.

We have gone from strength to strength since Great Hill came on board, bringing enormous expertise across international expansion and more. We have been able to invest across all areas of the business, and I have been able to move into a chairman role, which has been an exciting new challenge.

Consistently wowing customers

It’s easy to talk the talk but sales prove you can walk the walk. BigChange continues to win new customers and this year alone we secured £23m-worth of new contracts, taking our annual recurring revenues towards £20m. We have brought in 300 new customers over the past 12 months and now have a total of over 1,700 customers, with 50,000 users on our system.

Some of the brilliant new customers who came on board in 2021 include: double glazing specialist Anglian Windows; Sapphire Utility Solutions, which maintains water, wastewater and gas utilities; state-of-the art car repair centre Vertu Accident Repair; JBC Industrial Services, the leading industrial boiler and burner service and maintenance provider; Genting Casinos; and document-management company Shredall. It brings me great pride to see BigChange helping such a broad range of sectors.

Loyalty and customer satisfaction

It’s not all about new customer wins; at BigChange, we never stop trying to wow and delight our existing customers too. This is why we are so proud that we have retained our world-class Net Promoter Score of 80 plus. This compares to an average of 32 for most companies, so we are chuffed to bits with that. As we have grown, we have always tried to stay approachable and customer centric. We may be a technology company, but we still have a beating heart, and this NPS proves we are striking the right balance.

A lot of new faces

There can be no growth without a winning team, so we have made a significant investment in people this year, going from 170 to 250 colleagues. We have bolstered every part of the business, from our development department to the executive team. We now have the talent and expertise in place to give BigChange every chance of a storming 2022. It’s not always straightforward for a fast-growth technology company to find skills but we have managed to increase headcount by 80 because the culture here is second-to-none, as proved by our Best Companies to Work For two-star award this year.

Innovation at our core

We never rest on our laurels here at BigChange and in 2021 we completed 20 new development releases with lots of new features and innovations. Our customers have more control than ever before and are able to tweak the platform to the exact needs of their teams and business models. To ensure a steady pipeline of new, great features, we have also created The Big Ideas Portal so that customers can see what we’re working on and vote to prioritise the changes they want now. To make sure that everyone is kept up to date on the powerful new tools available, we have introduced lots of new modules in our BigChange University. We have now welcomed 5,000 students to these online webinars, which help users understand the breath of functionality we offer.

Charitable work

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have always been committed to giving back, both to my local community and to charitable organisations that are making a big difference to people’s lives across the world. Last year, BigChange linked our Motivational Monday series – our monthly events that welcome inspirational speakers – with charitable giving. This has been hugely successful and over the last 12 months, we have welcomed the likes of: Janet Street-Porter, the journalist and media personality; Kevin Sinfield OBE – or Sir Kev – the rugby player and campaigner; Tracey Neville MBE, the netball star who played for and coached the England team; and Benjamin Mee, who bought and reopened Dartmoor Zoo. Among the charities that the series has supported are: Living Potential Farm, which offers work experience to those with learning difficulties and disabilities; men’s mental health charity Andy’s Man Club; PhysCap, which works to improve the quality of life of children suffering from severe physical disabilities; Homeless Street Angels, which helps those sleeping on the street of Leeds; the community action charity CATCH, and veterans’ charity Help for Heroes.

Recognition for BigChange

Not so long ago I posted about the importance of entering awards. Winning trophies really does have an extraordinary effect on morale, and it’s an opportunity to stop and think about all you have achieved. This year, we finally collected our 2020 Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category. We also won the Yorkshire Post’s Best Company 2021 in the £10m to £50m category. In the GP Bullhound Northern Tech Awards 2021, BigChange was recognised as one of the Top 15 Fastest Growing Larger Technology Companies in the North of England Scotland and Ireland. We were also nominated for several other awards and it’s always a pleasure to see your company listed among the great and the good of British enterprise.

So that’s it for 2021. I truly believe that we have now stepped onto a springboard and that the next five years will deliver exceptional growth and success, both for BigChange and our customers. Next year is set to be a big year for us: we will celebrate our 10th birthday, a real milestone for any growing company, as half of all start-ups never reach their fifth birthday. Thank you all for reading and for coming on this journey with me. Season’s Greetings! And my very best wishes for the New Year.

I first met Andrew Scully when he was six years old. His brother James was good friends with my eldest son, Ben, and our two families went for a walk at Ripley Castle. Even as a kid, he was super bright, attending Leeds Grammar School.

Years later, I remember popping in to Pasta Romagna, an Italian restaurant in Leeds, to get my coffee in the morning and seeing him behind the counter doing three things at once. He started working there aged 14 or so and, unlike many teenagers, already had a strong work ethic and a desire to earn. Pasta Romagna was run by a real character, an Italian lady who would suddenly break into song, “Andrew! More cappuccino! More pizza!”

While he was in sixth form, he applied for a summer job at my last company: Masternaut. Over time, he gradually worked across every single department, learning the business from the ground up. I saw a spark in him, and a brilliant mind, and employed him as my personal assistant. Soon, he was helping out on deals and due diligence. He dropped out of his business degree at university because he realised he was learning more working at Masternaut than he ever could in a classroom.

When I started BigChange, I knew I needed a right-hand man to help me grow the business. I asked Andrew to join me. Over the past nine years, he’s grown with the business as a director and shareholder.

Andrew and I have worked together for 17 wonderful years. We make a brilliant team. He’s calm, reasoned, commercially astute, and is excellent with detail. I’ve posted before about my hearing issues, which can make meetings more challenging for me. Andrew always captures every word. Having him as my lieutenant has also given me the ability to step away from some of the day-to-day operations that can swallow an entrepreneur’s time, allowing me to think creatively and focus on high-level strategy. This has ultimately been hugely beneficial to the business. There’s no way that BigChange would be where it is today without Andrew.

I am telling you all of this because it is with a heavy heart that I announce Andrew is leaving BigChange to forge his own path. He’s still very young – in his mid-thirties – and after working with me for almost two decades, he’s ready to strike out on his own. It has been an absolute privilege to be his teacher but now I can say hand on heart that the student has become the master. He has negotiated some of BigChange’s biggest contracts. He has been instrumental in creating the processes that have allowed this company to grow at an extraordinary rate. Since I moved to become chairman, he has been more and more involved in strategy and planning – and he’s gifted at that too. He unfailingly wins the respect of everyone he meets, even those twice his age. I know that whatever Andrew chooses to do next, he’ll be successful. He remains a shareholder and friend, both to BigChange and to me.

I believe that every entrepreneur needs a trusted lieutenant who can help them on their growth journey. Especially solo founders like me. You need someone with complementary skills by your side. Look for people that are great thinkers, commercially aware and numbers orientated, honest and forthright – you need someone who has the guts to say when they disagree with you.

Andrew isn’t my first lieutenant. I’ve been lucky, over the years, to spot individuals who can grow and develop with my businesses. When I started Masternaut, my second hire was a young man called Simon Bellamy. He joined in 2002 and became a shareholder, co-director, and trusted ally. He made sure that I had enough cash in that business to do all the deals I needed to do. He was honest, fair-minded and a brilliant businessman. When I left Masternaut, he stayed on and continued to grow that business. It was a huge coup for me, and BigChange, when Simon agreed to join this business a few years ago.

So, this post goes out to all the entrepreneurs and their first lieutenants out there: the dream teams. I wish you good fortune and success. Remember, together you can achieve more than you ever thought possible. We’ll miss you Andrew!

When you surround yourself with talented, driven people, wonderful things happen. That’s always been my experience, anyway.

Over the past eight years, BigChange has been on an extraordinary growth journey. I have been blessed to have many outstanding individuals by my side for this epic ride. People have hopped on the bus at various points, bringing their skills to bear, and helping us all get to the next big milestone.

I’m so grateful to all the leaders, managers, colleagues, customers and supporters who have helped us get to where we are today.

Right now, we’re at another inflexion point for the business: the moment that BigChange goes from a mid-size contender to a global superstar. To help us on this next leg of the journey, a few more brilliant people have come on board. I’d like to tell you a bit about them and hopefully provide some insight into how the talent you have at the top evolves with the needs of the business.

Firstly, as most of you know, I moved into the role of chairman earlier this year. This was an important move, which freed me up to focus on big strategic projects, and gave the other leaders on the team the space to make an impact, while still supported by me. This has been great for the business and the team.

Richard Warley, who became our CEO, has been a talent manager of the business since taking the reins in July. He is passionate about BigChange and has an extraordinary depth of experience running billion-pound companies. Together, we are working towards turning BigChange into a unicorn – and we hope to do this in just a few years. When you go from start-up to scale-up, you need an experienced grower of businesses on the team, and Richard is the steady hand on the tiller we need during this time of intensive growth.

Andy Fielder is our new Chief Technology Officer, joining just three months ago. He has 30 years’ experience building technical projects and growing hi-tech businesses. In his last business, he led a team of 120 people, based across the UK and Poland. He understands how to engage and motivate technical teams across the world, and how to put the customers’ needs first in a technology platform.

Jo Godsmark remains our COO but her role has evolved to focus even more on our people, our key objectives and results (OKRs) and our ISO accreditations. Jo is an engineer with 30 years experience in logistics and supply chain, which means she gets our marketplace better than anyone. She is also Chair of Transaid, the transport charity we have supported for many years.

One of the great things about having Richard on board is that he has been instrumental in bringing in great new talent. One of his recruits is Ian Burgess, now our Chief Customer Officer, with whom he worked at Lumen Technologies. Ian’s approach to customer excellence is much like mine: he’s not afraid to pick up the phone and talk to our clients about what they need. He’s comfortable at the coal face and is passionate about effecting positive change. It’s great to have him on board.

Paul Witter, who has been with BigChange three years, is our Chief Partnerships Officer. He started at BigChange in Network before joining the finance team in an interim CFO role, so has a wealth of experience from across the company – which is essential in his partnerships role. Before joining BigChange, he was a customer, so he understands the needs and pressures that our customers face each day. His background in facilities management has been invaluable to the company.

Our new CFO, Claudia Munn, who joined in August, has worked at some of the world’s most successful companies, from Johnson & Johnson to Tesla and Volvo. She is bringing rigour and process to the finance function to ensure we are ready for the next phase. She’s only been here five months, yet we are already seeing the fruits of her labours across the company. She has taken all that is valuable from her blue chip career but is also an agile and innovative thinker – exactly what you need at this stage of a business’ growth.

Heading up our marketing team is Nick Gregory, who joined us earlier this year. Nick is a former athlete – he was on the GB canoe team back in the day – and brings that focus and energy to his role at BigChange. He previously worked at IRIS and Oracle, so his understanding of business/finance software is unrivalled, which helps him really communicate our USPs to our customers and the broader business community.

We love self starters here at BigChange, and Paul Monaghan is someone who is capable and adept at turning opportunities into great things. He spent 12 years at West Unified Communications, rising through the ranks to become Vice President of Sales EMEA, before joining Lead Forensics as Global Sales Director. He joined us as Chief Sales Officer last month and we’re very lucky to have him on board.

Our most recent hire is Jason Nash, whom I first met during my Masternaut days. Back then, he was working for Microsoft and I was impressed by his people skills and technical competency. It was a great coup when he agreed to join us (after just six months of my badgering). He led a 100-strong team in his last full-time position at Travelport. He was the only person I could see taking on our Head of Product role and he is ideally placed to ensure that BigChange remains the best-in-class platform out there.

It’s taken nine months to refine the leadership and now I feel like we’re ready for the next chapter. We have the absolute best team for the challenges and opportunities that BigChange faces right now, and we are all pulling in the same direction, as one.

It means a lot to me that our customers and partners all get to know these leaders within the business, and that they feel supported as they transition into their new or evolving roles. I can’t wait to see what the future holds in store for us all. 

Last night, the whole company came together for the first time in two years. Almost 200 team members gathered in Aspire Leeds, the former site of the Yorkshire Penny Bank, for the BigChange Awards and the Thanksgiving End of Year party.

To be able to come together and enjoy a sit-down dinner and dance the night away, after such a long time, was truly amazing. There really is no substitute for a party for boosting morale and fostering lifelong friendships. The atmosphere was unbelievable, and I so enjoyed seeing my whole team under one roof, especially our colleagues from France.

But last night was more than just a party. It was a chance to recognise and reward outstanding individuals for their hard work, passion, and enthusiasm. It’s been a tough old year for most people, as we learn to live in the shadow of Covid, so it’s never been more important to thank those who continue to go the extra mile.

I’d like to tell you a little bit about the individuals who won awards last night. These men and women are all team players, all creative thinkers and problem solvers, and we are privileged to have them in our organisation.

Each team boasted a winner, who was voted for by their whole team. In Sales & Network, the winner was Eli Sufrin, a man described as “the backbone of the sales team” who is always on hand to support colleagues. Georgia Murphy picked up the award for the Marketing team. She started at BigChange as a receptionist and has never stopped learning and developing her skills, becoming a highly skilled and intuitive marketer.

Nic Carter-Barnes started as an onboarder and is now managing the Onboarding team in Customer Success. She won her team award for always going above and beyond with customers and our own people too. Chloe Kirk has also risen through the ranks at BigChange, starting in roadcrew to now become the number two in the team. She received the team award because of her technical brilliance and people skills; our customers love her.

The man with a fix for everything is Elliot Trim, who won the awards for the Technical Testing & Support team. He is a real team player with an extraordinary ability for explaining the most complex issues in simple language. In Professional Services, Andy Knight picked up the award for his approach to leadership. I’ve worked with Andy in the past and we’re blessed to have him at BigChange.

Tom Cullinane picked up the award for the Finance team. Tom is never too busy to help out a colleague and is truly committed to BigChange. Jonathan Isaacs, who is a serial winner, picked up the Innovation & Production award for his technical ability, creativity, and reliability.

Aurelie Rodriguez is leading BigChange France. She has proven to be an insightful manager who is well-respected by all her peers. BigChange has a strong foothold in France now, thanks to her approach and tenacity. Jo Godsmark wins the award for the Executive Leadership Team. She has truly transformed the company since joining in 2019. She combines a strategic mind with the ability to execute projects and maintain momentum.

The team of the year in 2021 is Roadcrew, our incredible front-line customer support team. This team is truly the face of our business and has delivered exceptional levels of customer service this year. It was no surprise to anyone that Andy Davenport won the Employee of the Year award again in 2021. His passion for supporting the business, his wide range of skills, and his ability to get the job done is an inspiration to us all. He is so committed to this company, even coming back to work (too) early after an appendectomy.

The CEO Award has gone to George Dibb. George joined us before lockdown but, once the pandemic took hold, we were forced to reduce the size of the sales development team. We asked him to go to Roadcrew and learn the product for 18 months before returning to sales, and he not only excelled in customer service, he has now been really successful back in his sales role: a real overachiever. And finally, my Chairman’s Award, which goes to Andrew Scully, my right hand man, and my hard-working and brilliant wife Amanda Port, who has always treated BigChange like our fifth child.

Many congratulations to all of you. These awards are very well deserved. Thank you for all you’ve done for this company and your teams. I hope you enjoyed the party!

This month, Portugal passed a law making it illegal for employers to contact their teams outside of official working hours. Any bosses found breaking the law could be subject to steep fines. Every company in the country employing 10 people or more is bound by this rule.  

Portugal isn’t the first country to adopt such a law. France introduced its own ‘right to disconnect’ rules in 2016, followed by Italy in 2017 and Spain in 2018.  

There is a similar movement gaining traction in the UK right now.  

I understand the principle behind laws like this. Governments want to protect workers from burn-out and being forced to work round the clock by tyrannical bosses.  

But the truth is that most bosses are not tyrants. They don’t want to push their teams to the limit. They just want their growing business or start-up to survive. This means that – occasionally – people may need to work late or answer emails over the weekend.  

Most of the people who use BigChange’s platform started as one-man bands. Through hard work, talent and perseverance, they grew their businesses from the ground up. They never turned their phones off at 5pm. Their teams wouldn’t refuse a call out because it was outside normal working hours. The world doesn’t simply shut down between the hours of 5pm and 9am.  

BigChange may be a technology company but we exist to serve the global mobile workforce. This gives me a unique perspective, and it seems to me that the right to disconnect widens the divide between so-called “white collar” and “blue collar” workers. 

Engineers on the road can’t clock off until they’ve fixed all the issues on their list. They may get up at 5am to drive to their first site across the country. Are you telling me that these people are less important than office workers? Laws like this seem to pit the 9-5-ers against tradesmen, presuming that one group needs protection while the other group just has to get the job done.  

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe a little hard work never hurt anyone. I may be a founder now, but I have also worked for other people. I know what it’s like to get up at the crack of dawn and put in long days to help someone else’s venture get off the ground. I did it because I believed in the vision of the founder and was proud to contribute to the growth and success of a new business.  

How many of the innovative companies changing the world today would exist if the right to disconnect had been in place when they were first formed? My guess is: very few.  

There’s no getting around it. If you want to bootstrap a start-up, or to grow an existing business, it takes hard work, and lots of it. There is no substitute for hard graft. And no founder can do it alone. You need a motivated and enthusiastic team beside you.  

I believe that legislation like this is a mistake. It presumes that people hate their jobs and can’t wait to clock off at the end of the day. Not that they are driven, capable people who take pride in their work. It also presumes that all bosses are slave drivers who don’t properly incentivise or reward the hard work of their teams.  

Why are these European countries infantilising workers in this way? Why can’t individuals talk to their managers if work is getting too much for them? What has happened to old-fashioned conversation?  

As a founder, I fear that movements like the right to disconnect are pushing people to give the bare minimum at work. It stifles the overachievers. BigChange is a big business today but, back when we were starting out, we survived only because of the extraordinary commitment of our first employees. They worked late, and we laughed together over pizza once the job was done. It was a privilege to work alongside these people and, of course, their loyalty was rewarded as the company grew. So this post is for them, and for all hard-working teams and founders. Let’s look after our mental health and each other without smothering our entrepreneurial ambition.

This week, BigChange has had the pleasure of attending four awards ceremonies. We didn’t win prizes at all of them, but it was enough to be nominated.

The buzz of being in the room, meeting other business owners, seeing your company’s achievements shouted from the stage, and – sometimes – picking up trophies and getting the opportunity to tell everyone in the room how proud you are of your team, it’s like nothing else. 

This is why I want to encourage all my fellow business owners to make the time to enter their business into as many awards programmes as they can. I know you’re busy. I know there’s always something more pressing to do. But if you really can’t spare an evening to fill out an application, pay someone else to do it. Or ask your marketing team to take on the task. 

At BigChange, we have won some wonderful awards over the years. Winning accolades creates a virtuous circle in business: awards help you wow prospective customers, and accelerated growth helps you win more awards. 

Every company will tell a prospective client that they are the best in their industry. But when you reach slide three in your presentation, listing 20 awards you have won, it proves that you truly are best in class: it’s more than just hot air. 

For leaders out there seeking investment, a whole cabinet of trophies can help attract better offers and partners. Some investors actively scour awards brochures for exciting companies. 

This week, I picked up our 2020 Queen’s Award for Enterprise – the pandemic meant that the ceremony was delayed a year. On Tuesday, at the GP Bullhound Northern Tech Awards 2021, BigChange was recognised as one of the Top 15 Fastest Growing Larger Technology Companies in the North of England Scotland and Ireland. These events have given me a platform to talk about BigChange on social media, and created positive engagement with our colleagues, customers and investors.  

I always tell my fellow entrepreneurs to get involved with awards. Even when I know they’ll be up against me – I enjoy healthy competition. But sometimes people will tell me they believe awards to be “vanity”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Is it vain to want recognition for a job well done? Or to seek an external perspective on your achievements? For me, the only vanity is paying to enter awards where the fee guarantees a prize. We never pay to enter competitions, and never would. We want to be judged on the strength of our credentials, not our ability to flash the cash. 

There has never been a better time to enter for business for an award. If you and your company are still standing after this strange and testing time in the world’s history, you deserve recognition for that. So, don’t delay, check out all the national, industry and local awards that fit your size and sector – you never know, even getting nominated could open doors for you and your business. 

World leaders have now gathered in Glasgow to debate and agree a united response to the climate emergency. There is a lot riding on COP26 – the fate of the world.

And yet, while our governments thrash out potential targets and goals, many business owners still have their heads in the sand.

The Institute of Directors today revealed that only a quarter of UK leaders have a fully formed plan for reaching net zero. The vast majority have made little or no progress. Less than three in 10 even measure their carbon emissions.

How can this be?

Back in the summer, I wrote about the role that business must play in tackling climate change . Entrepreneurs are brilliant at finding solutions to impossible problems – and the climate emergency is certainly that. But I also believe that the greener you are, the more viable and profitable your business will be. 

So, today, I want to lay down the gauntlet for all business owners. It’s time to stand up and be counted as the world moves towards net zero. This means having targets and a plan for reaching those targets. And these need to be decided now. 

I am not just talking to leaders of mid-size or large companies here. Even one-man bands need to be thinking about this. This is why I have been working closely with Business in The Community, The Prince’s charity, to extend membership options to small and even micro businesses, so that they can leverage the wealth of support and resources that the BITC offers companies moving towards a greener future.  

The UK is home to 5.5m small businesses, representing 99.9% of the business population, and accounting for three-fifths of employment. Small business owners will be pivotal in the battle for net zero. 

The Institute has found that just 16% of leaders have set a date for reaching net zero. I feel extremely proud that BigChange is one of these ground-breaking companies, and that we are on target to reach net zero by 2022.  

I know that it’s far easier for a technology company, which produces relatively low emissions, to make progress on this front. But we have also engineered our entire business model to save trees, reduce wasted journeys (thus saving fuel), and to cut speeding, which helps to reduce emissions. This year we have saved 60m sheets of A4 paper. That is roughly equivalent to 7,200 trees, or 1.5 forests through the use of our technology. . Our sole purpose is to improve lives by accelerating growth and sustainability in our community, partners and customers to become more sustainable and reach their own net-zero targets while helping them to grow and employ more people.  

But we still have further improvements to make. We believe that by adding even more features and functionality to our scheduling software, we can save even more wasted journeys and incorporate the Internet of Things into our system, so that connected machinery and systems can say exactly which part needs replacing, we’ll be able to reduce visits by engineers.

The Queen summed up the need for action in her COP26 address yesterday. “None of us will live forever. But we are doing this for our children and for our children’s children and those who will follow in their footsteps.” 

Tell me how you are planning to reach net zero. Let’s do this together.

After all his promises, this week’s Budget was something of a damp squib. Rishi Sunak tinkered with a few minor reforms and introduced a temporary boon to the hospitality, retail and leisure industries through a 50% business rates cut.

But you know what would help hospitality, boost worker morale, benefit the UK economy, and increase productivity? An end to the £150 cap on rewarding loyal team members with a company social.

I’m serious.

At BigChange, we usually throw two big parties each year for the whole team. These events are incredible for morale and help people across the business to meet and engage. We fly our people in from France and Ukraine, which makes everyone feel like they are part of a global organisation. It’s a wonderful way to give back to the loyal and talented individuals who make this company successful.

Last year, we weren’t able to celebrate with the team so this year, we would like to throw the Christmas party to end all Christmas parties.

Everyone is double-vaxxed. It’s as safe as it’s going to be in the near future. And people need to come together and look back over the past 18 months, to celebrate their resilience and endurance, and to look forward to a brighter future together.

There’s only one problem.

The government makes it punitively expensive to spend more than £150 per head on a party. That’s just £150 for the whole evening, which also includes VAT, taxis and overnight accommodation. We would be very lucky indeed to find a flight from Paris for that money.

If the cost per head goes over £150, by even a penny, then the whole benefit is taxable. Technically, this means the whole amount would then have to be reported on the employee’s P11D. Of course, the employer can choose to pay that back, through a PAYE Settlement Agreement.

This is absolutely ludicrous.

Why is the government making it so expensive for businesses like ours to reward our people? They have worked so hard, without any social events, for almost two years. They deserve more than a few bags of crisps and a bottle of plonk. Some businesses circumvent this rule by asking staff to contribute to the cost but we won’t do that. Instead we would shoulder the tax implications, which would double the cost of the party. Squaring that with any financial director would be challenging…

It’s time to ditch the cap on costs for staff social functions. Let UK employers give back to their people without penalising them. If you want to encourage people to keep giving their all, build camaraderie again after so long spent in isolation, and help support the mental health of our nation’s workers, this is the way to do it.

This is why I am creating a petition to ask Parliament and HMRC to scrap the cap.

Will you sign and help me, and countless other bosses like me, to show their teams how appreciated they are?

The world in 2021 looks very different to the landscape in 2019, doesn’t it? Things that used to denote success and financial freedom – fast cars, luxury clothing, holidays homes all over the world – now leave a sour taste in the mouth.

It has become impossible to ignore the many challenges facing the world right now, from the terrifying impact of climate change to the widening gap between rich and poor. 

I believe that this means modern leaders have a new and improved mandate: if you are successful, use it to help others and protect the planet.  

I have always been passionate about philanthropy. Charitable giving has been a cornerstone in all of my businesses, and I have always tried to drive positive change, whether that’s through convincing my colleagues to quit smoking, incentivising drivers to cut their speed, or supporting charities and social enterprises, both at home and abroad.  

Regular readers of this blog will remember that I wrote about the need to support charities last year: . The good news is that the Covid crisis has been a turning point for philanthropy. According to McKinsey, the global consultancy, some of the world’s wealthiest people doubled or quadrupled their pay-out rates last year, while others distributed 20% of their total assets, and others have committed as much as $1bn to COVID-19 relief But there is so much more that must be done.  

The NPC, the think tank for the social sector, counted over 7,440 charity redundancies in 2020  . As talent left the third sector, the people remaining were forced to concentrate on urgent crises, which meant that many vulnerable people could not access support. These charities need our time and money more than ever.   

I feel that it is my moral obligation, as a leader and entrepreneur, to do my bit. This year, I am proud to say that BigChange has supported several charities through donations and also my strategic support. Here are just a few of the causes we have backed this year: Business In The Community, the Yorkshire Children’s Centre, Recycling Lives, Transaid, Living Potential Care Farm, RNID and Speed Of Sight.  

When you’re busy building a business, it’s easy to put off charitable giving – you tell yourself you’ll sort it all out another day. But there’s no time to waste. I remember meeting Arnold Ziff OBE, the great philanthropist MHDSRIP, many years ago. He would see a problem and set about solving it straight away: it made him an unstoppable force in social and environmental change. He never stopped helping people, in any way he could, be it an introduction or a donation. . He became a legend here in Yorkshire.  

Arnold was the person who first convinced me of an important truth: What is the point of being successful if you don’t use that success to make a positive impact in the world?  

How could you help save the world today?

One thing that keeps every founder awake at night is: how are we going to maintain my company’s culture and momentum as the organisation grows? If you Google “How to maintain start-up culture”, you’ll see more than 16m results. Everyone is trying to solve this challenge but, suffice to say, there are no easy solutions. 

I remember, in early days of BigChange, how many late nights I spent in the office. Those were heady days: ordering pizza with my team as we burnt the midnight oil and sketched out audacious plans for the future. Now, eight years on, we’re a much bigger entity with almost 250 colleagues. We have managed to maintain our dynamism and commitment to growth, but I know the dangers of complacency. 

I recently posted that I was reading Michael Dell’s new book, Play Nice But Win. I just finished it and am so inspired by his drive and absolute determination to make Dell a global success. His work ethic has never wavered – and he started that business when he was just 21. Even during tough times, he just redoubled his efforts and managed to overcome every barrier. 

Over the years, I have seen many businesses flounder when they scaled from a small-to-medium-size to a larger entity. This means that I now know the mistakes to avoid. As you grow, you need to make sure you don’t lose your grip on the hiring process. It may be tempting to fill roles fast as gaps appear but every single individual that joins the team must be a) a team player, b) driven and enthusiastic and c) capable of giving 150% when the business needs it. 

When you start a business, the combined output of the team is astonishing. It is possible to keep finding those incredible and talented people as the business grows – but you have to take your time and really get to know individuals and, most importantly, promote from within. 

The leader must motivate, motivate and motivate some more. As soon as the people at the top lose their focus, the team will too. It’s so important to keep communicating the goals and being transparent about performance. People need to know where the business is going and how they, individually, will contribute to success. I love working with a galvanised team and that feeling of all being on the bus together. 

I’m writing this from America, where we are focused on building a business to rival BigChange in Europe. I feel like a start-up founder again, and it’s been so exciting to see our US operations blossom and flourish. Having ambitious plans for this part of the world has lit a fire in the whole team, and I want to keep stoking those flames. BigChange may be growing fast but I want this company to keep its entrepreneurial vigour, whether we are 200 people or 2,000.

“Turnover is vanity. Profit is sanity.” Most entrepreneurs will have heard these words at some point in their careers. It’s a cliché but, here’s the thing about clichés, they are usually right.

When you run a mobile workforce, as we do, and all our customers too, there are so many variables in play, which affect your profitability. From the cost of hiring new talent to the availability of parts, fuel prices to job scheduling efficiencies, it’s a delicate balancing act.

This is why BigChange has just conducted a major piece of research into the field service industry. We are obsessed with helping our customers to grow, and grow more efficiently and profitably than before, so it made sense to go out and ask people across the sector (not our customers; the pollsters Opinium found more than 500 business leaders outside of our network) about the things that are hampering their growth, reducing margins, or causing them sleepless nights.

The results are absolutely fascinating.

The report, “State of the Field Service Sector” found that these businesses are in the grip of a post-pandemic boom. Workloads are up 70% on last year, according to the leaders we polled. And prices are rising too, because of this demand, increasing 47% on average since July 2020. Yet, here’s the kicker. Fewer than half of the companies in this industry turn a profit. How can this be?

Many accrued significant debts during the repeated lockdowns of 2020. Some may have been hit by higher costs that they were unable or unwilling to pass on to customers. Others have been forced to increase wages to hold on to staff as the post-Brexit talent shortage continues to bite.

All of this means one thing: that while a significant proportion of field service businesses are growing, they are not growing sustainably. In fact, according to our research, one in eight is likely to go bankrupt within a year.

What can be done to support this vital sector, and prevent losses from spiralling out of control?

Call me biased, but I know that technology is the answer. Automation is absolutely key to modern enterprise. It not only helps to reduce the time is takes to complete jobs, it also helps engineers deliver a better service, and provides actionable insight into what is driving the value of your business.

Our report has found that customer experience is now the ultimate source of competitive advantage. Most leaders said good service now requires same-working-day fixes for reactive jobs (68%) and that customers be kept fully informed digitally (65%) – both must-haves can be achieved through smarter tech.

It is my heartfelt belief that an investment in the technologies that increases profitability is a no-brainer. There is no better way to spend your money. At a time when many business owners have cut spending – and some may even be sitting on significant cash piles – the opportunity to drive efficiency and optimisation like never before is now in reach. Cash in the bank earns zero interest. Investments in stocks and shares are highly volatile. Business leaders should back themselves and back their businesses through futureproofing technologies that really deliver.

I’m not trying to give you a sales pitch. Well, maybe I am. But it’s because I truly believe in the revolutionary power of technology to help Britain’s field service companies to thrive. So, tell me, would you like to be more profitable?

In 1986, I went to New York to work for a German bread bakery business. I was just 24. I fell in love with the Big Apple, with America, and loved helping to build Schripps from the ground up.

In the first year, I doubled the sales of the business. The following year, I worked for Fritz Pretzel, which had a pretzel store on 42nd Street in the Port Authority bus terminal. In 1989, I came back to the UK and set up a bakery business called Kroustie and had my first taste of entrepreneurial success.

I may have built a career in the bakery sector but, even as a twenty-something, I loved technology. I always dreamed I would go back to America, and build a technology business in the greatest, most competitive market in the world.

Well, here I am – I’m not going to tell you how many decades later – and I’m on the precipice of making that dream come true. I’m writing this from New York City, a place I used to call home. I’m here as a man on a mission. I’m meeting the business owners and forward-thinking managers who use BigChange – or would like to in the future.

Speaking to customers has always been – and will always be – the best part of my job, as founder of this company. I love hearing about their challenges and figuring out ways to help them. Nothing beats the look on someone’s face when you tell them you can save them time, money and frustration.

I know that we have created an exceptional platform in the UK and I want to make sure that our American customers feel the same way too, so it’s really important to me that I make each conversation count. We’re halfway there already, winning business here without even having a proper office or dedicated sales team. I’m also meeting potential partners who are keen to become BigChange resellers. This is a powerful way to grow in a new market, and it’s exciting to hear these people’s passion for our technology.

Later this week, I will fly to Boston to meet our investment partner, Great Hill. The pandemic has meant that, even though we did the deal six months ago, and were talking long before that, we have never actually met on US soil. Imagine that? Finally, we are going to sit down together, shake hands, and speak without the need for technology to bridge the gap. I’m also meeting Mike Profit, who joined our board as non-exec in June. He’s gained so much experience over the past 25 years, working with a staggering number of US technology blue chips and fast-growth start-ups. I have been looking forward to meeting him in person for the past three months, and finally we can really shoot the breeze, to borrow an American phrase.

It’s taken a lot of hard work from many different people to get me out here. It took three months to get the visa, and I would like to thank the Department for International Trade for all their help.

I hope that our US offering will formally launch in January 2022. I feel like a start-up founder again, creating this new business within BigChange. I can’t wait to see how big we could be here, and to begin spending more time here as we cement our position as a leader in our industry. I wish that my 24-year-old self could see me now.

September is here, and that means one thing: just four months to go till the end of the financial year for many businesses. 

This is a critical time for leaders. Summer is fading and, as we move into the final quarter of the year, the focus shifts to sales.  

The topic of ‘sales’ often gets lost in the business conversation. It is easy to get distracted by other compelling subjects: innovation, marketing, CSR, company culture. But let’s not kid ourselves, sales are the lifeblood of any business. Without customers, revenue and cashflow, a business could not exist.  

Did you know that Warren Buffett, Mark Cuban and Howard Schultz all started in sales? Learning about the power of selling, listening to customers, and reacting to their needs, helped these top CEOs to become the success stories they are today.  

This is why September can be an interesting time. The decisions you will make now, as leaders, will impact whether you finish 2021 on target, or whether you lose momentum and experience dips in productivity and sales.  

Performance in the fourth quarter does not only impact this year’s numbers, it sets the tone for 2022. Will you go into next year on the back foot? Or will you start the new year on a high, confident that you have increased market share and delivered on all your objectives? 

The good news is that, come September, most of your colleagues will have – hopefully – had a break. It is up to us, as leaders, to ensure that when colleagues come back to work from their holidays, they bring renewed enthusiasm and energy. We need our people to feel fired up by the fourth quarter challenge, not bogged down by the post-holiday blues.  

The good news is that the spectre of the Covid-crisis appears to be lifting. We are not out of the woods yet, but business confidence is rising, hitting a four-year high according to data released by Lloyds recently. This means that opportunity knocks. Many businesses have been in survival mode for the past 18 months but it’s time to change gear.  

At BigChange, we remain focused on the fundamental pillars of growth. We know that this strategy is working because a third of new business still comes in through referral, which means we have a lot of happy customers out there, singing our praises. As a business, referrals reduce the cost of customer acquisitions, which is great for cashflow too. We recently won a £250,000 contract when an existing customer recommended us to a sister company within the portfolio. I love the quote from Tony Hsieh, the visionary leader and former Zappos CEO, about this approach to sales success: “Chase the vision, not the money. The money will end up following you.” 

There are many ways to put the pedal to the metal when it comes to sales. Yes, incentives and ambitious sales targets can be useful, as can a greater spend on marketing (we find that shouting about our customers is the best approach) but we believe that nothing beats making improvements to your product or service for winning new business, retaining existing customers, and increasing upsell.

How are you going to make the most of the final few months of the financial year? Share your tips below.

There’s luxury and then there’s LUXURY. What really defines a luxury brand? Is it all about heritage? Is it about price? Store location?

For me, the thing that truly defines a luxury brand is exceptional customer service. When you have a Leeds accent and you walk into a department store in London and they treat you as though you’re the most important customer in the building, that’s a luxury experience.  

Luxury is not a stale, overpriced shopping environment where staff are disengaged, and customers are made to feel like they are unwelcome intruders. 

Last week, I headed into Central London to visit the iconic department stores Harrods and Selfridges. I can’t tell you how different the two experiences were. When I walked into Harrods, I felt like I was walking into a stately home. There were few customers, there was no buzz. Staff behaved as though we shoppers should be grateful to be allowed into the hallowed halls at all.  

When I went to Selfridges, it was a completely different story. The whole store was humming with activity. Staff couldn’t have been friendlier. I wanted to buy a new shirt but my favourite designer did not survive the pandemic, unfortunately. The staff took me to another concession, where they fixed me up in no time. I needed something altered and the guy there said, “No problem. I’ll have it for you in half an hour.” I’ve never experienced such incredible service in a retail environment.  

The store director, David Jarvis, was walking the floor to check that everyone was happy. I was so impressed by the quality of the service that I introduced myself to offer my congratulations. I like to give praise where it’s due.  

Harrods’ history goes back to 1849. The name is synonymous with luxury, and it remains the largest department store in Europe. Selfridges is also a venerable institution, opening its doors in 1908. Yet despite their illustrious heritage, they are completely different entities today.  

The lesson for me after that shopping trip was that a business can never rest on its laurels. Whether you’re in retail, finance or technology, customers expect a high-quality service; when we are disappointed, it is jarring. It doesn’t matter how old and established you are, even ancient reputations are not immune to modern headwinds.  

Harrods’ revenues hit £2bn before the pandemic. It is still a retail titan following the crisis with revenues of £1.04bn but growth will stall if it cannot tempt back shoppers, especially with international visitor numbers at record lows. Selfridges, in contrast, is clearly focused on growth, wowing visitors with a unique and fantastic experience. I know who I would put my money on to finish 2021 on a high. 

As BigChange grows and its reputation spreads across the globe, I know one thing for certain. I hope to become the Selfridges of mobile workforce management. Not the Harrods. 

People sometimes ask me what it takes to be successful in business. Of course, there is no simple answer to that question, no magic bullet. But I do believe that one of the most vital qualities you need in order to build a thriving business is patience.  

I know this goes against the grain. The stereotypical entrepreneur makes lightning-fast decisions based solely on gut feel, and lurches from deal to deal, pivoting his or her business to meet new customer demands. And there is an element of that. Especially in the very early days of start-up life. But the truth is: to achieve lasting success, you need a more measured and considered approach.  

The old saying goes: “Good things come to those who wait”. If you don’t give great ideas and new strategies time to blossom, you may never realise their true potential. If you act impetuously, you are also likely to lose the respect of colleagues, partners, funders and customers. It takes a long time to build a great reputation, and just seconds to destroy it.  

Patient leaders foster a more tolerant and productive company culture. This makes the business more attractive to new hires and reduces employee attrition. According to a 2020 by the Harvard Business Review, leaders who demonstrate patience can increase the creativity and collaboration of their team by 16% and their productivity by 13%  

As I get older, I have learned the value of patience. It doesn’t always come naturally to me. I must consciously slow myself down and force myself to take a breath.  

For any founders out there who are like me, and want to know how I have strengthened my ability to be patient over the years, here are my five go-to tactics: 

Make sure you have all the facts

Before making an important decision, I assemble all the available information. In my head, or on paper, I’ll review all the data that I have, and try to spot any gaps. That process slows me down because it takes time to thoroughly assess everything and find any missing information, and that naturally creates space for my subconscious mind to process everything and reach a better, more thoughtful decision.  

Have a game plan

I always try to have a plan in place when executing new strategies or pursuing goals. This helps me avoid distraction but also promotes patience because, by having a plan, you are less likely to rush. When I was growing BigChange, I knew I wanted to reach a valuation of £100m within 10 years. In the end, I achieved that far earlier but, perhaps, only because I had set my course so firmly in my mind that I never deviated. 

Let others shine

This is absolutely crucial in business: you have to let the talented people around you work their magic and fulfil their potential. That can take time. When you bring in brilliant people, they can’t always revolutionise a team or introduce a new revenue stream on day one. They must learn the values and culture of the business and figure out how they fit into the team. I have learned that by giving individuals time to get to know BigChange, they make a far bigger – and better – impact.  

Get comfortable with change

Sometimes, one of the reasons we become impatient is because of change, which is making us uncomfortable. This is a natural reaction: human beings seek out routine and can feel unbalanced when major changes are underway. But it’s important to fight the negative impulse to force ourselves back into our comfort zones. We have to give ourselves time to acclimatise to the new environment, accept that transformation is positive and necessary, and try to be patient as new changes take hold.  

Be kind

When you are impatient, you can spend a lot of time criticising yourself and others for not getting things done fast enough. Sometimes, a bit of this can encourage progress but often it does the opposite, reducing morale – yours and the team’s. Patience and kindness go hand in hand because you listen more, talk less, and focus on problem-solving rather than knee jerk reactions and accusations.  

Remember that patience is a skill that must be honed. It doesn’t come naturally to all of us so some will have to work harder at it than others. But the benefits are manifold: better business decisions; a strong reputation in your marketplace; increased tolerance; a happy team and great company culture. Slow down and make patience your priority today.

I’m on holiday this week. Yes, I actually did it! I took some time off. I’m down in London because my wife Mandy bought me a spa day at a swanky hotel for my birthday.

I went to have my massage yesterday. I thought I was going to relax for an hour and forget all about work; instead, life served me an extremely valuable business lesson.

Before my session, I tried to go for a shower. The only one available was broken. So I went to leave my things in the locker room and wrestled with one of the keypads for a few minutes before a lady came in and said, ‘Oh, don’t use that one. It does not work.”

“Right,” I thought. “This isn’t a very good customer experience.”

But then I had a massage, and the lady was excellent. Afterwards, I went for a pedicure and the gentleman who took care of me was exceptional. Then, finally, when I left, I got chatting to the receptionist, who was friendly and accommodating and made me feel so welcome.

Even though all the hotel’s attempts at automation had failed, the human interactions I had in that spa made the whole experience positive and uplifting.

It got me thinking about the power of automation – and the fact that the secret lies in knowing what to automate.

At BigChange, we have automated many of our processes. Take our sales team. Even though we have increased revenues over the past year, we haven’t increased the number of people it takes to do the sales admin because our technology does it for us.

When an order is created by a salesperson, they don’t have to touch a process after that: the BigChange system creates the contract, sends it out, generates the customer communications, orders any stock that’s needed, sets up the billing, and starts the onboarding process. But, if that customer has a question, they can pick up the phone and reach a human being immediately. The automation doesn’t extend to customer service.

These days, that’s rare. I’ve noticed that so many tech companies have taken all the phone numbers off their websites. Customers have to interact with bots and, if their query isn’t answered, they get siphoned into a complex and long-winded ticketing system. Our Roadcrew customer service is available to all our customers, and human beings are there to solve problems 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This is the other thing about automation: it should free up your people to do the high value tasks. But it shouldn’t be an enabler of Parkinson’s Law.

I was reminded about Parkinson’s Law this weekend when I read an article in the Sunday Times by James Timpson, CEO of nationwide key cutter Timpson I have been an admirer of James and his father John for many years. Their fantastic business model, and their ethical and pragmatic approach to leadership, are truly inspiring.

“Parkinson’s Law, written by C Northcote Parkinson in 1955, explains why ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’,” he wrote. “Using his experience in the civil service, he calculated that a department grows in size, on average, by 6 per cent a year. This isn’t due to more responsibility but simply people making more work for each other.

“Many business leaders, including me, have learnt about Parkinson’s Law too late in life. Covid forced us to dust off the book and start understanding how we can run a company with much lower overheads, without affecting the service we give our customers and colleagues.”

We must all guard against the effects of Parkinson’s Law in our organisations. Automation can be a catalyst for lethargy as well as action. This is why it’s so important to have a plan and to strive for efficiency in all the things we do. Many people talk about change and extol the benefits of automation – and then fail to take any action. Some people take action but fail to protect the human interactions their customers crave. Others automate, provide excellent customer service when it’s needed, and are thriving.

Let’s all make sure we stay firmly in the latter camp.

First of all, I’d just like to express my thanks to all the people who have sent well wishes over the past week. As any CEO will tell you, moving into a chairman role is exciting but also daunting – it’s a step into the unknown – so it means a lot to see so many of you reach out.

I’m now most of the way through my first week as a chairman of BigChange so I thought I’d share some observations. Hopefully, these will be useful whether you’re a CEO considering moving into a chairman role or you’re just interested in the dynamics of such a transition.

At the start of the week, I’ll be honest, I felt a little lost. I spent time with my incredible PA removing myself from recurring sales meetings and catch-ups. Suddenly, my diary was looking emptier than ever before. Change is always challenging. I am so used to being involved in the day-to-day operations that, at first, it felt uncomfortable to move into more of a supporting role.

But it’s only when you step back that you give the brilliant people around you room to step up and be their best. This week has confirmed what I already believed: that Richard, our new CEO, has everything it takes to lead the company day to day. I’ve really enjoyed watching him take the lead on everyday decisions, and I continue to be inspired and delighted by his passion for this business.

So, what am I doing with my time now I’m not booked into meetings from 8am till 8pm? I am preparing to go to the US to drive BigChange’s expansion across that vast and incredible territory. We are targeting an aggressive expansion through acquisition as well as organic growth, so I have been looking at various exciting companies out there. I hope to have something to announce imminently!

Making progress on my plans for the US hasn’t been entirely straightforward, however. I’m in the midst of applying for a US visa but my son tested positive for Covid last weekend so the whole family is self-isolating. Luckily, the world is used to conducting high-level meetings via Teams and Zoom these days, so I’m not letting quarantine slow me down.

One of the best things about moving into a chairman role is that I am able to be so much more strategic about my planning for BigChange. It’s taking some getting used to, but I’m shifting my focus beyond the next quarter’s sales targets to a longer time frame – the next two to five years. I am having conversations now that may only bear fruit in 18 months. It’s a thoughtful and interesting approach to growth that I’m learning to love.

Getting out of back-to-back meetings has other benefits too. I recently met an impressive entrepreneur who sold his media business and has become an angel investor. We had 30 minutes in the diary for a quick chat and we ended up talking for two hours. Two weeks ago, that would have been impossible. As a result, he was able to tell me quite a bit about his portfolio companies and their challenges. This far-reaching conversation may help steer our product development while also generating some new customers for our platform.

When I was looking at moving from CEO to chairman, I read a lot of research about what it takes to make this transition successful. Many people believe that it’s impossible to successfully move to a chairman role in a business that you founded. Never attempt the move until you’ve held at least three non-executive director positions to learn the ropes, said one. Well, you know me, I love an impossible challenge. Instead, I’ve been surprised at how easy it has been to adapt to a new way of working and a new set of responsibilities.

But I have taken some advice on board. Other entrepreneurs, such as Ben Jones, co-founder of Bitwala, have said that it’s really important to give yourself some downtime once you become chairman. It’s the only way to truly get perspective on the business and work out the best application of your skills and time day-to-day. So I have booked a fortnight’s holiday – my first break of that length for as long as I can remember. I’m really looking forward to enjoying that downtime and giving my mind time to wander and explore new ideas. Who knows, I may even be able to train myself out of sleeping just five hours a night on that trip… But I doubt it.   

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.

What were you doing when you were 18 or 19 years of age? Chances are, you were going to parties, spending time with friends, maybe studying or taking a junior role in the workplace. When James and Lloyd Barnes were that age, they were working seven days a week, growing their new business Venerable Tree Care. 

I met the brothers recently when they were working on some trees over the road from my house. We had some trees that needed cutting back, so I asked them to quote, and they came and did the work. Now, as you will all know, I love talking to people so I started asking them about their business, and their ambitions for the future. 

They impressed me so much with their drive, work ethic, and the quality of the service they provided (if anyone reading is looking for someone to help manage trees on their property, don’t hesitate to give them a call!). They took just three days holiday last year, working in all weathers. And, at 22 (James) and 21 (Lloyd) years old, they are so inspiring in their love for the environment and their commitment to help preserve ancient and beautiful trees. 

Here’s what happened when I sat down with James to ask him a few questions about their journey so far. 

Me: How did you get into tree surgery?

James: Both our parents are tree surgeons so we’ve been doing this from the time we could walk. It’s in our blood. We set up our company three years ago and it’s been pretty full-on since then. 

What kind of work do you like to do?

We chose the name Venerable because it means old and wise, and that’s how we see trees. We specialise in things like root improvement and tree science, and we love working on big, old trees. There are lots of generalist tree surgeons out there, but we do less of the felling and more of the preservation. 

What challenges do you face in business?

We have really struggled to find software that helps us to quote and send invoices effectively. The systems we have in place are really time-consuming – time we are not being paid for. We have been looking for one professional platform that takes care of it all, syncs with our calendar, and helps us look really professional to our clients. I’m hoping that BigChange can help us with that! 

Where do you get your drive?

Our parents were also self-employed from their twenties, so I think their drive has always pushed us forward, especially my mum, who is the most driven woman I’ve ever met. While all out friends were going off to uni, I was working down in London for minimum wage just to get experience doing this job before setting up the company. Lloyd and I just really love what we do. What’s better than being outside and climbing trees all day? 

What are some of your proudest achievements?

We did a job for Whixley Church a while back where they couldn’t get any machinery – cherry pickers etc – near a really old chestnut that needed work, so we had to do it all using a rope and harness. We have also worked for the National Trust, removing dead trees that threatened to fall on the greenhouse at Nunnington Hall. We’re really proud that we’re attracting these kinds of clients when the business is so young. 

What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

Definitely to buy machinery brand new. When we started out, to save money we spent our life savings buying everything second-hand. But the vans and equipment kept breaking down and there were no warranties, so it cost us a lot of money. We’ve learned to buy everything new on finance with warranties in place. That’s been our biggest lesson. That, and getting a good bookkeeper so you’re not trying to do everything yourself.  

It is so important to support the younger generation of entrepreneurs – especially go-getters like James and Lloyd. I am planning a shop floor day with the pair over the next couple of weeks to find out how I can help them to grow and succeed. If they’ll have me, I’d like to mentor them and pass on any advice or experience that can be of use. And yes, we are getting them started with the BigChange software this week. I know that our technology can help them grow sustainably, and cost-effectively, and I’m so excited for the bright future ahead of them.

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.


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 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.


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 . 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?


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. 


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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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