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In my last post https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/life-teenage-entrepreneur-martin-port, I talked about my first experiences as a teenage entrepreneur, finding my way in the world.

But that was only the beginning.

I think that a real turning point in my life was when I decided to stop working for my father and start a new life in America.

I was 24 at the time, and yearning for my independence. I wanted a clean break, so moving to the United States, where no one knew me, seemed like a good idea.

Providence helped me get there. I had a contact over in Germany who had a speciality bakery business. He asked me to go with him to sell his bread in New York.

So there I was, living in a small apartment next to the bakery in New Jersey. This was the making of me. I learned to keep a clean apartment, iron my own shirts, and be completely independent. I came out from my dad’s shadow. He was such a character and a well-known businessman… it was a relief to be able to just be Martin, rather than Jeffrey’s son.

I used all my sales skills to build up that business, and I ended up selling speciality German bread to some of the world’s most famous hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria, Plaza Hotel and even the United Nations Dining Room.

Hard work really does pay off. This was the lesson I learned back then. This was also the time when I learned to survive on just four hours’ sleep a night. It’s incredible what you can achieve during those extra hours.

Three years later, in 1989, I decided to come home and start my own bread business. I launched Kroustie in Leeds, and started making gourmet bread. We grew and grew, until we were supplying bread, patisserie and cakes to restaurants, hotels and delicatessens all over Yorkshire.

These were the days when most people were eating those mass-produced, plastic-wrapped loaves of Mighty White. Imagine what people thought when they tasted our gourmet rye and pumpernickel loaf? It went down a storm.

That business never went bust but it didn’t make much money either. I used to get up at midnight and work 18-hour days. It was relentless. But I just couldn’t get the right kind of scale into the business. I decided to sell Kroustie in 1998.

My BigChange came in 2002, I bought some hardware from a French firm and launched Masternaut, which helped customers with fleets to track vehicles. Masternaut became one of the fastest-growing businesses in the UK and a market leader. Then, five years ago, I started over again when I launched BigChange, which is an all-singing, all-dancing mobile workforce app and job management tool.

I’ve told the story of my early experiences as an entrepreneur to show others what can be achieved with a bit of determination.

Imagine you want to get a table at your favourite restaurant. You head there and see a queue going around the block. The manager says there are no tables. What do you do? I would always get the table. If someone says it’s impossible, I make it possible. Once this happens a few times it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’m a strange mixture of optimist and realist. I always think my ideas will fail, which forces me to work three times harder. That attitude keeps my feet on the ground. But I’m also really good at celebrating successes and appreciating the little wins.

Next week, I’ll share three most valuable lessons I’ve learned in business.

See you then.

All the best

Martin Port Signature
Martin Port
Founder & CEO

SES Home Services, who supply plumbing, heating, drainage and electrical services, has transformed its business with a 5 in 1 system to manage its field service operation.

As part of the same group as the local water company, SES Water, SES Home Services currently provides services to around 20,000 properties, covering Surrey and the surrounding counties.

The high-tech system from BigChange combines CRM, job scheduling and management reporting, with live tracking and mobile apps running on Samsung rugged tablets replacing paper job sheets and a raft of reports. Called JobWatch, SES Home Services believe the cloud-based system will provide the ideal platform for expansion of their business, potentially nationwide.

Peter Holmwood, Head of Operations at SES Home Services commented:

“BigChange has been a real revelation. We had previously tried to implement a system to replace our paper job sheets but it was too inflexible and costly. JobWatch is a completely different proposition and does everything we originally wanted plus a lot more. It’s not only more extensive, more adaptable and easier to use, but it is also much more affordable.”

Peter continued:

“The evidence is in the numbers. Previously we had one support person for three engineers. Now we have one support person for ten engineers. And the ratio of office personnel to engineers used to be one to one but it’s half that now. In fact we are probably doing 50 percent more work for the same amount of resource.”

SES Home Services provides home owners with insurance based annual maintenance contracts, as well as commercial landlords and social housing providers. With 35 mainly Gas Safe accredited engineers, SES provide routine servicing and emergency call out with a 2 to 4 hour response, 24/7 and 365 days a year.

Agents log incoming calls into the BigChange CRM with automated scheduling and resource allocation based on variables such as nearest location and engineer skill set. Jobs are then despatched to the engineers’ tablets that provide navigation, worksheets and apps for a variety of tasks such as daily vehicle inspections, landlord safety certificates and boiler commissioning checklists. With real-time vehicle tracking and work status reporting, customer services and management have around the clock visibility of the complete mobile operations.

Peter added:

“BigChange has not only eliminated paperwork and improved the accuracy of our records, we are now doing a lot of valuable data harvesting and analysis.”

He continued:

“This means we can look in detail at our performance and make continuous improvements, being able to accurately measure outputs before adapting. For example, the average time taken to complete jobs by type and by engineer and the failure rate of a particular part.

The engineers are really engaged with the system and provide valuable insight into how it can be applied to their working environment, better serving them and our customers. JobWatch has helped everyone across the business raise their standards and created a culture where people take responsibility for more than what it says on a job sheet”.

Peter explained:

“With JobWatch we have seen significant improvement in efficiency and productivity. It proved invaluable during the Arctic conditions that recently hit the country. We had six times the normal number of call outs and we could only cope because of JobWatch and its tracking system reducing the impact of travel time between sites.”

With the introduction of JobWatch as an always on, always available anywhere solution, the company realised that the business could be expanded freely, without the limitations of traditional IT systems.

“We are very excited about the prospects for the business now we have JobWatch. It’s like a blank canvas that provides absolutely no restrictions when we look at how we can develop the business. It offers the scope to freely expand geographically or by service,”

says Peter.

“And we are already looking at the web booking portal for landlords and the customer smartphone booking apps to offer all sorts of potential for the future.”

SES office

Both my mother and father worked day and night when I was a kid. People sometimes ask where my work ethic comes from, and it’s from them, 100%.

From the age of 10, I would be with them, travelling all over the UK. My dad ran an auction business, and we’d be in Glasgow one day, London the next. My mum worked as the cashier. It was a true family business.

Dad would put an advert in the Evening Standard, offering TVs for £5, fan heaters for 50p, and so on. Up to 1,000 people would come to these auctions, and bid for the goods. That was my introduction to the world of business: seeing my dad up on the rostrum, commanding the audience. He was a great showman.

My dad let me have a go selling a few lots. It was late in the day, so there were fewer people left in the room. I remember getting up on the rostrum, and learning the patter: “If you miss this, you will miss your way home…”

This is how I learned the basics about business: buy, sell, make a profit. It was also how I learned to be a salesman. At 14, I started my first business. My best friend and I bought a printing machine for £500 from Exchange and Mart, the old classifieds magazine. We bought some card and some pens and offered to print promotional flyers and goods for small businesses. We used to hop on the train and go to Leeds, Sheffield, Blackpool – all over, trying to convince restaurants and shops to buy from us.

We got some orders, came home, and tried to print the things. For people who don’t remember these old machines, you put the type into the jig, and the machine would warm up, the type would hit the foil, and the words would be stamped onto the card. But our machine was faulty from the start. The type would just melt onto the jig. It was a complete con. This was my first experience of what entrepreneurs now call “a barrier to growth”. It was also the moment I knew for sure that I was a salesman and not a manufacturer.

Instead, we took the orders to a printing company and had them made. The customers never knew about the faulty machine, which we eventually managed to sell back to the manufacturer. We ran that business for almost a year. We even had our own little office in Leeds. But the money wasn’t great and it wasn’t a business we could scale.

I left school when I was 15 and started working Saturdays at an upmarket menswear shop called Cecil Gee. Next, I moved to a high-end jewellery shop. Then I was a blue coat on the shop floor at Comet, the old electricals chain. All of these early experiences helped me to understand the customer, anticipate what they needed, and work out the best way to solve their problems.

That’s when I began working with my father full-time. This was during the Thatcher era, when imports were starting to flood into the UK and factories were stuck with loads of stock they couldn’t sell. Interest rates were as high as 15% in those days so companies would sell £500,000 worth of stock for £100,000 just to get some cash back in the business. This is where I learned the power of market forces, and how the economy can work with you or against you.

I learned a lot of entrepreneurial lessons in my early teens that stood me in good stead for the rest of my life. But it’s remarkable how often we have to remind ourselves to follow the basics. ‘Buy at one price and sell for a profit’ seems obvious, but when you have a new business, you often undervalue your services just to get the deal. I’m grateful to my parents for giving me an education in business from such an early age. I feel like it’s always been in my blood.

In my next post, I’ll talk about how I ended up going to America, and starting up my bread business – the first company I successfully sold. But for now, I would be grateful if anyone would share stories about being a teenage entrepreneur. What were the first lessons you learned in business? Did you have entrepreneurial parents, like mine, or did you learn everything for yourself?

Martin Port
Founder & CEO

Record quarter for BigChange. We are delighted to announce a record quarter for the company.

In the first three months of 2018, BigChange secured £4m in new contract wins, beating our previous record of £3m. We have won 50 new customers during the period and also generated significant repeat and renewal orders from our base of 700 customers.

Accelerated Growth

We are forecasting £11m turnover for the current financial year, based on our current growth trajectory. We will increase our customer base to 900 companies by the end of 2018. This will take our total number of subscribers to 23,000.

A diverse Customer base

BigChange has become a major player in the Transport, Service and Construction industries, as well as the Public Sector. Our customer base currently spans as many as 40 different sectors. On average, we deliver a return on investment of £15 for every pound spent.

The Technology

Our proprietary technology, JobWatch, is used for sales and marketing, customer relationship management, operations (including stock and asset management), contract management and smart scheduling of jobs and appointments. Our powerful back-office app allows customers to streamline their operations and go paperless.

Our Vision

We will give our customers the tools to grow and collaborate with other ambitious companies. Through our network, customers will use JobWatch to find partners, work together on projects, extend their geographic reach and outsource jobs. With JobWatch, you can track the appointments, jobs, deliveries and collections in real time, providing true control and transparency. We believe we have created the Uber of job scheduling and service collaboration.

Shop Floor Days

Big thanks to all our existing customers, who have supported us over the last five years. At BigChange, we make a point of spending time on the road with our clients’ engineers and drivers, finding their pain points, offering pro-tips, and taking product-insight back to the office. In the last three months, I have held Shop Floor days with a number of customers, which I have delivered invaluable insights. I’m grateful to all involved.

BigChange People

Our team have worked tirelessly to support our incredible growth. We now employ over 70 people between the UK and France. We strengthened our leadership team with the appointment of Andrew Scully as Managing Director, Mike Buck as Operations Director, Charlie Bartfield as Sales Director, Alex Epstein as Chief Marketing Officer and Matt Ashworth as Deputy Chief Technology Officer. We also promoted many team members and introduced lots of new talent to the company. All our employees are BS7858-certified.

Expansion Overseas

We are excited about opening our offices in Ireland and the United States. We’ll share more on these exciting developments as they happen.

Latest BigChange platform Developments

Our Lab Development Team has been hard at work developing new features, such as Collaboration, where two separate companies can work together to fulfil jobs. The tool enables companies to divide the task of booking and scheduling jobs, health and safety, and workflow management, all under their own bespoke templates. We also launched our new on-demand booking app and built new solutions for sales automation and consignment tracking.

Quality & Data Management

Our team has been working hard on achieving ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 including General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) developing all the features in readiness for this important new legislation.

Industry Workshop

Our first workshop for the Plumbing and Heating Industry was a great success, and we will announce further dates for the other industry sectors that we work with.

Awards

We won the Northern Star Award 2018 sponsored by GP Bullhound and Tech North. We were chosen by Tech City UK to feature in the Future Fast 50 technology companies to watch. We were also racked the 11th fastest growing Tech Company in the North and Scotland.

Exhibitions

We look forward to seeing you at the following expos during the next three months: Commercial Vehicle Show 2018 24th to 26th April, NEC Birmingham. Field Service Management Expo 2018 19th to 21st June, London Excel & Housing 2018 26th to 28th June, Manchester Central.

Watch Nic Hamilton race in the Renault Clio Cup this weekend 7th and 8th April

We have two pairs of tickets available to watch Nic Hamilton (brother of Lewis) race this weekend at Brands Hatch in rounds 1 and 2 of the Renault Clio Cup. If you would like to attend, please email your details to info@bigchangeapps.com now! We have tickets for the whole race season, and we’ll be in touch soon with information on how you can apply for tickets for the other rounds.

Motivational Monday

So far this year, we have welcomed Toyah Wilcox, Holocaust Survivor Arek Hersh, Children’s Charity The Kirsty Club and our Brand Ambassador Nicolas Hamilton. This month we have lined up Fabrice Muamba former Bolton and England player to speak about his past and how he dealt with his BigChange after his heart stopped beating for 78 minutes during a football match at Tottenham Hotspurs.

Corporate Social Responsibility CSR

We are proud to have expanded the network of charities supported by BigChange. We now donate to more than 10 organisations. We also are Corporate Members of Business In The Community, Brake and Transaid. I have personally visited Zambia with Transaid and saw for myself the incredible work done on the ground fighting malaria in Serenje with Mothers and Children and the Driver Training School in Lusaka.

Martin Port Signature
Martin Port
Founder & CEO

Bobst, the global packaging equipment and services company, has introduced the latest mobile workforce management technology from BigChange to improve its customer service offer.

The app-based system has eliminated traditional paper timesheets and Bobst Technicians and product specialists now manage all work activities and travelling time on their smartphones. The workforce app links in real-time to the BigChange cloud-based back-office management software that handles everything from work scheduling and routing, to fleet tracking and machinery safety alerts.

Thirty Bobst personnel operating across UK, Ireland and Scandinavia, are using BigChange-equipped smartphones. The introduction of electronic timesheets has boosted customer service for Bobst, as well as saving considerable time and ensuring quicker, more accurate invoicing. Previously they completed paper carbon-copy-type timesheets that were posted to the office by the field service personnel and manually transcribed by a team of three people, prior to invoicing.

Alan Letford, Head of Customer Services at Bobst UK and Ireland Ltd commented:

“The introduction of the BigChange system to replace paper-based processes has had a significant and far-reaching impact across the business and especially in customer service,”

Alan continued:

“We now have up to the minute, accurate data reporting, with Time sheets signed-off by customers on the app. That means we can send an immediate confirmation to the customer and raise an invoice straight away.”

“Timesheets and job-cards are automated saving a huge amount of time. Previously it could take up to three weeks to get an invoice processed; now it is pretty much instantaneous. There is less ambiguity now and invoice disputes have been reduced as everything is much clearer from a customer perspective.”

Bobst Technicians all drive company cars and BigChange incorporates vehicle tracking giving customer service teams a real time view of the whereabouts of all the company fleet. Soon customers will receive automated notifications on the expected arrival time of their Technician. The tracking also allows business versus personal mileage to be recorded at the touch of a button and monitors driving behaviour from a duty of care perspective when on the road.

With Technicians maintaining equipment at customer sites, health and safety is an important aspect of the customer care provided by Bobst UK and Ireland Ltd. Alan Letford is also Head of Health and Safety at Bobst and has taken a lead in introducing safety procedures. Recently accredited as an Alcumus ‘Safe Contractor ‘member, Bobst has developed health and safety functionality within BigChange. This allows Field Service Technicians to send confirmation using the correct PPE, Risk assessments and any identified safety issues – such as a serious Health and Safety machine defect – direct from their smartphones. The system requests sign-off with a customer signature on-screen and then triggers an automated advisory letter.

Alan Added:

“It would be fair to say BigChange has revolutionised our customer service and given us a really useful tool to support our health and safety accreditation. It’s fantastic that BigChange is so easy to use and simply available on a standard smartphone or tablet.”

“We are currently the only Bobst Customer Care centre to introduce electronic timesheets and the team at BigChange have been very responsive in enhancing their software to meet our needs”.

BOBST BigChange Van

This is problematic. It sells a lie to the brave people who take the plunge. They are deceived on so many counts: how easy it is to raise money/how quickly you can make a profit/the effort it takes/the toll it takes on your personal life.

I’m in my fifties now, and have started doing a lot of mentoring and events with start-up founders. Many of the people I meet had a rude awakening when they quit their jobs to go it alone.

No one told them about the sleepless nights, the family struggles, the chancers and snake oil salesmen you meet along the way. Not to mention all the weight you pile on when you don’t have time to exercise or eat properly.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some amazing and honest people telling incredible stories about the life of a business owner but I think there should be more. And you know what they say: if you want something done, you need to do it yourself.

I’ve decided to start posting regularly about my world – the highs and the lows. This won’t be polished or high-minded stuff. It will be a warts-and-all account. But I will make sure someone checks my grammar and punctuation because I’m not so good with letters. Dyslexia diagnosis in my day wasn’t the well-oiled machine it is now. Maybe that’s what I’ve got, who knows? At least I’ve always been good with numbers.

I like to think that my perspective is a bit unusual because I’m not like everyone else. I’m on my third successful business. I’ve lost 70% of my hearing, which has posed some real challenges in my life. I’m outspoken about my Jewish faith. I’ve made every mistake in the book and I’m old and wise enough now to know what I could have done differently. I’ve also learned many of my lessons about leadership and entrepreneurship from some very unusual places…

If this sounds like it could be up your street, please follow me. I welcome all your comments and thoughts. I’d particularly like it if any budding entrepreneurs out there would like to ask me any questions. I’m still very much in the thick of building my business, BigChange, which is now five years old, but I will try and find the time to answer as many as I can.

For now, happy Passover. I’ve been eating a lot of celery at my desk this week. Check back soon for my first post.

All the best

Martin Port Signature
Martin Port
Founder & CEO

A ground-breaking technology deal has seen Leeds-based BigChange confirm a five-year commitment to IoT connectivity provider Wireless Logic Group worth initially in excess of £1.5m with a projected value towards £4m by 2020.

BigChange provides a paperless way to plan, manage, schedule and track any mobile workforce with a seamless solution for managing the entire operation from quote all the way through to invoice. As a 5-in-one Mobile Workforce Management platform, it combines a customer booking appcloud-based back-office CRM and job scheduling, a rich mobile app for the driver or engineer combined with real-time vehicle tracking – easy and intuitive to use, customise and implement.

A fundamental component to the BigChange platform is its ability to communicate in real-time, sending and receiving mission-critical data securely. This is achieved through Wireless Logic’s private infrastructure overlay across the cellular networks, delivering a tailored 3G/4G solution for BigChange mobile devices UK-wide. The deal signed between both organisations will see a shared commitment to roll out an additional 40,000 subscriptions with an expected turnover in excess of £40m by 2020. Today, clients include HSS Tool Hire, Silentnight Beds, Morrison Utility Services and Sheffield City Council.

Commenting on behalf of BigChange Apps, Martin Port – Founder and CEO said: “As a relatively fledgling player in the mobile workforce solutions market, our growth has been dramatic. Working with partners like Wireless Logic Group give us the confidence to deliver an unrivalled end-to-end connected platform with built-in resilience and value. In demonstrating our commitment to them, we look to the future with confidence as we seek out further UK opportunities and develop more openings overseas, particularly within the lucrative US-based market.”

Speaking on behalf of Wireless Logic Group, Oliver Tucker – Co-founder and Group CEO said: “Our partnership with Martin and his team has followed on from working alongside him at his previous organisation – Masternaut. In just five years, our journey with BigChange has seen the full implementation of the Wireless Logic connectivity platform with double digit growth year on year. BigChange’s approach to the market is to fill a much-needed gap for flexible and rapid deployment mobile workforce management tools. Our experience in tailoring connectivity and infrastructure solutions is helping the BigChange team to develop highly competitive connected eco-systems with innovation and customer focus at the heart. This is significant business for us at Wireless Logic and we are excited about the huge potential as the application is rolled out to further countries. Already we are trialing a number of global cellular solutions which will form part of a one-stop secure connectivity platform for BigChange’s customer base.”

About Wireless Logic Group

Europe’s leading independent M2M (Machine to Machine) and IoT (Internet of Things) platform provider, Wireless Logic Group works with thousands of application providers, systems integrators and enterprises delivering a portfolio of services including tailored management platforms, private network infrastructure and specialist mobile, satellite, fixed line and low power wireless area network (LPWAN) connectivity. All services are supported by a team of multi-disciplined personnel including technology development, consultancy and client management.

Founded in 1999 by CEO Oliver Tucker and CSO Philip Cole, Wireless Logic is backed by CVC Capital Partners (www.cvc.com). The organisation’s European headquarters are located in Hurley, Berkshire UK with country offices in Denmark, France, Germany and Spain.

For more information, visit www.wirelesslogic.com

About BigChange

BigChange by name, BigChange by nature! BigChange is an established force in mobile workforce management, offering a system that transforms the way companies manage their mobile operations. JobWatch from BigChange is the paperless way to plan, manage, schedule and track any mobile workforce. This powerful all-in-one Mobile Workforce Management platform combines back office software, mobile apps, fleet management and real-time vehicle tracking in one simple to use system. Using JobWatch, customers can manage their entire operation, from quote all the way through to invoice.

For more information, visit www.bigchange.com

Martin Port Signature
Martin Port
Founder & CEO

At the end of March, four long-term supporters of Transaid embarked on a self-funded trip to Zambia to visit our projects, meet our partners and learn more about what Transaid is doing to transform lives through safe, available and sustainable transport.

Mike Daly, Transaid Ambassador and Clipper Non-Executive Director; Chris Dolby, Head of Talent development at XPO Logistics; Martin Port, Founder and CEO of BigChange; and Alan Thornton, Commercial Director of W H Malcolm, were joined by Freelance Journalist Ian Norwell, and were welcomed to Zambia by Transaid’s Chief Executive, Caroline Barber, Corporate Partnerships Officer, Jade Ashby, and Project Manager, Victor Simfukwe.

Martin Port explained the rationale of organising such a trip: “BigChange are a corporate partner of Transaid and as part of our close ties with the charity I decided I wanted to view all the great work the organisation does to save lives in Zambia.”

Together, the group made the 14 hour round trip from Lusaka to Serenje, where Transaid is working alongside a consortium of partners and the Zambian Ministry of Health to tackle severe malaria in children aged under six years old, by improving access to a new World Health Organisation (WHO) approved drug, rectal artesunate (RAS).

In Serenje, the group were able to meet with a range of stakeholders: the District Health Management Team, local health facility staff, community health volunteers, emergency transport scheme (bicycle ambulance) riders, traditional leaders, and community members, including families whose children have survived severe malaria thanks to timely access to RAS and the injectable form of artesunate.

“It was truly humbling, touching and extremely powerful to see the impact that the work is having on the people living in very remote and hard to reach communities,” commented Chris Dolby.

On returning to Lusaka, the group were introduced to Transaid’s road safety and professional driver training programme, delivered in partnership with the Industrial Training Centre (ITC). Here, they were invited to celebrate the formal handover of a training vehicle, donated by W H Malcolm, alongside all ITC staff, board members, students, trainers and the Zambian Ministry.

“W H Malcolm is delighted to be able to donate a truck to the ITC. Personally, I have been overwhelmed by the response from everyone at the ITC and feel privileged that this vehicle will have a positive impact on road safety in Zambia, reducing the number of incidents on the roads.”

Transaid’s corporate partners are crucial to our work. Without their support, whether that is financial, the donation of vehicles, the secondment of staff overseas or providing guidance, Transaid would struggle to achieve everything it does. We are delighted that some of our supporters were able to see our work on the ground.


Martin Port
Founder & CEO

BigChange

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