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You sacrifice a lot when you decide to build a start-up. Money. Time. Sleep.

Over the last few years, it has been a relief to see more coverage of the mental and physical toll that creating a business can take on you. It feels like a stigma is being slowly eroded, and entrepreneurs are more able to discuss issues such as loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

In some ways, I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’ve built several businesses over the years, and managed to hold on to my sanity and good humour throughout. But I do have one vice. One that poses a real risk to my health.

When I’m under pressure, I eat.

The first five years of building BigChange were a total rollercoaster. First I had the idea, started raising capital, and built a business. Pretty soon, I started running out of cash, which meant I had to go out and raise more money, all the while accelerating sales to stay afloat.

During that crazy period, there were times when I was unsure how I would make payroll. We’d buy in new hardware, and it wouldn’t be quite right. And despite all these problems, I had to maintain my energy levels. I worked hard and stayed late at the office.

I started over-eating to cope. It creeps up on you. First, you eat to stay awake. Then, as you get more tired, you feel hungrier. Over the last five years, I’ve put on four stone.

Carrying around all that extra weight is horrible. You feel uncomfortable. When you wake up in the mornings, you’re sluggish: you don’t feel ready for the day. I developed mild sleep apnoea, which can affect people who are overweight. This means that while sleeping, your breathing becomes irregular and your brain can be starved of oxygen. This, of course, made me feel even more tired, and my concentration was affected.

“Go on a diet!” It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Every day, you plan to start eating more healthily but then an issue arises, and you order two main courses at dinner. Or you take a prospect out for lunch, and eat the whole breadbasket. I just love bread.

Plate of Food

When my blood pressure started to rise, my wife and children had enough. They were on at me constantly to sort out my weight. I felt like Aunt Marge, the woman who Harry Potter accidentally inflates in The Prisoner of Azkaban. I was ready to float away.

Then, at the end of December last year, I finally decided to start my regime. I set myself the challenge to lose 60lbs in six months. I started a JustGiving page and pledged to donate £60 for every pound lost to Cancer Research. Other people started sponsoring me too. Every donation helped to focus my mind on my goal – I didn’t want to let anyone down.

Martin's Diet food

Right now. I’ve lost over 30lbs and raised £2,813 plus gift aid for charity. I’m delighted to say I’ve lost 4 inches off my waist. I’ve also got bags more energy and feel great.

It’s going to take me much longer than six months to hit my goal but I hope I’ll be my target weight by the end of this year.

I lost the weight by using a meal-tracking app called MyFitnessPal. I promise I’m not being paid to say this, but it has transformed my life. My daughter told me about it, and it’s helped me stick to my target of no more than 1,500 calories a day. Friday nights are hardest because we keep the Sabbath and have a big dinner. I break bread but skip the roast potatoes – and only fresh fruit for dessert!

Every start-up founder ends up punishing themselves in some way. Some smoke, some drink too much. I’m grateful I’ve never drunk alcohol – although I’m partial to the occasional cigar. Eating became an addiction for me, and I’m so proud that I’ve regained control. I hope this post is helpful to other over-eaters, who use food to deal with stress. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

If anyone fancies sponsoring me, as I continue to shed the pounds… it’s for a good cause. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/martin-port

I’ll keep you updated.

Sharing this post is another way of holding me to my promise.

Thanks for reading, and take care.

Martin Port Signature
Martin Port
Founder & CEO

I had a tough day last week. I received a critical email from a member of the team. It’s the only downside of having an “open-door” policy… people will genuinely tell you what they think!

The team member made a number of observations about how I could be a better boss. It’s never easy to hear people outline your flaws – especially when you don’t necessarily agree with them all.

One of the points was about how I show appreciation for a job well done. Whenever a member of the sales team signs up a new customer, I whoop and dance around the office. It’s something I’ve always done. “Why don’t you do that when a RoadCrew Customer Service or implementation member gets praise?” I was asked.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to take criticism on the chin. Back when I was growing my last business, Masternaut, the economy turned. We made it through the 2008 banking crisis, but we needed to reduce headcount. Out of a team of 220, we had to lose 50 people. It was tough.

Needless to say, employees weren’t happy, and weren’t shy in telling me that morale was low and people had lost motivation. To try and tackle the issue, I brought in a neuro linguistic programming (NLP) expert, who worked wonders.

NLP helps you retrain your brain to aid communication and resolve conflict. I sometimes wonder if I should appoint a company doctor here, an expert to act as a middleman and hear gripes from both sides and help to resolve them – without me getting any critical emails. As much as I hate to admit it, I always learn a lot from criticism.

I don’t think I can stop dancing round the office when we make a sale. I’m like the Premiership footballer who gets carried away in the moment. You shout at the TV, asking, “Why did you lose control?!” The answer is passion. The adrenaline takes hold and I just want to dance. That same passion drives me when something goes wrong. It motivates me to solve every problem.

But that email showed me that I need to work on how we praise people who don’t work in sales. Many organisations struggle with the resentment between sales and the rest of the company. The sales team may get the orders in but everyone else has to deliver the work, yet they have the big salaries and nice holidays. Maybe we should buy a company sports car and let the Star of the Week drive it around… Could that work?

As an entrepreneur, people will always be your greatest strength, but they may also be your biggest weakness. We are all human. I’m trying to learn how to cope with criticism. I’ve learned that I can take anything as long as it’s delivered face to face. I can’t stand it over email. I’ve also learned that I need to be better at communicating some of the pressures that I face. Perhaps, employees will go easier on me if they know all the things I am juggling each day.

I emailed all my team asking them to arrange a 20-minute chat with me by booking a slot. There is nothing better than a face-to-face meeting. It is so much better than emails, telephone calls and second-hand conversations via other parties.

Let me know what you think and thank you for reading.

All the best

Visit my website

Martin Port Signature
Martin Port
Founder & CEO

Paul Clark Services Ltd (PCS), the No 1 provider of specialist engineering support services, is deploying a 5 in 1 system from BigChange to transform the management of its field service operations.

Combining computerised job scheduling with real time tracking and a series of mobile apps, PCS plan to use the cloud-based JobWatch system to replace existing software and paper-based systems.

PCS has a team in excess of 120 engineers servicing mainly the bus and coach industry and the company is a ZF UK Service Partner and supports Cummins UK, providing diagnostics, servicing and repair and replacement services. The Wiltshire-based company also provide bespoke engineering support to bus and coach manufacturers such as Wrightbus and Alexander Dennis.

PCS currently has 30 engineers equipped with tablets as part of a phased implementation that is expected to see a complete switch in the near future. JobWatch offers a wide range of apps to eliminate paper work sheets, time sheets and vehicle inspection reports. The mobile apps are all linked in real time to the BigChange back office management software that offers a management complete solution for tasks such as asset management, job scheduling and customer service.

PCS commented:

“BigChange will help play its part in supporting the business”.

“We provide around 5500 to 6000 hours of engineering support each week with customers all over the UK. Managing all Paul Clark Services mobile engineers to ensure the right person gets to the right place on time takes an enormous amount of time and we knew we had outgrown our existing systems.”

Most of PCS engineers are dedicated sub-contractors which made the BigChange solution very appealing to PCS. As a cloud-based system, PCS engineers can immediately access the JobWatch apps anywhere anytime using their own devices. Live tracking also means that the PCS office has full visibility of their movements including arrival and departure from site times.

PCS commented:

“With the apps we have real time and accurate information coming back and we can send jobs automatically to an engineer rather than having to call them”.

“We can see that the BigChange solution will dramatically change the way we work by replacing the present manual systems. By eliminating paperwork and switching to app based scheduling and reporting, we will see significant business administrative improvements. That means we’ll be able to expand freely and focus more time on delivering the best service.”

PCS engineers are using their devices for daily checks on their vans, eliminating paper reports. They can also capture time-stamped photographs that are linked to the inspection reports and can be used to record any incidents.

Paul Clark Service

Your customers already use apps everyday to book everything from taxis to takeaways.

Now they can book your services in seconds, with the new on-demand booking app from BigChange. It’s here for all services and all sectors, whether you serve businesses or consumers at home. Begin your own on-demand revolution today!

Want more? Our latest video, Happy Customers; Happy Business is now also available to watch on YouTube.

Over the years, I’ve met lots of senior executives who want tracking technology installed in the commercial vehicles driven by their employees – but refuse to have it in their own car.

They want to slash fuel bills and insurance premiums by ensuring their drivers and engineers are tracked but they see themselves as above it all. It’s terrible.

I have been working with Brake, the road safety charity, for over 12 years. First at Masternaut, the company I sold a few years ago, and now at BigChange. I’m proud to be a corporate member, and raise money for the charity through initiatives like Drive for Life, the world’s largest safe driving competition, which I created eight years ago. It monitored the driving habits of 50,000 drivers – a world first.

I recently attended a Brake charity event at the Houses of Parliament. It was an incredibly moving evening. We heard about the special officers who are despatched by the police to inform families that their loved one has died in a road traffic accident. They have to comfort the bereaved, it’s a tough job.

Jesse Norman, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Transport, spoke at the dinner. As he finished his speech, I raised my hand and said I wanted to ask an important question. He asked if it could wait but I just keep on going, and said, “Why aren’t you or the health and safety executive making sure that company bosses fit tracking devices to their vehicles to set an example to the rest of their employees, and promote better driver behaviour?”

Direct Line Presentation

He took me by surprise when he agreed with me. He said, “You’re exactly right, we need to start at the top.”

At BigChange, we track the driving habits of 20,000 drivers across the UK. I’m acutely aware of my responsibility, as the founder of this business, to make a difference. I have it in my hands to promote safe driving and save lives.

At least a third of road deaths and a quarter of serious injuries are from crashes involving someone driving for work – whether it’s a company car driver, a professional driver of a commercial vehicle, or someone driving their own vehicle on company business. This is why every single one of our company vehicles has a tracker, and every person who claims mileage as an expense has to be tracked by our system. I’m on the system, even when I’m driving my wife’s car, and my profile is open to view – you can watch me driving around later today.

Each month, we name and shame the worst driving member of the team, and encourage them to improve. We also have an award for the best – and most improved – driver. Next month, launching Driving BigChange, and hope to have around 25,000 customers signed up to the initiative. We’ll measure their driving for six months and announce the winner in December.

Campaigners to slow down
I’m also planning to launch the BigChange “Leaders for Life” Campaign, company directors and bosses who will compete to beat their peers at being the safest boss on the road. It’s about creating a group of ambassadors who can set an example. Unlike the executives who just want to reap the financial benefits of a tracker, these enlightened leaders want to help save lives.

I can’t stress enough how important this cause is to me. If we get this right, there is the potential to make the roads so much safer. Thanks for reading and get in touch if you’d like any more information about Brake or the work we do with the charity.

All the best

Martin Port Signature
Martin Port
Founder & CEO

BigChange. The name of my company is no accident. What’s the point of aiming small? I want to make a big difference in this world, and I’m not shy about telling everyone about it.

I created this company five years ago, so BigChange is now moving beyond start-up to become an established business. It’s time for us to move into the next phase of growth. Today, I’d like to tell you about realising my vision for the company in the first 5 years of trading. Safe to say, it is a game changer.

My ambitious plan for BigChange was to build collaboration into our technology. Imagine that you run a plumbing company in Scotland. Your local customers love you and want to work with you on a nationwide basis – but you don’t have the resources to take on contracts in Wales or down in London. Through BigChange, you can now collaborate with other plumbing companies in other areas, and sub-contract out the work.

Collaboration BigChange

Our JobWatch technology not only allows companies to allocate jobs to their partners, it also tracks all the paperwork, monitors issues like health and safety, takes care of billing and scheduling, and updates all parties on the progress of the jobs in real time, giving a sense of control and transparency.

I can’t overstate the potential of something like this. Small businesses can act like big companies – at the touch of a screen. They can reach almost unlimited scale, bolting on other services and growing their empires. Think of the savings in travel costs if you could subcontract out work at the other end of the country?

Virtual companies could be created, which draw on the expertise of other firms, and use their sales and marketing expertise to grow and thrive. Just imagine, the next Uber could be created this way – after all, Uber doesn’t actually own any taxis.

UK Businesses

We could help UK businesses to expand overseas using this system – something that many entrepreneurs may find useful post-Brexit. You could find a contractor in Australia for your customer and watch the job being done in real-time.

In the past, collaboration like this has been bogged down in paperwork, email and endless phone calls. The mist falls over Paper Town and it’s hard to know what’s going on. With JobWatch, it’s all clear and paperless, and your partners appear like an extension of your own firm. Your customers even see the same screen if they log into the booking portal to check which jobs have been done. Your partner company invoices you, and you invoice your customer as usual – all through BigChange. Easy.

We don’t charge our customers anything extra to collaborate, but we benefit because we believe that the collaboration feature will encourage more customers to join us. That’s the beauty of a business like this: by focusing on making our customers more successful, we succeed too.

All the best

Martin Port Signature
Martin Port
Founder & CEO

Martin Port Visitor Website

LOOS FOR DOs, the multi-award winning supplier of toilets and showers for outdoor events, has seen its business grow exponentially since introducing a new 5 in 1 mobile management system from BigChange.

The cloud-based system links a series of mobile apps to back office management software applications including asset management, live trackingjob scheduling and routing.

Formed in 2002, LOOS FOR DOs provide portable event toilets and shower trailers to major events such as the Farnborough Air Show, the London Marathon, Victorious Festival and even Royal Weddings. Last year the company hired over 19,000 portable toilets and supplied 124,656 loo rolls; enough loo roll to stretch from their head office near Alton, Hampshire to Mecca in Saudi Arabia!

Nicky Warner, Director, LOOS FOR Dos commented:

“At the start we were managing everything with a white board and Post-it notes.”

“We looked extensively for a system that could handle the complexities of our business. The BigChange solution proved to be not only the most comprehensive but the most modern with an easy-to-use drag and drop design.”

With 30 full time staff and additional contract drivers for the events season, LOOS FOR DOs has over 1200 moveable assets which are managed using the BigChange system. The company does not shy away from taking on the most logistically challenging jobs such as festivals for 85,000 people spread across large sites to marathons, where LOOS FOR DOs deliver over 300 toilets to multiple locations along the route as the sun rises.

Warner explained:

“We have become the specialists in events which have particularly complicated logistical requirements”

“Without BigChange we simply could not handle the complexities with the resources we have. JobWatch allows us to manage the whole operation in real time and adapt quickly when things change. And events are by nature chaotic so having a flexible real-time system really makes our lives a lot easier when things do not go as planned.”

“The JobWatch mobile apps can be easily configured to handle every conceivable task and type of equipment and with seamless, real time connection with job scheduling and route planning, it really is a dynamic all-in-one management solution.”

Considerable pre-planning is needed for events and the BigChange scheduling software is used to plan asset allocation, delivery, servicing and collection. Once the job starts LOOS FOR DOs drivers, installation and service teams manage their tasks using JobWatch on their tablets or smartphones. The tablets clip into cradles in the vehicle to provide GPS navigation to the destination – using map coordinates rather than post codes for precise locations.

Warner commented:

“For customer service, the system is proving to have huge benefits. It’s not just that we can ensure a more reliable and adaptable service with minimal invoice disputes, but there are nice touches that boost customer appreciation and the retention of their business”.

“For example, we send the customer a message when their equipment is on route and when it is likely to arrive. And since the customer service team can track a vehicles’ progress, customers are called if there is a delay. We now get very few calls from customers asking where their delivery is.”

JobWatch is used for Job sheets, recording asset delivery and collection and in the situation where there are ‘no shows’ and site access is not possible, the arrival time recording and GPS location provide undisputable evidence that can be supplemented with a photograph showing, for example, a locked gate. Drivers also use a JobWatch app to do their daily vehicle checks and defects are instantly reported to the maintenance team for workshop scheduling. The system also monitors driver performance with monthly metrics reports highlighting incidents of speeding and harsh breaking.

Warner Added:

“The system handles just about everything that used to be paper based so we have been able to replace not just worksheets but also inspection forms, compliance and health and safety documentation”. We can send documents electronically to the driver to capture a signature on glass. It speeds and simplifies this necessary paperwork allowing us to improve compliance and health and safety at the same time.”

Summing up, Warner concluded:

“Since introducing the BigChange system we have been able to experience double-digit growth as we are no longer restricted by our systems. Not only that but we built a reputation as the company that can deliver a reliable service even when the logistics are particularly complex. We simply could not manage this work without the system and it has become very much embedded in our business.”

Loos for Do's team photo

BigChange

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