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They travel the length and breadth of the UK, fixing our broken pipes and delivering our shopping. Have a heart, and hug a White Van Man.

Last week, I wrote about my frustration with Britain’s enduring dislike of sales people. It’s drives me mad. We need to treasure our salespeople and understand the value they bring to the economy.
This week I’m back on my soapbox. This time, in defence of the White Van Man.

On Wikipedia, I found a definition. It says that the White Van man is ‘typically perceived as a selfish, inconsiderate driver who is mostly petit bourgeois and often aggressive.’ Where the hell does this misconception come from?

BigChange examples of white van man
I spend a lot of time with the tradespeople and engineers who drive Ford Transits. This is because of my regular “shop floor days” [read more about them here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/shop-floor-day-let-martin-take-closer-look-martin-port/]. I’ve spent 100 days on the road with White Van Men in my time, and every single one of them has been a decent, kind person who goes the extra mile for their customers and does a difficult job with long hours.

These engineers and drivers are absolutely vital to the UK. There are around 2.5m white vans out on the road. These people are delivering parts, fixing our broken equipment, bringing our shopping, and keeping our utilities running smoothly. They go out in the rain and snow, all hours of the day and night, to do their job. Yet they do not get the respect they deserve.

The rise of internet shopping has put a lot of pressure on the couriers that deliver all our parcels. So yes, some of them may be pushy drivers, but only because they have up to 100 pick-ups and drop-offs to make in a single day. Don’t blame them, blame the managers and office staff that send them on poorly-planned routes and overload them with deliveries. But, according to the Renault Master White Van Man study, couriers account for just 22pc of vans on the road. The typical driver is actually: “a service engineer, a fishmonger, a roofer, an exhibitions erector, a picture framer or even a theatre director”, it explained.

The WVM experiences a lot of prejudice. “People look at me like I’m dirt,” one, Patrick, told me. He spends up to 25 hours a week driving in his van – double that if he’s on call – covering a catchment area that reaches from Romford to Acton, all the way to Cambridge. “Often we are doing the nasty little jobs that people don’t realise are getting done but which are essential to their lives. Yet people have a bad attitude towards us.

BigChange white van
“People do not want to let you out when you’re driving on the road. They especially won’t let you out when two lanes merge into one. People do not want to let you go ahead of them, especially in the centre of town. Many people wouldn’t dream of doing my job. They’d hate it. But they’d miss us if we were gone.”

In my experience, WVM can drive between 15,000 and 25,000 miles a year Who would want to spend that much time behind the wheel, often stuck in traffic? It’s time that we truly appreciated the White Van Man. They do an amazing job, often under tough conditions. Let’s stop putting these people down.

I’d love to hear from you on your thoughts so please leave a comment below.

All the best


Martin Port
Founder & CEO

Leeds-based transport technology company BigChange is pleased to announce that CEO Martin Port has become the latest Ambassador for Transaid.

Transaid is an international development organisation that transforms lives through safe, available and sustainable transport. In January, BigChange became Transaid’s newest corporate member; joining a number of other key companies – ranging from vehicle manufacturers to some of the largest fleet operators – to commit to long-term support to the industry’s official charity.

Martin Port has already facilitated a wide variety of vital and generous support to Transaid and even got the chance to see the impact of their programmes first-hand when he joined a group of Transaid supporters to visit Zambia this March. There he met a range of stakeholders, from health facility staff to community members in Serenje, where Transaid’s MAMaZ Against Malaria programme has made a huge difference in increasing access to treatment for people with severe malaria. He also visited the Industrial Training Centre (ITC) in Lusaka, gaining a close-up insight to Transaid’s professional driver training projects.

Now Martin Port has put himself forward as a Transaid Ambassador, committing to Transaid’s cause and making a difference by raising the charity’s profile within the industry.

Martin Port, commented:

“It is a real honour and privilege to become a Transaid Ambassador and join a great team of people all focused on promoting the incredible work Transaid carry out.”

Jade Ashby-Rozier, Officer at Transaid’s Corporate Partnerships commented:

“Transaid is very much looking forward to welcoming Martin on board and to building on the incredible support we have already received from him and his organisation.”

Based in Leeds, BigChange was established in 2013 and caters to businesses of all sizes with its all-in-one system for planning, managing, scheduling and tracking the mobile workforce and transport operations.

Find out more at: www.bigchange.com and www.martinport.com

We need to stop bashing our salespeople. They are the engine room of the economy.

“I work in sales”.

If I said this line in America, people would smile and look interested. There, salespeople are held in high esteem. There is an understanding that a great salesman is extraordinarily useful, both to the customer and to the company they work for.

Here in the UK, it’s a different story. It’s a uniquely British thing to hate salespeople. I don’t know where this irrational dislike comes from. Perhaps it’s tied into the British fear of talking about money. We find too much success and sky-high earnings somehow distasteful.

Today, I’d like to talk about why I love the sales people, and why you should too. This is my call to arms for British business to start re-educating staff and the public over the value these hard workers bring to the economy.

There’s a major misunderstanding about sales. People immediately think of cold callers or used car salesman but did you know there are an estimated 2.2m sales people in the UK? Think of any successful person you know; I guarantee they sell. A top accountant doesn’t spend his time balancing figures; he’s out meeting new clients and winning business. A successful lawyer isn’t sat behind a desk all day; she’s the face of her brand.

It takes an enormous amount of skill to sell well. Top sellers are methodical, organised, tenacious, they know their product inside out, they are fantastic at presentations, they are empathetic and understand what people need. Sales people build relationships that can last years. They are the go-between that manages the relationship between customer and brand.

It can take years, decades even, to get really good at sales. So why can’t you get a degree in sales from a British university? It’s crazy that you can get a degree in marketing or business, but not sales. The ability to sell – and sell well – is not just a professional skill, it’s an ability that helps the individual in every facet of their life.

Some organisations have woken up to the power of sales training. Forward-thinking firms like P&G and Unilever have programmes that give bright, skilled staff the tools to become great salespeople, because they know that the future of the business relies on this talent.

I want sales, as a profession, to be treated with the same level of respect as a doctor or a dentist. I want it to become commonplace that anyone who is struggling to make good money in their chosen career can think, “I’m going to move into sales instead and provide for my family”.

Company bosses like me have an obligation to celebrate sales people. We also need to champion organisation-wide education about the value they bring. Yes, sales people can earn a lot of money, but the revenue they create is also shared by the rest of the employees in the form of pay rises and company incentives.

This is not a second-class profession so let’s stop putting people off this important and useful career.

Sales people are to be treasured, not trashed.


Martin Port
Founder & CEO

I’d like to share a little secret with you. Every five years, I do this one thing, which helps me to maintain the growth and success of my business.

I started doing it at my last company, Masternaut, which became Europe’s largest vehicle tracking company, and I’ve just done it at my latest venture, BigChange.

I call this process the “360”. It involves taking a comprehensive look at the health of your company.

I can’t stress enough how transformational this simple exercise has been for me, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Any entrepreneur who wants to truly understand their business, their customers, their employees, and realise their aspirations, needs to do this.

So, where do you start?

The exercise usually takes me about four weeks, from start to finish. I tend to work with an external agency – you could pay anything between £5,000 to £100,000+ for this kind of brand overhaul, dependant on your business size. I feel it’s well worth it, as this investment generates a minimum of five years’ worth of benefit.

You also need to prepare for the 360 in advance. At BigChange, we collect a lot of data and customer feedback, which means we have a lot of information to work with. If you want your 360 to be effective, you need this kind of data too.

For example, we ask every customer for their thoughts on BigChange at least once a year. You shouldn’t ask too many questions – we don’t expect clients to waste an afternoon on this. We just stick to four things: What product did you use before? Why did you choose us? What benefits do we bring to your business? How could we improve?

It takes them five minutes but helps add a lot of context to the 360.

Next, you need to assemble an internal team. Usually, these are people from every department in the company. You (or your agency) hold briefing sessions with these people and talk about the following:

Where you’ve come from

Where you want to be (in the next five years and shorter term)

Latest growth figures

The challenges you face

How to overcome those challenges.

The aim is to then distil all these conversations down into some key learnings. These are:

The Vision – The ultimate ambition for your business

Our Big Vision – Making every economy we work in stronger through innovation and world-class service.

The Mission – Your purpose and reason for being

Our Big Mission – To liberate businesses from paperwork and plate spinning so that they are free to do what they do best – and grow stronger.

The Promise – And expression of what your company stands for

BigChange Promise – Make a Big Difference

The Pillars – The pillars that deliver your promise and the foundation for your mission.

We have five pillars at BigChange – including: Being Big on Service, Big on Innovation, Big on being dynamic, Big on determination and Be the big difference – but you can have as many as you like.

This information is all crucial. It will help influence your marketing, the budgets you give to different departments, your areas of specialism and focus, and will provide a hard target to aim for over the coming years.

The process has helped reassure me that we’re on track to become a £100m plus company in five years. I now have this incredible document which helps focus everyone’s minds on the task ahead.

You probably use a SatNav or navigation app in your car. The 360 is a navigation tool for your business. It’s benefitted my business, and I hope it helps you find the right road to where you’re going.

All the best


Martin Port
Founder & CEO

BigChange

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