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As this year draws to a close, I’d like to post an update about all we’ve achieved at BigChange in 2018.

Our financial performance

I’m delighted to announce this has been another year of stellar growth for the company. Sales are up by an incredible 65% year-on-year and we now have more than 20,000 active subscribers on our platform.

We signed an impressive £16m-worth of new business contracts this year, which is bang on target. Our lack of customer churn also brings me great satisfaction. We have lost just 1.5pc of of our JobWatch subscriber base in the last 6 years, which proves that we’re consistently delighting clients existing and new. On average, we deliver a return on investment of £15 for every £1 spent.

Our sales performance has landed us some great awards. I was very proud that Bigchange came 49th in the Sunday Times Tech Track this year. We are also one of Deloitte’s Fast 50 yet again, a ranking of the fastest growing technology firms in the UK. As BigChange moves from start-up to scale-up, we’ve also managed to boost profitability by nearly 300% to hit £1.4m.

Charitable work

Building a profitable business has enabled BigChange to make significant charitable donations. We don’t stick to a set figure each year but I like to give a minimum of 10pc of profit to great causes. This year, we managed to do a little better than that: we gave more than £200,000 to charity in 2018.

One of my personal highlights this year was visiting Zambia with Transaid back in March. BigChange is a corporate partner and I visited Serenje, where Transaid is doing life-saving work, improving road safety and facilitating the transport of crucial medicines. Bicycle Ambulances can now get people to medical centres quickly and easily, reducing deaths dramatically.

My time in Zambia reminded me to be grateful for all the blessings we take for granted. The people there live without luxury and yet were some of the happiest individuals I’ve ever met.

I’ve also loved working with racing driver Nic Hamilton on Leaders for Life www.bigchangeapps.com/leadersforlife , an initiative to help encourage road safety across the UK. I’m excited to sponsor him next year, as he moves into the next phase of his racing career.

Our people

We’ve expanded our team by 60pc to hit more than 100 people in 2018. I’ve been so impressed by the calibre of our new recruits, but it’s also important to say that the colleagues who have been with us for years – some since day one – continue to flourish and learn new skills as the company grows. It’s given me immense pleasure to see great people rise through the ranks here. Our office move ensures we have space for many new team members, as we start to work with larger and more complex customers. We have also now appointed a new head of HR, Sonal, who will help us to continue finding and hiring great people in 2019.

The future

The end of the year is a great time to reflect on all we’ve achieved but let me assure you, my feet are firmly on the ground. I’m already looking forward to 2019, and all our bold plans for growth. We’re hoping to hit £25m in new contract wins next year, and we want to invest even more into charitable activities. We’re expanding geographically all the time, and next year hope to announce a new presence in the US and Germany, as well as our operations in France, Israel and Cyprus.

Not all smooth sailing

This has been a tough year for me personally. I lost my mum recently, which hit the whole family very hard. As any entrepreneur will know, it’s hard to grieve when you’re also building a fast-growth company. My wonderful wife and children were a great comfort to me and encouraged me to cut down my working hours, which was the right thing to do. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year is that family is precious, and we all need to do more to make sure we’re making time for loved ones.

I was also very sad to hear of the passing of Jayne Gray, the Transaid fundraiser who was tragically killed during a charity bike ride in September. My thoughts are with her family.

A message to our customers and colleagues

I just want to say a massive thank you to all our loyal customers. Your support and feedback has been the secret to our success this year. I see you all as our partners rather than customers. I promise to keep doing all I can to make life easier for you, and help you ditch that inefficient paperwork, and cut down on all your plate spinning. That’s the vision that underpins all we do here at BigChange.

To my incredibly loyal team: where to start? You’ve all gone above and beyond this year, and I’m so proud of all we’ve achieved together. I’m consistently impressed by the way colleagues go the extra mile. Even during tough times, everyone pulls together and treats every challenge as an opportunity to learn and improve. It’s inspiring to be around you all.

And finally, thank you to all of you who have been following my posts on LinkedIn this year. I’ve loved hearing all your comments and feedback. Since I started this blog series, my posts have received more than 3,000 likes and shares. Thank you so much for the ongoing support.

That’s all from me for now. Season’s greetings to you all. Have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.


Martin Port
Founder & CEO

If you Google “Should I hire friends and family?” you will be confronted with pages of cautionary tales about why this is the worst idea ever. They’ll take advantage, says one entrepreneur. You have no leverage, says another. You can destroy relationships, according to a third.

As usual, I’m going to be controversial and say, that’s all nonsense. Hiring friends, family, and people from your community is the best way to grow a business.

I love employing people I know. If you know an individual, that’s half the battle won. You know their character, their strengths and weaknesses. Over the last 20 years, I’ve been employing more and more people from my community, friendship circle and family.

For example, BigChange wouldn’t be where it is today without the incredible contributions from my wife, Amanda, and my brother, Anthony. Also not to forget the Scully family Andrew, James & Lauren.

When I tell people that Amanda and I have been in business together for 16 years, they tend to be shocked… “How can you work with your wife?” I can honestly say: it’s been a breeze. She’s my marketing director and a major asset in the business; she spots things that I miss. And she’s tenacious. If she doesn’t agree with my decision, she won’t just drop it. We’ll be debating all weekend long. She’s not just a director in the business: she holds the same number of shares as I do so she’s a true partner.

My brother started out in new business development and is now the cornerstone of our renewals team. He does an incredible job and I sleep easy knowing that he is handling the crucial job of keeping existing customers happy.

Out of the 100 colleagues in the company, about 75 are people I know, whether that’s through my synagogue (there are three rabbis working here!), an impressive young woman that I met on reception at a local hotel, or a family friend. My sales director’s father was my former manager when I was 14 and worked as a shop assistant at a clothing retailer! An additional 25 colleagues are people I’ve worked with in the past.

One of the major benefits of working with people you know is that they understand you. They know how I operate and don’t have to adapt to my management style.

Of course, you do need to stick to some important rules when employing friends and family.

Firstly, you have to commit to absolute transparency. If you have bad news, don’t try and dress it up differently. Be open about what you expect, and about your plans. This isn’t always easy. During the 2008 banking crisis, I had to let 60 people go from my previous business. We were under pressure from the bank and had to cut costs quickly. It’s really hard to put people you know through a process like that but I was completely upfront about what was happening and why, and everyone understood.

Second, always follow through on your promises. You can’t be the kind of boss who makes outlandish claims and then reneges. That’s a sure-fire to lose people’s respect, both personally and professionally. Bad bosses hide behind ambiguity; don’t let that be you.

Finally, never give people you know preferential treatment. When thinking about the benefits of employing friends and family, I almost wrote that they are more loyal. But then I realised that’s not actually a fair statement: all my employees are loyal, dedicated and go the extra mile. They aren’t somehow more committed just because we met at a party a few years ago. This is why you need to make sure you don’t allow nepotism to creep into your organisation. Meritocracy rules at BigChange.

And if you employ a friend or family member and things aren’t going so great, what do you do then? This is a question that everyone asks. I can honestly say that this rarely – if ever – happens. But if it does, I have the ultimate weapon. I call their wife or partner. Usually their spouse will listen to the issue, and it will be resolved by the time Monday morning rolls back around. It’s not politically correct but it works!

So make sure you’re not missing out on some truly great people. Think about how your friends, your relations and the people in your community could fit into your organisation. It could be the best thing you ever do.


Martin Port
Founder & CEO

BigChange, the mobile workforce technology company, today announced that it has enhanced JobWatch, its award-winning mobile workforce and job management system, with a new collaboration tool that makes it quicker and easier for organisations to manage work undertaken on their behalf by trusted third-party contractors.

The collaboration tool allows companies to allocate jobs to subcontractors at the click of a button and remain in control of work done with an online audit trail and real time progress updates. Partners working in the field are automatically provided with relevant information and access to the appropriate job sheets on their mobile devices. The tool is now available at no extra charge to BigChange customers around the world.

Research commissioned by BigChange shows that 84% of UK organisations already deliver some core business activities through third-parties. Two thirds (64%) of organisations have increased collaboration levels over the last decade and more than a quarter (27%) of all core business activities are now delivered through partners.

Martin Port, founder and CEO of BigChange, comments:

“Over the last decade we’ve seen a thriving collaboration economy emerge in which organisations of all sizes work with trusted partners to boost their skills, scale and customer service. By adding collaboration functionality to JobWatch we have improved how these arrangements are delivered and managed day-to-day.”

“Collaboration from BigChange brings the technology and ethos of the gig economy to industries that already engage in this kind of partnership, but with greater control over the customer experience. It makes sub-contractors part of the team, providing them with everything needed to complete jobs with the minimum of hassle.”

Collaboration is the second major JobWatch enhancement of 2018

Collaboration is the second major enhancement made to JobWatch in 2018. In April, BigChange launched a customisable mobile application enabling its customers to offer on-demand booking of their services from any smartphone or tablet.

Fully integrated with the JobWatch system, these on-demand booking apps allow end-users of services offered by BigChange customers to quickly and easily find appropriate appointment slots and schedule service visits.

New research published today indicates that 2.2 million UK road users who drive as part of their jobs are regularly taking to the wheel while under the influence of drink or drugs.

The study of more than 1,000 drivers, conducted by the research consultancy Opinium for mobile workforce management company BigChange and published as part of the Leaders for Life road safety campaign, revealed that one in 10 (nine percent) people who drive for work in the UK do so after consuming alcohol or illegal drugs at least once a week. Three percent of those who drive for work, some 700,000 people nationwide, drive under the influence of drink or drugs every day.

BigChange’s research also reveals that younger drivers are the worst culprits for drink or drug driving, with a quarter (25 percent) of 18-34 year olds admitting to doing so every week and 10 percent every day. Geographically, London come out as the worst place for driving under the influence, with one in four (26 percent) people who drive for work doing so each week.

As the Christmas party season gets into full swing, Martin Port, the road safety campaigner and CEO of BigChange, urges business leaders to take the steps necessary to to minimise the risk to their people and the public.

Martin Port comments:

“The findings of our research are truly astonishing. Any driver who takes to the wheel under the influence of drink or drugs creates unacceptable levels of risk to the public, and our research suggests than more than 2 million people who are trusted to drive as part of their jobs are putting lives on the line by doing this every week.”

“With the added risk of Christmas party season upon us, business leaders must take sensible steps to ensure they’re not inadvertently making it more likely that their people are taking to the roads while under the influence.”

Five step for safer driving this Christmas party season

  • Avoid scheduling early morning appointments for the day after your Christmas Party
  • Take care to hire people without a history of driving under the influence
  • Provide transport or use a venue that can be accessed easily using public transport
  • Consider subsidising hotel accommodation so people don’t feel tempted to drive home
  • Be clear about your expectations and set a good example as leaders

JobWatch is a revolution. It lets you plan, manage, track and schedule your mobile workforce, without the need for inefficient paperwork. Your people will love it your customers will notice a real difference.

BigChange by name, BigChange by nature. JobWatch will deliver tangible benefits. From reducing the time it takes to raise an invoice to boosting productivity and utilisation, your business will reap a big change to its bottom line. Visit our website


Martin Port
Founder & CEO

On a flight back from Marseille last week, I experienced some of the best customer service of my career. It happened while flying EasyJet to London Gatwick.

I wanted a snack but, as some of you may know, I’m on a diet https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/60-pounds-heavier-reality-being-start-up-founder-martin-port/. When I scanned the menu, I quickly realised there was nothing healthy on offer. I called the stewardess over to complain. Her name was Anna and she was (rather fittingly) from Hungary.

I asked why there were no low-calorie options on the menu and she apologised and said that was all they had. Any other day, that would have been the end of it, and I would have gone hungry. But she returned a few minutes later, carrying a fruit pack with sliced apple and grapes. She’d taken it out of her own lunch box. She wouldn’t accept any money for it.

This was an example of a tricky customer– me – asking for something out of the ordinary. I warned Anna when she came over that I wasn’t going to be easy to please. She laughed and said there’s no such thing as an easy customer these days.

The experience got me thinking about customer service, and how we at BigChange can go even further for our loyal customers. In this digital age, you must never say “no” to your clients, or ignore feedback. But it can be hard, as a medium sized business, to accommodate difficult requests.

For example, we are constantly looking to improve our mobile workforce management software. According to a recent Gartner report, 70pc of organisations will cite customer satisfaction as a primary benefit derived from implementing field service management by 2020, up from 50pc today. This is why we maintain an open dialogue with customers about the kinds of tweaks they’d like to see implemented. We get a lot of praise for the system we’ve built but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to make it even better.

No two businesses are exactly the same, so we have compiled a wish list with about a thousand different ideas from across our customer base. We have an incredible development team that works wonders, considering our size, but we can’t always action these tweaks as fast as we’d like.

This is a hard thing to communicate to customers. I recently intercepted an email from a colleague regarding one of their development requests. My colleague was polite but firm, telling the client that their request was unlikely to be actioned any time soon. I almost had a heart attack. I quickly responded, thanking the client for their feedback and saying instead that we consider all requests and will update them when their idea moves to the development phase. I added that if I could be of any further assistance, they shouldn’t hesitate to email or call me.

We have lots of “Annas” here at BigChange and I want to help these stellar individuals to go the extra mile. This is why we have a new policy whereby a software development can be boosted to the top of the pile if customers vote to prioritise it. It’s a way to help my people explain the development process, and help customers to feel engaged and involved along the journey. It’s just another way to show that we’re serious about customer service.

I learned about meeting unique customer demands the hard way. When I ran my craft bakery business, Kroustie, each order was slightly different. We baked rolls to order and some chefs liked them flat, some puffy, some dense, some light. This meant I had to divide up each batch to ensure each customer got exactly what they wanted. It was an important lesson in keeping everyone happy.

Just like those bread rolls, none of our BigChange customers are identical. We continually improve our service to suit their individual needs as we grow but it’s an ongoing challenge.

I could write a book on this subject but I have an important task to complete. I need to go to EasyJet’s website to write a letter of recommendation about Anna from Hungary. I’m hoping that her quick thinking and compassion will be recognised by the company, and that a promotion or bonus is on the way. After all, to truly build a great customer service culture, we need to help the Annas in all of our organisations.

She made a real impression on me. From now on, when faced with a tricky customer request, I will always ask myself: what would Anna do?


Martin Port
Founder & CEO

 I am always on the move. Whether it’s by plane, train or automobile, rarely a week goes by when I’m not travelling to some foreign country or new city.

This lifestyle has led to some pretty hair-raising situations over the years. On a trip to Bucharest in Romania a few years back, the cab driver rigged the meter to charge me double the going rate, and then proceeded to offer me every illegal drug under the sun, and tried to drive me to a brothel.

Last week, I caught an Uber in London. The driver was either drunk or under the influence of some other substance, and suffered from chronic road rage, getting into fights every passing motorist as he weaved in and out of traffic. If that wasn’t bad enough, the car’s warning lights were on. A message on the dashboard said clearly: “Check hybrid system. Stop the vehicle in a safe place.” He just kept on driving.

BigChange inside an uber
Some of these horror stories were unavoidable: I was in the wrong place at the wrong time – or just unlucky. But it’s got me thinking about some of the business travel hacks that I’ve picked up over the years, which either make journeys cheaper, easier or safer. Some, I wish I’d found out about years ago.

So here is my early festive gift to you all: a comprehensive list of all the tips I’ve found useful. May all your journeys be fruitful, safe and enjoyable.

Beware hotel booking platforms

As a VAT-registered business, BigChange is able to claim VAT back on certain expenses, such as booking hotel rooms for business trips. But platforms like Booking.com, which is based in the Netherlands, do not allow you to claim back VAT. This means that even though you might get a 15% discount on your room, you’re still out of pocket because that’s less than the 20% VAT you can’t claim. My tip? Find the room and hotel you want and then call the hotel and see if you can get the same rate. By booking direct, you could both land a discount and be able to make the VAT claim. Win, win.

Airport lounges

If you’re a start-up founder, or you’re bootstrapping your business, it’s unlikely that you are flying first class when you travel. But this doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the benefits of the airport lounge. For between £20 and £30, you can buy one-off access, and work in peace before your flight with proper wifi and a decent meal. When you arrive calm and refreshed for your meeting, you’ll know it’s worth it.

Get an Amex

Use your personal Amex for all your business purchases, and then claim it back, or get a dedicated business Amex. American Express lets you collect air miles as you spend, and these can come in useful for both business travel and the odd holiday. Best of all, these air miles don’t count as a “benefit in kind” according to HMRC. Here’s the paper on it, in case you don’t believe me: https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/employment-income-manual/eim21618

One colleague at BigChange has amassed over a million air miles to date. His top tip: only use the Amex for purchases where there’s no card fee, otherwise you end up landed with unnecessary charges.

Credit, not debit

When you check in to a foreign hotel, never hand over your debit card at the reception desk. When they run their pre-authorisation transaction, sometimes putting as much as £400 on hold from your account, you then can’t access that money. Even worse, when you come to pay for your room, the charge is processed on top of the pre-authorisation amount, and you may have to wait up to 10 days for that money to be unfrozen. That’s fine if you have lots of cash but if you’re not feeling so flush, you’re better off using a credit card.

BigChange split ticketing example
Never pay full whack for rail travel

If you haven’t heard of split ticketing yet, this is your lucky day. On sites like raileasy.co.uk or trainsplit.com, you can plug in your journey details and it will charge you a fare that is up to 30% cheaper than booking direct. You can often travel first class for the same amount as a standard fare. It does this by allocating a series of tickets, rather than one direct fare. This means you may end up with as many as 12 tickets when you go to print out your order but it’s worth the extra hassle of more tickets for the saving.

Disability perks

I recently found out that being hearing impaired (I have 70% hearing loss) entitles me and another person to 30% off our rail travel. You simply have to register for a disability card, and then you can access the saving. Apply here: https://www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk

I hope you’ve found these tips useful. If you have any great ones to add to the list, please post them below.


Martin Port
Founder & CEO

Emergency clean-up company CleanSafe has transformed its business with an end-to-end management system from BigChange.

The cloud-based system combines back office management, customer service and accounting functions with live fleet monitoring and the latest mobile working technology. CleanSafe field technicians have been equipped with rugged Samsung tablets running JobWatch; the BigChange system that provides apps for paperless mobile working.

Armed with JobWatch, 70 CleanSafe field technicians provide a 24/7 emergency cleaning and restoration service with a 2 hour response time. CleanSafe operates nationally from headquarters in Surrey with regional offices in Cannock, Manchester and Livingston. CleanSafe is part of the SafeGroup, who also operate waste management, pest control and Legionella prevention reactive and planned services.

CleanSafe has implemented BigChange as a complete management solution, handling the entire business process from customer call to invoicing. Calls are handled within a CRM application which in turn links a job scheduler and route planner, with allocated jobs being posted to the appropriate field resource. Jobs are listed on the technician’s tablet that provide navigation to site and apps for safety, job management and reporting; eliminating all paperwork.

Caroline Bigg, Finance Director, CleanSafe, comments:

“With BigChange we are completely paperless and that provides big benefits in efficiency and productivity.”

“We are a reactive business and the system helps considerably; our technicians no longer need to report to the office and during the day we can dynamically reschedule to optimise the mobile operation and improve response times.”

All CleanSafe vans are fitted with BigChange satellite tracking that not only provides real time location to keep customer services up to date on each job, but also allows driver monitoring to encourage safer driving.

Bigg explains:

“BigChange provides a wealth of data that we simply didn’t have before and that means we can closely monitor and improve our performance across the board.”

“BigChange is a true end to end solution with everything completely integrated and that is tremendously beneficial as it means we can work fast and efficiently; no more paper, no more data entry, fewer customer queries and quicker invoicing.”

Bigg adds:

“We reckon BigChange saves up to two hours a day that we previously spent trying to sort out the day’s work and administration. All in all that probably equates to an extra job a day for a number of our operatives. Annually that equates to over a million pounds of extra income.”

Previously with their paper-based system it used to take CleanSafe up to a week to raise invoices. Now with real time and accurate reporting from technicians at the end of a job, invoices can be raised within 24 hours.

Steve Broughton, CleanSafe’s Managing Director, says:

“The combination of tracking data, customer signature capture and before and after photographs mean that we have irrefutable evidence of every job completed. With the paperless, real time reporting we can invoice immediately and customers know what they will be invoiced. So from my perspective the biggest benefit of BigChange is simply that it allows us to invoice correctly and quickly and that means we get paid on time. It’s good for business”

Broughton adds:

“Large corporates typically spend hundreds of thousands of pounds developing their own IT systems to meet their business needs. What BigChange has done is built that system but for everyone. And it’s accessible and adaptable for different businesses. For SME’s this is fantastic as we can compete on a completely level planning field. We know that we can meet all of the business needs – from service delivery to compliance – with one affordable system.”

BigChange cleansafe members

BigChange

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