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I’ve appointed a new chief marketing officer at BigChange. He’s experienced, dynamic, highly motivated, and gets things done.

Spoiler alert: it’s me.

My current CMO has been with me for 10 years and is keen to make his own big change. He’s moving into consumer marketing and leaving me with some big shoes to fill. I had the option of recruiting someone from outside the business but, during these difficult times, I just think it would take an outsider too long to get up to speed and absorb the DNA of this business.

I could try and find a candidate from within the business but, if I’m honest, who better to take it on than me? I built BigChange from the ground up. I live and breathe this company. Who knows more about how to communicate about our DNA, our pillars, our customer service record and commitment to innovation?

Sales and marketing are my bread and butter. Every leader understands how to sell their idea and vision – to customers, colleagues, and investors. In the early days of BigChange, I was the CEO, COO, and CMO. This is a ‘back to basics’ move; even though I have had a CMO for the last decade, I never fully checked out of the role. I always wanted final say over marketing materials and sales collateral.

I’m excited and a little nervous to take on this new challenge.

Marketing has never been more important to businesses like BigChange.

My sales colleagues can’t meet people face-to-face. It’s very difficult to build rapport with a prospective customer when you can’t have a cuppa together and you’re just a window on their laptop screen.

This is why I’m working on creating a formalised approach to sales, helping my brilliant people to set the agenda during online meetings and really listen to customer need.

COVID-19 has dealt a severe blow to many businesses. We leaders have to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in to make sure our companies weather this crisis. I’ve seen my fellow entrepreneurs doing some incredible things. From Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, who has delivered two years’ worth of digital development at the tech giant in just two months, to Steve Parkin, chairman at Clipper Logistics, who built a delivery network to get vital personal protective equipment to NHS staff and care workers in a matter of days.

This is the essence of the entrepreneur. We get stuck in. We do what needs to be done. We never rest on our laurels. And we thrive on the pressure and the thrill of a new challenge. CEOs all across the nation are stepping out of their (metaphorical) glass offices and hitting the shop floor, just like me. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty.

National drainage company Eurotech Environmental has rolled out the latest mobile workforce management technology from BigChange.

The cloud-based and mobile system provides real time synchronisation between office and tanker operators using a 5 in 1 mobile app. Providing a complete end to end business system replacing all paperwork, Eurotech has seen a £1million increase in business since going live with BigChange last summer.

Established in 1991, Eurotech is one of the UK’s largest independent waste management companies providing national liquid waste tankering and drainage services.

Nick Banks, Operations Director at Eurotech Environmental commented:

“We had been looking for a suitable system for years but we couldn’t find one that could meet our needs. When BigChange came to demonstrate their system our jaws literally dropped to the ground; it was exactly what we were looking for”.

BigChange implementation of the JobWatch system began early 2019 and was fully implemented in 6 months. Eurotech employed the BigChange Professional Services team to create a completely automated system that mimicked everything that was being done manually before.

Banks continued:

“This was really important. We had honed our system over many years but it was still very much paper based and the business had grown to the point that we knew we needed to automate. However, we didn’t want to change anything and BigChange offered a truly flexible solution that has been successfully adapted for our needs”.

Central to Eurotech’s needs was a combined Job Sheet and Waste Transfer Notice with a job grouping capability for managing routes with tankers doing multiple jobs before disposal at a waste transfer station. This was one of a series of industry-leading developments pioneered by Eurotech and the result is a completely automated end-to-end system.

Banks commented:

“Optimisation of routes alone has saved almost 10 per cent on fuel and wage costs and our drivers no longer need to come to the office to collect their jobs. We are also much more reactive to emergency jobs as we know where everyone is and what they are doing – it’s fantastic to have this visibility”.

Tanker operators receive jobs and routes on tablets that they use for everything from vehicle and site safety checks, to job cards and accompanying compliance documentation. Coupled with vehicle tracking, the office has full visibility of all operations, nationwide, 24/7. Customers receive ETA notifications and on job completion they receive job tickets complete with photographs to prove ‘job done’. Waste transfer stations meanwhile receive automated emails of a tankers ETA with digital Waste Transfer Notices.

Banks noted:

“BigChange has completely transformed the way we work. Through improved efficiency and productivity we have seen a £1million boost to our business and are on track to double the size of our fleet. And customers are so impressed that I know we are winning more business thanks to the enhanced service we can now offer”.

“With Coronavirus lockdown, we’d have really struggled to deliver our services without BigChange. We can turn up at a home or a factory to empty a septic tank or collect waste, complete the job and then send the customer an immediate email with supporting photographs; we don’t need to interact at all and the customer probably didn’t even know we been onsite.”

He concluded:

“Since BigChange is cloud based and easily accessible anywhere, anytime, we can expand more easily nationwide as we don’t actually need an office – just somewhere to park our tankers”.

BigChange Eurotech vehicle

This is an open letter to Boris Johnson.

Dear Prime Minister,

You need to close airports now.

It’s not enough to say they may close in future. People from infected countries are still flying into the UK, increasing the risk of a second wave of COVID-19.

The decision to keep airports open throughout this pandemic has put the nation at risk. I’m sure that you had your reasons – even though we are one of the only countries in the world to have done so.

Perhaps, amidst the threat of recession and the uncertainty of Brexit, closing borders entirely seemed foolhardy? Whatever the motive, you need to change course now.

The situation in airports is extremely dangerous. I, like many people, am shocked by the absence of any health checks for incoming visitors. Airport staff have only recently been issued with any kind of protective masks or clothing. Many UK airports aren’t asking for those travelling to wear masks or gloves. How can this be?

The new two-week quarantine for new arrivals to the UK seems to be entirely optional. Other nations have taken a different stance. In Israel, incoming travellers are quarantined in an airport hotel for two weeks, confined to their room, and brought three meals a day, to protect the local people from infection.

Right now, the infection rate has dropped significantly in many cities across the UK. This has only been achieved through massive sacrifices on behalf of the British people, who have stayed home, gone without seeing loved ones, and lost income – or even their entire livelihoods – to reduce the spread of the virus. Lockdown will have been for nothing if there is a second wave.

At Heathrow alone, there are still 60 flights landing daily. This is just 10% of the usual number but still means that hundreds of people are arriving in Britain – many from countries that are still battling the virus. It is estimated that 42,000 people from overseas have flown into the UK since the pandemic started; this figure excludes the 53,000 British nationals flying home.

We are an island nation. This has been a huge advantage over the years, ensuring our survival during World War II. Why aren’t we closing borders now?

I understand that airlines have been badly hit by this crisis. Surely a handful of passengers won’t make much difference? These companies are generating more income from using the airplanes for freight at the moment, so why not stop all passenger travel?

The economy is so fragile. Seven out of 10 British firms have furloughed staff. Pay is falling fast for those in work. Many people are facing a jobless future as growth stalls in most businesses. A second round of infection will do extreme damage. Not just to our economic prospects but also to our national spirit. It will be so much harder to come back from a second wave.

Please do the right thing, Prime Minister. Shut the airports.

Joseph Port’s First Blog

A lot of things make me happy in life. I’m a big Leeds United fan. My family mean the world to me. I’m crazy about videogames and I love watching YouTube Bloggers. I have learning difficulties but I have never let them hold me back and I live life to the fullest.

But over the last couple of months, it has been a little harder to find reasons to smile. Unfortunately, because of my health, I have been shielded to protect me from COVID-19. This meant that I could no longer continue working at Living Potential Care Farm, an amazing place where people with disabilities can connect with nature.

My work there was always varied and I learned something new every day.

I loved feeding the animals, boxing up eggs to sell at the shop, and picking apples to make apple juice.

My job on the farm gave me structure, and made me feel that I was making a contribution to society. I made many wonderful friends there, and the job also helped me to keep fit!

I know that many people are struggling with being forced to stay home.

While I have found it wonderful (okay, occasionally annoying too!) to have so much time with the family, I don’t like feeling aimless.

So I have come up with an idea that will both help to give me direction, and benefit Living Potential, an organisation that has done so much for those of us with disabilities. I’m launching a new venture, creating and selling a range of high quality branded Living Potential t-shirts.

This will be a joint venture and I will receive £5 for every t-shirt sold. The rest of the money will go to Living Potential, helping to support existing projects and create more activities – demand for its services is growing rapidly at this time.

I believe that it is so important for those of us with learning disabilities to be able to make our own living. Selling is one of my strengths because I am a good communicator and I love meeting people.

I want to be independent and keep learning and honing my business skills. This is really important to my sense of self worth.

I’m so happy to be able to create a new business with a purpose, which raises awareness of the farm and proves that people with learning disabilities have drive and ambition.

I hope you’ll consider buying a t-shirt – they are available here.

Thanks for reading.

Strong growth for BigChange in the first quarter 2020

Earlier this week, the Chancellor announced that the UK economy shrank by 5.8pc in March, the fastest contraction since the peak of the 2008 financial crisis. I doubt anyone will be surprised by this development, given the significant impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on British industry. This is why I am delighted to have some good news to share. Despite the economic gloom, BigChange has posted strong Q1 results for this year.

Between January and March, the company generated sales of £5.5m, up 50% on the same quarter in 2019. During the period, BigChange won 80 new customers, adding a total of £8.3m in new contact wins. The first quarter of 2020 was also a profitable one for BigChange, with an EBITDA of £720,000.

As you all know, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the UK Prime Minister to impose a full lockdown at the end of March, and BigChange – like many businesses – was forced to change working practices for two weeks as we adjusted to the new measures and trading conditions. I’m so proud that the company has managed to deliver impressive growth in the face of many challenges.

BigChange is an international company, which now trades in multiple territories across the globe, including France, Ireland, Norway, Australia and the US. During the first three months of this year, the French arm of the business grew significantly, expanding its base to reach 20 customers.

Last year, I predicted that BigChange would hit £23m in turnover by the end of 2020. We are still on track to hit revenues of more than £20m at the end of this financial year, which is a huge achievement. Credit to all my BigChange colleagues for their hard work and resilience.

I would also like to thank all our loyal customers, who have helped us to grow at a time when many businesses are struggling. There are now over 45,000 people around the globe using our system, from a customer base of 1,300 companies.

At the start of 2020, BigChange made a number of high profile contract wins. Special mention here goes to our new partnership with Sunbelt Rentals, Inc.(formerly A-Plant), part of Ashtead Group Plc, the largest equipment rental company in the UK.

It is a testament to our innovative and brilliant JobWatch system that so many companies are using the platform to enhance customer service, drive efficiency and generate growth – against all odds – during this time.

During the first quarter of this year, BigChange received the highest honours that can be given to a British company. We won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, in the much-lauded Innovation category. We have also been selected as one of the best companies to work for in the UK, securing a place on the Best Companies’ 2-Star list. BigChange was also ranked 12th out of 50 companies as part of the MegaByte 2020 Top 50 in UK Technology.

These are difficult times for everyone – and BigChange will doubtless experience a slowdown in the second quarter of the year. However, I’m delighted to report that since April 1, the company has secured £300,000-worth of new business in France, and won £1m in new contracts across the business as a whole.

I founded this business seven years ago to help business of all sizes harness the benefits of a powerful, feature-rich mobile workforce management platform. Today, we offer combined back office CRM, job planning and scheduling, a rich mobile app, customer portal and vehicle tracking to help organisations go paperless, drive efficiency and protect the safety of lone workers. In response to COVID-19, BigChange launched a hands-free signature feature, allowing engineers on the road to minimise contact with others. I hope that our performance this year proves that we are not going to let this virus dent our progress, or hurt our customers.

Mental Health & Wellbeing Round Table – BigChange panel discussion on supporting mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the first of a series of BigChange virtual round tables talking about topical issues facing the British industry, this panel discussion examines the impact on mental health that Covid-19 has, recommendations on what employers should be doing over the coming months and concludes in a questions and answers session.

Thank you to all our panellists for their contributions to this informative and inspiring discussion:

  • Rebecca Burn-Callander, Business Journalist (host)
  • Nicolas Hamilton, Racing Driver and BigChange Ambassador
  • Michelle Dewberry, Businesswoman & broadcaster and BigChange Ambassador
  • Laura McCullagh – Mindful Employer Coordinator – Leeds Mind
  • Steve Broughton, BigChange customer – SafeGroup
  • Kevin Sherwood, BigChange customer – Sherwoods
  • Alex Epstein, BigChange Marketing
  • Sonal Sidpara, BigChange HR
  • Alexandra Abrahams, BigChange Training

Donations are welcome, and should be directed at Leeds Mind.

Human beings are social animals. We need contact with one another. Too much time in isolation – even for the most introverted amongst us – creates feelings of anxiety and loneliness.

According to the rules of the ‘new normal’, video calls and social media can bridge the gulf and help us feel connected to one another.

This is why I have been busily launching virtual meet-ups and online initiatives – to help my BigChange colleagues feel like part of one big team and maintain our sense of camaraderie.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t work.

Zoom. Teams. Hangouts. House Party. RingCentral. Whatever platform you choose, it is still no substitute for face-to-face conversation and real-world connection.

In fact, too many of these virtual events can add to the general stress and feeling of isolation. People either feel obliged to take part or guilty for choosing not to attend.

I have come to this realisation after receiving some feedback from the BigChange team. Some people feel that I have created far too many online events, and that these meet-ups are eating into their valuable free time.

…In hindsight, maybe introducing yet another virtual quiz was a bad idea? Especially when the whole world is regularly “pub quizzing” with family and friends already.

I’m learning all the time and, like many other leaders, trying my best to work out how to keep motivating and engaging my colleagues, both those currently working and those who have been temporarily furloughed. This is all new to me too. In these uncertain times, there are no straightforward answers. I get it wrong sometimes.

I want to apologise to anyone in my team at BigChange who feels bombarded by these new online initiatives. I know that some of you feel overwhelmed or just exhausted by the expectation to attend. I had the best intentions but I have made mistakes. I promise to do better in future.

We have established a steering committee, which is made up of representatives from every team in the business. From now on, before I launch a new online scheme to boost engagement, I will run all ideas past this sounding board and make sure that it is genuinely useful and that there will be demand for it.

I am also rethinking my plan for a totally virtual future. This pandemic has proven to me that BigChange doesn’t need a real-world office; we are just as effective working remotely. We have reduced our carbon dioxide emissions as a result of lockdown, becoming a greener and more sustainable business as a result.

But I’ve come to understand that while people don’t need to work side-by-side, they really like to.

When this crisis has passed, we will not be going back to an entirely office-based operation. But I will rotate teams in and out of the office so that a percentage of my colleagues are in the building at any one time. Teams need to come together to collaborate, bond – and just have a bit of fun too. That spirit ultimately drives organisations forward.

Forget the ‘new norm’ of virtual businesses and remote working. I’m embracing a blend of the best elements from the modern world of work and the traditional approach. From now on, it’s all about the ‘new old’.

For many of us, the coronavirus lockdown has been a profoundly lonely experience.

Those who live alone have been completely cut off from friends and relatives. Even those of us with families are missing the office camaraderie. Isolation is more than a physical reality; it’s a mental state.

This is why I am so passionate about creating virtual events to help drive connections and support mental health. It may not be as comforting as real-life human contact and conversation but video calls and virtual meet-ups are a crucial lifeline to the outside world.

I’m usually a very upbeat character but even I am struggling to stay positive through this lockdown. On Mondays, I used to love coming in to the office and saying hello to everyone. It was incredibly motivating to be surrounded by my brilliant team – I miss them all.

I’m embracing virtual events as a way to recreate the amazing atmosphere that we have in our office. On Tuesday morning, we had a social event that furloughed employees could attend too. It was a chance to sing happy birthday to a colleague, and meet some of my team’s extended family. I love it when a little face peeps in to see what mum or dad are doing.

Next week, we are taking our Motivational Monday series online for the first time. I’m delighted that Nigel Owens MBE, one of rugby’s top referees, is joining us to talk about his incredible life. Growing up in a small, traditional community in west Wales, Nigel struggled with the realisation that he was gay. Rather than admit it to his parents and community, he attempted suicide.

Nigel has battled depression and bulimia but ultimately triumphed over adversity and went on to become a sporting legend. No one is better placed to talk to the team about beating loneliness and finding the strength to go on, even when the challenges seem overwhelming.

On May 13, we are launching the first in our new series of webinars, talking about topical issues facing British industry. We’ll be kicking off with a virtual roundtable about “How to support mental health and wellbeing during the covid-19 outbreak”

I’m so proud that two BigChange ambassadors, Nicolas Hamilton and Michelle Dewberry, will be joining us for that session, hosted by the former Telegraph enterprise editor Rebecca Burn-Callander.

You may remember Michelle Dewberry the 2006 series winner of The Apprentice. She has spoken candidly about her mental health struggles in the past and will share some of her experiences with the audience.

Nic Hamilton is a talented racing driver and brother of six-times Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. He will share the secrets to developing mental resilience.

Sonal Sidpara, head of HR, Alex Abrahams Head of Training and Alex Epstein our CMO at BigChange, will also be giving advice on motivating the team through a crisis, and will outline all our BigChange learnings from the pandemic so far.

BigChange customers Steve Broughton and Kevin Sherwood will also join us as well as a representative from the charity Mind.

Put 11am in your calendars. Please do join us, and let me know any questions that you would like to put to the panel.

Till then, stay home, stay safe, and stay connected.

BigChange

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