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Employees who feel valued are more productive, happier and will go the extra mile for their managers.

This sounds obvious but when you are running a business, and have a lot on your plate, it’s not always easy to find the time and opportunity to congratulate your people on their accomplishments, and thank them for their hard work.

Yet studies have shown that feeling valued ranks alongside pay, benefits and time off as a major contributor to job satisfaction.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), receiving expressions of gratitude can have a massive effect on workplace behaviour. In a field experiment, the authors found that a message of gratitude from a manager led to a significant increase in the number of calls made by a team of university fundraisers.

A separate study by the Journal of Applied Behavioural Science also found that when treated with respect, and trusted to make decisions autonomously, workers’ performance significantly improved. The key takeaway was: “Positivity can foster team member engagement and performance.” It recommended demonstrating “appreciation, affirmation, and respect”.

I am in awe of my incredible team here at BigChange but it’s not enough for me to say that in this blog, I have to show it consistently, every day. This is why, a few years ago, we created our Green Flag Report.

Everyone knows that red flags are a bad thing. We use red flags when we need to resolve an issue outside of our service level. But we have also turned the concept on its head, using the BigChange platform to assign green flags. These are used to highlight exceptional performance, great customer service, or people simply being a great team player.

We are super-users of our own platform, so it has been straightforward to train colleagues to use green flags to tell me and managers about the team’s achievements. Every Sunday, I read each and every one, and send an email to the whole company sharing the highlights and thanking everyone who went the extra mile that week.

It’s been extremely effective at motivating my colleagues: they know that I see how hard they work, and their contribution to this company. It also helps to drive home the vital role that every team plays here: for example, people in sales hear about the incredible work done by engineers out on the road – these individuals may rarely meet in person, if at all.

There are no financial incentives connected to the green flag initiative; it’s separate from our benefits and bonuses. This is about showing people that they are seen, heard, and valued. But it certainly sticks in my mind when I see the same names coming up again and again – those people are likely to go far in the company.

We have made this functionality available to all BigChange customers, free of charge, to help them create the same kind of engagement and culture of gratitude in their teams. There really is nothing like the buzz when people see all their colleagues applauding their efforts. Especially now there is no office and we are all working remotely.

We want to do our bit to help other business owners make their teams feel valued and important, and help unlock productivity now, when it’s needed the most.

There comes a time in every businessperson’s life when they start to think about giving back to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

You can spend years, even decades, striving to build a successful company, and get traction in your chosen market. During that time, you learn so much – you pick up skills you can’t hone any other way.

Once you learn what it takes to achieve your goals, you want to give others a helping hand. You know the blood, sweat and tears that go into launching a start-up, or generating growth, or making acquisitions. Perhaps you wish you’d known a little more of what you do now in your early days. You know you can lighten a fellow business owner’s load by giving them the benefit of your experience. Sometimes, mentoring is about sharing your smartest strategies. Sometimes it’s about telling them your worst mistakes so they can avoid repeating them.

I have started mentoring a young entrepreneur. She has recently taken over her father’s business. It’s an exciting challenge, and she is keen to get some guidance from an outsider. I am giving her an hour of my time every two weeks to discuss any challenges, share my insights and help connect her to my network.

When we were drawing up a rough plan for how our mentoring relationship would look, I started thinking about how many other people or new business owners could benefit from advice. Never more so than now, in fact – in the wake of the worst pandemic for 100 years.

We are in a period when many brilliant entrepreneurs have a little extra time on their hands. Maybe they have reclaimed the time they usually spend commuting by working from home. Perhaps business is slower than usual. Or maybe they have hit pause on some more complex projects.

This is the time to reach out to other business owners in your community and see how you can help. It’s so easy. Organisations like Connect Yorkshire exist to help connect business owners with seasoned entrepreneurs. Full disclosure: I am a paid up member of the organisation. But, truly, what a brilliant service. If you can afford £300 a year then I thoroughly recommend you join. You will be able to tap into business brains such as textile tycoon Sir Anthony Ullman, Boost Drinks founder Simon Gray, turnaround expert Richard Field OBE or the legendary IT entrepreneur Peter Wilkinson, who built and sold Freeserve back in the 90s.

Mentoring makes you a better entrepreneur. Every time I give advice, I have ideas for my own business. I’ve started making two columns in my notebook during mentoring sessions: one is about what I can help the other person achieve, and the other is for smart strategies I need to tweak or implement at BigChange. If you really want to learn, try to teach someone else what you know. It’s a really illuminating process.

I am keen to do more mentoring this year, and I’m also passionate about encouraging other entrepreneurs to dedicate some of their free time to helping the next generation. If this is you, and you are looking for some tips on how it works (how much time to give, when to schedule meetings and what is expected of you), then drop me a line. I’ll be happy to share the structure that’s worked for me.

email. martin.port@bigchange.com

When I was creating the business plan for 2020, I had no idea that this would end up being one of the most challenging, worrying, strange and illuminating years of my entire career.

Here are the half-year results for BigChange. I know we’ve weathered the storm better than many, and for that I’m hugely grateful to my incredible team and our loyal, fantastic customer base.

Going for growth

The last few months have been tough but BigChange adjusted quickly to the new trading conditions. The business generated revenues of £8.2m in the first half of 2020, up from £7.6m during the first half of last year.

This is an incredible achievement and is down, in part, to the 166 new customers we brought onto the platform. I’d like to give a special mention to Sunbelt Rentals Inc (formerly A-Plant), part of Ashtead Group Plc, the largest equipment rental company in the UK, which came on board at the start of 2020.

We have secured a record £13m-worth of new contracts during the last six months, and order values are up 25% on last year. I’m proud to say that the majority of new business now comes in through customer referrals. The business has grown well across all our target markets, including France and Cyprus.

Investing in innovation

We have continued to invest in new products and features. We have spent £500,000 on a new business analytics and artificial intelligence solution, which will be launched later this year.

During lockdown, we released a number of features to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19. These include: a new ‘no touch’ signature feature for mobile workers, and integration with some of the world’s most commonly used tools, such as Outlook and Word.

Our commitment to innovation was recognised during the first quarter of this year, when BigChange received the highest honours that can be given to a British company. We won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, in the Innovation category.

Proving our worth

Our customers have been our number one priority throughout this crisis, and I’m extremely proud that we have managed to help so many of them to trade on successfully using our platform.

Drainage company Eurotech has experienced a £1m boost to the business since going live with BigChange last summer. Moorhouse Heating Limited has doubled its turnover and tripled its field service engineering team without needing additional staff in the office. Europump has used BigChange to increase its first-time fix record tenfold, boosting the business by £100,000 a year.

Here are just a few of the customer testimonials we’ve received over the last few months:

“Being fully digital, cloud-based and completely free of paperwork proved critical during the COVID-19 lockdown. We literally flicked a switch and were all instantly up and running from home. We just carried on working as normal.”

Jack Aplin, Director, Europump

“During the Coronavirus lockdown we’d have been completely floored without BigChange. If we’d still been paper-based we simply couldn’t have done our job – as things were customers did not see any change at all.”

Mick Brindle, Director, H2O FlowTech

“We were able to shut down the office and be up and running at home within one hour. The BigChange No Touch Signature Capture App has been especially useful, allowing us to gain job sign-off without directly interacting with the customer; with many premises closed our usual contacts are simply not onsite anyway.”

Paul Roberts, Director Metroline Fire & Security

World-class customer service

We are so thankful to our customers for giving us a Net Promoter Score that rivals the likes of Samsung and Starbucks. We are now at 70 plus, up from 68 in the final quarter of 2019. A Net Promoter Score reflects a customer’s willingness to recommend you and anything above 70 is categorised as ‘world-class’.

The BigChange Network

At the start of the year we held Network conferences in Newcastle and Manchester, bringing together customers and partners to share insights and address business challenges. These events were supported by BigChange ambassadors Kevin Keegan and Michelle Dewberry. After lockdown, we held an online roundtable on supporting mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. More than 200 partners and customers attended the virtual event.

Tough decisions

Before lockdown was announced, we soon realised that we would need to cut costs if we were going to keep growing in a sustainable way. We have managed to do that, reducing the outgoings of the business enough to allow BigChange to break even.

Some of these efficiencies were achieved through salary cuts across the business. I opted to take a 30pc pay cut while junior members of the team have seen wages fall by just 5pc. We put less than 30 people on the Government’s furlough scheme and most have already returned to the business. This has helped to safeguard all our jobs and ensure that BigChange is in a much stronger financial position going into the second half. I’d like to thank my colleagues for their understanding and flexibility.

Virtual working

BigChange managed to move all 170 staff to remote working with zero downtime for our customers. We have made significant savings on travel during the last six months – and have reduced our carbon footprint, which is great for the planet as well as the bottom line.

As we have pivoted our business towards virtual working, we have also changed our offering. Many customers were forced to furlough workers, so we launched a series of online tutorials to help their staff learn how to use our core system. These training sessions covered everything from CRM to scheduling, and we welcomed hundreds of users to these sessions. We completed four tutorials a week over a 12-week period.

To help our customers to win new business despite lockdown, we launched our flagship Stronger Together campaign, advertising their services across our social media channels and on a dedicated webpage.

Our Motivational Mondays series has also gone online, and we have offered access to our incredible line-up of speakers to customers, prospects and partners. We are also supporting several charities through the initiative.

None of this could have been achieved without outstanding effort from the whole team, and the enduring trust and support of our customers and partners.

Thank you all.

The fortunes of local businesses have always been inextricably linked with football.

There’s a certain magic that happens when a city’s economy thrives and the local football team is at the top of its game. It’s as though the success of one magnifies the other.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. After 16 long years, Leeds was finally promoted back into the Premier League on July 17th. This was a momentous occasion for me, both as a lifelong Leeds fan, but also as an entrepreneur.

Throughout my whole career, Leeds United has been a partner in my success. When I was staying in a small hotel in Serenje District in Zambia, the gentleman at reception had not heard of Leeds – “But I know Leeds United,” he said. At meetings in Israel, saying that we were based in Leeds became a major advantage when everyone realised that our local team had featured sporting legends like Jack Charlton, Billy Bremner, Gary Speed and Norman Hunter.

BigChange Leeds United shirt

It’s a strange but powerful phenomenon: BigChange is all the richer from its association with Leeds United. Even during the darkest days at the club, when fans were chanting, ‘We’re not famous any more’, we were still trading on the longstanding value and currency generated by United. The name Leeds United is a form of free advertising, and a helping hand when doing deals with anyone who has a passing interest in football.

This is why I’m so proud that BigChange is now a Gold Digital Partner at Elland Road. Our logo is projected onto the field, and we will be back in the box supporting our team as soon as lockdown rules permit. Customers are already getting in touch, asking to come and watch games with us later in the year or in 2021. It’s an unrivalled opportunity to network; everyone in the room is united by their love of the beautiful game.

The Premier League creates an enormous amount of value for the UK economy. Each year, the League brings in an estimated £7.6bn through ticket sales, jobs, brand value and taxes. No one has analysed the economic impact of Leeds United in recent years but it is estimated that Manchester United generated £330m a year for Manchester.

Andrea Radrizzani’s full takeover of Leeds United in May 2017 brought a real buzz back to the game, and the city. Leeds United has pulled off an extraordinary turnaround to be back in the top flight. Right now, I can feel the renewed hope and enthusiasm in my bones.

It gives all of us Yorkshire leaders a boost, and a feeling that we too can achieve anything. Amidst all the gloom, it’s a shot in the arm.

Let’s keep marching on together.

I’ve done it. I’ve booked two weeks off in August.

This might not seem much of an achievement but I really struggle to take holidays. I love my job, and I am completely focused on building BigChange and improving the service we offer customers.

Sometimes, though, this makes it hard to switch off. Being ‘on’ all the time can be mentally draining. Recently, I’ve started looking at my packed calendar and I’ve felt overwhelmed, rather than energized.

You need to take breaks in order to recharge. I am always encouraging my colleagues to take holidays and have a rest but it’s hard to take my own medicine.

The COVID-19 outbreak has forced many of us to work from home. Leaders feared that this would adversely affect productivity: would staff be able to manage their time well? How do workers perform when there’s no one watching?

According to the Office for National Statistics, there was only a slight dip in productivity at the start of lockdown – down just 0.4% compared with the same period in 2019. Considering the level of disruption and upheaval, that’s a pretty incredible result.

Now that we truly understand that virtual working can be just as productive as an office-based environment, we must deal with another issue: people who are engaged, driven and ambitious will struggle to stop working.

A recent survey of more than 2,000 people by LinkedIn and the Mental Health Foundation found that Brits who have been working from home since the coronavirus outbreak have been putting in an extra 28 hours of overtime a month. This has taken its toll: more than half (56%) said that they felt “more anxious and stressed” about work than they did before the pandemic. Right now, 12% of workers are logging on before 7am and 18% are still working 12 hours later.

I’ve also noticed that my working day is creeping later and later. The time and energy I’m saving on travelling means I get an extra half hour in bed in the morning, but then I never take a lunch break and find myself still working at 11pm. I’m so much more productive at home and I have a PA yet I’m putting in extra hours. It shouldn’t be this way.

Strong managers will need to ensure that they enforce boundaries, and don’t allow team members to burn out by working long hours. But I am my own manager, and I need to take responsibility for my own mental health.

My wife and I both need to be mindful of ‘burn out’. When I told Mandy I’d booked two weeks off for us to take a holiday she said, ‘I refuse. You go. I’ll work!’ We are a pair of workaholics.

I’m hoping to win Mandy over by finding somewhere really brilliant to go. I don’t want to fly anywhere – I want to help support the British economy by having a ‘staycation’ instead.

I hope some of you reading this can help me out. Where shall we go? We like walking, golf, and we would love to take our dog with us – otherwise we’re open to ideas. We want to keep maintaining social distance, so we will need our own space – and I doubt I could convince Mandy and the kids to go camping.

Make sure you get a holiday in the diary too. I’m sure you need a break as badly as we do.

Europump has turned to mobile and cloud technology to expand its fuel pump maintenance services within the commercial fleet sector.

Using the latest mobile workforce management technology from Leeds-based BigChange, Europump has developed what it believes is an industry first level of service in the design, supply, installation, service and maintenance of commercial fuelling solutions.

The cloud-based and mobile system provides real time synchronisation between Europump’s office and field service engineers using the JobWatch 5 in 1 mobile app. Providing a complete end to end business system replacing all paperwork, it has already been deployed by parent company Eurotank and across Europump’s existing services to fuel filling stations.

Jack Aplin, Director, Eurotank commented:

“Fleet operators work in a demanding industry where schedules are critical and reliable equipment is crucial; a fleet of buses or trucks could well depend on one or two pumps to fuel up.”

“There is clearly a demand for a service company that can maintain all types of pumps and that is exactly what Europump do.”

“Speed, communication and professionalism of our response is as important as our engineering capability and BigChange has been absolutely vital to our approach to the market and the winning of new business. It underpins the whole service offering and gives us a distinct competitive edge.”

Europump’s engineers are equipped with tablets running the JobWatch linked to vehicle trackers as part of a real-time system that gives customer service staff and management complete 24/7 visibility of the field operations. The office uses BigChange cloud-based CRM, scheduling and business software all seamlessly linked together with operations as a complete end-to end solution.

Aplin explained:

“Being fully digital, cloud based and completely free of paperwork proved critical during the COVID-19 lockdown. “We literally flicked a switch and were all instantly up and running from home. Coupled with video conferencing we just carried on working as normal.”

Since the initial implementation of BigChange last year, Europump has been focusing on enhancing services to the commercial sector. One development, managing stock, has in particular provided very significant service and financial benefits.

Traditionally engineers would identify faults on a first visit and if required order parts for collection at the depot before returning to site. With commercial fleet fuel services, pump uptime is paramount and Europump knew first time repair would be a crucial measure of their performance and reputation. Now the company has used BigChange to completely automate stock ordering and replenishment to keep vans fully stocked to minimise return visits to site.

Aplin concluded:

“With this automated stock management capability on BigChange we have completely transformed our business. By virtually eliminating return to sites and improving our first time fix performance literally 10-fold we are saving all that unnecessary engineer time and cost. We anticipate this development will bring a £100,000 a year boost to the business through improved productivity and service.”

BigChange Europump mobile device

It’s a strange feeling, celebrating milestones under lockdown. 25 years ago today, I married my wonderful wife Mandy.

What’s also strange is that I’m not at all sad that things have worked out this way. If the last few months under lockdown have taught me anything, it is to appreciate the little things – and that family is extraordinarily precious.

If you would have told me, at the start of the year, that I would be spending four months inside my home with my wife 24/7, and living with my four children for the first time since they were all at school, I would have laughed at you. “I need to travel to see customers,” the old me would have said. “There will be so many arguments. We’ll tear the house apart.”

The reality has been totally different.

I have loved every minute.

This pandemic has had a devastating impact on so many people, families and organisations. It’s a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Yet that has only made me feel more grateful, more blessed for the people I love.

I love our new life. I work in the lounge and Mandy is next door in the dining room. We pop in and out, and always sit down to have tea together – usually with the kids too. Before lockdown, I can’t remember the last time I made it home in time for the evening meal. I was always working till 7 or 8 o’clock.

I used to travel constantly, hopping on trains and planes to visit customers. Now, when I think of all that unproductive time spent travelling, and the carbon footprint, I shudder.

Being at home has been a revelation. I start work earlier but I have the flexibility to take a coffee break with Mandy and finish work in time to relax in the evening. Meetings over Teams are structured and to the point. Everything you lose in banter and small talk you gain in productivity.

Sometimes, my son Joseph brings his Playstation into my “office”. He’s got headphones in, so the noise doesn’t disturb me, and I love having him around all day.

Mandy and I have always made a great team, both at home and at the office – she worked with me at my last business, Masternaut, too. But this experience has only increased my admiration for her, and all she does.

Back when I was spending long hours at the office, and she was at home juggling lead generation for the business alongside looking after the kids, it was easy to miss how hard she works, and take her talent and energy for granted. Now, I see all that she does, and the amount she packs into her day. We’re both workaholics but when we work side-by-side, it never feels like work.

She is so perceptive, a great listener, and remembers all the details that I forget! I’m a better businessman with Mandy around.

So, yes, I’m celebrating our 25th anniversary under lockdown. But in many ways, this is a gift; the best anniversary present I could wish for.

This blog is dedicated to you Amanda Port, an incredible wife and mother, and a vital member of the team at BigChange. Happy anniversary. I love you.

These are tough times for many charities. The pandemic has created financial hardship for a lot of the people who usually give to good causes.

They have been forced to stop their donations, while others have moved support from their usual charities to those tackling COVID-19.

A recent study by Pro Bono Economics found that as many as one in 10 UK charities is facing bankruptcy by the end of the year. The report pointed to a £10bn shortfall, caused by soaring demand for the services offered by these organisations alongside the massive drop in income due to coronavirus.

This is something that weighs on me heavily. Like many other business leaders, I had to make the tough decision to reduce BigChange’s contributions to charity earlier this year. We usually give upwards of £200,000 to different causes each year but, right now, my priority has to be the needs of my colleagues and our customers – and the ongoing health of the business.

We are still making donations to humanitarian causes but have been forced to cut back on other charitable spending. I hope that this will only be for the short-term.

However, this got me thinking. I may not be able to give as much as before but could I, as an entrepreneur, figure out a way to help charities generate more donations? What resources or assets could I leverage to help them, in lieu of hard cash? This is when I had a brain wave.

The first Monday of each month, BigChange invites an inspiring speaker to come and tell the BigChange team about their lives. The Motivational Monday initiative has been running for a couple of years, and has been extremely popular. We’ve welcomed a diverse range of fascinating people, from Toyah Wilcox to Eddie the Eagle to Holocaust survivor Arek Hersh. This month, we are hearing from serial entrepreneur and Queen of taupe Kelly Hoppen.

I am now teaming up with local charities to give them access to these Motivational Monday events, so that they can use them as a part of a virtual coffee afternoon to help raise donations. I’m delighted to announce that we have already signed up the first two charities who will be coming on board: Yorkshire Cancer Research, and the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which funds research into motor neuron disease.

I hope that these partnerships will help worthy causes to raise awareness and hopefully get them some much-needed financial support at this difficult time. When faced with a problem, even one that seems impossible, there is always a solution if we think hard enough, and explore all the options available to us.

I want to do all I can to help worthy charities right now, as they do such brilliant work in this country. We must all pull together to make sure they can keep offering the services that vulnerable, sick, and disadvantaged people need now, more than ever. But we must also do our homework, supporting only those charities that are well managed and funnel the majority of donations towards the people they have promised to help.

There have been recent reports of charities – some big names too – that have failed to provide an acceptable level of service and even allowed vulnerable people to come to harm. The onus is on us all to do our due diligence before giving our money and support. It may feel uncomfortable to do so, it may be time consuming, but it is worth it to make sure that charities that truly make a positive difference in the world get the support they deserve – and the bad ones don’t.

If you were unable to join the live event, you can now catch-up with Martin’s webinar on the 25th of June.

Hear how Martin has used his experiences in business across the years to develop and build the BigChange business system, focus on customer service, drive efficiency and improve culture. All through his tried and tested strategies, which he shares with you as a recipe for success for any business.

Featuring Rebecca Burn-Callander, former editor of The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph as the webinar facilitator.

BigChange

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