Chairman’s Spotlight: the couple helping protect our access to clean water

The best businesses are borne out of necessity. Perhaps there’s a customer need that cannot be ignored, or it could be a personal imperative. 

The latter was true for Kirsty and Neil Scott, the husband-and-wife team behind Veriflo. 

In 2015, they sat at their dining room table and tried to imagine a better future. Parents to two children under two – the youngest was just four months old – they saw a gap in the market and took a leap of faith with a new business.

Together, they thrashed out a plan for Veriflo, building on their skills and experience. “We started the business in June, and I kept my job going,” Kirsty tells me. “By December, we were both working full-time for the business.”

Neil, whose background was in the water industry, provided the technical expertise, while Kirsty, the problem solver, and a fast learner, would manage the business and its culture.  Eight years on, their strategic and technical clean water consultancy is the trusted partner for some of the UK’s largest water companies, serving London and the South. 

From major complex infrastructure programmes to everyday maintenance of the water network, Kirsty, Neil, and their 34-strong team ensure that people’s access to clean water supply remains uninterrupted. 

This is a niche industry and skills are hard to come by, so Kirsty and Neil have come up with their own solutions for creating a talent pipeline. Their apprenticeship scheme welcomes cohorts of up to five young people at a time, while their sister company, Gold Tap Training (www.goldtaptrainig.co.uk ), helps to upskill and develop both their own staff and technicians working in the wider industry. 

“We have invested in skills by building our own custom-made above-ground water rig, so that technicians can learn the practical skills they will need on the job,” Kirsty explains. 

At Veriflo (veriflo.co.uk), the team is dedicated to ensuring their clients get an unbeatable service, while maintaining a first-class safety record and preserving essential skills. Kirsty and Neil brought on BigChange to help support fleet management and planning, so that they can concentrate on complex projects while our platform takes care of the paperwork. 

Kirsty says: “BigChange gave us the practical support we needed to ensure our fleet is as efficient as it can be, and as our business grows and evolves, we know that BigChange’s wide range of features will continue to support our future requirements.”

Kirsty and Neil, who have been together 22 years, have carefully carved out their responsibilities within the business, which helps to avoid friction. “We had two rules when we started out,” says Kirsty. “We’ll never use our house as collateral, and we won’t let the business get in the way of our marriage. That first rule has been easy to follow but the second is sometimes a challenge. Having very clear roles within the business helps us to support each other and avoid friction.”

Veriflo has evolved into a strategic expert, both from a desktop and field aspect, taking on the jobs that require skills that the water sector really needs. “In the early days, we said yes to everything,” says Kirsty. “But these days, we have learned to be more selective, and only take on the projects that really fit our skills and company ethos, as well as providing our clients with reassurance of our delivery.” 

They are confident about the future, and the impact Veriflo can make on the industry. “When we think about the future of this business, we aren’t trying to hit a number, in terms of people or turnover. Instead, we are focused on performance, developing industry skills, and ensuring that Veriflo remains a great place to work for our people.”

Chairman’s spotlight: the man championing Britain’s gardeners

One of the reasons I so enjoy meeting BigChange customers is that the conversations we have always expand my mind and show me new perspectives.

This week, I had the privilege of catching up with David Newman, the founder and CEO of Newman Landscapes. He started the business in 2006, building it from the ground up (pun intended), from domestic gardening to commercial maintenance and prestige contracts.

Today, he employs 33 people, but he has big ambitions to become a medium-sized national player with his own academy, training people up in the craft and lobbying on behalf of the gardening sector.

When he said this and explained his vision for championing gardeners in the UK, he blew my mind.

“My ambition is to change the perception of gardening,” he tells me. “A lot of people think that gardening is easy – anyone can mow a lawn or trim a hedge. You put a quote in, and the reply is, ‘That’s expensive – for a gardener’. The truth is that experienced gardeners are skilled professionals, who deserve to be recognised for their work.

“We have done some extraordinary projects at Newman Landscapes, from celebrity gardens to the creation of incredible lakes, which takes careful design, planning, and execution. Gardeners handle invasive species, help maintain ancient trees, and work across huge sites for complex clients.

“Someone could lose their job today and decide to offer gardening services, and they may quote tiny prices to get started, but I want to educate people that undervaluing our profession ruins the industry and perpetuates the myth that gardening is easy, and anyone can do it. It’s time to stop taking this sector for granted.”

I love understanding the things that really matter to my customers. I really want to help David on his mission, and it’s great that BigChange is helping him to scale faster so that he can reach his goal sooner. “BigChange will revolutionise this business over time,” he says. “We have more than 1,000 sites in our ground maintenance business and now I know, at every minute of the day, how jobs are going and where we are as a business. This used to take up hours of my week and now I get an instant snapshot, which will help us grow.”

David lives and breathes horticulture; it’s in his blood. His great grandfather owned a floristry business, and his father is a Royal Horticultural Society certificate holder. “I’ve never wanted to do anything else,” he says. “Even today, I’m happy to get my hands dirty and jump in a digger or help out the team.”

A true advocate for his industry, and a skilled and passionate gardener, I can’t wait to see what David does next.  

Chairman’s Spotlight on Andy Patterson, founder of Automotive Group

“I can’t sit still. I’m always on the go and constantly coming up with new ideas.”

Does this sound familiar?

When I sat down with Andy Patterson, the extraordinarily successful serial entrepreneur behind Automotive Group, he talked about his drive – “I really enjoy working,” he told me. “My ideas may not always be perfect, and they aren’t always executed flawlessly but I do it anyway, and that’s how you get somewhere in life.”

I think most entrepreneurs would identify with this statement. I certainly do. According to Andy, success comes as a result of three things: ambition, being open to new opportunities, and embracing change.

Spotting opportunities

Andy’s story is seriously impressive. He spent his younger years working in bars and pubs on behalf of a major brewery. But even then, he had an entrepreneurial flair. “I have always liked cars and I’m good with my hands so when a friend started working for a dent repair company, I decided to try it out.” He wanted to be his own boss, he told me. “I wanted to be in a position whereby if I worked hard, I got rewarded. If I was lazy, I wasn’t. As an employee, it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference how much effort you put in, you get the same result. As my own boss, I was in control.”

He started his first company, Automotive Repair Systems, in 1997. “I was a man in a van, travelling around selling myself to car dealers, leasing firms and the like, taking small dents out of vehicles.” However, it wasn’t long before he spotted the opportunity to diversify. “Customers wanted bumper repairs and alloy wheel replacements,” he said. “I didn’t offer them at the time, but I decided to give it a try.”

The power of ambition

Today, Andy’s company is one of the most successful independent firms in SMART repair, serving customers across England. SMART, which stands for Small and Medium Area Repair Techniques, which means most of this work can take place in under an hour. As a group, Andy’s companies has over 178 vehicles out on the road, with mobile technicians providing services as well as implanted technicians in major car dealerships. The business head office is in Orpington, Kent with a Northern office in Liverpool.

Ambition has been key to Andy’s success, helping him over bumps in the road. “When we started employing people, that was hard,” he recalled. “At one point, we had 10 people, which meant ten times the responsibility and headaches, but I was no better off financially. At that point, I found myself wondering, ‘Why am I doing this?’” He persevered, and today the business employs over 200 people, and Andy’s talented management team have allowed him to step into a strategic role and found other ventures.

Change is crucial

As the business became more successful, the admin piled up. “Our lady in accounts was spending an entire day each week inputting paper invoices into our accounts software,” Andy says. “Our technicians were using carbon copy invoice pads, which were not only producing ridiculous amounts of paper, but they were also creating too many errors.” Incorrect VAT calculations, illegible handwriting, and other human errors meant that 5% of invoices had to be reviewed. It was time to make a big change and modernise the business.

“Since implementing BigChange, our accounts teams no longer spend one in five days on admin input,” says Andy. “There are now rarely any human errors, and we have access to a phenomenal wealth of data that helps us make business decisions based on facts rather than gut feel.”

BigChange has had a big impact on the business, especially when customers have a query. “We no longer have to go to the archive room and sift through hundreds of paper files. We have it all at the click of a button.” The only downside of BigChange? “When you have people on the team who have been using paper processes for 20 years and don’t want to change, that’s a challenge. We tried to downplay the scale of the transition but that’s a little difficult when you’re working with a company called BigChange – thanks for that, Martin!”

Over the years, the business has been through tough times – like when a dealership went bust, owing Automotive Group £35,000; “That really hurt us. I took the hit personally to make sure our people got paid” – but every day, there are little wins that make it all worthwhile. “It’s so satisfying when people are blown away by your service,” Andy says. “When their car looks brand new, and it only cost them £100 when they thought it would cost them 10 times that amount.” 

And with other businesses currently achieving great exponential growth and acclaim across F1 Hospitality, Wine business in Monaco, Other Automotive businesses, along with an extensive property portfolio and more, Andy is proving that his recipe for success can be applied to businesses in all sectors. We wish him well!

Chairman’s spotlight on… Graham Nixon, CEO of Nixon Hire

In life, patience is a virtue. In business, impatience can be even more valuable.

When you want your company to grow, to modernise, and to evolve, you can’t sit back and wait for things to happen. You have to drive that change. You must motivate your people and inspire them to be their best. It is your energy and sheer force of will that catalyse to bring new ideas to life.

When I met Graham Nixon 15 years ago, I recognised a kindred spirit. Graham is a self-confessed “impatient man”. “I embrace change,” he tells me. “I believe in action first – perfection will follow. Change is what gets me out of bed in the morning.”

Graham became CEO of his family business 12 years ago. Nixon Hire was founded by his father John in 1967. “He sold my mum’s car to raise the collateral to start the business,” he explains. “He used to be a sales representative for a company selling vibrating pokers and he saw an opportunity to offer rental too.” Nixon Hire grew to a single depot offering plant and vehicle hire. Today, Nixon Hire offers plant rentals, site accommodation, toilets, welfare cabins and more, serving the whole UK from 13 depots and employing 520 people.

Graham wasn’t just parachuted into the CEO job; he started as a fitter and worked his way up. During that time, he founded a bunch of other companies which taught him all about entrepreneurship – the highs and lows. Impatient to prove his mettle, he and his siblings even started a site services business, which became so successful that it was bought by Nixon Hire.

Nixon Hire became a BigChange customer in 2014, and I have watched the business grow and flourish. “I’m always trying to modernise and improve the business,” he says. “When we started using BigChange, it had a massive impact. No more paper. All our reporting is real-time. Who would have thought that a fitter in a workshop would be using software like this? But now they can’t imagine life without it.

“I am a great believer in getting from A to B in the most efficient way,” he continues. “Today, we integrate many parts of the business on the BigChange platform. 

“My ultimate business objective is to have perfect assets, always available for hire, and BigChange lets me deliver on that goal.”

Graham’s strength of character has shone through as the business has become increasingly adept at targeting individual sectors, such as events or retail. He introduced the innovative welfare cabin – an all-in-one product offering a generator, cabin and toilet in a single unit. The response has been incredible.

Graham never stands still; he’s always thinking about the next big thing. “Right now, we’re building up our renewables business,” Graham tells me. “Our solar pod, which allows customers to use the power of the sun to replace a diesel generator, has been hugely popular.”

Under Graham’s stewardship, the business has gone from £27m in revenue to £85m. “We have added more divisions, and pushed to get maximum utilisation out of every depot,” he says. “This industry is fiercely competitive, with people fighting over the price of a sandwich on kit, so efficiency is key.” 

Graham has created a model that can be replicated anywhere. “We are currently supplying to most parts of the UK right now but need to strengthen our depot presence to make us more efficient and better placed to serve our customers.” This year, the business will hit another milestone: £100m in turnover.

This is the power of impatience

Chairman’s spotlight on: Nathan Wood, Managing Director of Farmwood

Chairman’s spotlight on: Nathan Wood, Managing Director of Farmwood

One of the advantages of doing the right thing in business is that, even if it takes a while for the market to catch up, you know that one day customers and partners will truly value your approach and offering. 

This has been my experience in all my ventures. Whether I was encouraging people to slow down on the roads to save lives, or to eliminate paper and slash emissions with BigChange, sooner or later, the world catches on and your service becomes indispensable.

Nathan Wood is a fellow entrepreneur on a mission. His goal: to improve the air quality inside buildings. He is the managing director of Farmwood, a ventilation specialist serving customers nationwide. The business has been going for 20 years and is an industry pioneer. 

“People tend to take it for granted that the air they breathe inside buildings is safe,” Nathan explains. “But the issue is that you can’t see, smell or taste some of the bad stuff. It’s not like turning on the tap and seeing brown, smelly water coming out – you wouldn’t drink that. But in some buildings, people are breathing in carbon dioxide that has been inside other people four times over.”

The global pandemic brought this issue into the mainstream as businesses began investigating the issue of ventilation. “Most buildings have a co2 monitor today because it’s a proxy for Covid risk,” Nathan says. “And most people know now that the office afternoon slump, which people used to think was caffeine wearing off or the effect of a late night, is actually due to the amount of co2 concentration in the building.”

Farmwood was set up by Nathan’s father Dave Wood in 2002 – Farmwood is an amalgam of Farmer, Nathan’s mother’s maiden name, and his own surname. Nathan, whose background is in heavy industry and machinery, joined the business nine months in, starting at the bottom. “I went on the road as a technician,” he says. “People didn’t know I was related to Dave – I didn’t want to be seen as the snotty-nosed governor’s son.” As the company grew, so did Dave’s responsibilities. “We were in the right place at the right time with the right mindset and culture, so customers found us,” he says. He became Managing Director in 2017.

Farmwood is one of the UK’s few ventilation specialists – most rivals offer it as a bolt-on service. This has given it real clout in the marketplace. “We had a look at our key searches and found that people aren’t searching for ‘ventilation services’ when they come to our website. They are looking specifically for Farmwood, which is a testament to our brand awareness,” says Nathan.

Farmwood recently implemented BigChange. “Every year, we have a new mission statement – last year it was ‘own it’ and this year it is ‘go beyond’,” says Nathan. “BigChange is helping us deliver on that promise. Our engineers have said it makes their lives so much easier and we see the platform as a real springboard for success.”

“They were spending a lot of time on the admin for each job but with BigChange it’s so much more efficient, more professional and easier to use on the go.”

Farmwood is at the forefront of a movement to modernise the UK’s ageing housing stock to help the nation meet its net zero commitments. Nathan is working with the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) to help spread awareness of the Building Safety Act 2022. “It’s the biggest reform to building safety standards in a generation,” he says. “It changes the way buildings are designed, built, and maintained in the wake of Grenfell.” With Cop27 currently underway, the issue of how we design the buildings of the future to meet our climate goals is front of mind for many.

Ventilation has a big part to play in the evolution of building safety: “More people in Grenfell died of smoke inhalation than the fire itself.” It is estimated that 80% of the UK’s existing housing stock will still be in use by 2050, the UK’s net zero deadline. It will cost between £30bn and £50bn to bring public buildings in line with modern standards and compliance.

Farmwood’s dedication to improving air quality puts it in prime position to help the UK make this transition. After 20 years of solidly banging the drum to raise awareness about co2 and air quality, they are poised for extraordinary growth – and this team really deserves it. Remember: do the right thing and the rewards will come. 

Your customer’s success is everything

What can you do today to help your customer be more successful tomorrow? Ian Burgess, BigChange’s Chief Customer Officer, explains what you need to know.

I have spent my whole life building businesses and my obsession with my customers has been the constant that unites all my ventures, whether it’s a bakery or a software company.

But when it comes to going the extra mile for customers, it’s easy to talk the talk and far harder to walk the walk. A customer-centric approach takes investment, focus and a relentless determination to keep improving.

This is why, at BigChange, we made sure that as the business grew, we kept revisiting the concept of customer success. Regular readers of this blog will have seen some of my posts on the topic. We were delighted when Ian Burgess, who has spent his whole career helping companies better support their customers, joined the team as our BigChange Chief Customer Officer in September.

So, for any business owners out there who want to build businesses with customer success at their heart, I’ve asked Ian to share some of the insights we have learned on our journey. I hope that you find them useful, and that you and your customers will thrive!

Over to Ian!

Q: What does customer success mean?

In a traditional account management structure, a customer will call in with an issue, the team jumps to sort it out, and it can be chaotic. Customer success is about being proactive, not reactive. You understand your customer so well that you can anticipate their needs.

Q: How does a customer success focus change the structure of the business?

In many businesses, the hierarchy (if laid flat) looks like a conveyor belt. One team passes the order to another and so on. Service teams usually sit right at the end of that conveyor belt.

When you put customer success at the heart of the organisation, it becomes a pivot around which all departments turn.

In BigChange, this means that customer success engages with all teams across the customer journey to ensure they know all about the latest developments that can help customers thrive.

Q: How do you establish customer success processes?

Customer success is an ethos as well as a function. You don’t just introduce a customer success team; you need to get buy-in from the whole business. We created a customer success platform; an aggregation layer on top of the BigChange technology.

We look at things like: when was the last time we engaged with the customer? How are they using the product? What might they like some help with?

Q: Are there any pitfalls to be aware of?

Your customers are busy people so you must only contact them when you can genuinely add value.

There’s no point calling up and saying, ‘It’s raining’ – they’ll know that already. But if you can tell them it’s going to rain tomorrow, you give them insight they can act upon.

This is also why we recommend you have a dedicated customer success team – one point of contact for these proactive approaches.

You don’t want people from lots of different teams calling up with different propositions.

Q: What impact did this approach have on BigChange and its customers?

The more we help our customers to get the maximum value out of our product, the quicker they will grow. And the more value they get from the platform, the more efficiencies and benefits they will experience, which also breeds loyalty to BigChange.

That’s really powerful for us, as you can see in our Net Promoter Score. As we grow, it’s very important to everyone in the business that we stay human.

We will never be a faceless corporation. We are always at the end of the phone, always looking to help. It’s a real differentiator for us, especially at a time when other companies in the space charge extra for this kind of service.

For us, it is fundamental to our core offering.

Chairman’s spotlight on… Paul Van Heeswyk

Crucial Engineering

Paul Van Heeswyk, founder of Crucial Engineering, explains how he’s using the BigChange platform to boost efficiency and take his business to new heights.

Paul Van Heeswyk is known as “Dutch” to most people, even though he’s actually more Irish than Dutch, and has an accent that’s pure Leeds.

I met Dutch four years ago. He had just started his business, Crucial Engineering, and was building it from the ground up.

The moment I met Dutch, I was impressed. We got chatting at a BNI networking event and he had that entrepreneurial spark about him. When I told him that we had an issue with our office doors – and he explained that fixing industrial doors was his speciality – I asked him to take a look.

He fixed our problem then and there and I invited him up to test-drive our software.

Even though he was still a one-man band at that time, Paul saw the potential for BigChange to help him grow his business faster than he could on his own. He’s been a customer ever since.

I caught up with him recently to ask how business was going and I was delighted – although not surprised in the least – to find out he’s achieved everything he’d set out to do and more.

I’d like to tell you a little more about Dutch, and hopefully you’ll be as inspired by his drive and determination as I am.

Celebrating business owners

As regular readers of this blog will know, I created the “Chairman’s spotlight on…” series to celebrate the amazing business owners I’ve met on the BigChange journey.

It’s an absolute privilege to be able to help these enterprising individuals to grow their companies and be more successful with our software, and I also want to shout about their endeavours from the rooftops! They deserve it!

Like many of our customers, Paul started his businesses after spending years working for other companies and realising that he could do it better.

“I had worked at organisations where the ethics and morals just didn’t align with my own,” he explains. “So I got a van and bought some tools and off I went.”

The quality of his work and Paul’s commitment to customer service ensured that his start-up grew quickly.

Within six months, he was able to hire his first teammate, Chris. “Chris is our operations manager to this day,” he says.

Using BigChange to improve efficiency

Four months into his business journey, Paul decided to become a BigChange customer. “I’d seen the problems that can arise at my previous company,” he explains.

“People thought that I was insane when I first started using it because it was just me, so I was sending jobs to myself and finishing them and sending them back to myself! It seemed as though I was adding more process when I was already busy. But I knew I wanted to grow Crucial, so I needed these systems in place early on. Now that we are 27 people, BigChange is the absolute brains of the business.

“The transparency that it has brought to our financial processes is vital. We use it to quote, raise purchase orders, invoice, you name it. If a customer rings up with a question about a job we completed a few weeks ago, we can instantly bring up the quote, engineer’s photos, reports, invoice, everything. There’s no trawling through folders trying to find historic information.”

Paul believes that BigChange has done more than increase efficiency; it’s reduced overheads and supercharged growth.

“The cost of the software is far lower than what we would need to pay to hire an admin person to do all the laborious paperwork,” he explains. “And when I think about the growth we’ve achieved over the past four years, there’s no doubt that a proportion of that is down to BigChange.”

The start of a great journey

Paul is just at the beginning of his journey with Crucial Engineering. He recently completed the Goldman Sachs Business Growth Programme at Oxford University, an intensive three-month course that he says helped him to formulate his five-year plan.

“We want to become a national player, offering a four-hour response time to clients all over the UK,” he says.

Paul is eyeing acquisitions right now that will broaden his geographic footprint, and also recently bought a glazing business, which means he can produce his own glass and simplify his supply chain.

Crucial Engineering will be a market leader one day. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just look at all the awards Paul has won recently: he picked up this Growth award in Leeds recently and has been nominated in two categories at the Yorkshire Choice Awards: both ‘Independent business of the year 2022’ and ‘Businessman of the year 2022’.

Paul has always wanted to run his own business. He came up with the name Crucial Engineering while he was still in school. “I didn’t even know what the company would be doing,” he jokes. “I just knew that was going to be the name.”

When Paul decided to make the leap into start-up life, he found the name was taken. “I was devastated,” he admits. “My uncle had told me to just buy it years before, but I’d ignored him.”

Luckily, fate intervened and by the following Christmas, the previous owner had dissolved their company and Paul was able to snap up the name.

Now, the sky’s the limit for Paul and his team. “I’m passionate about business and building teams,” he says.

“I’ve always tried to keep a positive mental attitude, I always keep searching for growth opportunities and I love dealing with people, so I love everything about building this company. And I’m thankful to Martin and BigChange for giving us a technology that grows alongside us and keeps adapting to the scale of our ambitions.”

BigChange’s 2021 half-year results: Supporting the UK’s post-crisis recovery

BigChange Half-year

BigChange has had a fantastic start to 2021. Below we highlight the key achievements across the first six months of the year.

Last month, the CBI revealed that Britain’s hard-working companies are powering an extraordinary recovery, taking the economy to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.

BigChange is among the businesses that are supporting this recovery, creating new jobs at an incredible rate, winning business both at home and abroad, and creating sustainable revenues that will help the nation bounce back from the crisis.

It is with absolute pride that I announce our 2021 half-year results.

People power

We have grown our team to more than 200 people over the last six months. These brilliant new colleagues are part of our sustained investment in BigChange’s growth as we continue to build out our capabilities and win new business from customers large and small.

In the second half of this year, we will welcome even more new faces. We are also currently building out our C-suite, bringing in top talent from across the industry to help support our growth ambitions.

Going for growth

During the last six months, BigChange signed more than £12.5m-worth of new contracts. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all 170 of our new customers – thanks for choosing BigChange.

We now have 1,600 customers in total, with 40,000 users now relying on our technology. What an incredible result from the team!

And we’re not done yet. We believe we will surpass 400 new customers by the year-end.

Based on our performance so far this year, this means we are on track to increase revenues by as much as 50% across 2021.

Loyalty and customer success

It’s wonderful to welcome so many new customers into the fold but, at BigChange, we never let new business distract us from the important job of cherishing and supporting our existing customer base.

This is why I am so pleased that our repeat orders are exceptionally high, with more than 400 customers increasing their licence base in the past six months.

I am also delighted that we have improved our Net Promoter Score.

At 84.8, this NPS shows that BigChange offers world-class service to customers. If you would like to find out more about how BigChange keeps customers happy and helps them to thrive, please read our new customer testimonials.

Our commitment to innovation

Regular readers of this blog will know that earlier this year I pledged to focus on innovation and the creation of a pipeline of new product features to empower and supercharge the global mobile workforce.

We are making good on that promise, releasing several new features in the coming months. Customers will be able to unleash the power of their data through our data-as-a-service offering, we will also offer customers large and small access to best-in-class business insights and analytics through our eagerly awaited PowerBI reporting built in the BigChange platform.

And we have upped the automation factor in BigChange Pay to take on even more of the grunt work when taking payments.

As always, all our R&D is focused on helping our customers to grow and become more efficient. If there’s something you want us to add to the platform, tell us! We have created an ideas portal to allow anyone to suggest updates or new features.

Have you graduated from the BigChange University?

I am over the moon that so many of our customers have attended the BigChange University over the past six months. In total, our sessions saw more than 2,500 attendees.

We created the University as a place where students can learn how to get the most out of the platform and find out about new and exciting functionality.

We continue to improve and update our modules to offer real, tangible value, so if you haven’t had a look yet, then book your session today.

Doing our bit for charity

As a business, BigChange is committed to giving back, both to our local community and to charitable organisations that are making a big difference to people’s lives across the world.

Last year, we decided to link our Motivational Monday series – our monthly events that welcome inspirational speakers – with charitable giving.

This has been hugely successful and over the last six months, we have welcomed the likes of: Janet Street-Porter, the journalist and media personality; Kevin Sinfield OBE – or Sir Kev – the rugby player and campaigner; Tracey Neville MBE, the netball star who played for and coached the England team; and Benjamin Mee, who bought and reopened Dartmoor Zoo.

Among the charities that the series has supported are: Living Potential Farm, which offers work experience to those with learning difficulties and disabilities; men’s mental health charity Andy’s Man Club; PhysCap, which works to improve the quality of life of children suffering from severe physical disabilities; Homeless Street Angels, which helps those sleeping on the street of Leeds; the community action charity CATCH, and veterans’ charity Help for Heroes.

It’s a privilege to be at the helm of a business that is creating so much positive momentum for the economy – and for our customers and community.

Huge congratulations to the team for a job well done. 

CEO’s Blog – The three customer service secrets to my success

Customer Service

There’s a lot of advice out there for entrepreneurs. Every day there’s a new ‘21 ways to supercharge growth’ or ‘Four ways to be a better leader’.

I enjoy reading all the weird and wonderful tips but, in my experience, being successful just requires one thing: great customer service.

If your customers love you and value your business, every door opens. They buy more of your products or services. They reward you with long-term loyalty. You get more referrals – and word of mouth is the best customer acquisition tool because it’s meaningful (and free). Your reputation soars, which helps you recruit better employees, and attract investment. I could go on.

I’ve run all kinds of businesses over the years, and there have been three lessons that have ultimately helped me to be successful each and every time. It didn’t matter if I was creating a bakery, selling white goods, or building a bold new technology venture – I’ve always stuck to these three simple rules. I’d like to share those with you today.

Be the landlord

With any business, the founder should feel personally responsible for its success. Like a pub landlord who puts their name up above the door, you must take pride in your venture and never hide behind the organisation, even as it grows.

I see myself as personally responsible for everything that goes on at BigChange. My phone number is on the internet, and I take calls direct from customers at all times of the day or night all week, except the sabbath. If my customers experience any pain using our service, then I feel that pain too. I get copied in on all emails and I make sure that I’m involved until the issue is resolved.

Customer service goes beyond the customer; it’s about how you treat your own people. If I get an email in the night, and I don’t see that someone else has handled it, I’ll phone the driver or engineer back. Doesn’t matter if it’s 2am or 3am, I’ll phone and ask what I can do to help.

Some of the business leaders that I admire most have a similar strategy. It was a great shame when Dido Harding stepped down from TalkTalk, the telecoms business, following its cyber security issues. I remember when my mother had a problem with her TalkTalk internet service and I emailed Dido. She was genuinely interested in my mum, a woman in her seventies, and personally fixed the problem – even though TalkTalk had millions of customers at the time. Whatever she decides to do with her career, I’ll remember that interaction – that’s the power of great customer service.

Spend more than you think you should on customer service

From day one, in all of my businesses, I have invested in customer service. People have always called me mad: spending money on a department that wasn’t directly related to sales. But it’s always paid off for me.

At BigChange, we have at least one customer service representative for every 50 customers. We are creating a brand-new piece of technology, so we have always offered free webinar training and free support. We don’t even charge people to call us – we take on that cost.

Great entrepreneurs make it easy for their customers to get in touch. That means offering online, phone, and offline options. If one of our customers is really struggling with something, we will send a person over to their offices to help them resolve it face-to-face. I think it’s safe to say that’s a pretty unusual strategy for a software company.

When you spend on customer service, the return on investment is massive. We have really low customer churn – only 3% ever leave us. And some of those were due to company liquidations rather than cancellations.

Love your difficult customers

When you are building a business, you will come across difficult customers from time to time. They are never satisfied, and are always demanding more from you and your team. I’ve learned that a customer who is difficult at the outset of the relationship will often be difficult for the duration of the contract – that’s just the way it is. I should know: I’m a difficult customer myself and it takes one to know one. But the great thing about these people is that they help you to learn, and they drive your team to perform at a much higher standard.

If every customer was passive and no one gave you a hard time, how would your business improve? It’s better to be challenged: a customer service team learns a lot as a result of dealing with difficult customers – they often speak a lot of sense. Many of our customers have been with us for years, whereas some employees might be brand new, and could learn a lot from the customer’s insights.

It’s important to train your team to love tough customers. I take the time to explain that our customers come in all shapes and sizes. I like to use the analogy of the NHS. When a nurse is on the ward, some patients will complain that they haven’t been seen fast enough, others will apologise for taking up a bed. The ward is full of all sorts of people but the nurse has to make them all better, and make sure each patient leaves feeling they have received a good service.

I hope these customer service lessons will be as valuable to you as they have been to me. If you’ve got any great tips to add to the mix, please leave a comment. If you enjoy these posts, don’t forget to follow me to receive updates. See you soon for the next instalment…

All the best

Martin Port Signature
Martin Port
Founder & CEO

Mobile : +44 7973 671779
Landline: +44 113 4571000 Ext 333

CEO’s Blog – 1-Fleet Alliance holds landmark meeting in London to forge closer pan-European Telematics Collaboration

Fleet Alliance

Fleet Technology Entrepreneurs from across Europe met at London’s famous Savoy Hotel to strengthen business collaboration.

The 17 members of 1-Fleet Alliance – a group of telematics companies that together track over 500,000 vehicles throughout Europe – agreed to forge closer ties.

Following previous meetings in Barcelona and Budapest, the group agreed to form 1-Fleet Corporation, a commercial entity to represent the interests of the majority of the members. The group objectives include collaboration and networking, promoting innovation and telematics industry standardisation, as well as joint marketing and commercial agreements.

The meeting saw the appointment of Pedro Zamith, a well-known figure in the Automotive Technology arena, to oversee the development and launch of commercial propositions on behalf of 1-Fleet Corporation.

“This was a landmark meeting for 1-fleet alliance, taking our collaborative activities to a new level. One of the primary benefits of the alliance is that is looks after the interests of the market in general, rather than the interests of individual suppliers. Despite a changing political landscape affecting Europe, cross border trade will continue and technology will become increasingly uniform. At 1-Fleet Alliance we will drive innovation and standards in the telematics field for the benefit of fleet operators across Europe,” says Joe Fenech Conti, CEO of Loqus, one of the founder members of 1-Fleet.

This is the first ever pan-European alliance between leaders in the Fleet Technology and Telematics field and allows commercial fleet operators to benefit from the combined strength, global expertise and innovation brought by the diverse group membership.

Martin Port Signature
Martin Port
Founder & CEO