Could you spare an hour a week?

BigChange spare an hour

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. [email protected]

Great charities need our help; bad ones don’t

BigChange great charities cartoon

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.

CEO’s Blog – Transaid -Transforming lives through safe, available, and sustainable transport

BigChange sustainable transport

At the end of March, four long-term supporters of Transaid embarked on a self-funded trip to Zambia to visit our projects, meet our partners and learn more about what Transaid is doing to transform lives through safe, available and sustainable transport.

Mike Daly, Transaid Ambassador and Clipper Non-Executive Director; Chris Dolby, Head of Talent development at XPO Logistics; Martin Port, Founder and CEO of BigChange; and Alan Thornton, Commercial Director of W H Malcolm, were joined by Freelance Journalist Ian Norwell, and were welcomed to Zambia by Transaid’s Chief Executive, Caroline Barber, Corporate Partnerships Officer, Jade Ashby, and Project Manager, Victor Simfukwe.

Martin Port explained the rationale of organising such a trip: “BigChange are a corporate partner of Transaid and as part of our close ties with the charity I decided I wanted to view all the great work the organisation does to save lives in Zambia.”

Together, the group made the 14 hour round trip from Lusaka to Serenje, where Transaid is working alongside a consortium of partners and the Zambian Ministry of Health to tackle severe malaria in children aged under six years old, by improving access to a new World Health Organisation (WHO) approved drug, rectal artesunate (RAS).

In Serenje, the group were able to meet with a range of stakeholders: the District Health Management Team, local health facility staff, community health volunteers, emergency transport scheme (bicycle ambulance) riders, traditional leaders, and community members, including families whose children have survived severe malaria thanks to timely access to RAS and the injectable form of artesunate.

“It was truly humbling, touching and extremely powerful to see the impact that the work is having on the people living in very remote and hard to reach communities,” commented Chris Dolby.

On returning to Lusaka, the group were introduced to Transaid’s road safety and professional driver training programme, delivered in partnership with the Industrial Training Centre (ITC). Here, they were invited to celebrate the formal handover of a training vehicle, donated by W H Malcolm, alongside all ITC staff, board members, students, trainers and the Zambian Ministry.

“W H Malcolm is delighted to be able to donate a truck to the ITC. Personally, I have been overwhelmed by the response from everyone at the ITC and feel privileged that this vehicle will have a positive impact on road safety in Zambia, reducing the number of incidents on the roads.”

Transaid’s corporate partners are crucial to our work. Without their support, whether that is financial, the donation of vehicles, the secondment of staff overseas or providing guidance, Transaid would struggle to achieve everything it does. We are delighted that some of our supporters were able to see our work on the ground.

Martin Port
Founder & CEO

Our small change we hope will help towards making a big change for Transaid

Transaid transport for life

Transaid is an international development charity that identifies, champions, implements and shares local transport solutions which improve access to basic services and economic opportunity for poor people in developing countries.

  • Identify local transport solutions by conducting research, implementing pilot projects, and always ensuring robust monitoring and evaluation
  • Champion local transport solutions though advocacy programmes with donors, government and implementing agencies
  • Implement local transport solutions by building local skills and knowledge, and where necessary provide technical assistance where needed
  • Share local transport solutions by making resources available online in the form of case studies, tools and methodologies.

Transaid’s history goes back over 25 years when a group of dedicated individuals from The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Save the Children and our patron, HRH The Princess Royal, inspired and built the practical, professional development charity that Transaid is today.

Through combining expertise of the UK Transport & Logistics Industry with our longstanding experience of working in the developing world, we partner with organisations in the public and private sector including local community organisations, governments, institutions and donors to build capability and achieve our aims.

This collaborative approach enables Transaid to provide innovative solutions to some of the key challenges facing transport and development today.

Support Transaid today https://www.justgiving.com/transaid/donate/

Martin Port
Founder & CEO