What is the secret of world class performance?

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In this special video series, former England footballer and manager Kevin Keegan gives his secrets to great leadership.

In episode 9 of our secrets of leadership series Kevin tells BigChange founder Martin Port about the importance of exceeding people’s expectations.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.

Martin: World class is my most important key performance indicator, my most important measurement and score. It means more people buying and investing in my technology. What about in football?

Kevin: Well we want the same things. You will definitely get there Martin because you have hunger and desire. We’ve talked about passion, you’ve got that. We’ve talked about resilience, you’ve definitely got that. Also to be successful – we always used to try at the clubs we were at to give people more than what they expected.

For example if a kid was coming to the ground for a photograph for his birthday, when we’d get the letter we’d write back saying “Yeah come along on this day at this time”, and we’d wonder how to make it special.

We could get one of the players to come, like Alan Shearer if we had him, David Ginola at the time or Lee Clark who was a local lad the geordies loved. Then we’d do it on the centre of the pitch. We’d take them on the pitch.

Going above and beyond

So they were coming in thinking they’d just have a photo outside the main stand, with two people.

We’d rush in and say “Come in, come in, have you ever been on the pitch?” then take them down.

A lot of people don’t get it, but you know – going above and beyond for your business. It’s because you believe in it, because you’re passionate about it. It’s because you really want to do it – you want to give back.

That is the secret of life and what all these things are about.

It’s “This is what we’ve got. How can we help you?”

With players: this is your ability, how can we make you better. Talking with your board members: the club is here, how can we get it up there. How can we get this club to think a bit further and see over the mountain we’re coming up to- or hill we’re coming up to?

And I think that’s the secret of life. It’s just thinking about what you’re doing and how you can add a little bit more.

That’s how I climbed up the ladder, I think. It’s just saying ‘What do people expect? And how can you exceed their expectations?’

Martin: Kevin, I get to meet lots of great coaches and people that help improve me as a person and help my business be successful. I’ve found it so invaluable. This was absolutely, hugely beneficial and I hope everyone watching gets the benefit. Thank you.

Kevin: My pleasure.

How do you step up to compete at the top level?

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In this special video series, former England footballer and manager Kevin Keegan gives his secrets to great leadership.

In the eighth of nine videos with BigChange founder Martin Port, Kevin discusses how people can get a promotion and aim for a top management job.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.


We’ve talked about moving from the first office, to the second and so on. I’ve got milestones. I know what I want to achieve and the steps I need to take to get to that vision, but sometimes you just can’t feel it.

As a player, and also a manager, who climbed from the second division to the premier league, how difficult is it? How did you deal with it and how did you do it?


Well I did it both as a player and a manager. As a player, you’ve just got to go out and play and the management has the worry. When you’re a manager, a leader, you have to convince these players to keep going.

I think it’s quite simple. We won the championship with Newcastle by quite a few points and we were an outstanding team in that division. We already knew from the cups we’d played in, with teams from the Premier League, we’d do okay.

People know that if you put the bottom half of the Premiership and the top half of the Championship together you’d get different winners every year.

There’s not a lot of difference. What we had to convince our players was that we weren’t just going up into the Premier League, we were trying to win it. We set the bar high, we didn’t plan to consolidate.

I think consolidate is the one word that should be banned in footballing terms. If a chairman comes to you and says ‘lets consolidate’ – I had this at Man City – it means you’re going backwards.

While you consolidate, everyone just jumps over you. It means you want to stay where you are, but you won’t because of the ambition of other teams. You’re settling for mediocrity.

At Newcastle when we went up we convinced the players by looking at the league, how we’d dominated teams from it in the cups, and knowing that we weren’t your normal, newly promoted, team. We were a very good side.

A Premiership side playing in the Championship for one season. We believed that and I think the players could see what we were talking about.

My programming notes on the first home game we had was “Watch out Sir Alex we’re after your title”. I remember one of the directors coming to me before the game and saying “What is this? You’ve put us all under unbelievable pressure.”

I couldn’t believe it! I honestly believed – and wanted my players to believe – we could go up and win the league, even if we end up finishing second or third. We actually ended up fifth.

Everyone else expects the teams to come up and try to survive. Survival is not what we wanted. We wanted to push the players to aspire to be right up the top of that table.

With your Manchester United’s, Tottenhams, Arsenals. We did it. And we did it because we sowed the seeds in their minds that we were good enough. If we had to convince them of that, that’s what we were going to do.

In terms of setting targets, the chairman was okay but the board member wanted the pressure off. I wanted my players and staff to not think we were just in that league to make up the number but that we were going to have a very good go at it.


The big word that came out for me there was consolidation.


Here was a guy saying “lets just go in there and if we stay up, that’s good”.

Now if we’d said that to the players, I don’t think we’d have ever finished near the top. But we set the target.

How do you deal with pressure?

In this special video series, former England footballer and manager Kevin Keegan gives his secrets to great leadership.

In the seventh of nine videos with BigChange founder Martin Port, Kevin explains how business leaders can cope when the pressure is on.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.


I’m sighing because I was thinking about the next subject, pressure. How do you deal with pressure? You’re positive but you’re always thinking something could go wrong.

It might be problems with the technology. Your customers need maximum uptime and if something happens you need to be able to deal with that in a very calm way. There’s pressure when you’re not bringing the sales in.

I think the biggest thing for me is calmness, steadying yourself is so important. How is it in football? I know you told me you got grey hair by 35.


Maybe 37.


Oh when you went into management? Well you can see how calm I am, I’ve got no greys.


Ah you’re in complete control. It’s difficult because everyone says people want to be calm but sometimes players need to know they’ve overstepped the line or their performance isn’t good enough.

We had it in Newcastle, when we probably should’ve won the league title. When we started to falter the hardest part was pushing the players to perform better than they were, without them realising it was all going pear shaped.


What about that interview, when you came to Leeds? Elland Road.


Yeah, when I said “I’d love it if we beat them”. I ran into some of the players last week and they mentioned how we’d laughed about it. We did.

I had earphones on that day so I couldn’t hear how loud I was shouting. Everyone always says “At Leeds, when you lost and had your rant about Sir Alex Ferguson.” Hold on. We won at Leeds!

If you see something in football that you’ve worked so hard for – you’ve been all these places and won games – when you see that fading away it’s very hard. For your players, for your staff, for the hierarchy above, they’re all thinking about winning the league. Then you don’t win it. You don’t achieve it.

Now you look back and think we finished second. That’s not bad. Of course people always say no one remembers who finished second, but I think you do.

What they’re talking about is the competitive world we live in; there’s lots of people doing what BigChange are doing, there’s lots of people doing what we were doing – Man United in this particular case.


You’re only as good as your next game aren’t you?


You are. But the minute that’s gone you have to be- the key to success is getting that out of the system before the next game. Not letting what happened Friday afternoon affect you on Monday morning. Getting a handle on it.

You are only as good as your last game too.


You know in a competition, it’s not the idea I thought of today or yesterday. It’s the next idea that set me apart.


Yeah. You’ve got to get over it at some stage. Although sometimes, whether you’re in sales or at the top of a company, you’ve got to let your feelings out sometimes.

You can’t always be the person who’s saying ‘calm down, we’ll sort this out’, sometimes it’s you. You need to accept that.

Not many people in my sport – and I’m including all the greats – have not had a moment when the frustration has got the best of them. You get it out of your system, you roll your sleeves up, and you get on with it.

Should you tolerate a disruptive genius?

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In this special video series, former England footballer and manager Kevin Keegan gives his secrets to great leadership.

In the sixth of nine videos with BigChange founder Martin Port, Kevin explains why business leaders should tolerate disruptive geniuses.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.


Kevin, this is a subject that is really dear to me. I love disruptive geniuses but some people haven’t got the stomach for it, they can’t tolerate it. I’ve managed quite a few in my time, and I think I actually know how to manage them, but what are your thoughts?


My thoughts are that you can’t be successful without them. Whether you like them, love them or loathe them, you need them. Just about every team I’ve ever managed, wherever it be, whatever level, has had a disruptive genius and I think you need them.

That’s why they’re geniuses. They push you. They push themselves to the limit but they also push you.

Sometimes they push your judgement and managing that is one of the key ingredients to being successful in football.

Without these geniuses you won’t win things. I can give you loads of examples of footballers – but people will know who they are – managing them is the key.

Despite the fact they can sometimes upset your team’s spirit, your good players accept it as well. They accept that because of the ability geniuses bring to the team, they’re willing to put up with the odd tantrum here or the odd speaking out of tone there.

Every team I’ve had, has had one, and I’ve never tried to get rid of them. If you do then you’ll have a really easy life but you won’t win anything.

In any business you have people who’ve got to a position because of what they’ve done and everyone handles that differently.

I have had players that are both a genius and an absolute doddle to work with – but not many. They disappear as people achieve more and realise how important they are to a team – and they always know because they get told by everyone constantly.

A lot of managers have gotten rid of those players and yes the team spirit is a little better, the team is a little easier to manage, but the talent has gone down to a level they weren’t at with the genius there.


Some people say they’re like poison. Get rid of the poison. But I’m more like you, you’ve got to look at that person on a pair of scales and think if you get a lot more upside than you do downside it’s worth putting up with those downsides.


I think everyone gains from the genius but you’re right you have to work it out. If I have someone who isn’t producing what they think they were for the team then I would get rid of them. I wouldn’t put up with them just because they’re a genius if the contribution isn’t good.

It’s like you said, why would you put up with them? Well. If we get ‘this, this and this from them’ the players will understand.

Sometimes the genius is talking on a different level to the players, they’re looking across and thinking what is he on about? That’s because they see a mountain but he sees over it. These people are on a level most aren’t.

You can’t have three or four of them, it won’t work, but you can have one in a football team if you can manage them. I’ve managed plenty.

I don’t want to say this any other way – you need them. If you want to get rid of them, you’re settling for mediocrity. Of course leadership and management is part of that. In the end I was buying players who I knew would push me to the limit.

It’s a balancing act and when you achieve something together, regardless of what the personalities are, it’s shared.

Even the guy who came on as sub for two games has contributed. Even the guy who hasn’t come on has been on the bench ready to come on; he’s contributed by doing well every day in training and pushing everyone else.

Everyone has something to contribute in that respect.

When do you buy talent and when do you develop it?

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In this special video series, former England footballer and manager Kevin Keegan gives his secrets to great leadership.

In the fifth of nine videos with BigChange founder Martin Port, Kevin explains how leaders can attract and retain the best talent.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.


You know I’m passionate about people and developing the team. How do you feel about growing great talent from the training pitch or just buying, like an Alan Shearer?


If you’re recruiting talent they have to bring something to the party that you haven’t got. You say Alan Shearer. When I fetched Alan Shearer for a world record fee and brought him to Newcastle, it gave all the other players a boost as well.

People on the team thought “Wow! I don’t have to guess from a distance what his attributes are, or how he got to where he is, he’ll be in the same dressing room as me.”

If I am a young player I’m gonna watch him and learn what makes him so special. You learn he’s great fun and has a great personality but when he gets out on the football pitch – whether that’s training or a match – it’s a different focus.

It’s like a switch goes on and you get Alan Shearer the professional player. He’s not going to joke anymore.

Why did he score goals? Because that’s what his life was about. From the runs he made, his time in training, it was all to score goals on a Saturday.

It wasn’t to look good, or smart on the pitch. Just to score goals.

Talent comes in a lot of different forms but the greatest talent is when you get a player with unbelievable ability who wants to pass it on to other people.

Newcastle was pretty much like where you’ve come from with BigChange. I also recruited talent because I took the view that if I have a good team, where could I strengthen that good team.

Do I need someone to make the goals? Do I need someone to help us defensively? Do I need leaders?

The very first thing I did at Newcastle was fetch a guy from Notts County who was never gonna stay for the long term, but the players needed leadership in the dressing room.

Talent comes in all shapes, I knew he wouldn’t play – and in fact needed the chairman to give him some more money to go after he’d done his job – but for six months he was vital to sorting out the leadership crisis in the dressing room.

You can have leadership in your management but if that doesn’t filter through to the players it’s a waste of time.

The really great talent gives you a problem as a manager because they come with the problems talent has.

Sometimes an arrogance or confidence that is way beyond what they’re capable of. But you need to manage them because you need them.

Just like you have to be patient with those learning the trade, these guys know it all – sometimes as much as you do.

Martin: Did you have players that were great and you wanted to make captains but then regretted it because they didn’t have that man-management in them? They were maybe better as a player?

Kevin: There’s lots of different captains. You pick one who leads by example, or you pick someone who intervenes and sorts everybody out. I’ve had both kinds. The ones I like are those who lead by example.

Martin: Sometimes you can’t afford a £25m player but maybe we’ve got someone who, if you really work with them, you can help grow.

Kevin: If you give them that opportunity it’s up to them. If they can’t make it, and you’ve given them the opportunity and tools they require, I don’t think they’ll come back to you and say you held me back. In football certainly, players know when they’ve reached their full potential. People will tell you without saying it.

They’ll say: “This is where I want to be in the team, I don’t want to be the leader. I don’t want all that responsibility. I’m comfortable here.”

But people can only tell you that if you give them the opportunity. If you don’t give them the opportunity they will always say “You never gave me a chance. You never played me.”

That’s why I’d always go watch the reserve games, so players had the chance to play well and ask me what they could do to get onto the first team.

Giving everybody the chance for progression but understanding you won’t turn everyone into a super-salesman is important.

Without that understanding, some people will find they get stretched. With players it’s dangerous to take them beyond where they can go, for them to perform at their maximum they need to play with what they’ve got.

Sometimes people don’t want all that responsibility, they just want a job that they do well, to be appreciated, and to go home.

You have to have some people like that in your team.

How do you turn around a losing team?

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In this special video series, former England footballer and manager Kevin Keegan gives his secrets to great leadership.

In the fourth of nine videos with BigChange founder Martin Port, Kevin explains how leaders can turn around a losing team by making their colleagues feel valued.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.


I’m used to starting things from scratch. Having to build companies from the beginning. I always remember, after selling my last business, it was really lonely at the beginning of BigChange.

Have there been points where you’ve needed to start again with a team?


At least when you started, you started off with a blank piece of paper and it’s lonely. We start with the problems already there because you don’t often get a management job in football unless there’s already problems at the club.

The club’s either gotten relegated, lost a lot of games or the results have been poor. That’s nine times out of ten or probably 99 times out of 100 when you get a job. So you’re going into a place where the confidence is low, they’ve been beaten a lot, and spirits are down.

When I went to Newcastle they were second bottom, we had 16 games to play and I didn’t know anybody. I felt very, very lonely.

The first thing I did was get a friend, in my case a man called Terry Mcdermott, who knew the club better than me. I said “come work with me here, it’s gonna be a big job.”

So I realised straight away that I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed some help from someone who understood that club a little more – because we didn’t have time to learn. Just 16 games.

What I did first of all, I walked into the club – and when things go wrong in football and this club in particular – the place was filthy.

The dressing rooms were filthy, the baths weren’t clean. The gym. Players were eating sandwiches in the gym and sticking the wrappers in the corners of the room.

We played the first game after three days, we happened to win it and I gave the lads two days off. I told the Chairman, Sir John Hall, that I wanted to fumigate the whole place – clean it and paint it over the weekend.

When the players came in Tuesday you could hear them going “Wow.”

All we’d done was paint it. They went into the dressing room and we’d put in new cubicles – “Wow.” We then started to say to them, “You know it’s not a lot but that’s the least you deserve as a footballer.”

Before these lads were taking their own kit home and washing it, I said “you won’t be doing that anymore.”

They were travelling to games on the same day! Now Newcastle is very north and they’d be going to Birmingham the same day because the club took the view that ‘We’re not very good, why should we be putting them in a hotel?’

So when things go wrong in a football club, and it’s the same thing for business, we were starting from scratch.

It was anything to do with football, the first thing I did. It was about cleanliness and respect for the players, saying “Get relegated or not, we’re going to make it better but you guys need to help me, then I’ll get started on the training ground.”

If they play better I can say to the chairman “Look these guys are battling for this club, to get out of relegation, they don’t want to go down.” They’d never been down to the third division, never in the history of the club.

So I can say to the chairman “There you go Mr chairman, these are a good group of players but they’ve not had a great chance here with how the club is set up. We need a better training ground.”

And then we found one.

When you’ve got a better training ground and you’re trying to fetch players – battling other clubs – they take one look at the facilities and think wow, this club’s got it.

So we chipped away at the problem. Of course we had to change some of the players, but to a lot of them we said “We’re new here, we’re turning this club around, can you stay with it?”


It’s quite interesting because we started in small offices in the centre of Leeds by the University. That felt like work in progress.

Then we moved to bigger offices that were our own place with our own entrance and reception. That felt like a complete step up, like you say. Entering into a new place really.


Well you can only do that because you were going in the right direction. Your staff were getting you results which gave you confidence. You were like the chairman.

I said to the chairman: “This has gone well. We’ve avoided relegation, I think we can get promotion this year but we need a better training ground.”

You then know yourself, when you’re fetching potential customers to your offices – which I’ve had the privilege to go to – they’ll like it.


Well that was the third move, so that’s like the first division.


Well yeah exactly. You step up. You’re also rewarding the staff with that, they’ve got to realise that they’re lucky.

You know you can park your car easy there, the space is lovely, the facilities are great. They’ve earned that as well.

How do you build trust with a team?

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In this special video series, former England footballer and manager Kevin Keegan gives his secrets to great leadership.

In the third of nine videos with BigChange founder Martin Port, Kevin explains how leaders can build trust within a team.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.


How do you build trust? Where does it come from in a football team?


It’s only five letters in trust, but it’s such an important word when you’re trying to lead people. If they don’t trust you, you can’t lead them.

If you say to some guys let’s run through this brick wall then they think “That’s a wall, I’m gonna hurt myself.”

A good leader will go first, run through it, and take the fear away.

You can’t manufacture trust. I think you have to be honest with people.

I’ve had so many occasions where I called players in, individually, to tell them they weren’t doing well enough. I would say that they’re quite a way off getting into this team and that it was important to know that.

They’d sit down and argue their case, but you need to be very, very honest with those people. It’s what builds trust and lets them know you aren’t just saying something to pacify them.

We sometimes have players who are under 2-3 year contracts, who know as well as you that they aren’t going to play.

To pull them in and say “I know you’ve got two years left but I think it’s better you move to somewhere you can play, because you’re 23 or 24 and you need to be playing” lets them know where they stand with you.

You can’t let them get false hope, or send your assistant to do it.

I used to have a good rapport with players because they were happy to come and speak with me. It goes both ways, they could come and see me and say “I didn’t think you were fair with me today” and you each trust the other will listen.

With that circle of trust around the whole team you have a chance for success.

In business you need the same thing. Everyone has to feel important, everyone has to feel that they’ve got a role to play; when people feel out of it, you as a leader need to see it.

If you’re really on the ball you see it in the group.

You need control of your group. In football you can’t control the crowd, you can’t control your board of directors, but your players need to be controlled so that they have the freedom to express themselves within the boundaries you set.

They can’t be scared to come to you and let you know how they feel.

If you want to apologise in front of the group, that’s your choice as a manager.

You might say to everyone “Before we start I want to apologise for what I said to x player yesterday, I’ve been thinking about it and I shouldn’t have said that.”

That lets everyone else trust that you’re aren’t afraid to own up to your mistakes, that you don’t get it right every time.

And I don’t think any leader truly does.

What should leaders focus on most?

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In this special video series, former England footballer and manager Kevin Keegan gives his secrets to great leadership.

In the second of nine videos with BigChange founder Martin Port, Kevin explains how he looks for honesty and respect in other leaders, and that great leaders will make everyone feel part of a team.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.


What do you think, as a leader, we should focus on most?


Everyone’s different aren’t they? When we talk about leadership we probably all do it in slightly different ways. What I’m looking for, in the people who’ve led me in life, was honesty.

When they were talking to me about joining a club, I always looked at them and thought what are you really saying to me? Do you mean it? Trusting that a leader means what they’re saying to you is so important.

Similarly, respect – in the way that they tell you how it is. I never had a problem with a manager telling me off, telling me ‘I never want to see you do that again’.


I feel the same, I’ve got a team of 170. Having the ability to talk to people at different levels – walking the shop floor, understanding people, finding out how you can help them – all of it is needed to build a great business. You can’t do that without the ability to really work as a team.


And of course when you say the team, that means everybody. With football for example, we’ve got 30 players, but we’ve got a whole raft of people who come in everyday to work just for those 30 players.

It’s important to make the players understand that these people command respect as well. Whether it’s the fitness coaches, nutritionists or the psychologists – a role that’s really come along in the last ten years.

Make them realise that when they go out to play they are representing all of these people and if they lose even the guy who’s carrying the kit and looking after the boots is as disappointed as they are.

When you get that mentality, where everyone is rowing the boat the same way, you’ve got a chance at success.

If you haven’t got everyone together singing from the same hymn sheet, in football or business, you find cracks.


It’s funny you say that. We always applaud the sales people when they get an order; but someone rightly pointed out that without the people supporting the customer – making sure they’re happy and getting a great return on investment – they wouldn’t buy more.

Now the whole team is recognised.


I got the golden boot at a couple of clubs, but you don’t win it alone. Someone has to pass that ball so you can put it in the net.

You’re completely right. That’s one of the key things in management, to make sure everyone who’s contributed feels that they’ve been recognised.

I remember with Bill Shankly, we used to have these big jumpers to make us sweat – that’s how we did it back in the day – it was like having someone on your back in training. After you’d finish they were so wet the lads would throw them on the dressing room floor.

Well Bill came in one day and said to the captain “Don’t leave that on the floor. Jessie, who cleans the room, will have to come in and sort it all out. So hang it up.”

It made us realise how something so natural makes more work for someone else. Bill was so on the ball with what it meant to play for a football club, as part of a team.

If we were doing well and picking up awards, appreciation of the team, of the players, of everyone was shown.

It’s very important that a leader makes everyone feel part of a team. The great leaders do it naturally.

How to become a great leader

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In this special video series, former England footballer and manager Kevin Keegan gives his secrets to great leadership.

In the first of nine videos with BigChange founder Martin Port, Kevin explains how everyone can learn to be an inspiring and effective leader.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.

Great to see you Kevin. It’s been four or five months since we’ve last seen each other. I know you’ve missed me because it’s mentioned every time we’ve spoken on the phone and I’ve missed you so much.

It’s great to welcome a BigChange ambassador, but you’ve been much more than an ambassador, you’ve been helping and coaching me over the last four months, over the phone, on leadership.

I really want to be the best leader and I’ve learnt so much from you over the period of time we’ve been working together. How did you become a great leader?

They say you’re a born leader. I think, like a lot of sayings, there’s actually a lot more to it.

For me, I learnt at a very young age from my father. He said “Son you go and learn from him” – and he might send me to work at the market stall in Doncaster where I was born.

A lot of kids would think what can you learn at a market stall in Doncaster? I tell you, you meet the world there – and I took that with me.

When I started working at Scunthorpe United – my first professional club – with a manager called Ron Ashman, his strength was communication. Everybody felt they knew where they stood with him.

Though he wasn’t great when we lost. He was a great winner but when we lost the whole world went down. So I learnt to try not to be like that when you lose a game.

Of course, I then had the pleasure of working with managers like Sir Alf Ramsey for my first two England caps.

Going into that I thought, this man won the World Cup in ‘66 for England, he was way ahead of his time, what did he have?

He had this air about him and confidence, without being arrogant, that he just knew what he was doing. So you felt comfortable following him.

You should be picking up little tips with everybody. Bill Shankly [Liverpool FC Manager] would say “Guys in this game, you are here for the fans out there”.

You’d realise that it’s not just about playing on the pitch – you are part of a community. He took the game and said “first and foremost you’re part of the Liverpool community, then you play for Liverpool FC”.

I’d go out with the senior players when I first got there, visiting hospitals and homes. As just a 19 year old kid, I was getting taught by the older players about how to communicate with kids and fans – which was sometimes rough.

I learnt from all the people I ever met. From a very young age, I found that everyone comes into your life for a reason. Even when you meet someone who’s very arrogant and rude, and it shocks you, think ‘what have they done wrong?’

You learn how not to communicate, how not to treat people. So even though it’s a bad experience, take the lesson from it. When you do that often enough, it becomes part of you.

I suddenly found myself captain of England and it’s not just calling the coin toss. When things aren’t going right in the 90 minutes you’re on the field, you’re the manager out there.

You have to take responsibility and give directions.

You learn from everybody and it’s the same for business.

2021: a year of innovation and ambition, laying the foundations for growth

2021 End of year round up

It feels like yesterday that I was writing our year in review for 2020. What a whirlwind the last 12 months have been. You think that when your business comes out of the start-up phase, things slow down. In fact, the pace increases alongside your own drive and ambition. Every success spurs you on to the next.

For us at BigChange, 2021 was a crucial year: we won significant investment and began building the foundations that will allow us to achieve incredible growth over the coming years. Here are some of our standout milestones and achievements.

Starting the year with a bang

In February, we announced that BigChange had raised £75m from Great Hill Partners, an growth specialist based in Boston, and that post-deal, BigChange was valued at £100m. This was an amazing time for me and the whole team here, as it crystalised that we were a market leader in our industry, and that we were really going for growth. We are aiming for unicorn status within the next few years, and we know we’ll get there.

We have gone from strength to strength since Great Hill came on board, bringing enormous expertise across international expansion and more. We have been able to invest across all areas of the business, and I have been able to move into a chairman role, which has been an exciting new challenge.

Consistently wowing customers

It’s easy to talk the talk but sales prove you can walk the walk. BigChange continues to win new customers and this year alone we secured £23m-worth of new contracts, taking our annual recurring revenues towards £20m. We have brought in 300 new customers over the past 12 months and now have a total of over 1,700 customers, with 50,000 users on our system.

Some of the brilliant new customers who came on board in 2021 include: double glazing specialist Anglian Windows; Sapphire Utility Solutions, which maintains water, wastewater and gas utilities; state-of-the art car repair centre Vertu Accident Repair; JBC Industrial Services, the leading industrial boiler and burner service and maintenance provider; Genting Casinos; and document-management company Shredall. It brings me great pride to see BigChange helping such a broad range of sectors.

Loyalty and customer satisfaction

It’s not all about new customer wins; at BigChange, we never stop trying to wow and delight our existing customers too. This is why we are so proud that we have retained our world-class Net Promoter Score of 80 plus. This compares to an average of 32 for most companies, so we are chuffed to bits with that. As we have grown, we have always tried to stay approachable and customer centric. We may be a technology company, but we still have a beating heart, and this NPS proves we are striking the right balance.

A lot of new faces

There can be no growth without a winning team, so we have made a significant investment in people this year, going from 170 to 250 colleagues. We have bolstered every part of the business, from our development department to the executive team. We now have the talent and expertise in place to give BigChange every chance of a storming 2022. It’s not always straightforward for a fast-growth technology company to find skills but we have managed to increase headcount by 80 because the culture here is second-to-none, as proved by our Best Companies to Work For two-star award this year.

Innovation at our core

We never rest on our laurels here at BigChange and in 2021 we completed 20 new development releases with lots of new features and innovations. Our customers have more control than ever before and are able to tweak the platform to the exact needs of their teams and business models. To ensure a steady pipeline of new, great features, we have also created The Big Ideas Portal so that customers can see what we’re working on and vote to prioritise the changes they want now. To make sure that everyone is kept up to date on the powerful new tools available, we have introduced lots of new modules in our BigChange University. We have now welcomed 5,000 students to these online webinars, which help users understand the breath of functionality we offer.

Charitable work

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have always been committed to giving back, both to my local community and to charitable organisations that are making a big difference to people’s lives across the world. Last year, BigChange linked our Motivational Monday series – our monthly events that welcome inspirational speakers – with charitable giving. This has been hugely successful and over the last 12 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.

Recognition for BigChange

Not so long ago I posted about the importance of entering awards. Winning trophies really does have an extraordinary effect on morale, and it’s an opportunity to stop and think about all you have achieved. This year, we finally collected our 2020 Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category. We also won the Yorkshire Post’s Best Company 2021 in the £10m to £50m category. In the GP Bullhound Northern Tech Awards 2021, BigChange was recognised as one of the Top 15 Fastest Growing Larger Technology Companies in the North of England Scotland and Ireland. We were also nominated for several other awards and it’s always a pleasure to see your company listed among the great and the good of British enterprise.

So that’s it for 2021. I truly believe that we have now stepped onto a springboard and that the next five years will deliver exceptional growth and success, both for BigChange and our customers. Next year is set to be a big year for us: we will celebrate our 10th birthday, a real milestone for any growing company, as half of all start-ups never reach their fifth birthday. Thank you all for reading and for coming on this journey with me. Season’s Greetings! And my very best wishes for the New Year.