I want to create more millionaires than Microsoft

Martin port

By Martin Port

15 April 2021

Have you heard the story about the guy who cleaned floors at Microsoft? He landed some share options, and then retired a multi-millionaire a decade later. Stories like that, showing the way that truly great companies reward the contribution of loyal employees, have always resonated with me.

I have been passionate about employee ownership for years. For me, giving your team a stake in the business is the ultimate way to grow faster, deliver a better service, and maintain an incredible company culture. The “John Lewis” model hit headlines after the financial crisis, when the government was trying to encourage the private sector to embrace a more inclusive stakeholder model. At that time, BigChange had already created its own employee ownership scheme.

Over the years, the scheme has grown and grown. Initially, just the management team had a slice of the company. Now, all my longstanding colleagues have a stake in the business, either through shares or via our “exit bonus” scheme. The minimum stake is worth £5,000 and I intend to deliver a 10x return on that investment within the next three to five years.

A lot of the team received an exit bonus during our last round of fundraising. This was a huge boost to morale when the UK was in the grip of lockdown and pandemic uncertainty. One colleague made 30x his investment when Great Hill Partners came on board. It makes me so proud to be able to reward everyone’s hard work, positivity and brilliant ideas, using our success to create holiday funds, home deposits and nest eggs for my incredible colleagues.

As an entrepreneur running a fast-growth business, you have to stay focused on three things: the hiring and retention of talent; the preservation of company culture; and innovation in all its forms across the business. When you have an engaged and incentivised workforce, these three things become that much easier to achieve. I hope that everyone who works at BigChange sees that everything they do to contribute to the company’s success ultimately translates into real value for them, way beyond their monthly pay cheque.

According to McKinsey, the global consultancy, creating an engaged company culture improves performance by between 30% and 79%[1]. I am biased, but I definitely feel like the team here performs at a consistently high level. I am in awe of the talent I see at BigChange every day. Here, no one suffers from tunnel vision. Teams help other teams across the business because their wins are to everyone’s benefit.

Employee-owned businesses also typically do much better than their peers during times of crisis. Research by Cass business school found that during the last recession, employee-owned businesses had a higher rate of sales growth and job creation than companies in conventional ownership[2]. A government paper also found that businesses which offer employee ownership are also much better at long-term thinking, making decisions for the enduring health of the company and avoiding short-termism[3].

It is my ambition to follow in the footsteps of technology greats like Microsoft, helping to give true financial independence to the people who drive our growth and prosperity. And we are well on our way. In the two months since we received investment from our new backers, BigChange’s £100m valuation is up by 10%. All credit to GHP who understood and supported our employee ownership structure from day one.

I now own 23% of the business, and GHP owns over 60%, the balance is owned by the BigChange team. If we hit £1bn in enterprise value, some of these people will become very wealthy indeed. In 10 years’ time, I hope to have created many millionaires. We all work hard here at BigChange but we all do it because we’re more than just a faceless organisation; we’re a family. We’re a team. We’re all united by the same common goals and dreams. That makes us unstoppable.

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