Turning 60: the beginning of a new chapter

Martin port

By Martin Port

29 July 2022

I usually post about business milestones but this week I’d like to talk about a personal one: Today, I turned 60.

There’s something about a landmark birthday. They make you think about the past and make plans for the future.

I’m not very good at looking back but it feels good to be hitting the big six-oh knowing that, over the years, I have managed to build several businesses – three right here in Leeds. During my professional career, I have created more than 1,000 jobs. I feel extremely proud to have been such a significant employer as that was always one of my priorities as an entrepreneur.

Between the ages of 20 and 40, I feel that I was learning all I could about business, building my network, and seizing every growth opportunity I could. Then, between 40 and 60, I began building successful businesses on those firm foundations, and becoming a more considered and strategic entrepreneur. Eighteen months ago, when we raised investment from Great Hill Partners, I really felt like I had reached a new career milestone. The deal showed that people outside the business recognised and valued all we had achieved – it was a great moment for all of us here at BigChange.

I believe that the next 20 years will be about sharing my experience and insight with other entrepreneurs, becoming an active investor, and, of course, building on BigChange’s success.

On my birthday a year ago, I announced that Richard Warley was coming on board as CEO and he has done a stellar job over the past 12 months. When I look at BigChange today, the DNA and culture remain the same, but Richard has had a profound impact on growth and has really helped the business to reach its full potential. I remain committed to helping Richard and the rest of the team to turn BigChange into a unicorn, worth £1bn.

Looking to the future, I honestly can’t see myself slowing down. I still have bags of ambition and I’ve learned the value of working smarter, rather than simply working every hour of the day. Often, it’s the small changes, the little ideas, the smart partnerships, that help you reach your goals, rather than going at 120 miles an hour all the time.

Now that I’m 60, I have a few words of wisdom to share. I hope some of you younger entrepreneurs out there might find them useful. I learned these things by doing – often, I learned them the hard way. I hope to save you time, money and energy!

The three most important things to remember when building businesses are:

If it doesn’t work out, try again

I’m so glad that I didn’t give up when my first business failed to scale. It would have been easy to get a job and abandon my dreams of running my own business. If I had done that, I would have always wondered what might have been. Instead, I kept learning, kept trying, and that’s what has brought me to this point in my career today. I’m so thankful for that stubborn streak in me that insisted I have another go. Don’t give up – just learn from your mistakes.

Cash is king

You hear this a lot when you’re building a business. Just because it’s a cliché, doesn’t mean it’s not true. Always make sure you have enough cash in the business to support your growth. Stay on top of all your numbers all the time. If you suddenly run out of working capital, that could be the end of your business.

Take care of people

As you get older, you appreciate the value of great people in the business more and more. When you’re young and building a business, there are so many things to worry about – so many distractions. As an older founder, you know that every moment you spend investing in your best people is repaid tenfold during the lifetime of your company.  

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