I’m the guy that’s all about face-to-face communication. I am always telling my fellow business owners to get out from behind the screen and go talk to their customers and colleagues. But I know also how hard it is to make time for those kinds of interactions. So imagine how happy I was when I held the first Network event for BigChange customers (find out more about the network here Join the BigChange Network ) and found it to be every bit as useful as I’d hoped.

The event brought together 30 of our customers, and was facilitated by Kevin Keegan OBE, the former England football player manager. He is very business-focused, and did a stellar job creating a feel-good factor in the room. Everyone introduced themselves and their businesses and talked about how their sales have grown since adopting BigChange. It was so validating to hear these stories, and to hear what everyone loves – and what they would change – about our offering.

I can’t reveal the insights that our customers shared about their businesses, because the event took place under Chatham House rules, but I can tell you how these conversations have influenced the future strategy and direction for us. It was, honestly, one of the most valuable interactions I’ve had for a long while.

The new BigChange charter

One of the concerns that customers raised was around trust. How can they trust that if they collaborate with other businesses on our system, the contractor won’t steal that client. There is also the fear that the work might be inferior, or unprofessional. This is why we are looking to introduce a code of conduct, the BigChange charter, to hold users accountable. We are about to hire a Network Director, who will draw up this charter and make sure that all our customers understand the rules of play, in order to get the most out of BigChange and the JobWatch system. I am delighted to tell customers that they can now have absolute trust in our system, because any abuses will lead to special measures. This way, every individual and company on JobWatch can focus on collaborating and growing their revenues with confidence.

The mighty sole trader

To date, BigChange has been focused on working with companies and over the coming year, I was planning to target larger corporations too. But our network event has shown me that we also need to make sole traders a priority as well. The gig economy is enormous, and many of our customers use sole traders and freelancers, so we will be reaching out to more independents. For example, there are currently 150,000 gas engineers in the UK; 75,000 of them are one-man bands. We want them on our network. To help bring companies and sole traders together, our BigChange app – which will launch soon – will act like a modern Yellow Pages, helping businesses and users book jobs with registered and vetted engineers.

Boost the buying power

Procurement is a massive issue for any growing company. You want the best deals, and you want them now. We have 1,000 customers – with combined revenues of £59bn, 142,000 employees, and an average business age of 20 – on our system. That is a lot of buying power. We want to help our customers to club together for deals on everything from insurance to vehicle rental and fuel. It’s the next frontier for JobWatch and will be another major benefit of our collaborative system. It will also be another reason for customers to recommend BigChange to their suppliers, clients and contacts.

These three major changes to BigChange’s business plan have all come out of a single network event. I can’t wait for our future meet-ups. Who knows what I’ll learn next!