Stop doomscrolling and turn fear into positive action

Blog Stop Doomscrolling

These days, every meeting starts with doom and gloom. The war in Ukraine. Rising Covid cases. Sky-high inflation. The escalating cost of living. There’s a lot to be worried about right now, so it’s natural that these issues are front of mind for many of us.

But I worry that all this negativity is sapping our ability to make positive changes in the world around us.

We are so focused on challenges and threats that we have stopped thinking about the future. We are so exhausted by current affairs that we don’t have the energy to respond effectively.

This week, I want to encourage all business owners – including myself – to try and move beyond the doomscrolling and focus instead on the things in our lives that we can control.

As entrepreneurs, we don’t think about problems, only solutions, and this situation is no different. If we are worried about the rising cost of living, and the impact on our customers and teammates, the best thing we can do is ensure that our products and services are the best they can be, offering value for money. We need to think about how we can grow our businesses, creating more jobs during what is likely to be a tricky time for many.

If we are worried about Ukraine, then we need to ensure our businesses are profitable, allowing us to contribute to charities and causes that are close to our hearts. Eight of my BigChange colleagues are based in Ukraine and we check in with them all frequently to make sure they are safe and have all they need. The time spent in contact with them is so much more valuable than time spent absorbing more coverage of the horrors unfolding there.

At BigChange, our entire business proposition is based on driving efficiencies and helping customers to be more successful. We help businesses to save money, reduce waste, and ensure every hour of the working day is spent as effectively as possible. What does this mean in practical terms? Well, fuel bills are rising, and our technology dramatically reduces miles spent on the road, ensuring the right engineer is sent to the right job via the most efficient route. Cash is key to business survival right now, and our systems make invoicing easy and ensure customers are paid as quickly as possible. Covid cases are rising which is why our in-built health and safety procedures have become one of our most popular features. No wonder we have had a record quarter for new customers, bringing 100 new organisations on board.

We never stop trying to find new ways to support our customers, which is why we keep investing heavily in customer service – it is only by working hard to understand issues that customers face that we can keep iterating our software to break down barriers to success. I am also about to launch a new video series, Growth Stories, sharing some of the smart strategies that have helped our customers to grow and succeed, so that we can all learn and be inspired.

It is also important to be pragmatic, especially when it comes to Covid. Yes, the doom-laden headlines are never nice to read but we have known for a long time that we must learn to live with Covid, as we live with the flu. It’s about protecting ourselves and one another – working from home when needed – and not getting derailed by fear. I have just recovered from Covid myself – several members of my family caught it for the first time just a couple of weeks ago. Luckily, with remote working, I was still online and able to be productive throughout my illness.

Psychologists have warned of a marked decline in mental health across the UK as many Brits, still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, now react to all the frightening news we are consuming on a daily basis. We need to be there for our teams right now and be prepared to listen. We must also find ways to bring our people together – we are social animals and need the support of face-to-face interactions. This is why BigChange is working hard on bringing our summer soiree plans safely to fruition.

I hope that this post can be a rallying cry for entrepreneurs everywhere. Don’t be disheartened. There is so much you can do. Is your business as lean as it could be? Are there any changes you could make right now to help ensure its continued success long into the future? The time to act is now. 

I stand with my colleagues in Ukraine

Like many of you, I have spent the past week glued to the news, desperately trying to make sense of what is happening to the people of Ukraine. For all of us at BigChange, the conflict feels even more personal because eight of our colleagues are Ukrainian nationals, based in Kyiv. These people are part of the BigChange family. We have laughed together, met one another’s families, and celebrated milestones together at BigChange events.

We have all been scrambling to try and support our people out there. “Do you need money?” was the first question. “What can we do to help your community?” was the second. Our colleagues asked for very little, although they were giving all they had to help those in need. We have sent a truckload of humanitarian aid to Ukraine now through Goods for Good project, and we hope these items will get to the people who need it most. Our CSR team has called an urgent meeting to discuss further options for support. Even my son, Joseph, is trying to do his bit, selling t-shirts to raise money for Ukraine.

But one way I hope to support our friends in Ukraine is by giving them a voice, a platform from which to express their fears, their defiance, their unity, and their resilience in the face of absolute tyranny.

I managed to speak to Liubov, who works in our software testing team, yesterday. These are her words.

“I’ve lived in Kyiv for 15 years. When I started reading reports that Russia could potentially invade, I didn’t believe them. It just didn’t make sense in the 21st Century. So when the war began, and I read that Putin had launched an attack, I was in total shock.

“We gave ourselves two hours to pack all the essentials and take our parents to the west of the Ukraine, where it is safer. We didn’t take much, only our documents – our passports – some money and some food, because we didn’t know whether we might struggle to get supplies later. We packed a few clothes but that was a low priority.

“It took us 17 hours to complete the six-hour drive to the west. Fighter jets were flying overhead. I have never been more frightened. We saw Ukrainian military heading for the border. That made everything real.

“I left Kyiv, but most Ukrainians are more courageous than me. They will stay and protect their homes, and fight back, if they must. Men and women are determined to fight to protect our country. We will not let our cities and villages fall into Russian hands. In Ukraine, people are often divided on issues but right now, we are as one, organised and moving in a single direction, joining forces to save our homes.

“I have been spending most of my time trying to find safe places for friends and family, so I’m always on my phone. People are so kind, giving up their homes for free, bringing in strangers and saying, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll support you’. There are some shelters around, so I’m also trying to share all that information with the people who need it.

“For the first four days, I couldn’t stop shaking but now I am calm. I must keep busy to distract myself from the news.

“I ask that the people and governments of Europe help us any way they can. Our Ukrainian army was not prepared for invasion, so we don’t have ammunition, equipment and weapons, so the first thing we need desperately is to supply our army and protect our soldiers. Our second issue is that is is very dangerous to try and get goods and food to the east of Ukraine, so we need help ensuring that people have emergency supplies. We also need everyone to ban Russia from every possible communication with Europe. This invasion must not be allowed to take place without consequences. We are an independent country. Russian citizens should be made to understand that their President is making terror for other nations, and that he does not deserve their support. They must take to the streets in protest or impeach him. They must make him understand: this is the end of your regime.

“I still cannot believe that we are at war. I was talking to my husband about this yesterday. I said, ‘One day we will tell people we lived through a war.” I’m for peace and resolving conflict through diplomatic means. I believe in democracy.

“I miss my home and I hope I will have the opportunity to return soon. Over the years, I have been offered many chances to emigrate to the US or to Europe, but I decided to stay because I really love this country. I hope that Putin will pull back his army but if he does not, he will still not be successful. We will protect our country.”

To Liubov and her team, I say this: the whole company is behind you, and our prayers are with you. 

A night to remember

BigChange Award winners

Last night, the whole company came together for the first time in two years. Almost 200 team members gathered in Aspire Leeds, the former site of the Yorkshire Penny Bank, for the BigChange Awards and the Thanksgiving End of Year party.

To be able to come together and enjoy a sit-down dinner and dance the night away, after such a long time, was truly amazing. There really is no substitute for a party for boosting morale and fostering lifelong friendships. The atmosphere was unbelievable, and I so enjoyed seeing my whole team under one roof, especially our colleagues from France.

But last night was more than just a party. It was a chance to recognise and reward outstanding individuals for their hard work, passion, and enthusiasm. It’s been a tough old year for most people, as we learn to live in the shadow of Covid, so it’s never been more important to thank those who continue to go the extra mile.

I’d like to tell you a little bit about the individuals who won awards last night. These men and women are all team players, all creative thinkers and problem solvers, and we are privileged to have them in our organisation.

Each team boasted a winner, who was voted for by their whole team. In Sales & Network, the winner was Eli Sufrin, a man described as “the backbone of the sales team” who is always on hand to support colleagues. Georgia Murphy picked up the award for the Marketing team. She started at BigChange as a receptionist and has never stopped learning and developing her skills, becoming a highly skilled and intuitive marketer.

Nic Carter-Barnes started as an onboarder and is now managing the Onboarding team in Customer Success. She won her team award for always going above and beyond with customers and our own people too. Chloe Kirk has also risen through the ranks at BigChange, starting in roadcrew to now become the number two in the team. She received the team award because of her technical brilliance and people skills; our customers love her.

The man with a fix for everything is Elliot Trim, who won the awards for the Technical Testing & Support team. He is a real team player with an extraordinary ability for explaining the most complex issues in simple language. In Professional Services, Andy Knight picked up the award for his approach to leadership. I’ve worked with Andy in the past and we’re blessed to have him at BigChange.

Tom Cullinane picked up the award for the Finance team. Tom is never too busy to help out a colleague and is truly committed to BigChange. Jonathan Isaacs, who is a serial winner, picked up the Innovation & Production award for his technical ability, creativity, and reliability.

Aurelie Rodriguez is leading BigChange France. She has proven to be an insightful manager who is well-respected by all her peers. BigChange has a strong foothold in France now, thanks to her approach and tenacity. Jo Godsmark wins the award for the Executive Leadership Team. She has truly transformed the company since joining in 2019. She combines a strategic mind with the ability to execute projects and maintain momentum.

The team of the year in 2021 is Roadcrew, our incredible front-line customer support team. This team is truly the face of our business and has delivered exceptional levels of customer service this year. It was no surprise to anyone that Andy Davenport won the Employee of the Year award again in 2021. His passion for supporting the business, his wide range of skills, and his ability to get the job done is an inspiration to us all. He is so committed to this company, even coming back to work (too) early after an appendectomy.

The CEO Award has gone to George Dibb. George joined us before lockdown but, once the pandemic took hold, we were forced to reduce the size of the sales development team. We asked him to go to Roadcrew and learn the product for 18 months before returning to sales, and he not only excelled in customer service, he has now been really successful back in his sales role: a real overachiever. And finally, my Chairman’s Award, which goes to Andrew Scully, my right hand man, and my hard-working and brilliant wife Amanda Port, who has always treated BigChange like our fifth child.

Many congratulations to all of you. These awards are very well deserved. Thank you for all you’ve done for this company and your teams. I hope you enjoyed the party!

The American dream

Martin Port and the American Dream

In 1986, I went to New York to work for a German bread bakery business. I was just 24. I fell in love with the Big Apple, with America, and loved helping to build Schripps from the ground up.

In the first year, I doubled the sales of the business. The following year, I worked for Fritz Pretzel, which had a pretzel store on 42nd Street in the Port Authority bus terminal. In 1989, I came back to the UK and set up a bakery business called Kroustie and had my first taste of entrepreneurial success.

I may have built a career in the bakery sector but, even as a twenty-something, I loved technology. I always dreamed I would go back to America, and build a technology business in the greatest, most competitive market in the world.

Well, here I am – I’m not going to tell you how many decades later – and I’m on the precipice of making that dream come true. I’m writing this from New York City, a place I used to call home. I’m here as a man on a mission. I’m meeting the business owners and forward-thinking managers who use BigChange – or would like to in the future.

Speaking to customers has always been – and will always be – the best part of my job, as founder of this company. I love hearing about their challenges and figuring out ways to help them. Nothing beats the look on someone’s face when you tell them you can save them time, money and frustration.

I know that we have created an exceptional platform in the UK and I want to make sure that our American customers feel the same way too, so it’s really important to me that I make each conversation count. We’re halfway there already, winning business here without even having a proper office or dedicated sales team. I’m also meeting potential partners who are keen to become BigChange resellers. This is a powerful way to grow in a new market, and it’s exciting to hear these people’s passion for our technology.

Later this week, I will fly to Boston to meet our investment partner, Great Hill. The pandemic has meant that, even though we did the deal six months ago, and were talking long before that, we have never actually met on US soil. Imagine that? Finally, we are going to sit down together, shake hands, and speak without the need for technology to bridge the gap. I’m also meeting Mike Profit, who joined our board as non-exec in June. He’s gained so much experience over the past 25 years, working with a staggering number of US technology blue chips and fast-growth start-ups. I have been looking forward to meeting him in person for the past three months, and finally we can really shoot the breeze, to borrow an American phrase.

It’s taken a lot of hard work from many different people to get me out here. It took three months to get the visa, and I would like to thank the Department for International Trade for all their help.

I hope that our US offering will formally launch in January 2022. I feel like a start-up founder again, creating this new business within BigChange. I can’t wait to see how big we could be here, and to begin spending more time here as we cement our position as a leader in our industry. I wish that my 24-year-old self could see me now.

Chairman’s blog: There’s luxury and then there’s LUXURY

What is luxury?

There’s luxury and then there’s LUXURY. What really defines a luxury brand? Is it all about heritage? Is it about price? Store location?

For me, the thing that truly defines a luxury brand is exceptional customer service. When you have a Leeds accent and you walk into a department store in London and they treat you as though you’re the most important customer in the building, that’s a luxury experience.  

Luxury is not a stale, overpriced shopping environment where staff are disengaged, and customers are made to feel like they are unwelcome intruders. 

Last week, I headed into Central London to visit the iconic department stores Harrods and Selfridges. I can’t tell you how different the two experiences were. When I walked into Harrods, I felt like I was walking into a stately home. There were few customers, there was no buzz. Staff behaved as though we shoppers should be grateful to be allowed into the hallowed halls at all.  

When I went to Selfridges, it was a completely different story. The whole store was humming with activity. Staff couldn’t have been friendlier. I wanted to buy a new shirt but my favourite designer did not survive the pandemic, unfortunately. The staff took me to another concession, where they fixed me up in no time. I needed something altered and the guy there said, “No problem. I’ll have it for you in half an hour.” I’ve never experienced such incredible service in a retail environment.  

The store director, David Jarvis, was walking the floor to check that everyone was happy. I was so impressed by the quality of the service that I introduced myself to offer my congratulations. I like to give praise where it’s due.  

Harrods’ history goes back to 1849. The name is synonymous with luxury, and it remains the largest department store in Europe. Selfridges is also a venerable institution, opening its doors in 1908. Yet despite their illustrious heritage, they are completely different entities today.  

The lesson for me after that shopping trip was that a business can never rest on its laurels. Whether you’re in retail, finance or technology, customers expect a high-quality service; when we are disappointed, it is jarring. It doesn’t matter how old and established you are, even ancient reputations are not immune to modern headwinds.  

Harrods’ revenues hit £2bn before the pandemic. It is still a retail titan following the crisis with revenues of £1.04bn but growth will stall if it cannot tempt back shoppers, especially with international visitor numbers at record lows. Selfridges, in contrast, is clearly focused on growth, wowing visitors with a unique and fantastic experience. I know who I would put my money on to finish 2021 on a high. 

As BigChange grows and its reputation spreads across the globe, I know one thing for certain. I hope to become the Selfridges of mobile workforce management. Not the Harrods. 

Don’t lose your humanity in the race to automate

Humanity over Automation

I’m on holiday this week. Yes, I actually did it! I took some time off. I’m down in London because my wife Mandy bought me a spa day at a swanky hotel for my birthday.

I went to have my massage yesterday. I thought I was going to relax for an hour and forget all about work; instead, life served me an extremely valuable business lesson.

Before my session, I tried to go for a shower. The only one available was broken. So I went to leave my things in the locker room and wrestled with one of the keypads for a few minutes before a lady came in and said, ‘Oh, don’t use that one. It does not work.”

“Right,” I thought. “This isn’t a very good customer experience.”

But then I had a massage, and the lady was excellent. Afterwards, I went for a pedicure and the gentleman who took care of me was exceptional. Then, finally, when I left, I got chatting to the receptionist, who was friendly and accommodating and made me feel so welcome.

Even though all the hotel’s attempts at automation had failed, the human interactions I had in that spa made the whole experience positive and uplifting.

It got me thinking about the power of automation – and the fact that the secret lies in knowing what to automate.

At BigChange, we have automated many of our processes. Take our sales team. Even though we have increased revenues over the past year, we haven’t increased the number of people it takes to do the sales admin because our technology does it for us.

When an order is created by a salesperson, they don’t have to touch a process after that: the BigChange system creates the contract, sends it out, generates the customer communications, orders any stock that’s needed, sets up the billing, and starts the onboarding process. But, if that customer has a question, they can pick up the phone and reach a human being immediately. The automation doesn’t extend to customer service.

These days, that’s rare. I’ve noticed that so many tech companies have taken all the phone numbers off their websites. Customers have to interact with bots and, if their query isn’t answered, they get siphoned into a complex and long-winded ticketing system. Our Roadcrew customer service is available to all our customers, and human beings are there to solve problems 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This is the other thing about automation: it should free up your people to do the high value tasks. But it shouldn’t be an enabler of Parkinson’s Law.

I was reminded about Parkinson’s Law this weekend when I read an article in the Sunday Times by James Timpson, CEO of nationwide key cutter Timpson I have been an admirer of James and his father John for many years. Their fantastic business model, and their ethical and pragmatic approach to leadership, are truly inspiring.

“Parkinson’s Law, written by C Northcote Parkinson in 1955, explains why ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’,” he wrote. “Using his experience in the civil service, he calculated that a department grows in size, on average, by 6 per cent a year. This isn’t due to more responsibility but simply people making more work for each other.

“Many business leaders, including me, have learnt about Parkinson’s Law too late in life. Covid forced us to dust off the book and start understanding how we can run a company with much lower overheads, without affecting the service we give our customers and colleagues.”

We must all guard against the effects of Parkinson’s Law in our organisations. Automation can be a catalyst for lethargy as well as action. This is why it’s so important to have a plan and to strive for efficiency in all the things we do. Many people talk about change and extol the benefits of automation – and then fail to take any action. Some people take action but fail to protect the human interactions their customers crave. Others automate, provide excellent customer service when it’s needed, and are thriving.

Let’s all make sure we stay firmly in the latter camp.

My first week as chairman

CEO to Chairman

First of all, I’d just like to express my thanks to all the people who have sent well wishes over the past week. As any CEO will tell you, moving into a chairman role is exciting but also daunting – it’s a step into the unknown – so it means a lot to see so many of you reach out.

I’m now most of the way through my first week as a chairman of BigChange so I thought I’d share some observations. Hopefully, these will be useful whether you’re a CEO considering moving into a chairman role or you’re just interested in the dynamics of such a transition.

At the start of the week, I’ll be honest, I felt a little lost. I spent time with my incredible PA removing myself from recurring sales meetings and catch-ups. Suddenly, my diary was looking emptier than ever before. Change is always challenging. I am so used to being involved in the day-to-day operations that, at first, it felt uncomfortable to move into more of a supporting role.

But it’s only when you step back that you give the brilliant people around you room to step up and be their best. This week has confirmed what I already believed: that Richard, our new CEO, has everything it takes to lead the company day to day. I’ve really enjoyed watching him take the lead on everyday decisions, and I continue to be inspired and delighted by his passion for this business.

So, what am I doing with my time now I’m not booked into meetings from 8am till 8pm? I am preparing to go to the US to drive BigChange’s expansion across that vast and incredible territory. We are targeting an aggressive expansion through acquisition as well as organic growth, so I have been looking at various exciting companies out there. I hope to have something to announce imminently!

Making progress on my plans for the US hasn’t been entirely straightforward, however. I’m in the midst of applying for a US visa but my son tested positive for Covid last weekend so the whole family is self-isolating. Luckily, the world is used to conducting high-level meetings via Teams and Zoom these days, so I’m not letting quarantine slow me down.

One of the best things about moving into a chairman role is that I am able to be so much more strategic about my planning for BigChange. It’s taking some getting used to, but I’m shifting my focus beyond the next quarter’s sales targets to a longer time frame – the next two to five years. I am having conversations now that may only bear fruit in 18 months. It’s a thoughtful and interesting approach to growth that I’m learning to love.

Getting out of back-to-back meetings has other benefits too. I recently met an impressive entrepreneur who sold his media business and has become an angel investor. We had 30 minutes in the diary for a quick chat and we ended up talking for two hours. Two weeks ago, that would have been impossible. As a result, he was able to tell me quite a bit about his portfolio companies and their challenges. This far-reaching conversation may help steer our product development while also generating some new customers for our platform.

When I was looking at moving from CEO to chairman, I read a lot of research about what it takes to make this transition successful. Many people believe that it’s impossible to successfully move to a chairman role in a business that you founded. Never attempt the move until you’ve held at least three non-executive director positions to learn the ropes, said one. Well, you know me, I love an impossible challenge. Instead, I’ve been surprised at how easy it has been to adapt to a new way of working and a new set of responsibilities.

But I have taken some advice on board. Other entrepreneurs, such as Ben Jones, co-founder of Bitwala, have said that it’s really important to give yourself some downtime once you become chairman. It’s the only way to truly get perspective on the business and work out the best application of your skills and time day-to-day. So I have booked a fortnight’s holiday – my first break of that length for as long as I can remember. I’m really looking forward to enjoying that downtime and giving my mind time to wander and explore new ideas. Who knows, I may even be able to train myself out of sleeping just five hours a night on that trip… But I doubt it.   

In football – and in business – you have to stay hungry for success

England v Germany

When I woke up this morning, the world looked different. Brighter. Full of promise. Why? Because the night before, England had pulled off a triumphant defeat of Germany in the Euros.

It’s amazing how a win like that can change the way you feel about life. When that first goal went in, I forgot all my worries. When England scored the second goal, it felt like even the stresses of the pandemic were melting away. 

This is why politicians love a football championship. They distract the nation from what’s going on in Westminster. Matt Hancock and Boris have been booted off the front pages by England’s victory. 

In the first century CE, the poet Juvenal wrote that Roman emperors would use “bread and circuses” to keep the people distracted. Our modern-day emperors use the footie. But I digress… 

England’s win got me thinking about the impact of success. When you’re winning, you feel on top of the world. All you need is one thing to go right, and suddenly your whole outlook is different. But successes can also be distracting – they can take one’s eye off the next win, the next big goal. 

I have run a few businesses in my life and I have seen it time and time again. In one of my past companies, I noticed this phenomenon at play in the sales team. A person would have a bad run, then get one sale in and feel like they were on easy street again. It was great to see them find success but also worrying that that success meant they stopped trying. 

I’m conscious that as a founder, CEO and chief visionary, I must always be on the hunt for the next big achievement. The next milestone. Life doesn’t stop because you get a win. Of course, it’s important to stop and reflect on what we have done but, after a brief pause, it’s on to the next thing. 

When Great Hill Partners invested in BigChange earlier this year, that was a big win for me. That was my own personal Euros moment. All my life I’ve wanted to grow a business to a valuation of £100m, and I’d done it. It felt pretty good. But the next day, I had to think about the next goal – the journey to a £1bn valuation. 

I hope that England’s players are similarly focused on the next big win. We play Ukraine next, and it’s still a long old road to the final. I gave myself the whole of Wednesday to appreciate the England win but now my mind is on the next match. 

Are you hungry for your next success? Tell me what you want to achieve in the comments below and I’ll help keep you accountable.

Don’t fall into this customer service trap

Customer Service Trap

Whenever I see a company offering different levels of customer service based on the size of spend, I feel incredibly frustrated.

How are businesses getting away with it? If you are a customer, you are a customer, end of. You have paid your money and the service should come wrapped around that purchase, regardless how much you spend each year or how many licences you hold. Platinum, silver or straw packages? No thank you. 

At BigChange – and in all of my previous companies – I have always treated every single one of my customers with the same attention and devotion. Here’s why: 

Small becomes big

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over half a century in business, it’s that if you support companies while they are small, they will remember you when they get big. If you treat a customer with 10 employees as though they don’t matter, as soon as they can take their business elsewhere, they will. Instead, we have seen many smaller companies – some micro businesses – flourish in partnership with BigChange, doubling or even tripling in size. Their success is our success and we can’t do enough to help them. 

It makes you smarter

Yes, you may have to invest more time and money into your customer service function but you will also be more innovative and effective. At BigChange, we have created a whole online knowledge bank full of useful guides and videos for our customers of all sizes, so that they know just where they can get an easy solution. We also realised that many of our customers often don’t have time to play with our technology and really experience the full functionality. So, we created the BigChange University, where we take them through a different feature each session. Customers don’t have to try and figure anything out in the evenings or weekends. Instead, they have a whole hour blocked out in their diary dedicated to getting to grips with the platform. It’s been incredibly successful, with thousands of attendees. And while it took forethought and planning to get the university up and running, it’s also an invaluable way to get insight from our customers and inform future product development.  

Innovation in all its forms

And on that point about innovation, smaller companies often really push boundaries when it comes to finding new and better ways of working. Keeping our ties with the ‘S’ end of SME means we are constantly seeing new trends, new industry needs, and new solutions. Working in partnership with smaller companies means we can get in at the ground floor, creating the features and products they need to tackle these challenges as they grow. We also learn so much from our enterprise clients, especially how to roll out efficiencies at scale. Working with businesses at both ends of the spectrum means that we can cherrypick best-practice across the whole ecosystem and apply it to our technology.  

It’s the right thing to do

We live in an age where it is no longer acceptable to behave unethically in business. It has been huge gratifying to see this shift, and to know that our values and commitment to customer service make us one of the good guys. Over the course of my career, I have kept in touch with many happy customers from both big companies and small – only to have them join my businesses or become customers again in new roles or ventures. In business, as in life, you get out what you put in. By treating people fairly, with respect, and always giving your all to help them when they need you, you create a social currency that is absolutely priceless.

What is a business without vision?

CEO Blog business without vision

Without a visionary at the helm, a business cannot succeed. It may have the best product in the world and the best team in place but without somebody in the hot seat driving the strategy and setting goals, it will stagnate and ultimately fail.

You’ve probably heard it said 100 times but it bears repeating: if a business isn’t growing, it’s going backwards. 

I was reminded of this yesterday when I watched a video with Simon Sinek, the leadership expert and author He said, “I don’t like the term CEO. Everyone else in the C-suite has their job in their title. CFO. CMO. COO. CTO. We know exactly what you do. It’s in the title. What’s the CEO? What does an Executive Officer do? It’s not a well-defined title. We need to change the title to Chief Vision Officer. Someone who owns the vision.” 

I have always found that describing myself as “Founder and CEO of BigChange” never truly explained my role here. Yes, I started the business but anyone can start a business. You just fill out a form in Companies House and – hey presto! – you have a company. Yes, I’m the CEO – but, as Simon so deftly put it, what does a Chief Executive actually do? 

The thing that sets me apart is that when I launched the business eight years ago, I had a vision for where this business could go. Crucially, I understand our customer: what they want, what they need, and what they expect from a technology partner. When I’m talking to a customer, sometimes I even know what they are going to say before they open their mouth. That’s how embedded in this industry I am. I have total empathy with the people in the market we are trying to serve. 

This customer intimacy helps me to create goals for the business that are ambitious yet actionable. I know that my customers aren’t asking for anything complicated. They just want reliable technology that makes their business more efficient and lets them grow sustainably, year after year. They don’t mind paying for the product, as long as it does what they need it to. That is my great strength. 

I am the visionary driving BigChange forward to meet each new milestone. Yes, I have a brilliant team that comes to work and executes every single day. They do their jobs far better than I ever could – I am humbled by the talent we have in this company. But no one else can do exactly what I do. When I say that I want to make BigChange the market leader in every territory that we operate in, I say it knowing exactly how we’ll get there. I don’t have my head down, trying to get to next month’s target or hit next year’s numbers. I’m thinking five years – even 10 years – into the future. That’s my job and the role of the visionary. 

My relentless focus on the customer means that when I say I want to be the market leader, I don’t just mean the de facto leader because of the number of users and businesses on our books, I mean the leader in terms of the positive impact we make on our customers’ success. Growth for growth’s sake is not the goal. It’s about the transformative effect BigChange can have on the whole ecosystem – the companies run by people who are not so different from me. They want to grow, they want to provide stable livelihoods for their employees, they want to solve a problem well and do it better than anyone else in their industry. I am my own target customer. I know how to humanise our technology so it’s not baffling or overwhelming.  

I know that I am doing my job well because of the customer testimonials that come in each and every day. “Our business wouldn’t survive without BigChange.” “We couldn’t grow without BigChange.” Without my vision for this business, and the values I have put in place to underpin that vision, there’s no way we could be creating this kind of impact.  

I’m not saying all this to blow my own trumpet. I’m saying this because there is a big difference between a visionary and an operative. As Simon says in his video, the two mindsets complement each other. They cannot succeed without each other. What is a visionary leader without a great Chief Financial Officer or a skilled Chief Technology Officer? They would have vision and nothing else. But the operative simply cannot do the job of the visionary. They have their heads down while we leaders have our heads up, and our gaze focused at a point on the far distant horizon.  

So this is why I am changing my job title. From today onwards, I’m no longer Founder and CEO. I’m the Founder, CEO and Chief Vision Officer.