Chairman’s Spotlight: the couple helping protect our access to clean water

The best businesses are borne out of necessity. Perhaps there’s a customer need that cannot be ignored, or it could be a personal imperative. 

The latter was true for Kirsty and Neil Scott, the husband-and-wife team behind Veriflo. 

In 2015, they sat at their dining room table and tried to imagine a better future. Parents to two children under two – the youngest was just four months old – they saw a gap in the market and took a leap of faith with a new business.

Together, they thrashed out a plan for Veriflo, building on their skills and experience. “We started the business in June, and I kept my job going,” Kirsty tells me. “By December, we were both working full-time for the business.”

Neil, whose background was in the water industry, provided the technical expertise, while Kirsty, the problem solver, and a fast learner, would manage the business and its culture.  Eight years on, their strategic and technical clean water consultancy is the trusted partner for some of the UK’s largest water companies, serving London and the South. 

From major complex infrastructure programmes to everyday maintenance of the water network, Kirsty, Neil, and their 34-strong team ensure that people’s access to clean water supply remains uninterrupted. 

This is a niche industry and skills are hard to come by, so Kirsty and Neil have come up with their own solutions for creating a talent pipeline. Their apprenticeship scheme welcomes cohorts of up to five young people at a time, while their sister company, Gold Tap Training (www.goldtaptrainig.co.uk ), helps to upskill and develop both their own staff and technicians working in the wider industry. 

“We have invested in skills by building our own custom-made above-ground water rig, so that technicians can learn the practical skills they will need on the job,” Kirsty explains. 

At Veriflo (veriflo.co.uk), the team is dedicated to ensuring their clients get an unbeatable service, while maintaining a first-class safety record and preserving essential skills. Kirsty and Neil brought on BigChange to help support fleet management and planning, so that they can concentrate on complex projects while our platform takes care of the paperwork. 

Kirsty says: “BigChange gave us the practical support we needed to ensure our fleet is as efficient as it can be, and as our business grows and evolves, we know that BigChange’s wide range of features will continue to support our future requirements.”

Kirsty and Neil, who have been together 22 years, have carefully carved out their responsibilities within the business, which helps to avoid friction. “We had two rules when we started out,” says Kirsty. “We’ll never use our house as collateral, and we won’t let the business get in the way of our marriage. That first rule has been easy to follow but the second is sometimes a challenge. Having very clear roles within the business helps us to support each other and avoid friction.”

Veriflo has evolved into a strategic expert, both from a desktop and field aspect, taking on the jobs that require skills that the water sector really needs. “In the early days, we said yes to everything,” says Kirsty. “But these days, we have learned to be more selective, and only take on the projects that really fit our skills and company ethos, as well as providing our clients with reassurance of our delivery.” 

They are confident about the future, and the impact Veriflo can make on the industry. “When we think about the future of this business, we aren’t trying to hit a number, in terms of people or turnover. Instead, we are focused on performance, developing industry skills, and ensuring that Veriflo remains a great place to work for our people.”

Leaders: don’t be taken in by the sunk cost fallacy

There have been times in my life when I have spent a chunk of change on a project, only to realise that I’ve bought the wrong technology or gone down a blind alley. The temptation was to keep on investing, keep trying to make it work, even though I knew that it was the wrong solution.

Sunk costs are always hard to stomach but they are often a vital – if expensive – route to a better solution.

If you’re lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the term “sunk costs”, they refer to the investments we have already made, be they financial, or in terms of time or resource that cannot be recovered.

I once invested £1m into a new technology before realising it was a poor fit for my needs. That’s a huge outlay. But the losses would have been far greater if I had continued to back that horse, so I took the £1m hit.

In the past, I have paid eye-watering sums for senior hires that didn’t work out. They promised so much and delivered too little. Expensive as it was to part company, keeping them in the business would have been even more costly.

And then there was the time, during the early days of BigChange, when I invested more than £200,000 in a new hardware solution before realising that Samsung tablets had all the features I needed and more. Guess what I did? That’s right, I chalked that loss up to experience (again).

You might think I’ve been unlucky, or made some bad decisions, but the truth is that sometimes we entrepreneurs have to try out a few different things before we find the perfect solution.

The sunk cost fallacy is problematic because it creates a kind of cognitive bias. Our brains desperately cling on to the hope that our investment will bear fruit. We hate admitting we are wrong. We hate wasting time and money. This is why few finance directors make good chief executives; they struggle to walk away from bad investments. 

I often hear about sunk costs from prospective BigChange customers. “We spent x on this platform and it’s not working for us, and we’ve already wasted six months on the integration.” When they make the switch, the next time we speak, they say: “We are so lucky we cancelled when we did, otherwise the costs would have spiralled out of control.” That is the entrepreneurial mindset at its best. 

It’s really important that we leaders make decisions based on the facts in front of us right now. We need to ignore the investments and decisions we have made in the past. Yesterday’s data will never be as valuable as today’s. In this agile, dynamic world we live in, we must change course and adapt as challenges and needs evolve.

This means being unemotional in our decision-making. This can be hard when we have invested hundreds of man hours, or our own capital, in a scheme. I like to think of myself as unsentimental, but I too can struggle when I look back over all the lost Sundays and weekday evenings labouring over a defunct solution.

Sunk costs are the Ugly Sisters in every entrepreneur’s Cinderella story. You, Prince Charming, must squeeze that glass slipper on a few feet before finding your one true love. Never stop until the slipper fits.

Humans, not chatbots, should deal with points of friction in your business

I’m passionate about technology. Automation and machine learning are amazing at taking care of the grunt work in every business, creating leaner, more streamlined organisations.

But technology will never replace the human touch.

When a customer is experiencing an issue, or needs an urgent solution, the last thing they want to do is communicate with a chatbot or get funnelled into an automated system. 

The purpose of technology should be to free up your brilliant people so that they can provide that tender loving care to customers when they need it most.

I was reminded of this recently when travelling from Boston to New York with Delta Airlines. I landed in Terminal 4 at JFK Airport and waited by the carousel for my luggage. One bag was missing.

Delta has won several awards for its customer service, so I reported the issue and expected a swift resolution.

There is a customer helpline with an automated service for reporting lost luggage, but this is the last thing a tired traveller wants to engage with at the end of their journey. I wanted help from customer service on the ground.

I spoke to the lost baggage team and was told that my luggage would be brought to me in five minutes. What followed was two hours of chaos. I was ignored, misdirected, fobbed off, and ultimately forgotten.

I was made to feel like an annoyance. I was passed from pillar to post. For Delta, this is a classic friction point. But instead of ensuring that talented and helpful people were on hand to deal with it, Delta dropped the ball.

When you are running a business, there will occasionally be issues – there’s nothing you can do about that. Customers do understand that problems arise – what they remember is how the company deals with it. Every unhappy customer is an opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive one. That is the way to create a lifelong fan.

When you lose a customer, you don’t just miss out on a single sale, you hamper the growth of your company. You are losing the lifetime value of that customer, you are missing out on a great review, which could persuade others to buy, and you are crushing any hope of future referrals.

At BigChange, the whole senior team is obsessed with customer service. We are always at the end of the phone if a customer needs help. From day one, my email address and mobile number have been available to customers, and I still take calls day or night. Our fantastic customer service team, Roadcrew, is available 24/7.

The business is geared to serve our customers. We have a “red flag” ticket, which alerts the whole team, including the leaders, if an issue arises. This means that we are united, as a company, behind our service ethos, working together to solve problems quickly and effectively. 

At JFK, there were no managers available – no one I could escalate my concerns to. I filled out a digital form and considered facing the endless multiple-choice menus on the telephone hotline, when I saw my bag appear on a nearby carousel. No one noticed when I picked it up and went on my way. 

Delta is still technically searching for my bag, but no one has been in touch to give me an update or check whether I need assistance. I could have had medications or important documents in that bag.

As technology evolves, and artificial intelligence comes to the fore, we leaders must never lose sight of the role humans have to play at all levels of business. There will never be any substitute for the warmth and problem-solving ability of a human being. And if anyone from Delta is reading this, I will probably fly with you again – but I’d give American Airlines a shot now too. 

Here’s the thing about high performance teams…

As leaders, our most important – and hardest – task is to motivate our people.

Everyone has good days and bad days. Life sometimes gets in the way of work. Careers are complex. Leaders must navigate all these challenges to get the absolute best out of people.

But here’s the thing about creating teams that no one tells you. You cannot motivate everyone. It takes a certain mindset to bring your A-game to work every day. Attitude cannot be taught; it is innate.

I’m lucky. I made many hiring mistakes in my early career, which taught me a lot about human nature. As John Timpson CBE always says – some are 10/10 and others are drongos. The people you hire need to be capable of greatness, and they must be team players.

At BigChange, we have created a hiring process that identifies the best team players. People who aren’t just out to make themselves look good but help one another and are united behind common goals.

I’m a great believer in asking questions during the interview process that show whether someone works well in a team. “Talk about a team project that failed, and why” is a good one. So is: “How have you found skills in others to complement your own to complete a task?”

This one is also revealing: “What is more important to you, doing a great job individually? Or meeting team goals?”

I recently had a birthday celebration at my synagogue, and the rabbi gave an incredible address, which touched on this subject. He spoke about two rowing teams: one that won everything and one that always lost. The losing side sent a spy to check out the rival team while training one day.

The spy came back full of wonder.

“I’ve discovered what we are doing wrong,” he told his teammates. “On their team, one person does the shouting and everyone else does the rowing. On our team, everyone is shouting and only one person is rowing.”

It was an entertaining anecdote, but all leaders can appreciate the sentiment. You need people to be on board with the mission and pull in the same direction. That’s the only way to achieve success.

Legendary football manager Kevin Keegan attended this event and spoke about his experiences leading first-class teams. He too stressed the importance of natural talent, team spirit, and commitment to achieving group goals. When his club bought Alan Shearer for a record-smashing £25m, he recalled, that’s what he was buying: a triple threat.

So, if you want to lead a high-performance team, make sure that when you shout, your colleagues are willing to row, united in your mission. That is the way to glory – both on the pitch and in business.  

Entrepreneurs: the sun is out but this is your time to shine

I visited a school as part of a prize-giving ceremony this week, and at the end the headmaster told the children to enjoy their summer break – but warned that they should keep reading and make sure they didn’t forget to practice their work.

This advice really resonated with me. All business owners should take the same advice. Your kids or grandkids may be off school. Lots of your team members may be taking a holiday. Perhaps you have planned a vacation too. But don’t let the summer holidays create a sales slump in your business.

August is fast approaching. Many people mark it down as a “slow month”. The heat (if we’re lucky) and the impact of school holidays can create chaos, and chaos can be an excuse to slow down or lose focus. But if your productivity drops, your people will struggle too. You need to set an example. This is the time to push hard, and really drive sales and partnerships. Keep that momentum going! Or it will take even more effort to make up lost ground.

I know that it can be more of a slog at this time of year. It’s disheartening when you receive one “out of office” after another” but you mustn’t give up. Even on the Continent, where it seems like whole departments disappear for a month at a time, my teams are tirelessly growing the business, even though it may take extra effort to track down a prospective customer.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself at my most productive in the summer. Perhaps it’s the early sunrises and late sunsets, which means it’s easier to put in longer hours. Perhaps it’s the Vitamin D giving me a boost. But, throughout my career, my ventures have always had a sales spike over July and August. My last company had its year-end in August, which spurred me on to give my all in the final quarter – and the has habit stuck with me.

I do take a holiday but that doesn’t stop me from checking in, and making sure that sales are progressing as they should. I lock my phone in a safe for part of the day, to ensure I’m giving my family the attention they deserve, but then it comes out for a super productive couple of hours in the evening. Technology like BigChange can help you stay on top of jobs, invoices and new business – even on the beach.

There’s nothing worse than checking on your performance in September, and realising you’ve had a bad August, and failed to chase up new business. You can’t go back in time and do it all again, so don’t walk the path to regret – keep your eye on the prize.

Take a holiday. Let your people have a break. But make sure it’s not all fun and games this summer – losing focus now could beach your business.

Chairman’s spotlight: the man championing Britain’s gardeners

One of the reasons I so enjoy meeting BigChange customers is that the conversations we have always expand my mind and show me new perspectives.

This week, I had the privilege of catching up with David Newman, the founder and CEO of Newman Landscapes. He started the business in 2006, building it from the ground up (pun intended), from domestic gardening to commercial maintenance and prestige contracts.

Today, he employs 33 people, but he has big ambitions to become a medium-sized national player with his own academy, training people up in the craft and lobbying on behalf of the gardening sector.

When he said this and explained his vision for championing gardeners in the UK, he blew my mind.

“My ambition is to change the perception of gardening,” he tells me. “A lot of people think that gardening is easy – anyone can mow a lawn or trim a hedge. You put a quote in, and the reply is, ‘That’s expensive – for a gardener’. The truth is that experienced gardeners are skilled professionals, who deserve to be recognised for their work.

“We have done some extraordinary projects at Newman Landscapes, from celebrity gardens to the creation of incredible lakes, which takes careful design, planning, and execution. Gardeners handle invasive species, help maintain ancient trees, and work across huge sites for complex clients.

“Someone could lose their job today and decide to offer gardening services, and they may quote tiny prices to get started, but I want to educate people that undervaluing our profession ruins the industry and perpetuates the myth that gardening is easy, and anyone can do it. It’s time to stop taking this sector for granted.”

I love understanding the things that really matter to my customers. I really want to help David on his mission, and it’s great that BigChange is helping him to scale faster so that he can reach his goal sooner. “BigChange will revolutionise this business over time,” he says. “We have more than 1,000 sites in our ground maintenance business and now I know, at every minute of the day, how jobs are going and where we are as a business. This used to take up hours of my week and now I get an instant snapshot, which will help us grow.”

David lives and breathes horticulture; it’s in his blood. His great grandfather owned a floristry business, and his father is a Royal Horticultural Society certificate holder. “I’ve never wanted to do anything else,” he says. “Even today, I’m happy to get my hands dirty and jump in a digger or help out the team.”

A true advocate for his industry, and a skilled and passionate gardener, I can’t wait to see what David does next.  

Record-breaking six months for BigChange

As entrepreneurs, it is vital to take the time to reflect on the performance of your business. Well, we have just finished our analysis of the first half of 2023 and I am beyond delighted to announce that BigChange has broken two all-time records. 

We have smashed our targets, thanks to the determination and leadership of our CEO Richard Warley and empowered by investment from our enlightened backer, Great Hill Partners. Here’s a snapshot of what we have achieved so far in 2023.

A customer stampede

We have welcomed a record-smashing 200 new customers over the last six months. This represents £19m in new contract wins – another record – and reflects our continued dominance within our industry. These customers hail from a wide variety of sectors, and include organisations of all sizes. We now have an incredible 2,000 customers around the world with a total of 80,000 users.

Our top stats

We are a data-led company, so here are a few numbers to show you what we have achieved over time.

We have scheduled an eye-watering 58m jobs. We have processed nearly £5bn-worth of invoices

We have saved 19.5m hours of engineers’ time. Admin departments worldwide, breathe a sigh of relief – you have saved more than 26m hours of time because of us. We have tracked nearly 3.5bn miles worth of travel.

Our tech continues to evolve

We will be adding soon more tools and features to our platform: the innovation never stops. We are continuing to use machine learning to add value for customers through the BigChange Sidekick, which offers insights (“You are experiencing more issues on jobs than usual”), alerts (John Smith is late starting the job at Tesco”), and suggestions (“Do you want to create a quote?”) to enhance customer analytics and the user experience.

We have reached a tipping point where we can look across our entire customer base and leverage anonymous insights to help companies benchmark their performance. For example, “You are in the top 5% for punctuality in boiler maintenance amongst other companies”.

Getting out there

There is no substitute for meeting in the real world, shaking hands, having a coffee, and talking about the things that matter to us. This is one of the reasons why I believe we have had such a cracking start to 2023. We are out there, attending exhibitions and events, meeting prospects and customers.

We have met more than 500 customers, holding five BigChange Success Forums in London, Reading, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, sharing our plans for the future and helping them to understand how we can help them achieve their goals.

Over the past six months, we have taken part in 15 events from Exeter to Glasgow and discussed our solution and benefits with 10,000+ business owners and engineers.

Over the next six months, we plan to attend 14 more exhibitions, addressing multiple industries, from plumbing to EV charging. And we have our own events, in Edinburgh and London. Sign up now to join us: contact [email protected]

📅26 Sept – BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh 

📅16th Nov – Gtech Community Stadium, Brentford, London

It’s all about our customers

We love our customers. They are the lifeblood of our business. We are obsessed with finding new ways to help them realise their ambitions. This is why we held a series of eight webinars on topics such as How To Manage Your Vehicles Like A Pro”, “How To Schedule Like A Pro” and the amazing “13 Time-Saving Features To Turbocharge Your Business”.

We have also enhanced our BigCommunity Newsletter with new video content, helping customers stay up to date with all the latest news around our product, events, and people.

Our BigChange University now offers certification to help users prove their knowledge and demonstrate how their skills have contributed to personal development. Why not become one of our 4,0000 graduates? Enrol today.

Road Crew, the team here that maintains constant contact with customers, has continued to deliver a best-in-class service, demonstrating a 4.5 out of five-star satisfaction rating.

A first-class team

We are now a team of 270 colleagues based in the UK, France, Poland, and Ukraine.

We recently strengthened the team by bringing into the BigChange family our new sales development leader, Jenny-Hawa Semasaba and our incoming director of digital marketing, Daniel Briggs.

This first-rate team is helping us to grow our footprint across the world and we are now a leading player in France, Cyprus, Australia, New Zealand the US, and Canada. 

We have achieved so much already this year and we are just getting started. Huge congratulations to the whole team for their hard work, dedication, and their commitment to our brilliant customers. Roll on the next six months. 

Time for a cuppa sustainabili-tea?

How much do you know about Bettys & Taylors?

If you have never been to Yorkshire and sat in a Bettys tea room or sipped a piping hot cup of Taylors’ Yorkshire tea, these are two of the region’s most beloved brands.

A century ago, these businesses were rivals. When Frederick Belmont opened his first tea room in Harrogate in 1919, he was the upstart stealing trade from the brothers Charles and Llewellyn Taylors’ flagship branch at Café Imperial on Parliament Street, just a stone’s throw away.

They may have competed for trade but they were united in their values and approach to business: the finest ingredients, the best service, appreciation for nature and our planet, and the utmost respect for community. These were the foundations underpinning these great companies.

I recently met Rachel Fellows, the Collaborative CEO of Bettys & Taylors, at a Business in the Community meeting. I sit on the board of BITC and have been privileged to meet some of the most inspiring and extraordinary leaders from the region. 

She explained the value of strong foundations, and how, as a leader today, she is building on the values and ethos that her forbears painstakingly and lovingly crafted. This got me thinking about entrepreneurship, and the importance of creating companies and programmes within those companies that are built to last.

Right now, I am watching the company I founded become a stronger and more dynamic organisation because a great leader is building on the cornerstone values and principles that I created. 

It’s a wonderful thing to witness. When I started BigChange, I knew that I wanted to prioritise sustainability and community, create an unbeatable culture of opportunity and inclusion for our people, and become a champion for enterprise. Richard Warley, who succeeded me as CEO, has taken those values and continues to build on them, bringing his own ideas and method into play. 

The combination is helping to turn a solid structure into a timeless fortress. Like me, Richard is creating momentum that will enable BigChange to continue thriving 50 years, or even 100 years in the future – we won’t be around to see it, but we know we will have been vital custodians along the way.

In the sixties, Bettys acquired CE Taylor & Company, uniting the brands and building on top of solid foundations, ensuring both unique businesses could thrive. 

Rachel told me about how the organisation’s values have been expressed in the decades since. Betty & Taylors Group launched its Trees for Life campaign – which supports both people and planet – in 1990, with a pledge to plant a million trees. The business soon smashed that target and, today, has planted over 5m trees around the world and helped protect an area of rainforest the size of the Yorkshire Dales.

Just over a decade ago, the Cone Exchange, Betty & Taylors’ community scrap store and recycling facility, was born. This unique organisation encourages school children to recycle in exchange for Cone Exchange rewards, supports social enterprises by providing its own waste and waste from other businesses to use for crafts, provides meaningful work experience and placements for young people with additional learning needs, and raises funds through sales of waste for local good causes.

The idea came from a young man with learning difficulties, who was touring the tea and coffee factory with some of his peers. He asked to take a cardboard cone home to make an angel for the top of his Christmas tree. Soon more schools were asking for cones and the idea of the Cone Exchange was born.

Each leader at Bettys and Taylors has augmented the company’s legacy, adding their own layer. I believe this is why Bettys & Taylors has traded on through more than a century, and is still sought after today.

I love this approach, and I’m enjoying watching my own legacy evolve through Richard’s innovations and dedication to BigChange’s values.

Every business owner should think about the future, and do their utmost to lay the foundations that future leaders and managers can build upon. To paraphrase an ancient Greek proverb, a business grows great when founders plant trees in whose shade they will never sit.  

Ignore the tech and your early-stage business will fail

In 2023, the survival of most businesses depends on technology.

If you aren’t making the most of the platforms, software, and tools out there, your rivals certainly will – and they’ll have the edge. 

The right tech can drive efficiency, boost productivity, increase sales, supercharge your customer service, all while cutting costs.

It’s never been easier for early-stage businesses to leverage cutting edge technologies, from AI tools to insightful analytics – once these were only available to big corporations with enterprise budgets but now, it’s truly a level playing field.

I’ll give you an example.

I recently helped to reinvent a social enterprise here in Leeds. While it is a small, local outfit, I have been determined to give it all the right tech tools to succeed.

Despite having few team members – and just one delivery driver – Street Lane Bakery is on BigChange. This has been massive for everyone involved, as we now have a process for everything, be that health and safety checks, cleaning, fulfilling orders and more. We are slicker, more efficient, and more able to grow safely – and we offer the same level of service as a much bigger bakery.

Every business owner who wants growth needs to think this way – what processes could eradicate paperwork and give the team back their precious time. Also, what business intelligence am I generating within my business that could help me make better decisions in day and tomorrow?

It goes without saying that every business needs a website and/or social media. Modern companies also need some kind of communication tool, be that a newsletter engine to reach out to customers, or an internal messaging app like Teams.

Accounting software is another tech “must-have”. Today, founders need to spend their time doing high value activities – finding customers, strategising, collaborating… They don’t need to be up all night, hunting through old receipts, while they file their tax return. Especially not now, with Making Tax Digital and quarterly reporting. Providers like Sage, which offer cloud-based tools that you can access from anywhere, are particularly effective.

Crucially, you want all your applications and tools to work seamlessly together. You want to have as many as possible bundled together for easy access and a more intuitive user experience.

Technology will never replace the human touch. I’m a firm believer that all this amazing technology, be it AI, chatbots, or cloud software, they all have their place. However, people want to do business with people. Call me old-fashioned but I believe if a customer has an issue, they want to speak to a person, not a bot. Luckily, the best tech exists to make these interactions easier and more meaningful.

Failing to use the tech tools at our disposal is a mistake – a study by the IZA Institute of Labour Economics in Germany in 2021 showed that a failure to adopt technological innovations was stifling entrepreneurship and the nation’s economic growth. Don’t let slow tech adoption lead to the failure of your venture.

How I finally learned to sleep

In my twenties and thirties, I survived on 4 hours sleep a night. In my forties I would get five hours. During the pandemic, when I was working from home and ditched my commute, I reached the dizzy heights of six hours shuteye each night. My passion for building businesses has often meant that rest has taken a back seat throughout my life.

However, whereas once my lack of sleep was by choice, in recent years, deep, restful sleep has eluded me.

In 2018, I was diagnosed with mild sleep apnoea. This is a sleep disorder whereby your breathing stops and starts overnight. It can be very serious as your brain may be starved of oxygen.

I didn’t take this diagnosis seriously.

I didn’t want to wear a mask overnight. I wasn’t interested in being plugged into a machine. I felt that I could manage very well on my own.

How wrong I was.

I recently went back to the doctor to review my sleep apnoea and it is now much worse. I wake up around 60 times an hour. I only get one hour and 15 minutes of deep sleep a night – the rest of the time, I hover between sleep and wakefulness. 

I knew that I felt tired. I knew that I was struggling to keep my eyes open at times, and that I was more irritable and had a shorter fuse. But I was so used to feeling that way that I had forgotten what a good night’s sleep felt like.

I’m hugely ambitious. I know that BigChange is well on its way to becoming a unicorn. As chairman and founder, I need to be on top of my game, constantly problem-solving and strategising. But you can’t see the big picture when you’re peering out at the world through tired eyes. 

I posted about the importance of sleep a couple of years ago. It’s a topic that fascinates me – probably because I have had so little of this precious commodity in my own life.

To summarise, studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to poorer decisions, more stress, and deteriorating health. Someone told me an anecdote recently about the CEO of Philips banning all employees from doing deals after a long flight. Apparently – and I do not know if this is apocryphal – executives would have to sign a contract saying they would wait a whole 24 hours from landing, to ensure they had a full night’s sleep first.

I believe in the power of sleep because I have recently experienced the effects of a full night of rest for the first time. I finally bit the bullet and began using my sleep apnoea machine. Yes, it’s noisy and cumbersome – but who cares. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I wake in the morning feeling on top of the world. After a few days of good sleep, my waking hours are a revelation. I feel truly reinvigorated. Is this how everyone feels after a decent kip? How have I lived without it for so long?

I still wake before 6am every morning but I have clocked in five hours of deep sleep. That’s four times what I was surviving on previously.

Sleep apnoea is one of the most common sleep disorders on the planet. In the UK alone, it is estimated that 1.5m people are living with it – and 85% of those are undiagnosed.

If you are running a business, you need to sleep. The better the sleep quality, the higher your productivity. So, if you think you may have sleep apnoea, let this be your wake-up call – go and get the test. And if you know that you’re running on empty, cancel your 7am meeting and have a lie in. You won’t regret it.