The telephone system went down in our offices a few months ago.
Our IT support man fixed the problem, which he thought was caused
somehow by the fallout from a solar flare he read about in Geek
(Geek Weekly is made up, the solar flare is

A few days ago, he arrived at my house to fix
the internet that decided to stop working. He tells my wife this is
due to the thermal heat differences in the attic, the result being
that there has been an expansion and contraction of the ADSL
router. His language is alien to us, probably because like most IT
professionals he was born on a distant digital planet and speaks in
binary code. All he had to say is: “Your router is broken and it
will cost £80 to fix.”

To be fair, he is a very pleasant individual,
highly intelligent and excellent at fixing those day to day IT
issues we all experience, my concern is we are now so reliant on
these people in our business and personal life.

Which is why my interest was piqued when I was
sitting with by far the wealthiest and most successful business
person I know the other day in the local Beaconsfield branch of a
nationwide coffee shop, and he came out with what seemed a very
innocent and simple comment – “all companies will be digital
companies in the future.”

The most basics requirements of life – water,
heat, food, security – are all controlled in some way by a digital
element. Even love is now found by more 10% of the population via
the internet. New entrants into money lending, and
Funding Circle, call themselves digital companies. This is not just
to get around EIS rules – these companies are run by young teams
and truly believe they are a digital business.

My friend’s comments on the digital future ring
true for my own business. Our marketing, sales and administration
systems are all being built around an online strategy; the look and
feel of our leasing broker in 2012 is very different to one five
years earlier.

In January this year, using traditional ideas
about our business we recruited a marketing manager, six months
later we are recruiting a full time “Digital Media Executive” to
complement their skills. Spend on software development is at a
level where we will recruit a full time member of staff to
undertake this work.

Visualising the future, the old broker model of
a few sales reps on the road, an off the shelf CRM system and
homemade web page will all but disappear.  We will be running
companies with sophisticated online CRM systems integrated into
voice over IP telephone systems, making video calls, using state of
the art tools to data mine information on prospects, suppliers and
the competition and communicating by the likes of LinkedIn,
Facebook and You Tube.

The strongest, most professional and successful
leasing brokers will be ones that truly embrace software into their
companies and use it to drive a better customer experience. If not,
those of us with grey hair or no hair will be quickly overtaken by
young digital natives who stumble upon our market.

Jeremy Hall is chief executive of WestWon