The challenges of building a digital team

The Digital Brew : Episode 8. We chat to Larry Kotch, of Brainbroker, about the challenges of finding and retaining the best digital talent. How do you build a digital team?

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For the 8th instalment of The Digital Brew, I met up with Larry Kotch, of Brainbroker, to discuss the challenges of building a digital team.

Anyone who has been involved with digital projects of any nature has probably faced a few headaches in terms of getting the right people, with the right skills / experience, to work on the project. Recruiting good digital talent has always been a challenge, both for agency and client-side.

Brainbroker describes itself as a ‘virtual agency’ and uses a distributed workforce to provide digital skills to SMEs who would otherwise struggle to attract the skills that they require.

What does Larry have to say on the issue of building a digital team?

The Challenges Of Building A Digital Team

View video transcript

Joe: Hello and a very warm welcome to another edition of The Digital Brew.

I’m here today with Larry Kotch from Brainbroker, and we’re going to be talking about the challenges of building a digital team.

Larry, thanks for your time today. It’s nice to see you in the Pill Box in Bethnal Green.

Larry Kotch: Great to be here, thanks a lot.

Joe: I think one of the stimuli for our chat today is, actually, I did… two Digital Brew episodes back, I spoke to Ashley from Econsultancy about digital transformation, and it just got me thinking about the kind of wonderful world of digital. One of the things that I get over and over and over again, is the challenges of recruitment, primarily… so it’s building that digital team. And, you know, I was aware of Brainbroker and your, kind of, virtual agency model, so I thought you’d be a great person to speak to about that.

Larry Kotch: Yeah.

Joe: But, for people who don’t know you, perhaps you could give us a quick 30 second intro to yourself?

Larry Kotch: Yeah. Sure. So I’m Larry Kotch and I’m the founder of Brainbroker. It’s what we call a ‘virtual agency, so it’s a new way of doing, I suppose, digital agency, so digital services, which we’ll get to, I’m sure, at some point. Been doing that for about two years, learned a lot along the way about people in the digital sector across the world.

Joe: Yeah, I remember that one of our email banters was about the journey to get here! And I think I’d certainly like to come back and talk about Brainbroker specifically, but I think just as a way in, I’m sure you’ve experienced it and you’ve heard similar views on the challenges on finding good people. I don’t think it’s hard to find people nowadays, but I think good, talented, digital people has always been a headache. And I think there’s a lot of reasons for that above and beyond that this is just a novel industry, really. But I was just wondering as an opening gambit, what are your views as to why that is the case? Why is it such a challenge? Or maybe you don’t think it is a challenge, I don’t know.

Larry Kotch: Yeah, well so there’s kind of levels to that question. Definitely here in the U.K, you know we are a more advanced economy. Certainly western Europe, America, tends to be more advanced in these areas. So, we almost have demand outstripping supply because, you know we have a lot of these new service firms and tech offerings that lots of companies around the world are very interested in and we need to make sure that our companies are stocked up with these digital skills.

But, you know, the rate at which people are deciding to study computer science, or studying a marketing course or something, hasn’t caught up with the demand. The demand is exponential. Just like the technology curve in most industries is sort of a bit of a hockey stick, kind of goes up. So you could say, in terms of skills that’s what we need.

So, if you look at, for instance, this borough where we’re in, Tower Hamlets, it’s a huge priority. I think it’s priority number two of the local borough of Tower Hamlets, which is I think like the 11th largest economy in Europe, Tower Hamlets, itself. And their second… the second most prioritised objective is digital skills. And they are pouring in loads of money and initiatives to try and desperately get people into apprenticeships or through courses, that’s how bad it is. The government, that’s one of their main focuses.

Joe: In London, I think you’re right. I think the U.K has been at the sort of front edge of the digital recreation. We’ve got US clients and some of the times a little bit surprised that they just feel like kind of three or four years behind in terms of what they’re doing, what they’re experimenting with. Yeah, I think it’s great. I mean, the U.K. is seen as kind of a pioneer in that regard. And London… there are the Leeds, the Manchesters, you know there are other hotbeds of really good stuff coming out of not just London so I don’t want to be too London-centric but just bite into the numbers of people of London. And just the… I always call it the ‘hipster community’. They’ve got big beards and things, you know? So you’ve suggested that it’s the latency issue that we all know this is a demand, it’s massive. The demand is massive, the supply is growing.

Larry Kotch: It is, yeah.

Joe: So people are… there are investment schemes.

Larry Kotch: Yeah.

Joe: I… again, I think that that’s a fair point. So Browser Media’s been going for 13 years now and I think back over the years of recruiting and interview processes, in the early days, I didn’t have anyone doing media studies or you know, degrees which are pretty well engineered – you’d think – for a digital career.  Depressingly though, I don’t think it’s really helped and now I’ve got a negative view on it – maybe, I’ve just been a bit unlucky – but do you think, and this is probably a bit controversial, that some of these courses are generated through the investments and people so desperately trying to plug these holes, but actually it’s the wrong people going into them the first place, or it’s seen as an easy option, perhaps?

Larry Kotch: Yeah, I think that certainly when it comes to technical skills, like developers, data scientists, things like that you kind of have to go through the technical courses. I think if your mind isn’t geared that way, it’s going to be very difficult to kind of retro-fit that on after university or something and just pick up some of these skills.

There’s lots of initiatives like code startups, you know, code camp and code academy where they’re taking people who want to get out of, I suppose, a traditional sector and go into tech and those have actually been quite successful and some people are able to transition off. But I’d say it takes someone who’s pretty kind of forward thinking, pretty open minded and you know, has a lot of other qualities that probably mean that they’ll be good at whatever they do.

But in terms of the other digital skills, because let’s not forget it’s not all about developers and content, but include digital marketing as a skill. That is almost completely different skill set although now, more than ever, the two are kind of coming together. So whereas, like you were saying back in the day, you might have people come in and doing media studies and things like that. These are very creative people and a big part of working in the digital sector is being creative. But, it’s now got to a stage where creative isn’t enough. And so I think that a lot of people that maybe graduated from some of those courses 10 years ago, five years ago, even now you look how the digital market has evolved there’s lots of really, really technical paths now.

Joe: Just data driven.

Larry Kotch: Yeah.

Joe: You can’t be a fluffy marketer. You have to be keen on numbers, stats, analysis. Then again, I think the good marketers always have done. There’s always been an appetite to look at the efficiency of what they’re doing. Digital demands that more and more.

Larry Kotch: I’ve definitely noticed that there is a group of people that no matter… and I’m sure they can see this happening… they still don’t, for some reason… either they have enough work, doing that sort of pure creative thing. Great content. The sort of people who come up with ideas, but in terms of executing it on digital channels, there’s a lot of people I know if they just put that into their game, they would be a lot stronger. But for whatever reason either can’t or won’t do it. You know, it doesn’t compute. Or it won’t. So, I know what you’re talking about. There definitely is an issue that there’s this whole tranche of people who would be perfect for the digital sector and they have the creativity box checked, but for some reason there’s some kind of road block there and that’s… it’s an interesting idea how you might get those two to…

Joe: Yes it’s fascinating. You know, just thinking back to the chat with Ashley in the digital transformation piece, just the nature of all job roles, it’s just evolving. And I think to pigeon-hole people into specific roles is dangerous and I think the sooner that, you know, a really good city financier who’s incredibly analytical and brilliant with the numbers and sort of visionary. The sooner he can think that there is another, or there are other career paths open to me… but I know you’ve got your usual problem there that there will be, inevitably, a kind of downgrade in terms of pay and stuff. Yeah, that’s going to be the challenge.

Because I think that pay has caught up. And I think in the early days, and I think back to the very early days, there were certain roles that were very well paid. If you were a good Java developer 10, 15 years ago, you name your day rate.

Larry Kotch: Yeah, you make bank.

Joe: … And people were just clambering for it. Whereas, I think maybe some of the soft marketing roles almost followed the advertising, industry model, where you basically don’t pay a lot to start with and you give them experience and you maybe cherry pick the best ones and then go on to pay them well.

So there’s always a good, fairly steep, career path. Maybe it doesn’t pay particularly well to start off with. So if you’re a bright grad, you know at the Oxbridges or the Redbrick universities, you’re getting approached by the big banks, and consultancies, they can offer more and they can offer probably at least a promise of job security.

Larry Kotch: So, that’s interesting that you’re saying that though because what you find… if we now extrapolate to kind of more global level places like the UK, where somebody coming out of university or something like that, they have actually quite a lot of choice. And actually the people that will become Java developers and obsess about, you know, one very technical kind of career vocation. The number of those occurrences of those people in the population, people who can really sit there on a computer for 10 hours a day, you know, it takes a special kind of person.  And I’m not saying it’s good or bad, it’s just on a bell curve of people who would accept to do that, they’re like 15 percent. So, you know, in places like India, where it’s clear that there’s a booming tech sector, you find that people don’t have a choice. So, someone might wake up and actually what they want to be is a veterinarian, you know, a vet but there’s no jobs going to be a vet so everyone’s in call centres chipping away on WordPress websites or something, and so they’ll not do what their heart wants them to do and they will go into the tech sector. Whereas, in the U.K, it’s kind of difficult… you can’t really paint the picture for people, oh it’s so sexy to work as a developer, because if you’re mind isn’t that kind of person, if you don’t have that kind of mind, within a year the gig’s up. You’re like, I’m not just going to just do this. I’m not going to just sit here and literally, on this computer, tap things away for the 10 hours.

So, I don’t even know if there’s a way to short cut it. And this is why a lot of the digital skills, you actually see in places like eastern Europe, Asia…

Joe: Yeah, okay. Great I mean, as an agency, we don’t actually do any development – we’re just marketing – but we work with other developing agencies and there’s no doubt, in Poland particularly, there’s some great developers there.

Larry Kotch: Completely, yeah.

Joe: They work hard, they’re good, and actually the language barrier isn’t an issue.

Larry Kotch: No, the culture’s similar…

Joe: Yes. And the time differences can actually work to your advantage. Particularly in development where you get the Indian office to release something at the end of their day, it’s mid-morning here and actually clients can then look at it and feedback and it’s all sort of the nature of agile development. Actually having a time gap, sometimes is an advantage.

Larry Kotch: For sure.

Joe: Because it certainly… and the nature of the work that they’re doing, and this is particularly for development – I think with marketing there can be challenges there – but it doesn’t really matter where they are. You know, it demands excellent project management skills, but there’s no reason why they can’t actually be anywhere. And that’s liberating. I think that’s a really good thing.

But I think one of the issues I always think of, maybe just personally, but again looking at clients particularly in the kind of building a digital team challenge is actually retention. And I think it’s quite easy to find people to interview, not always necessarily the best people to interview, but you can find people. But the hard thing for a lot of organisations, and I think this is true for both client side and agency, is retention.

And I think here in London you’ve got the mercenary people looking after themselves and they’ll chase the money. If the money’s there to pay, you know, you have to work your way around that.

Do you think that digital has more of a retention challenge than other industries?.

Larry Kotch: Yes.

Joe: Or is it just because I work there and that’s just what I feel?

Larry Kotch: Well, we’re in the lucky position, as many people you’ve probably interviewed, where you’re kind of in more of a start up phase where people are still joining you because they want to be part of the journey. And so, they’re not looking at retention and churn rate because it’s more of a personal thing. But, generally speaking, I think you’re right. If you look at the number of freelancers or consultants in the tech industry, it’s when you realise how valuable you are that you’re like ‘okay, why would I stay in a company where they’re going to pay me £60k, when I could be a consultant and charge £1000 a day?’ So, people wouldn’t be doing that if it wasn’t already quite a mercenary industry.

You look at law or something, if a good lawyer becomes a partner – so you know someone’s a good lawyer if they’re a partner – you don’t really know someone’s a good lawyer if they’re a consultant. Actually, you probably think that they didn’t make partner, so they’re probably not a very good lawyer.

Joe: Yeah, and that brings up a really other important question I had thinking about our discussion. I think – and hopefully lesser now – but historically I think lots of organisations have recognised the need for a digital person, or a digital team. But they really struggle recruiting that, because they don’t really know what they need because they’re not digitally savvy enough to do that. They don’t really know the questions to ask, because if your thinking of a specific skill set, If it’s for development, how can they really validate their code and how do they really do that?

And they just don’t know what a good and bad answer is. And I think that’s maturing. I’d like to think that as more people have experience they’ll be able to sense the good or bad ones. And I absolutely agree, as I say, back in the day there was this job in particular and people would demand unbelievable day rates. They basically couldn’t code Java but because there was such a demand they’d go and work four days, they wouldn’t produce anything, they’d get kicked out on the Thursday, maybe Friday and they’d have a new contract by Monday.

Larry Kotch: I’m sure, yeah.

Joe: And they’d just go from place, to place, to place, to place. And I’d like to think that’s changed, but maybe not?

Larry Kotch: It’s still there in terms of legacy systems. So there’s a lot of companies that still haven’t switched over. And actually, if anything it’s probably gotten worse in terms of day rates. It’s  better for the consultant but worse for the company because there’s fewer and fewer people that are bothering to keep their skills up to date because, you know, the new enterprise software is out.

So, yeah it’s still going on but I think, yeah in some ways, there’s always opportunity if you know paying a lot for a certain skill is there, then a company will create a more simple software standard to do whatever that does. So, eventually all of the inefficient stuff is churned out. That’s how tech works.

Joe: It’s markets; it’s supply and demand. Okay, so it’s an interesting point about the lawyers and if you get to partnership, you’re pretty good. Yes, I’d agree with that. I’d also suggest…

Larry Kotch: It’s not always.

Joe: … a little bit, of maybe, that they’re a good political player. But it takes long [sic]… and that’s I think the big difference now is – and I know people in top legal firms – the route to partnership is long, it’s brutal, and you get to partner and it’s getting worse. Because you have the responsibility of being there, and it’s just hard work. And I think that’s why it surprises me the more these… and they’re bright, you know, you have to be good… you think, come on over to our world and just sort of help bring in more, well not that there’s a brain drain out of the industry, but let’s just welcome more in.

So Brainbroker itself is been going two years… what was the kind of catalyst for starting the business?

Larry Kotch: Yeah, so I guess it’s kind of a lot of the stuff we’ve touched upon. But effectively we were looking around and we… the way it started is my co-founder, Jonathan, he was working in a consultancy that only used freelancers – but, so, very high level. So, they were going against people like Bain and McKinsey and things like that. And they were bidding for million pound consultancy projects and venture projects. And they were using very experienced people around the world who were either tired of consulting – just applying a margin – and so we thought that’s a really good model. It seems to be working.

They were undercutting all the big guys quite significantly and winning a lot of big clients, like blue chip clients. So, we saw this as a very cool model. But we sort of thought, okay, this is working at this level, is there a way that this can work at a SME level. And if we were to pick an area out of the professional services, what should we pick? And we picked digital because it’s currently the most confusing for SMEs.

Joe: And the demand – everybody needs it. Everybody knows they need it. But they don’t really know how to do it.

Larry Kotch: Yeah.

Joe: … And that’s the challenge.

Larry Kotch: Yeah. So, effectively we were sort of looking around and saying how, you know, you get lots of big agencies in the U.K, traditional agencies where there’s a fantastic work product, great case studies, great people working on it – no one’s knocking that – but the price can be, sometimes, very high for SME’s to afford. And so we were looking at that and saying so if I was a budget SME, or a SME that wanted to do something not that rate, a little bit less expensive, what are my options?

We can hire, but we just talk about the issues with hiring. Like, how do you really know what you need? It’s very difficult to make that call. Or, there was this whole sort of gig economy sort of splashing out and there was all these platforms where you could put projects in and you could get…

Joe: Yeah, Fiverr and oDesk, all that kind of stuff.

Larry Kotch: All of those, yeah. Elance, There’s quite a few of them. They’re very popular now. The problem with those, especially with tech projects, the complicated tech projects….

Joe: Quality control.

Larry Kotch: Garbage in, garbage out.

Joe: It’s very hard. I think you almost need a digital person to manage that process. And I think that it almost comes back to knowing what ‘good’ is.

Larry Kotch: Yeah.

Joe: If you’re not digital you can’t put a brief out on these platforms saying “I need a system that does this…”

Larry Kotch: You miss one thing it’s not getting done.

Joe: You’re right. Shit in, shit out. You need to get the right briefing kind of stance.

Larry Kotch: Yeah. So it’s about how do you trust yourself to write a brief? How do you trust yourself to look at the bids that come back from people over the world? Someone’s quoting you five quid, someone’s quoting you 5000. Which one do you pick? You know. Then who’s going to manage those people to make sure they do it on time? Who’s going to do the quality insurance at the end? Who’s going to… what’s the continuity like? Do you need updates every year for your website? Is that person going to get a job somewhere else, or just be doing something else this time next year? Are they going to stick around?

So there’s all these issues that you don’t get with agencies that come up when you use a freelancer platform. So, our idea was how do we bridge that gap? How do we give people those things that they like from the agency world, but give them the price point and the flexibility that these marketplaces afford. And so Brainbroker is sort of in between that spectrum. It’s kind of like a ‘virtual agency.’

Joe: Yeah. Do you have, effectively, a book of experts within their fields?

Larry Kotch: Yeah.

Joe: So client’s will brief you, saying ‘this is the project’ and that probably needs a bit of polishing sometimes.

Larry Kotch: Exactly, yep.

Joe: And then you can work out the best fit virtual team for that.

Larry Kotch: Exactly. So, we basically do a lot of careful vetting of people before they kind of get on our sort of ‘bench’, as it were. And then we test them out on projects. We test them out with practical examples. Once they become ‘a brain’, then they’re able to come on our projects. The clients never need to speak to any of them. They have an account manager like they would at any other agency.

Joe: So you’ve got permanent staff who are the client facing, you know, project management and client interface.

Larry Kotch: Exactly, and then the actual execution and implementation is done at the most cost effective global price.

Joe: And that’s the next obvious question. Do you have a global footprint in terms of the resources you use?

Larry Kotch: Yes

Joe: And how are you finding these people? Because that’s an interesting challenge. It could be a full time job for about five people, I think!

Larry Kotch: Yes. I mean it sounds kind of too obvious, but Linkedin. So, Linkedin is the most powerful thing ever and there’s certain ways that you can find people on LinkedIn and retrieve their information, which I won’t necessarily divulge [laughs] but there’s certain ways that you can. If I need 10 developers who know JS [JavaScript] or something, I can find and vet and have two or three people who’ve jumped through all the hoops within four days.

Joe: … Who have proven sort of abilities.

Larry Kotch: Yeah, I can have people lined up, you know, sort of tested by that time. In practice we wouldn’t do it that way because we would want to have more time to get to know them. But you can be very quick in using it.

Joe: I’m not sure whether I’m playing devil’s advocate or being just nasty, but it almost sounds too good to be true. We have a permanent team. They’re all within the walls of our office and it absolutely costs me more. There’s no two ways about it. 40, 50 percent of the time, they’re not actually doing anything worthwhile, which is just fact, by the time you’ve done the holidays and everything else. You have to absorb that cost. The rates, you know, you spend a fortune on local policing which just… it frustrates me that the cost of running a business are so high and you’re absolutely right, it has to be sort of moulded into the day rate. The day rates will be higher than a sort of hired gun.

Larry Kotch: Yeah.

Joe: But the reason I sleep at night is because I am not a megalomaniac, but a) I know the team, I’d like to think probably better than you possible can if they’re based in Bangalore. I mean, you can do a lot and I’m not saying you don’t know these people but I think I can look them in the eye in the morning if something going a little bit off track or off piste, I’d like to think that I can pick that up a faster. Not always, clearly that’s not always the case.

That… and also the continuation. So it’s actually funny, you said something about clients not needing to speak to the individuals. And that just got me thinking, cause I think some of our people clients don’t speak to but I actively trying and get people to speak to clients. Building relationships with the client’s is really really good. But some clients don’t want that.

Larry Kotch: For sure.

Joe: They want one person and they don’t really care if that project is 10 thousand pounds, their budget is 10 thousand pounds, they don’t really mind …

Larry Kotch: As long as it’s done for 10 thousand…

Joe: Yeah exactly, as long as it’s on time, on budget, on quality, all that kind of stuff, they’re paying you. So your service really is managing the headaches of finding the right people to do it.

Larry Kotch: Yeah.

Joe: And you’re still taking on the responsibility of delivering that.

Larry Kotch: For sure.

Joe: You must have instances where it’s hard work and the margins which is the basic business model is fantastic because you don’t have the overheads. You’re kind of virtual team will invoice you when they’re working and when they’re not working, which is the problem we have, they still cost you as much money and I think it’s a sort of very obvious business model, but there must be inefficiencies with that.

Larry Kotch: Yeah, I mean so, one of the things… so, when I say freelance, that’s a big part of what we do and what we started off with. But we also sort of embrace the idea of the remote worker. So, we do actually have an office in Bosnia.

Joe: Okay.

Larry Kotch: Where we have certain core people that are actually there. Because when you do a sort of large number of websites, say per month, you do have a lot of repetitive things that you need to do in building the systems and training people, getting the IP in their heads make sense. And it can actually lower the cost even further than using a freelancer. Because a freelancer might say for this website I’m going to charge £700 and we might charge £1500 for a website, let’s say. But if you hire someone, you can pay somebody £700 a month over there and train them up properly and they’ll produce five or six websites. So you can bring the cost even further down.

I think what we’re trying to get at with our agency is to build an agency that really serves more companies and we think that given there’s this kind of global distribution of skills, there’s all sort of software we can use, virtual environments so we get to know people.

It’s all combining the tools, the freelancers and the remote workers to build something as lean from a cost perspective as possible and passing that saving on to the SME.

Joe: Yeah and I think I welcome it. I think you’re doing on a global level what we do. So were based in Colchester, the rent – although it annoys me – it’s still a lot less. Everything is less. And it’s great because we just pass those on so our day rates… most of our work is here in London, our day rates are significantly lower. The people are fantastic, I have total faith in my team but I can see if you go to Bosnia, go to these other countries, it becomes even cheaper to operate. It’s just… it’s a leadership issue. You need to be very, very, adept to managing that process. And that again…

Larry Kotch: So that has been actually the most work that we’ve kind of done and the stuff that’s been the hardest to do is to build relationships over in Bosnia where our main hub is. You know, all the kind of issues around that with setting up companies over there, hiring people, training them up on various things. It’s taken a long time to get that all that working and, you know, we have someone over there that we trust very dearly.

Joe: Yeah you need feet on the ground and whoever it is are excellent and you implicitly trust to crack on. Do you have any clients – are you totally transparent with clients…

Larry Kotch: So, we don’t say this is how much we say we’re taking on top. No, we sort of just say, this is how much it is.

Joe: Yeah It’s a very effective rate and it’s good value. It’s a win, win for everyone and it’s fingers up to the big agencies who have even bigger overheads and even bigger salaries and that kind of stuff. But, yeah I suppose I have a lot of sympathy for that sort of David and Goliath mentality. You know I used to get scared, I use to go into pitches with the real big guys and you start to think, you know what, they have nothing that we don’t other than more people and a shinier office. You know, the better agencies are the people. Where those people are shouldn’t matter. How much the day rate kind of bubbles up to be, hopefully clients will respect the quality of the output.

Larry Kotch: Exactly. That’s the important thing is that at the end of the day the quality speaks for itself then, you know. One of the main issues that we have actually when were pitching clients is that they say, ‘how can it be only that much?’

They’re like, is this going to be just crap, basically? Are you just going to build something just useless. How can it be? How is it not three times that price?

So it’s almost… I was actually just trying to say, look we’re, you know, we make a very healthy margin on that. Here are our case studies. Just look through them. You know this isn’t a joke.

Joe: I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve lost work and we liked everything about the pitch, but you were the cheapest.

Larry Kotch: Yeah.

Joe: Just before the cameras blows up and melt, I always like to finish on a vision of the future. Do you think that digital specialism will continue to exist?

Larry Kotch: So, I think most industries are going to become digital industries eventually. Whether we’re talking about artificial intelligence disrupting everything that were going to touch in the next 30 years. It depends on if we’re talking about further that 30 years, but definitely you look at sort of thin tech, cryptocurrencies, you look at kind of like AI, like gig economy, on demand.

All these kind of buzz words, it is coming to every industry. You got like shipping logistics is being disrupted by artificial intelligence. You can think of every single industry, and it is coming. And you know, it happens a lot faster than people think. And people always think, oh that’s ages away. Oh that’s 50 years away. It’s always faster than people think by a significant degree. So, I think all skills will, in some way, have to be sort of digital. Most of your clients will come from digital.

Joe: That’s where – and it’s probably a badly worded question – but I think, as a silo, I think digital may fade. You remember the ‘new media age’ as this kind of de facto industry you know, here comes a new media age and it just sounds so dated already and it wasn’t that long ago.

Larry Kotch: Yeah well… exactly.

Joe: I mean it’s just commonplace. All businesses are backed up by digital. I think we’ll have business leaders, operational people will have to be digitally savvy and competent to manage the supply chain. It will be digital. It’s just not going away. So, I just don’t know long we’ve got left. It’s an industry and I think it’s matured and I think people are… well especially for us as primarily an SEO agency, you know the whole ‘SEO’s dead’ I mean that drum has been banging for ages.

Larry Kotch: Yeah and it’s really not.

Joe: Well, it’s not dead clearly but I sort of agree that what people use to think of SEO as a sort of mass-spam-crap – great. It is dead and thank the Lord for it. We’re happy that that’s dead. However, a more modern, using data to understand, in our case, our customers, using intelligence, using marketing in a digital channel. That’s modern marketing. You can not be a marketer without being digital. It’s impossible. I think, as you said, most aspect of most jobs, it’s pretty hard to not be digital of sorts. I think it’ll all kind of merging, but I think… and again as I was speaking to Ashley, I think, a lot of CEO’s of organisations, historically came up through the typically finance roots. The financial director was kind of the natural sort of CEO. It’s much more kind of ‘CMO’ now.

Larry Kotch: I’ve seen that. Yeah.

Joe: And good developers who are commercially astute and savvy, they’ve transformed businesses. They’re the change makers and they’re the ones sort of being rewarded for that, and that’s great. And I think that – not we need to come out of the shadows, per say – but I think digital will become such an accepted profession that perhaps these challenges that we’ve all sort of acknowledged, hopefully they’ll fade and there’ll be bigger talent here.

Larry Kotch: Hopefully, yeah. I think you’re 100 percent right with that. I think, you know, when you look at the number of people who are on Linkedin even two years ago, and now it’s exponentially… you just have to extrapolate five years and it’ll be hard to think of a better place to sell, I mean to sell stuff if you can get access to those people. Just as one thing… but, you know, the only difference between two companies doing the same thing, the only difference in size of each of those companies is marketing. I mean, if they’re both doing the same thing, of course there’s relationships, but the more that people are found online and additionally channels are explored the more it’s going to become about how good you are at driving people through those channels to you, instead of your competitor. And that’s literally like 80 percent of it.

So, it just seems to me that certainly in terms of if you’re a company, surely like 50 percent of what you’re trying to do every day is get more clients, if you’re trying to grow your company. So at least half the company needs to know what they’re doing with getting those new clients online and so that’s already 50 percent of most people need to be clued up on digital. And then the actual execution, you want to out compete everyone, put lower prices, you’ve got to be using data, you know, you’ve got to be automating things. It’s always been a race and we just now have more tools that, if you’re not careful, the company next-door can just come with something completely new.

Joe: But the best tools need the best operators.

Larry Kotch: Exactly.

Joe: Still people.

Larry Kotch: Yeah. Exactly.

Joe: Cool. Larry, it’s been great speaking to you.

Larry Kotch: Yeah, you too.

Joe: Really enjoyed that. Hope you enjoyed that. We’ve got a few more episodes in the pipeline, as always, but always good to hear from you if you’d like to be involved. So please get in touch. Thank you.


Thanks to Larry for a very enjoyable chat and I will look forward to watching the continued success of Brainbroker.

We hope that you enjoy this episode and, as always, would love to hear from you if you are interested in featuring in a future Digital Brew episode. Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to find out more.



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