The lifeblood of a company is its internal dialogue. The debate, creativity and spontaneity of a company's internal discussions have a critical impact on its success and competitiveness. When dialogue is lacking or not managed properly, the result is predictable.

Consider Lou Gerstner's turnaround of IBM in the mid-1990s. When he took over as CEO of IBM, one of his first initiatives was to halt the continued decentralization of various divisions, and eliminate the resulting fiefdoms. Drawing from his experience as a major client of IBM when he was president of American Express, Gerstner knew the last thing IBM's clients would want was further decentralizing of its services.

Rather, Gerstner brought IBM's various divisions into an internal dialogue that, in turn, created a coordinated approach among IBM's business units in meeting the needs of its customers. This approach contributed to one of the most spectacular reversal of fortunes in corporate history.

Leveraging technology

Regardless of what type of business you run, the continent it happens to be on or whom your customer is — harnessing and leveraging your firm's internal dialogue is one of the richest areas for growth.

When I joined ONCOR International last year, my first goal was to develop the technological platform with which we could create, manage and leverage our internal dialogue for the financial benefit of our customer — our brokers, the agents on the street.

As a global partnership comprised of 53 independently-owned real estate services companies, this critical component aids in fulfilling ONCOR International's main objective, coordinating the domestic and international real estate transactions of its partner firms.

What brokers need to be successful is immediate access to a massive volume of data formatted for quick digestion. Within eight months, we created an interactive database that pools information from dozens of sites and houses over 50,000 of our partner firms' real estate transactions, representing over 660 million sq. ft. of space globally.

Putting dialogue to work

The one immutable fact in our business is that when brokers talk, deals happen. The trick is to get brokers from all over the world operating in completely different markets to communicate. One way to achieve that goal is to use our vast database through which we put brokers in touch with each other based on the clients they have done business with.

Without sharing our data, a broker in one market wouldn't have a clue that a fellow broker had an opportunity with the same client in a distant market. For example, our partner in London knew of a large law firm that had an expiring lease, and that the building it occupies was ripe for redevelopment. What the brokerage firm in London didn't know was that its partner in Atlanta, Carter ONCOR International, had completed over 20 transactions for the same Atlanta-based law firm over the past 10 years.

After a few keystrokes, our partners began to work together to maximize their client's return. This simple and effective communication yielded a 20,000 sq ft., 15-year lease in London for the law firm. This is a prime example of how we created an internal dialogue that had a measurable impact.

Because we understand the mindset of brokers on the street, at ONCOR we analyze every one of their transactions with our database, and feed the resulting opportunities back to them. They don't have to lift a finger; we do all the work.

When one of our Los Angeles brokers completes a deal, we analyze the transaction to find out where that broker's client has other offices throughout the world and send him the lease abstracts pertaining to his client's additional offices.

Additionally, after 15 days we send those same lease abstracts to the corresponding ONCOR International offices around the world.

An effective internal dialogue yields results. The number of transactions completed worldwide at ONCOR International is up 71% over the same period last year and revenue is up 38%. In short, those healthy figures speak volumes about the importance of brokers sharing ideas and information.

David J. Matthes is president and CEO of Chicago-based ONCOR International, which coordinates the worldwide real estate activities of its 53 partner firms.