Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

Life in Israel

tea
Israeli commercial life and society

In addition to my work as a business coach, one of my interests is blogging about life in Israel. This is a country full of contrasts – over eight million citizens living in an area the size of Wales. You can see snow and the lowest place on the globe in the same day. Although surrounded by geopolitical extremes, Israel has achieved a decade of high economic growth. My work brings me in contact with an array of new companies, exciting technologies and dynamic characters. Sitting back with a relaxing cup of strong tea (with milk), you realise just how much there is to appreciate in the Holyland. Large or small operations, private sector or non profit, my clients provide experiences from which others can learn and benefit.

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3 amazingly useful postings for small businesses

I often have the feeling that when I sit down with a client for a session of business mentoring or coaching, they seem to expect that I am going to click my fingers and their worries will disappear into cupboard – just like in a Mary Poppins film. Add in the magical spiritual air of Jerusalem, where my office is located, and surely it has to be as simple as that?

They may sound a little arrogant, but that is how life can appear from my side of the table. Naturally, the truth is very different. However, what I do like is to post occasionally on twitter eminently helpful blogs from alternative sources that can inspire the CEOs of the small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs), who form an integral part of my working day.

What follows are three typical examples of what I mean:

Let us start with Facebook. First, the scope of this medium often escapes leaders of SMEs. They do not have time for the game. As I am used to hearing, cash flow and problem solving come first. What they are missing was succinctly explained to me yesterday by an Israeli expert in just one case study. By carefully defining the target market and launching a new video, he has provided over a dozen quality leads for a single Jerusalem restaurant in less than a month.

The changing rules of social media in 2018 were set out in a blog by Adam Hutchinson a couple of weeks ago. “Share all” on face book or a few extra stats no longer cut it. Paid ads, although the “P” word can sound painful to those on a tight budget, are the clever and brave way to go.

My second pick comes from Spencer Waldron, one of Israel’s marketing gurus. He has just written a worringly obvious blog entitled “6 storytelling mistakes to avoid“. As I commented back to him, what concerns me is the fact that while none of the points are spectacularly new, business leader after business leader repeat these faux pas. After all how many of us set off for a conference, expecting to be delivered a sleeping pill?

Here lies a clear takeaway for a business owner. Whether in a one-on-one session or addressing a larger audience, have something interesting and personable to say. Ensure that you stand out!

Finally, there is that well-worn adage that we must expect to fail in order to succeed. It is astounding how many people think that the opposite of success is failure, when that linkage only applies in a narrow context. Nick Foles, who led the Eagles to victory in the Superbowl, took the subject of failure one notch higher in a post match interview.

When you look at a struggle in life, that is just an opportunity for your character to grow…..If something is going on in your life, embrace it.

Just about every owner of a small organisation knows that leading and managing present a wealth of daily challenges. It is tough. However, as Noles has demonstrated, that is your very chance to do your best and to triumph.

Israel’s economy doing well, and here’s why

Exports jumped 6% in 2017. Inflation hovers at around 1%. Unemployment remains low at under 5%. GDP growth pushes 3% or more. These are great overall indicators for the Israeli economy.

It is not too difficult to find stories of good news about what is happening in Israel vis-a-vis commerce and industry. For example, last week Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Chairman of the Board of Mitsubishi Corporation, Ken Kobayashi at Davos. According to the press release afterwards:

Israel is a major player on Mitsubishi’s map and added that they are now starting to consider investments in cyber and other areas. He noted that he intends to send a delegation to Israel soon in order to evaluate possibilities for investment and cooperation.

Looking at investments, 2017 was an excellent year. The US$5.2 billion figure represents a 9% upturn on 2016. Interestingly, Israeli venture capital was at its highest level since 2013.

Specific sectors are recording some spectacular growth.  “420 Israel-based cybersecurity companies raised $815 million in 2017, up 28% from 2016.” In the medical arena, 13 of the most significant breakthroughs of 2017 were based in Israel, as reported by Tom Gross.

However, what I find most encouraging is the continuing development of the Jerusalem economy and how it strives to become more pluralistic. Labs/02, a startup incubator operated by Jerusalem-based equity crowdfunding company OurCrowd Management Ltd., plans to invest in around 100 early stage startups.

More significantly for me is how more and more Arabs are gradually integrating into the greater economic basin of the capital city. According to Bloomberg, this is one of the prime reasons why there was relative calm in the Jerusalem following President Trump’s recent declaration on the Middle East. While everything may not be perfect as yet, salary gaps are narrowing.

It is this acceptance and transparency that is at the heart of the success of the concept of the start-up nation. Unfortunately, and in contrast, American diplomats were violently chased away yesterday from a meeting held at the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce.

Once Israel’s neighbours learn mutual acceptance and embrace it in full, then peoples of all backgrounds will be the direct beneficiaries.

The Palestinian economy’s core problem

The Palestinian economy has never been large. Advocates of the cause of the Palestinian Authority (PA) have ritually blamed Israeli occupation for the financial woes of the people of the streets of Gaza and Ramallah. The threatened sanctions of the USA this month now force us to confirm the facts hidden behind the rhetoric.

There are two issues that cannot be disputed. The Palestinian economy is tiny compared to that of Israel. Exports in July 2017 were valued at a paltry US$8.1m, primarily to Jordan. And the continuing the struggle with Israel, especially through the use of terror from Gaza, understandably enforces the government of Jerusalem to restrict movement from the Palestinian territories.

Statistically, the economy is contracting again. GDP growth in 2017 was down slightly at 3%, and a further slow down is expected in 2018. There are few positives. West Bank residents have finally been allowed to receive 3G internet services in recent weeks. And overseas aid still plays a primary role is supporting key services. To take just one instance, The British Parliament reported in October 2017 that it funds “around 25,000 young Palestinians to get an education, provides up to 3,700 immunisations for children, and around 185,000 medical consultations annually.”

Therefore, it can only be assumed that if the USA is to cut at least US$100 million of aid to the Palestinians, that will be a significant blow for its social services. What is disturbing is how you have the feeling that the Palestinian economy could be managed so much more effectively and efficiently.

The World Bank long ago confirmed that under Israeli supervision the Palestinian GDP grew annually in real terms by 5.5% even beyond the Oslo Accords. That achievement is long forgotten. And corruption has long been endemic in Palestinian politics has closely documented in previous years by the Funding for Peace Coalition.

The evidence indicates that the pattern of poor financial leadership in Palestinian society has continued up to today:

  1. In 2017 alone, despite their meager funds, the PA under President Abbas paid out over US$350 to Palestinians convicted of crimes of violence against Israelis. The sums vary according to the amount of death caused.
  2. Earlier this month, Israeli customs officials:discovered the largest ever consignment – including thousands of items – of military clothing including vests for holding military equipment. Also seized were thousands of pairs of special military boots and winter jackets in camouflage colors. The Gazan importer of the consignment, which originated in China, was due to receive it via the Kerem Shalom crossing.

    Presumably, Hamas had paid for the goods.

  3. At the same time, we have learned that due to a power struggle between the PA and Hamas, people in Gaza are being forced to pay taxes. This will include the imposition of 17% VAT.
  4. And of course, there is the near-farcical news item earlier this week that “even as the Palestinian Authority faces major funding cuts from the US, it has purchased a new luxurious $50 million private jet to be used by President Mahmoud Abbas.”

I would love to read a serious analysis of how much the Palestinian economy could grow by over 10 years if (a) the struggle against Israel was political rather than a military conflict, and if (b) transparency and accountability could be truly applied.

Time management: Finding the value in procrastination

An article in Inc.Com reminds us all of the well-known lesson from the billionaire Warren Buffet. He can buy almost everything, but he cannot buy time. As Buffet explains, you do not have to have a full and crammed diary in order to be successful.

I believe there is a deeper message here. When I talk about time management, as a business coach and mentor, I am faced with a misconnect. On the one hand, there are those people who are busy , but not with what they should be doing. That is procrastination at its best. And then there are those business owners who are fully occupied, working on the tasks they have set themselves, yet still cannot produce results.

I have met all of these characters this week in my office in Jerusalem. Whenever faced with this topic of time management, my approach is consistent. First, I have noticed how many people these days have abandoned the concept of the old-fashioned diary. At best they use an app of sorts on their phone.

Let me be clear, for most of my clients, it is evident that a diary on the phone rarely works out successfully. And even if tasks are included along with appointments, they are almost never time-framed. That is a major mistake. scheduling a phone call or creating  report is the same as having a meeting with yourself!

Second, almost invariably the uncompleted tasks revolve around the issue of money. It is as if the previous generation have educated them that asking for money, billing clients, achieving a positive cash flow are all considered poor qualities in a person.

For example, one of my clients told me that she has always aspired to be a person of modest means. Excellent, I responded. However, she could not explain why this attitude does not allow her to have extra money to spend on hobbies, on children or in the next stage of his business.

Silence! I had hit the raw nerve.

For whatever reason associated with the past, procrastination occurs when we cannot appreciate the full “value” of what we are trying to achieve. Recognise that truth and you will find that the bottom line in your business will start to improve rapidly.

Israel’s economy: growing and changing for the better

A series of stats published a week ago revealed just how successful the Israel economy has become.

  • Inflation has run at less than 0.5% p.a. for the past four years.
  • In a country of over 8 million people, there are 3.4 million vehicles on the road.
  • Incoming and outgoing tourism has never been so strong.

And so the list goes on. From a historical perspective, the numbers are even more stunning. Below is a set of data available from the Start Up Nation Facebook page:

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Israel’s GDP per person is measured at US$40,000. By way of comparison, the numbers for Britain and Germany are US$41,000 and US$42,000 respectively. To emphasise how the economic map has changed, the proposed budget for 2019 reveals that the biggest taker of resources will be the Ministry of Education and the not the defense sector.

So where is the “proverbial” but” in all of this glory? First, the statistical survey also pointed out that 13 senior current or prior politicians and civil servants  are now under investigation by the police for various forms of corruption. That includes the Prime Minister and some of his closest aides. In parallel, it has been the case for many years that within the OECD community Israel has some of the greatest levels of disparity between the haves and have nots. Concerning!

Coincidence it may be, but this week also saw the leak of a video showing the son of the Prime Minister at a strip club. The film was taken surreptitiously by his chauffeur, who is paid for by the state. He was chaperoned by a body guard, also provided at the expense of the taxpayer. The haves and the have nots.

The initial impressive stats do not lie. However, the reason why more people are not benefitting from this additional growth is all too apparent and very disturbing to see. Time for a change.