If you own a business and one of your staff makes a mistake, in effect that costs you, personally, money. And when that happens, in extreme cases, the thought (and verbal?) process can be explosive. Productivity drops. People leave their positions. etc etc.

But why? And what can you do about it?

My wife sent me an incredibly insightful TED talk by Dr Alan Watkins; “Why you feel what you feel?”

Just over half way his wonderful delivery, Dr Watkins asks his audience if they can ‘feel their emotions’. When you think about it, most of us separate out these two words, and thus we minimise their importance. As Watkins goes on to stress, nobody “makes us” feel this way or that way.

I am often asked by clients in my role as a business mentor what they should reply when by somebody says that ‘you made me feel this way’. On the basis of this talk, the answer is that the person is talking rubbish!

Apparently, there are over 34,000 different emotions. Watkins says we can master them. We have the option to choose what we do with our emotions!

What does that mean for the workplace? If a boss erupts or if a worker responds with similar anger or frustration, they have taken the negative route. In his “Universe of Emotions“, Watkins encourages us to prefer those planets that have positive connotations.

Will it always be that simple? Are psychologists about to become redundant? I doubt it. However, this line of thought does offer all of us in the work place and elsewhere so many more pleasant possibilities.

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a fast day for traditional Jews around the world. Leading up to the event, the leaders of the two main parties in Israel’s government offered apologies of sorts for the way that they have handled the Covid-19 crisis in recent months.

We are taught to accept apologies. Or as one friend quipped, maybe the best test of sincerity is to have these people act as trials for the new vaccines. If they survive, all well and good. If not,…..

I do not hide my displeasure of the performance of the Prime Minister, Netanyahu. He has ensured that the two ministries most concerned with the crisis – Health and Finance – have been retained by his Likud Party. Both have underperformed. to be unnecessarily polite.

It occurred too me during the fast, as one’s mind wonders on an empty stomach, there is a big difference between the Likud ministers and their partners (enemies?) in government from the Kahol Lavan party. Generally, the former are lawyers or politicos who have grown up with being in power for most of the past two decades. The latter are ‘doers’, who have proven credentials of getting things done in society – via the army, social causes, local government, etc.

And when you mention the phrase Yom Kippur in Israel, many automatically recall the war that broke out on that day in 1973. Eventually, Israel was to win on the battlefields but to lose the game of diplomacy. Internally, the country’s political system was turned inside out, forever.

When the war commenced, Dr. Ephraim Hamiel left his prayers in Jerusalem, rushed to his unit and spent the next month attending to the requiremnts of the dead. He still remembers accompanying dozens of bodies back from the war, as they bounced in the command cars, dusty boots bobbing about.

He described in a recent interview how he felt 12 months later, back in Synagogue, praying again during the fast. One of the emotional liturgies asks ‘who will live and who will not; who will have water and who will be met with fire’. It made him think. It forced me to wake up, as I searched for extra purpose in my prayers.

I discussed this later with my wife. These are troubled times, to say the least. Covid-19, a PM in Israel that stays in power despite three indictments, wobbling global stock markets, a trade war between China and America (whose outcome may be dependent on a bitter Presidential election). Did I forget something?

Where and how we can still have a meaningful impact is in our own lives. For many of us, we can still keep ourselves busy (and healthy). In my work, as a business coach and mentor, I have encouraged all my clients to think differently and to move quickly. Crazy politicians can’t touch you for that. They probably can’t even understand this approach.

Which is why you have to wonder. Will Covid-19 will play the same role for the Likud and its status of ‘no change’ as the Yom Kippur war did for its predecessors?

The only question is, why didn’t we do this earlier?

UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq al Marri

A few days on from the dramatic pace accords in Washington, and parts of the Israeli government are still trying to reap the benefits of the agreements with UAE and Bahrain, with maybe others to follow. After all, there is precious little else to celebrate.

The list of woes is long, but they start from the fact that the domestic Covid-19 stats look awful and get worse daily. The infection rate is on the rise. 24 hours after the new lockdown (which is not a lockdown) measures were announced, nearly 42,000 unfortunates joined the ranks of the unemployed. Rows of shops in town centres lie disused. Government financial support is full of words, but few understand how to implement the announcements.

There is a theory that the hightech sector will act as a knight in shining armour and save the economy. Yes, money is still being raised. As I walk past the Intel fab in Jerusalem, I can see every day a major piece of building. And also in the Holy City, the JVP Media Quarter was relaunched as ‘Margalit Startup City’, intended that it will grow into a worldwide innovation quarter for startups, multinationals, and investors.

However, I place my hopes on the Gulf States wanting to send their petrodollars to the Holy Land.

My point is as follows. Although it will not be immediate, this is new trade and money. The effects will soon slip into the Israeli economy and assumedly down to the ‘ man on the street’. Something for the central planners to hope for as their own ideas run out of steam in the most pathetic of manners.

I am writing just after Jews around the world have celebrated their New Year, always a time for reflection. To paraphrase a recent demand of me from a client:

You are my business coach and mentor. How will you ensure that I succeed next year? Challenging!

When I probed for a definition of success, the response was fairly grey. And this probably highlights the reason why that particular organisation is struggling for now. Little internal direction. No specific view of what the future should hold.

I am a firm believer of 3 yardsticks. This is usually a combination of:

  • a financial target
  • a focus on the number of new clients sought
  • and possibly the most important – a definition of the type of clientele you want to bring in.

It is this last element that has seen two of my clients change direction and find the courage to reach for some very heavy duty new customers.

So how do business mentors describe success? They cannot brag that their business has grown. That is of small use to a potential client who is understandably only interested in themselves and their own issues. After all, a mentor is often perceived as somebody who sits back, listens wisely, and then moves on without much fuss.

In my case, it is not the words that I use. Nor is it the methodology that I apply. Looking back on 12 months, I can relate to a vast array of different case studies, where the client has reached the ‘finishing line’. For example:

  • I have created international packages, involving separately Hong Kong, Greece, USA and India.
  • Despite Covid-19, I have seen shops open premises in Jerusalem and nearby.
  • I have created strategies for innovative entrepreneurs, ensuring that they introduce their tech to investors with sound business models.
  • I have lent support and drive to numerous new immigrants and members of the ultra-orthodox communities, as thy have opened new companies.

If I had to pick my favourite, I will refer to a young lady, not yet 20 years old, from a minority community. She came to me with an idea and quickly absorbed the principles about pricing, importing, selling techniques, contracts and more. When turned down for a loan due to age and inexperience, we created alternatives.

The company was established two weeks ago. The first clients are lined up. They are expected to generate a high enough profit margin to pay of much of the founder’s investment.

As a closing thought, it is definitely important to measure your success. However, make sure that you can own and feel that difference. And thus when it comes to moving ahead, you will be better able to describe those very achievements to your target audience ……. in order to kick off the next round of sales.

Five minutes ago, I read a post from Rajesh Sharma on LinkedIn.

The blurred picture shows Angela Merkel, looking very haggard. She is returning from a trip to the shops with her husband. Sharma comments:

To lead by example:
Mrs. Angela Merkel, coming back from the market with her husband. She is Chancellor of Germany, one of very strong economy. Yet, Merkel receives no free state service, no housing, no electricity, no gas, no water, no free phone from Germany’s this woman has the same rights and duties as any German citizen. She does her shopping, pays for her groceries, and if she gets a ticket, she pays out of her own pocket. A press reporter once told her: “Remember, I took a picture of you in the same dress ten years ago?” She said to him: “I have a mission to serve the German people, not to be a model!”

Sharma goes on to compare this approach to politicians in India. Sadly, I can make the same comparison to much of the current senior Israeli leadership. Their approach is shameful, an embarrassment to the country, possibly the result of having been in near continuous power for two decades.

Leadership – in politics, in business, in the army – is based on the ability to convince people to go the extra mile.

Earlier this week, Israel’s Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, announced new lockdown measures. These included severe travel restrictions. The following day, general chat, news items, and social media were full of reports how people intended to ignore the clampdown. “What for? Why? What does it help”….were the form of responses.

Bibi also claimed that the economic problems of Israel are far less that other countries. Thus we can be relatively pleased and thus this should by implication motivate the country.

I am a business coach and mentor. Again, the next day, I faced questions from clients wondering why the government does not seem to care nor know how to help. One was in near tears.

  • Religious politicians don’t care so long as the towns with their supporters are not forced into lockdown.
  • The PM is too busy trying to show off the significance of his truly important peace deal with the UAE, and (assumedly) prepare for his trial on three counts of corruption.
  • The treasury budget head doesn’t care any more (or cares too much?) as he has just quit.

Who is around to help the average Israeli citizen cope with the economic mess? Mess? Yup. As of yesterday, Thursday, Israel had the worst corona stat per head in the world. There are still nearly 900,000 unemployed, in a country of 9 million citizens. And the Minister of Finances’ core move so far seems to be his demand for a public sector wage cut.

In a formal statement last night, the PM said:

……, we know that there are still major difficulties. We are constantly discussing additional steps – negative income tax and other things that we are discussing, in order to provide more and more solutions to the citizens of Israel and businesses in Israel. We are not letting up even for a moment.   We do not have one mission, we have two: To see to both health and the economy.

His Finance Minister added:

……………. We are now sitting here in order to analyze and see the economic situation and decide on the necessary steps.   In general, as the Prime Minister said, the August data were good even in relation to the pre-corona situation in most sectors. This is no wonder. We have now provided the Israeli economy, to 4.5 million Israelis who used to fly overseas, with open skies. Today they are with the open ground in Israel; they are here and accelerating activity.

Hmmmm! Reassuring? Sitting around and discussing!

Yesterday, I was on the phone to a lady, whose business has collapsed. She has also been ill. She qualifies for none of the small special financial handouts. She was nearly crying to me, asking why the government is not doing anything.

And sure, we discussed pivoting etc, but it sounded so pathetic.

I do believe the government cares. I also believe that the government is completely out of touch. It has been in power for too long and thus is incapable of changing.

Israel needs – no, demands – a “New Deal”. And a team, based around the ideals of cigar smokers in large villas who create policies based on slogans but not facts, ain’t got what it takes.

(My best wishes to the lady who inspired this blog).

Israel is very picky, when it coms to setting up a trade mission overseas. There are only five countries, where the Holy Land has more than one commercial team, and one of those places is India. Why?

Three decades ago, India was still voting heavily against Israel at the UN. Today, diplomatic truths have made the respective Prime Ministers almost best buddies. Anyway, with so many Israeli post-army backpackers turning up every year, it was only a matter of time before the reality on the ground reached up to government levels in Mumbai.

In the past few days, the Indian government has agreed to purchase 2 AWACS from Jerusalem. Since May, there has been substantial cooperation over Covid-19. And just two weeks ago, Israeli based Coralogix, a provider of leading ML-powered log analytics and monitoring solution, “announced a strategic expansion into India to provide its customers with its first local Amazon Web Services (AWS) regional server support and data storage capabilities.”

If you play the numbers game, the relationship between the two countries is impressive. Bilateral trade is close to US$6 billion. Over 300 Israeli companies have invested in India. In the other direction, giants such as “Reliance, Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, Tech Mahindra, L&T, and Apollo Hospitals. While Reliance and Infosys have signed strategic partnerships and invested in multiple Israeli companies…”

For Israel, India amounts to a very special opportunity.

  • It is relatively close and where partners can talk English with each other.
  • It offers a huge market for its hightech products and services.
  • It can provide world class subcontracting facilities at competitive prices.
  • For observant Jews, a strict vegetarian cuisine is often readily available.

I have been fortunate recently to liaise with the IAC team in Mumbai. They have strong, positive experiences in facilitating overseas companies, including from Israel, as they penetrate the Indian economy. They have experience in projects in software development, medical devices, agriculture, and more.

Come 23rd September, we intend to develop some of these themes into a webinar. Watch this space for further details.

Around 6.00pm on Thursday evening in Israel, the news broke that Trump had convinced Abu Dhabi to sign a peace treaty with Jerusalem. With a slight of hand, Israel’s PM, Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) had outflanked both his right-wing opposition and the Palestinians. Ironical, eh!. And his sagging popularity flipped back upwards.

However, for Bibi that was not the main talking point of the week. I am not talking about how he quietly postponed his annexation plans. Nor am I referring to the threat of yet more elections, which he was also forced to take off the table, for now.

The key issue for Bibi was and remains his upcoming trial in January 2021. This is the trial that Bibi said would never need to come about, because there was no evidence. However, the police force and the country’s legal system, both led by his own appointees, have argued that there are no less than three (for now) cases to answer.

So in the same week of this wonderful news about peace, we learnt of three moves by the Netanyahu camp to block his trial. In no order of importance:

  1. His wife, Sara Netanyahu, claimed that she had been the target of verbal violence. Personally, I found her remarks unusual in light of the demeaning comments her husband had thrown at a female celeb in a recent election campaign. And she had little to say about her son’s vitriol over various female journalists.
  2. It came to light that Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari, who ‘by chance’ happens to be Bibi’s chief prosecutor, will be investigated for possibly illegally renovating an investment property. Funny how this came to light in a media source that is closely identified to the Netanyahu group.
  3. We must not forget the PM’s own bitter speech directed at the Attorney-General. Unprecedented.

I cannot believe that these incidents are not linked. But now add in two pieces of background information. First, the Netanyahu team is complaining that it does not have enough lawyers to manage the case workload, maybe because they are too busy creating alternative spin in the minds of the electorate? Second, they claim not to have the financial resources to mount a full response, even thought the key defendant himself is estimated to have amassed a personal wealth of tens of millions of dollars.

What does this all add up to?

Hopefully, the second wave of corona is almost under control, although another 8 people sadly died over the Sabbath. The economy is contracting by the second, well below the worst depths predicted by the central planners. Terrorists in Gaza are continue to send over incendiary devices in balloons.

I would not accuse the PM of being complacent about any of these issues. But they are not central.

What is pertinent – in fact, what is the only things that matters – is ensuring that his trial does not start in January, by almost any means. The rest of us citizens are worth less than pawns in this personal gam of power-keeping.

Whatever Bibi’s next move, the core motive will feature the January 2021. The Holy Land indeed!

Is there a magic formula to guarantee that when you start a business enterprise, it will be a success?

No! Absolutely not! There a billion factors involved, most of which are not in your control; an unexpected government initiative, a surprising competitor with the same concept, an international credit squeeze, and even a virus emerging from bats in an unknown province in China with an unpronounceable name.

And so the list rumbles on. Moreover, rules that apply to a specific industry may be less relevant to another.

However, none of these issues negate the responsibility that you, the intrepid entrepreneur and executive, should have for seeking to do your level best.

I have helped countless numbers open their business. Time and again, three over-used phrases come up. People use them all the time, but frequently misunderstand their true significance. It is time for me to share this trade secret with a wider audience.

FIRST, before you lay out a single penny, cent or shekel, you need to know where you are going. That means you need a “vision statement”.

Imagine you are the captain of a large ship. You are told to set sail. The vessel leaves port, but then what? Without a target, the captain will not know how much petrol to take on, provisions, crew, etc. And his mighty boat will go around in circles, because it has not been assigned a clear destination.

That will be the same disastrous outcome for your business. To translate a Hebrew colloquium, you will be hitting the accelerator on the full yet going nowhere slowly.

SECOND is the function of a “business model”. Look up this phrase on the internet, you will discover a billion versions to describe this phrase. Allow me to cut through the red tape and deliver a practical explanation.

Whether you have created a product or service, before launching to the market, you need to know who is going to buy it, where, how, when, at what price and why. When you think you know the answers to those questions, validate them.

Proof to yourself that you are not talking goobledeegook! Otherwise, as you formalise your findings in a business plan, the document will be incoherent.

THIRD, and by no means least, there is the little matter of “fixed costs”. Let me immediately clarify that these are expenses that exist almost every day and remain very static in level throughout the year. In other words, these costs hang around, even if you do not sell even one item.

A typical example could be office rental or back office staff. Another example, when it comes to smaller operations, could be the monthly budget of your household. If you cannot cover these items through sales, you are on the wrong track! No room for discussion.

I have spent nearly 15 years as business coach and mentor. It concerns me how often I have seen SMEs trying to ignore this rule, usually ending up dipping heavily and ineffectively into their savings.

If you have read up to here, you may be saying “well, I know all that, but I still don’t seem to get it right. Help!”

What is stopping you both reaching out and then accepting guidance? The answer is not procrastination. That is the symptom. Compare your position to my clients in the year of corona. They have opened businesses, taken operations overseas, secured loans, increased sales.

My work is to act as your guide, coach and mentor. I use my experience as a strategic economist, with an ability to see all sides of an enterprise. I offer you the clarity you desire to make vital decisions on your path to success.

To find out more – to learn how to create a solid vision statement and business model, and then to ensure you get things done – do not hesitate to call me.

You are looking for a new commercial path for yourself and your company. What makes you so sure that you have the required skills to find the next gig by yourself?

Unfortunately, you have led your company into a mess. Does it not take somebody with an outside perspective to help guide you through the next set of challenges?

In my experience, there are reasons galore why people seek out a business coach or mentor. What is intriguing for me is why so many choose the wrong person for the job. Worse still, they only come to realise the mistake once even more havoc has been created.

There are three core questions business owners should ask themselves

1. Why use a business coach? What’s in it for me?

You could benefit from the experience. You may stay focused. You will hear a different opinion.

All of this and more is very valid. Now consider this related question. Why do top sport’s professionals – for all their brilliant abilities – still use a coach?

Because the coach is able to get that bit extra out of a player. It is the ‘delta’ that makes the difference between average and trophies, between nice prize money and mega advertising deals.

As Dale Carnegie courses teach, the difference in shots played by the best golfers is not that great. Somehow, those like Woods and McIlroy hit 0.1 less shots than the chasing pack.

2. Who is a good business coach?

You could learn from their knowledge of your industry. But this is a classic mistake. Nobody says you have to choose somebody who is an expert and / or who is from your own field of commerce.

There is a well-known story of how one day, the golf coaches did not turn up at a sports club. Replacements were found from the tennis group. The following day, the golf coaches were stunned at the improvements in their pupils’ swing and driving.

The person you are looking person requires the ability to sit back and to analyse what you are (and are not) saying or doing. They also need to be able to resist your pushback. Taking on somebody with your own mindset means there are now two of you in the room agreeing with each other. This does not foster change.

3. Is a business mentor worth the investment?

Many experienced mentors will request a lot of money, as an hourly rate or retainer. Most will not work for a success fee. Surely that seems unfair? At the risk of being seen to want to protect my own income, I argue that there is an alternative and more informative perspective.

Assume you are charged US$100 per hour by your mentor. How many hours will it take, before you obtain your first extra client? And many hours are required before you break even, capturing a return on your investment? Don’t be cheap! As the old phrase goes, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Yup – all good questions? But here is the one people forget to ask before all else. What is the difference between a coach, a mentor and a consultant, and which is the most suitable for you?

All through this blog, I have intermixed the three phrases, deliberately. While there are similarities, there are intricate and significant differences. Briefly: –

  • A coach develops core skills and strengthens weaker abilities.
  • A mentor provides insights, guiding like a teacher. (Look up the origin of the word!)
  • A consultant is usually very hands-on, often doing some of the work.

Where do I come in?

Peter Fisk has written about the corona era:

57% of today’s largest companies were created in a downturn. A crisis accelerates change, it disrupts the old codes of business, it forges new ideas and loyalties. Consumer priorities change and new behaviours emerge. Now is not just the time to survive, but to thrive.

Corona or otherwise, my years of experience enable me to create that spark and to drive the changes that executives seek.

Those who know me will tell you that I rarely start my day without a decent cup of tea. My children have labelled it as my daily brain massage.

It’s the ‘cuppa’ that gets me going. And ever since I left England for Israel decades ago, I have always managed to maintain a decent supply of English tea bags. They are rarely sold in the Holy Land and only at the most disturbing of prices.

Corona has interrupted the regular deliveries. There are few international travelers these days to top me up, armed with gifts from Waitrose et al. My favourite brand is Yorkshire Tea, strong without being too bitter, although PG Tips is an excellent second choice. However, we all have our own individual taste buds.

So, a few weeks back, as I could see that I was running down towards the last of my precious stock, I resorted to eBay. The picture above is the result of my efforts.

Immediately, sanity and calm was restored to the household.

To add to my joy, I read this week that an “English Tea” will soon be served again in Jerusalem. That wonderfully exotic and historical hotel, The King David, will offer a “three-tiered tray” of goodies between the hours of 4.00pm and 6.00pm, six days a week. Champagne is an optional extra.

We live in a year, when corona has shaken up all of us. Most politicians have failed in their primary task of providing leadership. It is at times like this when we need to rely on our core resilience, sternly and most nobly sustained by a pot of tea, in Jerusalem. Enjoy!

In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power .

21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari

This powerful statement was written at least two years before corona broke out. Surprisingly, it is the very first line of his book. And while most of us believe that the pandemic will eventually come to an end, have you begun to think what your business will look like afterwards?

As I write this, many of us are emerging from lockdown, while some are facing its threat for a second time. Small business, the heart of all economies, are hurting bad. Civil servants, who have never run a commercial set up, are launching policies suited for a previous era. Who can think straight in this time of distress and uncertainty?

I have spent much of the 2020 summer talking to decision makers of corporates, service providers, retailers and more. And my starting premise is a blog written back in March 2019.

When it comes to disruption on the modern business landscape, company size is no safeguard. 88% of Fortune 500 companies in the 1955 -2017 period have either gone bankrupt, merged with other firms, or dropped off the list for other reasons. What’s more, it’s estimated that digital disruption will wipe out 40% of today’s Fortune 500 companies in the coming decade.

Titans of Transformation – Samul Medley

The takeaway? Even in the good times, you cannot afford to stand still. Corona is merely forcing you to lead and manage your company as you should have been doing in the first place.

So, what can you do? I commend you to three exciting and doable challenges, all employed successfully by my clients.

First, let’s rephrase the question: What is going to make the difference that places you ahead of the rest of the pack?

Corona allows us all a one-time opportunity to press the ‘reset button’. All those horrendous health and financial stress factors are actually pointing you towards a wonderful ‘exit strategy’. Put all the pervious restrictions to one side and go for it!

Just consider: You are in the clear to do what you want – to activate your dream.

How? Your first step should be to place yourself in an environment that allows for a growth mindset. Gravitate and reach out towards those people who can make that difference. After all, many will have started out from a similar place to you.

Challenge number 2: Look at your business and divide it (figuratively) into two sections; your market and your support structure.

Regarding the market, take your guidance from The Great Depression of the 1930s, when America’s farm lands turned into dustbowls. These were the same years when companies like Boeing, Proctor and Gamble, 3M et al changed direction. They did not hang around for a Roosevelt to save them. As others cut back, they pivoted and also invested in advertising.

That lesson still holds true nearly 90 years on. Early on in the pandemic, MacDonalds had a rethink.  Many of the stores that remained open received a new menu. My clients have adopted a similar assertive approach. They have identified what their core clientele want, shouted loud about it, and seen the rewards in increased sales.

Third, consider your ‘back office’ departments. You will already have discovered which positions are needed or not. While working from home, which of your ‘comfort zones’ have you honestly missed? I bet the answer is not what you would have predicted initially!

Installing focus – That is my profession, as a skilled business coach and mentor. Over the years, I have facilitated countless entrepreneurs in establishing their new business. I have formulated strategy creation with service providers, manufacturers and techies. I have created soft landings for clients setting up overseas’ operations.

Corona is a reminder that we cannot take our position for granted. My role is to show leaders how to initiate their own changes. And because of Corona, that job of providing lucid, practical steps towards growth is more pertinent than ever before.

In some ways, the title is contradictory. I seem to be saying: ‘stop reading this and just get on with it’. Before you do so, hear me out. It’s in your interest.

I have been meeting with a Jerusalem-based client as his business mentor, when I realised that I was making all the suggestions. Effectively, I was acting as a consultant. This is against the rules and the progress has been minimal.

I had to find a way to motivate him so that he can think for himself.

Today has been my opportunity to catch up with some work on digital media. By chance, I began to realise that I was looking at material that continuously hit on the very theme of motivation. And all the posts seemed to share the same message.

This hour long conversation features two amazing stories – standing in freezing ice for ten minutes and finishing an ironman competition against the odds.

This is a story of war hero being told that he was not good enough because of his background and having the wrong accent.

  • ITEM NO’ 3: It is only impossible until it has been achieved.

I have tried to find the origins of this remark – maybe Confucious? Whatever. I posted a short video, emphasising this motto. Featuring two cute animals, the message is very sharp and immediate.

  • ITEM NO’ 4: How did our schooling condition us towards appreciating achievements?

Emmy-Award winning director Nick Nanton has created a film, featuring six unenterprising individuals and how they came from nowhere to become international role models. (H/T to cleantech entrepreneur, Sonya Davidson.)

There is a line that Nanton emphasises and one that I cannot get out of my head. So many of us are taught – no, we are commanded…..

“Get your heads out of the clouds. Come back down to earth.”

How boring! How devastating! What for? To conform?

And when I think about it, it is so often the people who have this methodology drilled into to them that they are afraid to move ahead and to experiment. I see that weekly as a business coach.

You are allowed to dream. Correction – you should be encouraged to dream. And then go and do your utmost to fulfill that crazy ambition. That is where we need to focus and emphasise our emotional efforts. Go for it.

Now; stop reading and get down to some ‘doing’.

The wife of a top Israeli politician posted yesterday that the Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, “could go through an economic holocaust as long as nobody is loved more than he is,”.

A poor use of words in my view, to say the least. However, it came just 24 hours after a leading newspaper, Ha’aretz – a perennial critic of the PM – surmised that Israel’s democracy is faltering as a result of an increasingly direct-rule-of-law approach from the top.

Israel’s corona numbers this week are now worse than those during the initial winter crisis. Bibi has always been seen as the on in charge of all corona issues, if only because the previous Minister of Health was out of his depth. (And it must be remembered that in the coalition negotiations during the Spring months, Bibi insisted on keeping the Health Portfolio for his party.)

So what is really driving Netanyahu, during this time when Israel’s top public health official resigns and its citizens are being asked to consider non-emergency hospitalisations?

I argued during the first phase of Covid-19 that the country’s economic response was pathetic. It featured populist measured, proposed by people who did not how to run businesses. Was I right? The Bank of Israel has just downgraded its growth forecast for 2020 from 4.5% in May to 6%. Of the 10 billion shekels (US$2.85 billion) promised 3 months ago in a country thirsty for liquidity, only 47% has been spent. 20% of loan applications for businesses have been rejected.

Has anything been learnt since?

This week, the Bank of Israel announced monetary measures that propped up the banks, which are already making a fortune out of other people’s debts. For example, tens of thousands of people have been allowed to delay mortgage payments for 3 months. You think that the banks lost money on that one? Think again.

Unemployment had peaked at just over 27%. It slid back down. It is now on the rise again, with meagre measures in place to incentivize employers retain staff. For example, I heard an interview with a CEO of a cosmetics factory south of Tel Aviv. They have burnt through their emergency fund of 4 million shekels, which allowed him to retain all of the 150 employees. He now has to release 40. Not a hint of support from the elected officials.

In contrast, the Hong Kong model for dealing with their economic problems is worth studying. The bottom line is that money has been handed out in grants to commerce and to residents. It may still be a tough economic climate there, but not like in Israel.

Over the past 72 hours, Bibi has led the Israeli government in taking new measures to fight the spread of the virus. This includes not using air conditioners on buses – in the Mediterranean summer. For the record, due to security measures, buses in the West Bank must drive with the windows closed. Again, do the law makers really know what thy are talking about?

But what brought me back to the fear addressed in the comment on the ‘economic holocaust’ was the policy regarding Yeshivot (religious seminaries for men). These are known to be one of the main epicentres for the spread of the virus. Bibi wanted to close them.

Before I continue, take a moment to recall the leader of Jewish communities in China, who in March reported no illness in his following, because people adhered to the strict health warnings. A similar story can be told of a young rabbi in London, who threw people out of a Yeshiva and locked the doors.

In Israel, in July 2020, a key member of Bibi’s coalition, Moshe Gafni threatened to abandon his partner if the Yeshivot were closed. Against his better judgement and the clear advice of the officials at the Ministry of Health, Bibi gave way.

If politics is the art of compromise, let us understand what Mr. Netanyahu’s sterling creativity achieved. If the government had fallen and thus if he had lost his job, he would find it more difficult to delay his trial of corruption on several counts.

How many Yeshiva students and their families will now be infected unnecessarily? How many people will have to delay hospital treatment? How much extra cost will be placed on the health and social services? How how many could……..? Holocaust it is not, but it is utterly repugnant.

June 2020 was another stunning month for Israeli startups, raising US$700m despite covid-19. So what could be wrong with Israel’s economy?

Last week, one of the main TV news stations showed an item, detailing how the middle class in the Holy Land is finally cracking. Many of the frills like extra curricula activities are being eliminated. Housing and flats are being put up for sale.

The response from senior Likud minister, Tzachi Hangbi, a confidant of the Prime Minister?

This nonsense that people have nothing to eat is bullshit. Bullshit. There are a million people who, most of them, until now, have received unemployment payments… There are businesses that were hurt and they’re in serious distress. [But] saying ‘there’s nothing to eat’ is populism.

While the PM has acknowledged that this comment is unfortunate, it does force us to recall his own remarks in mid June that nearly 90% of the Israeli economy is up and running again!

In the words of a senior editor of “Globes“, an independent financial daily:

The intentions of Israel Aerospace Industries, Amdocs, and The Phoenix Holdings to lay off hundreds of employees each has torn away the mask: the economic crisis is not temporary, leave without pay is not a bridging measure. The State of Israel is not rumbling towards the most severe economic crisis in its history; it is already at the height of it. And no-one is taking responsibility. All that surrounds us is chaos and emptiness……The only significant economic decision since the crisis started – to put the country on furlough – was made by the director general of the National Insurance Institute, and not by the policy makers, and even that turned out to be a disaster.

To go to the punchline of that article, it is time for the decision makers to wake up, right now!

Around 20% of the workforce remains unemployed. For example, El Al has furloughed about 7,000 of its workers. This has impacted on thousands of others in ancillary industries. I wonder how these people would calculate “90%”!

The Prime Minister, Mr Binyamin Netanyahu, has promised his country a “6 month program of economic renewal”. This is a man, who for much of the past 25 years has thrived and succeeded on slogans. After all, his original fortune was made as a marketing executive where catchy slogans are a core part of your ammunition. But as for the details….?

As Israel seemingly emerged ‘quite well’ from the first corona wave, Netanyahu concentrated his efforts on his beloved ‘annexation plan’. Whatever may eventually emerge from that, it will not be what he initially declared with pomp and ceremony. Further, it has detracted his attention to something even more core – ensuring his voters can put bread and butter on the table every day.

Israel does not need slogans nor action items hastily thrown together over a couple of weeks.

Israel demands carefully thought out long term radical policies that meet the cruel demands of a totally new financial and economic scenario. As I wrote frequently at the beginning of the corona crisis, most of the current crop of decision makers – politicians and senior civil servants – are totally out of their depth.

This is not a task suited for sales reps.

90 percent of our economy is working again and we continue to move forward.

Thus spoke Prime Minister Netanyahu on 15th June. This amazing statement demands some justification. After all, unemployment which had peaked at 27% is assumed still be north of 20%. Walk around any city centre, and you cannot fail to see the many properties simply abandoned.

International flights are few. In fact, El Al today even grounded its cargo trips. That automatically impacts on tens of thousands of jobs. New mortgages, a reflection of the property market, are described as ‘sluggish‘. Even the accounting giant EY is laying off people.

The newspaper “Ha’aretz“, no friend of the Prime Minister, has called for a rethink. Netanyahu personally is well-positioned. His wealth is valued way above US$50 million. In addition to his healthy monthly salary, last week he was voted a tax break by his allies to the tune of around 1 million shekels.

So what is on the increase?

  • The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, which had fallen by about a third since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, has made up half of those losses.
  • The price of housing is on the move upwards, as there are fewer building starts.
  • Large chains and supermarkets are enjoying a spike in sales, as fewer people are prepared to eat outdoors.

None of this is particularly inspiring. At least, Israeli tech companies have raised over $4.7 billion in the first six months of 2020, close to half the figure for the whole of Covid-19 free 2019.

In previous blogs, I complained how the mandarins of master planners seem to be out of touch with what is happening in the economy. I know of so many good businesses crying out for support, but do not meet the criteria of the ‘professionals’. Is that surprising?

Well some senior decision makers are on record of declaring that 90% of the country is back on its economic feet. Hmmmm!

Three months of various stages of lockdown and Jerusalem’s tech scene has not stopped buzzing.

To quote an item from Forbes magazine last month:

There are currently 405 active tech companies in the Jerusalem ecosystem, a 102% increase over 2012. In 2019 alone, $233.5 million were invested in Jerusalem-based companies and startups, a 21% increase from the prior year. Over the years, Jerusalem-based companies have seen 22 exits and total investments of $1.6 billion, according to Start-Up Nation Central’s Finder.

Only yesterday, I was on a zoom call linking a serial investor group from the holy city with a team in Hong Kong.  The previous week featured a bunch of us talking with an Israeli scale up and a partnership from the heart of the Muslim block.

Yes, finally if belatedly, the Arab side of the sector will receive its share of the glory.

The Silicon Wadi project entails the construction of approximately 200,000 square meters (2.1 million square feet) of commercial area, with an emphasis on the high tech, trade, and hotel sectors. Among the goals of the initiative are to create 10,000 jobs in east Jerusalem, increasing the participation of east Jerusalem women in the job market, and to bolster support for the Israeli school curriculum in east Jerusalem schools.

And come Jun 22nd, OurCrowd, arguably Israel’s largest investor fund and located in Jerusalem, will host its “covid summit”.

It is interesting to note that part of the international impact of corona has seen more Jews seeking to move to Israel, particularly Jerusalem. Keep watching folks!

 

Economists around the globe are threatening us with a major depression. Shops are simply disappearing from the malls. Individuals and corporates are thinking three times before any new investment.

So what can the business owners and sales strategists do?

I was going over the notes of a webinar presented on behalf of Invest Hong Kong by Conway Inc. They encourage overseas agencies and companies to set up shop in the territory. (By the way, I can tell that despite corona et al, several more Israeli organisations have done just that in the past six months).

On slide in particular caught my eye: “3 ways to redirect marketing strategies”. And I quote:

  • Go virtual…..or get left behind
  • Brand building………with impactful content
  • Develop partnership opportunities (+ stay alive)

Let’s be honest. After 2-3 months with corona, there is not a lot of new stuff there. Yet, when presented together and on the same page, you suddenly enter ‘wake up time’.

In fact, reflecting on how I have tried to help my clients change and pivot, this is exactly what thy have all been struggling to make happen. That is the very role of a business coach and mentor.

The take away. Maybe it is time to give up on what you see as your main poles to hold on to. They may not be so relevant or even that stable today. It is not important what others will think of you. Find that way to change, or “get left behind”.

 

It is relatively straight forward to connect the dots in the trail of the demise of modern retailing.

  • Ever higher rents are forcing shops away from city and town centres.
  • Humongous food shops are driving local supermarkets to despair.
  • Amazon has sapped the strength of large retailers, who have often reacted with the speed of dinosaurs.
  • And now Covid-19 has taken people off the streets. The shops are left with rent to pay, but no sales.

Last week, my wife ventured into the centre of Jerusalem, as Israel emerges from lockdown. She reported back how several shops had just disappeared – shut and no stock inside. This included some leading local chains.

And yet………..

Covid-19 has taught us a lot of things. Sociologists will have a field day, when their research kicks in. For example, Israelis, known for their paranoia to watch news programmes, have began to steer away from the media featuring current events.

Similarly, much has been made of how ‘community spirit’ is coming back into play around the world. People are going out of their houses, together praising workers in the front line, praying or just creating social-distanced silly dances.

As retail expert Paul Brooks remarked in a classy podcast with Jonathan Gabay, Covid-19 is bringing about a “transformation” in how we approach our lives. In an effort to readdress the balance between ‘work, rest and play’, Brooks argues that we are focused on “authenticity”.

And nowhere is this more true than the return to prominence of the local neighbourhood corner shop – food, clothes, books or whatever. How come?

Covid-19 started out when somebody let a horrendous virus escape from a man-made lab. All the clever algorithms and the internet gadgets in the world could not stop it from spreading. In fact, man-made devices like travel had the opposite effect.

Time for a return to basics? Time to reject the offers from big companies, that often represent an attempt to dump dead products. Time to downsize.

And this, ironically, is where the small retail trade could look to a revival. They represent everything that has been turned away over the past few decades; available nearby, a human voice, no preset script, and a feel of ‘made for me’.

For example, earlier to today I was talking to the owner of a shop that sells ladies’ fashion. Now that she is out of location and readjusted her approach to selling, she told that Sunday had been one of her best days ever.  One anecdotal story? Yes, but surly it is no coincidence that many of the latest entrepreneurs that have come my way in the past two weeks have also chosen these principles?

What next? Too early to tell. However, I assess that there is a move towards small is beautiful. Retail, encouraged by local authorities, have a chance to lead the selling revival.

 

This is the week, when the Israeli economy is cautiously returning to work after ‘lockdown’.

The immediate damage can be measured in a dismaying 27% unemployment rate. We have yet to learn how many businesses have collapsed and to what level production has fallen. Nor do we know how many surgical procedures have been delayed and at what cost.

On a brighter side, if you look at today’s front page of the financial newspaper “Globes“, you will see headlines referring to around US$200m worth of investment into start up companies: Nexar – US$52m, Cheetah – US$36, Otonomo – US$46, etc etc.

In fact, “Israeli tech companies, which raised a record $8.3 billion in 2019, have raised $3.7 billion in the first four months of 2020.” And if it had not been for corona……. your guess is as good as mine.

And is the puff running out of the start-up nation drive? Just look at the news in the past 24 hours.

  • Intel Corp. (Nasadq: INTL) is set to acquire Israeli company Moovit for about $1 billion. The company has developed a public transport and mobility journey planner app. Intel Capital, the venture capital investment arm of Intel, is one of the shareholders in Moovit.
  • Mastercard and Enel X have won a tender to establish a new fintech-cybersecurity laboratory in Beersheva, with NIS 13 million (approximately $3.7 million) in funding over three years.

Back on the Israeli high-street, the shopping malls have yet to reopen. Politically, the country maybe heading for a new government next week or a fourth general election. Yet none of this seems to bother the entrepreneurs, who are continuing to have a field day in the Holy Land.

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