Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

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.

More and more people are having to stay at home – be you self quarantined, instructed by large offices to cut down on numbers at the office, or just because your government has ordered you not to go in to work. Yes, the Corona virus is bad news for industries like tourism and travel. But do small businesses have to suffer as well?

Let us be clear. In most of the near 200 countries around the world, SMEs – small and medium enterprises – make up 95% of any given economy!

Business mentors and coaches teach that you to use to the resources that we are provided with. They may seem meagre or even irrelevant, but this is what the Escape Rooms teach us, if we are just prepared to think differently.

One very simple example. I was discussing with a client about a tour guide. His clientele has simply been sucked into the ground like a biblical curse. His solution? He is creating virtual tours, and selling packages on line.

And there are plenty more examples. Another client of mine in Jerusalem, who runs after school art classes for kids, has totally switched around their schedule to the mornings. And I heard today of an unemployed air stewardess, who is turning her talents to baby sitting, which is suddenly in much demand.

So how to get started? How can you switch your whole operation so that it is home based and when you cannot dash out to the marketplace.

First and foremost, realise that even though you may seem that you have endless time on your hands, you do not! Countries like China and Hong Kong have shown that the crisis does have an end. More importantly, neither your competitors nor your bank manager are waiting around for you, sympathetically. So, get a work in plan in place, immediately.

Second, remember that Corona is all about health. And you need to stay healthy at home, which should include sleeping 7-8 hours every night. Build an exercise plan. Why? Because, exercise and quality sleep lead to creative cognitive thinking. That will serve as your base for your brain storming.

Third, as if you have not got the message by now, digital media is there to help you. So many people say that they are going to build a website, but claim they never have the time. Hands up those who have wanted for ages to earn more about LinkedIn or Instagram but have prioritised everything else.

Those excuses hold no water any more. And this is especially true as these are the tools and weapons that are going to ensure you keep in touch with your marketplace and / or create a new one.

I firmly believe that for many of us, Corona can end up presenting more opportunities than we initially contemplated. It is time to think out of the box. (To do that, it helps if you know the origins of that phrase.)

Wishing everyone a safe and healthy ride over the next few weeks.

Jerusalem’s economy is changing, and quickly. It is no longer centred around government offices or even tourism. The Our Crowd Summit  earlier this month – featuring thousands and with attendees from over 180 countries – is just the tip of a growing iceberg.

Only last week, I was invited to a new Fintech forum. This was on the back of one of my clients in the field receiving a massive overseas investment. At the same time, Crossriver, which only opened its R&D facility in Jerusalem a year ago and already employs about 60 people, has announced that it will build a brand new complex in the city. This will allow it to expand its activities far more quickly.

At the Our Crowd Summit, I was able to have a look at the wonders of Labs02. This is a hub of about a dozen companies. It is located in a revamped building near the former Jerusaelm railway station and which used to house the country’s money printing press.

These firms are handpicked. They are given an 18 month grace period and wrapped in the arms of brilliant tech mentors like Menachem Sheffer.

One that caught my eye is IntellAct. The concept is brilliant. We all know about the need to change a tyre in Formula 1 races within micro-seconds. This company applies the same principle to the ground services at airports. By smart-mapping the various suppliers – food, cleaning, refueling, onboarding, etc – the company saves the airline critical time, which adds up to a lot of big bucks.

Moving away from high-tech for a moment, I was struck by a joint effort of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Agriculture, located in the Holy City. For decades, Israel has been sharing its agritech with countries in Africa and elsewhere.

In Ethiopia, about 85% of its 110 million people live in small farming communities, and usually poor ones at that. Over the past three years, an Israel sponsored scheme called TOV – Good in English – has trained thousands to grow strawberries, tomatoes, avocados and cabbage. These are considered local staples and relatively profitable. In addition, there are many instances of new cooperatives, allowing for greater economies of scale.

If there is a sting in the tail of these success stories, it is the rest of government officialdom. Benjamin Netanyahu has been Prime Minister for 11 years consecutively. Despite his promises to counter the problem, Israel has consistently fallen down the international ratings when it comes to regulation and bureaucracy. For example, when it comes to flexibility and efficiency, the country has dropped twenty places to 69th.

Imagine what could really happen in Jerusalem if there was a Prime Minister who would let government free?

 

 

 

For decades, Arabs boycotted Israel, at least on paper. They encouraged companies like Pepsi or Asian car manufacturers to do the same.

And today? Well, I challenge you to name me one large automobile outfit that is not present in Israel with an r&d centre. Did you know that participation requests were received from 22 Arab countries to attend the Our Crowd Investment Summit in Jerusalem two weeks ago?

Why continue to ask for a boycott? On behalf of the Palestinians or the Israeli Arabs? Have a look at these news items from this month.

Start off with J.P. Morgan, which is beginning to expand its presence in the Holy Land on a very prominent scale. Their head of tech in Israel, Dr. Yoav Intrator, observed that:

……we have set a target of increasing the diversity of the human element in the center’s work teams. We have already begun taking steps to achieve this target, both by including women in our teams and by including Arab staff, mainly Israeli Arabs. I think that the lack of diversity in this area is one of the main problems in the Israeli economy, and there is potential for redressing the situation. For example, there is currently a high proportion of Arab women among engineering and computer science students at universities in Israel.

Similarly, Bank Hapoalim is heavily involved in the development of the Arab incubator in Nazareth.

However, most striking for me is the news that “Israel and the Palestinian Authority appeared to have come to an agreement to end a major trade dispute in which both sides placed sweeping restrictions on some of each other’s goods.”

It appears that:

Palestinians exported around $100 million in agricultural products in 2018, including dates and olive oil. About half went to Israel while the rest was sent to other countries, according Abu Laban. In contrast, Palestinians imported approximately $300 million in agricultural goods from Israel in 2018.

Imagine how that can figure can grow. And we all know that trade usually improves bilateral relations between sides. Why boycott in the first place?

And why continue to advocate for a boycott when the people on the ground – those involved – clearly do not advocate for it?

We all know that you have to check your credit card bill every month, just in case.

I had a VISA card. It was issued via a supermarket chain, which until recently operated a branch near where I lived. They promised me all sorts of things, most of which I forgot. The branch closed. I had no use of the card, but I was charged 15.90nis (US$4.5) for …..something. (I suppose the cost of sending me an electronic message that I had not used the card!)

I decided to cancel the card.

VISA has a comprehensive website. Nowhere could I find a link to ‘cancelling’. To cut a long story short, I tried about three phone numbers, several times, and eventually got through.

And then the fun started.

The first offer was that if I did not cancel, the monthly admin fee would be wavered, providing I made at least one purchase a month on the card of a least 1 shekel. As I am a boring a person and keep all my expenses on one card, an alternative card, I turned down the opportunity.

Suddenly the kind lady made a second proposal. If I stayed on, she would return all the previous charges of 15.90 nis. About 4 months. Sounds good. But I was annoyed.

I asked: “Why didn’t you offer that the first time round”. To paraphrase the response. “Becasue most people accept the first offer”. The implication is that they are stupid suckers!

In other words friends: Apply the rule of the 4 Bs.

Be persistent, be firm, be polite, bite your lip and your credit card company will stop ripping you off.

No, I did not accept the second offer. Why? Because in a year’s time, the deal will end and they will start to charge me again. I decided that what I had paid out has already gone, but I would not lose any more.

Now go check your own monthly bills……, which are usually sent online and most people cannot remember their password! More easy money for the credit card companies.

 

And it happened yet again!

First customer of the week, and she begins to talk about how she failed in trying to rope in a new client for themselves. Oh the pain!

Sunday morning, and straight to work for your biz mentor and coach.

So I asked her about what and how specifically she had failed. We agreed that she had not achieved. She agreed with the comment from Jay Shetty that failure is more often than not just another opportunity to try again. And the anxiety levels dropped off a touch.

I explained that the opposite of success is not necessarily failure. In fact, it is rarely failure.

What is the opposite of success? Look “it” up. Because according to one website, there are 436 answers – that’s correct four hundred and thirty six antonyms.

The chances, my reader, are that you are like my customer. Which leaves me with a burning question for you? Why is your automatic default – especially in business – when something goes wrong,  that you see it as a “failure moment”? Why?

Happy to hear your thoughts about this.

 

 

It is such a simple question. It can be shrunk down to four words. And most of the people who walk through the door of my office fail to even rank a 6 out of 10.

Why?

Take this very typical case study. I was just starting out on my career as business coach and mentor, initially focusing on the Jerusalem region. I had gone out to visit a new set up, established by a couple of very capable and widely read people. They knew everything about their industry. Google had been ransacked and they had spoken to a range of experts.

So, having spent a good few minutes mapping out the background and having received very detailed responses, I gently lobbed out a question: What do you need to get started?

Those seven words clearly stumped them. The answer was….silence. The good news is that we did progress and they started to sell. However, the point is why were they lacking an answer. What was missing?

How many business owners do you know, who try to exude confidence. but it is often fake? Some tell-tale signs include not smiling due to continuous stress, trying to do everything themselves, and prioritising those issues that do not increase revenues.

These are the people who spend so much time trying to be perfect that they end up worrying more about what they should be doing rather than creating a solid strategy.
They become an expert in everything, except what is important.

Why? Because they have failed to answer that one core and basic question.

What do I do?

4 words, 4 syllables 9 letters – not too complex. And yet when I ask CEOs this question, I frequently receive back a flurry of inconsequential clichés, sometimes with great fluency, but which invariably add up to something of very little meaning.

And the worst is that once they have finished talking, they look sheepish. They realise that they have been caught out. And it hurts. It is OUCH time, far more painful than the anxiety described above. Most simply do not know.

Think! If bosses really know what they are selling, and why people want this service or product, then most of the reasons to fake self-confidence will evaporate.

The problem is that they / we all get caught up with the rut of immediacy – yet another email, another post that takes too long to compose, those WhatsApp groups that you did not mute – and all of this before we have dealt with the ‘trivial’ matters like clients.

Is it your turn to face that question most corporate leaders and managers hate to consider? The answer does not have to be detailed, but it should make sense and can be validated.

Yesterday, I reported on Jerusalem’s miraculous economic turn around. As for Israel’s national economy, well:

  • Over 50% of the country is a desert, and yet it is a high-tech powerhouse.
  • The country was born in a geopolitical mess and has remained there ever since.
  • The electorate is burned by an over zealous political system, now facing its third general election within 12 months.

Now get this:

As reported by Bloomberg, the Tel Aviv stock market rose to a record high this week.

The TA-35 … extended its increase in the past 12 months to 15%. The benchmark is mostly composed of financial, health care and real estate companies, and Israel’s is the only equity market in the Middle East classified as developed by major index compilers.
……. A combination of low interests rate and optimism over economic growth is helping stocks, analysts said.

Eyal Dabby is the head of equity research at Bank Leumi Le-Israel in Tel Aviv.

GDP is expected to grow above 3%, and inflation is very low. Unemployment is also at the lowest level. It is a strong economy with fair pricing and very low interest rates. The combination of all these parameters is supportive for the equity market…..It is difficult to predict what will be the exact market performance in 2020, but if nothing special happens, especially in the U.S., to which the Israeli market is highly correlated, the equity market could continue to deliver between 8%-10% gains on average.

These statements come on the back of a very strong year for the high-tech sector in Israel.

The total value of Israeli exits in 2019 reached $21.7 billion in 138 deals including the $6.9 billion acquisition of Mellanox by Nvidia, which is still subject to closing. This figure is up sharply from $12.6 billion in 2018. The total value of exits of up to $5 billion in 2019 was the highest ever, with $14.84 billion in 2019, compared with $12.63 billion in 2018.

Now imagine if there had been a stable and effective government in power for the past 18 months. Would that have improved things even further?

Freezing cold in late January in Jerusalem. The threat of snow is in the air. And nearly 50 of the world’s biggest leaders have descended on the city in order to honour the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

As traffic snarls up to ensure clear passage for the celebs, all around them a major economic transformation is in process. The Jerusalem economy is emerging from its slumbers, previously branded as a city for religious tourists – Jewish or otherwise – and civil servants. Jerusalem is moving towards Palo Alto, so to speak.

Mobileye may be a one-off story, the proverbial commercial unicorn rising out of the holy city, but it does represent the start of something new. It was purchased for over US$15 billion dollars by Intel. It had planned a 30 floor high HQ in Jerusalem.  It has since decided “to amend the NIS 950 million ($274 million) plan for a more modest group of five buildings, each nine stories high…”

About five kilometers away are the offices of Our Crowd. Their rapid rise to success as arguably the most successful global investment crowd funding platform has ironically paralleled the rise to fame of Mobileye. Next month, they will hold their annual event in Jerusalem.

Their press release today points out that: –

OurCrowd reports that 32 of the startups presenting at the past four summits had an exit or IPO within 12 months. The 2019 OurCrowd Summit featured 7 startups that later exited, including:

Beyond Meat: Biggest IPO in a decade, May 2019
Magisto: Acquired by Vimeo for $100 million, April 2019
Wave: acquired in June 2019 by H&R Block
Prior years’ Summit featured many startups that later exited, including:

Jump Bikes 2018, acquired by Uber two months later
Briefcam 2018, acquired by Canon six months later
Invertex 2017, acquired by Nike three months later
Mobileye 2017, acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion two months later
Crosswise 2016, acquired by Oracle three months later
Replay 2016, acquired by Intel two months later

Oded Barel of the Jerusalem Development Authority has also listed some of the investment highlights of 2019, featuring local corporates on the go. For example:

  • 🦄 Lightricks raised $135M and became a unicorn. If that wasn’t enough, it also won both Apple’s and Google’s best app of 2019 awards.
  • 👁️ Orcam’s MyEye has been selected as one of Time Magazine’s best innovations.
  • 🏡 Hometalk raised $15M to expand their DIY content platform.
    🧠 CNVRG raised $8M to expand to NYC and help enterprises adopt machine-learning.
  • 🚗 C2A raised $6.5M to develop its end-to-end cybersecurity platform for cars.
  • 🏥 Pepticom raised $5M to accelerate drug-discovery using AI.
  • 🍣 Bitemojo won the UNWTO global competition for gastronomy tourism startups.
  • 👋 Mellanox, Via, Taboola and Vayyar have all announced they are opening R&D activity in Jerusalem. Welcome, fellas.

Gathering together stats from various reports, there are around 41,000 business enterprises in Jerusalem. Nearly 4,000 new ones opened up in 2018, although a further 3,000 closed down. Interestingly, both this rate of growth and the relatively low turnover is better than the national average. One reason for this is clearly the strong presence of NPOs like MATI, which promotes Biz Dev amongst some of the weaker parts of the local community.

What next? Ask the 50 world leaders visiting us this week. They may have been here to discuss the Holocaust. I can assure that business and trade were also close to the top of the private agendas.

Israel’s third general election within 12 months will take place on March 2nd. Everyone knows that political uncertainty is rarely good for a sophisticated economy. So how has the country managed to ride this wave of political intrigue?

It would seem that the Israeli economy grew at a rate of 3.3% in 2019, pretty good compared to other countries. And as for trade, at a time when China and the USA are threatening global instability: –

Figures for Israel’s trade and capital flow show an increase in the surplus, which supports further strengthening of the shekel against foreign currencies. Israel had a $9.8 billion trade surplus in 2019, compared with a $4 billion surplus in 2018. The balance of payments current account had a $14.8 billion surplus in 2019, compared with a $9.5 billion surplus in 2018.

Incoming tourism increased yet again in 2019, this time by 10%. Start ups raised a record US$350 million in December 2019 alone. And global companies like Tesla continue to set up offices in the Holy Land.

So where is the proverbial “but”?

Let’s look at those start ups. “5,313 new startups were founded in Israel between 2011 and 2018, but 2,387, or 45%, closed or froze their operations by 2018. In total, 4,363 startup companies were active in Israel in 2018, a 6% drop from 2017”. Hmmm.

Now let’s consider the budget deficit, which the government has sworn blindly for over a year is under control. The gap has already mushroomed to nearly 4.0% of GDP, way above all targets. New taxation is almost a given, when a government if eventually formed in the early summer.

And this budgetary hole is rarely a good sign, just when unemployment rates are beginning to turn upwards, admittedly from a low figure of less than 4%. In other words, the glory of numbers showing a strong economy is really not that genuine.

Roughly 18 months ago, the then governor of the Bank of Israel, Carmit Flug, took the hint and decided not to seek re-election. She had advocated that the fiscal policy of the Minister of Finance was irresponsible. She bitterly opposed the moves to reduce taxes. However, she was to lose the battle.

Is it any wonder that the head of Israel’s Tax Authority is currently looking for ways to raise taxes? First up on the list is the imposition of VAT on fruit and vegetables, a direct hit on the poorer sections of society. However, this decision will not be made until after March 2nd, thus protecting the government’s core base voting community.

Hmmm.

Israel is known as a ‘start up nation’, the high-tech powerhouse of the Middle East. It has 20 unicorns, only beaten by China, USA and the UK.

A new research report detailed just how far Israel has come in three decades in encouraging overseas investors to trust what was once a bankrupt and insular economy – whose best export was the Jaffa orange.

The key number is 362 – 362 multinationals are active in the Holy Land. “Intel is the most active corporation in Israel (2014–2019): Intel Capital has participated in 52 investment deals; Intel corp. acquired 5 companies totaling $17.5B.” Google and Microsoft have purchased ten and eight businesses respectively.

And the growth rate continues. “51 Multinational Corporations opened new R&D activity in Israel between 2017 and 2019.” The three top technology clusters in MNCs in Israel are: Machine Vision, IoT and Cyber Security.

What is this worth to the Israeli economy?

  • Hightech employs about 15% of the workforce. The largest number of employees is in a manufacturing facility (Intel Fab in Kiryat-Gat) and not an R&D center. Interestingly, no other High-Tech facility in Israel comes close to this scale, other than the Intel R&D center.
  • Israeli based MNCs are about to pay nearly $8.85 billion in 2019.
  • This amount is equivalent to approximately 2.6% of Israel’s estimated GDP for 2019 (in fixed prices, assuming 3.1% GDP growth this year), and 18% of the total income from direct tax, which is expected to be $48 billion this year.
  • The median tax payment per MNC is expected to be $7.125m in 2019.

The report from the IVC et al makes for fascinating reading. You can see what your country can learn from this innovative approach to building an economy from scratch.

The customer is always right. Rule numero uno that we are all taught as kids. So ,why, when we are grown ups and trying to make a quick buck, do we immediately and conveniently forget this convention?

Have a look at these case studies: I have just finished some travelling. Loads of Airbnb’s and other places.

Location number one: Centre of the city. Small but compact. Adequate. Fair enough. However:

  • I had to haul my suitcases an extra 10 minutes to get the key.
  • The internet was so bad that I had to go to a café. Responses to the complaint were slow.
  • The towels were as thin as the toilet paper.

Well, I they got their money, but no recommendation.

Location number two, described as “luxurious”.

  • The internet did not work at first, because….. the receiver was hidden, unplugged, in a cupboard.
  • 3 bedrooms, each with a cupboard, and none with hanging space for clothes
  • Large, but with only 2 chairs, one of which broke. Yeah, the beds were large and comfortable.

And yes, at a third place, the owner, Mr Brendan Blott, personally met us and graciously showed us around. It was a pleasure to stay there. Most important, there was some fresh milk available for a cup of coffee.

The previous week, I had been in Hong Kong. Ask anyone for help there and they answer you……. with a smile. It is a 5-lettered word that costs us nothing. For all the troubles of the teritory, I want to go back there. Similarly, I will hopefully have another opportunity to avail myself of the services of Mr. Blott.

So, the question is why do so many of us brush off customers? They are not always right, but they deserve our respect and help. Time for you to rethink?

 

Today is 25th December 2019. It is Christmas. In Israel, this special Christian holiday has become politicised over the years. President Abbas is always seen attending a service in Bethlehem. The PR team at the City Hall in Jerusalem ensure that all the press knows how many free Xmas trees have been handed out.

To summarise one wag on Facebook today, Jesus could not have been a Palestinian, because the term was only coined 200 years after he died.

Israeli spokespersons have pointed out for a few years now that And please note that the largest section of those numbers are affiliated with the churches of East Europe.

The British-born journalist, Matthew Kalman, has cited numbers from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

There are 177,000 Christians living in Israel at Christmas 2019, 2% of the population. Their number grew by 1.5% in 2018, compared to 2% the previous year. Among the 855 Israeli Christian couples that married in 2017, the average age of the groom was 30.1 years old, while the average age of the bride was 26.0. The average number of children aged under 17 in Christian families is 1.87, compared to 2.37 for Jewish families and 2.77 for Muslim families.

As for me, I am spending the season in Australia. I have been wished Happy Hanukah by Christians, and I have wished so many others Happy Christmas. So, as they say here down-under, I wish all my readers “happy holidays”.

Israel is to hold its third general election within 12 months in March 2020. Does this political impasse have an significant impact on the economy?

Remember: Israel has always had a coalition government. Yet somehow, parties have found a way to come together. This time, there is a secondary elephant in the room – the investigations into corruption surrounding the Prime Minister and now his indictment on three separate accounts. Benjamin Netanyahu has made no secret that his best line of defense lies in clinging to power.

Thus, the political impasse did not start on the day of the first general election this Spring. It began in the run up to that vote, commencing in the Autumn of 2018. And it is likely to continue through to the early summer of 2020, as the vested parties will seek to outmaneuver each other in the expected coalition talks.

In other words, we are talking of an almost two year period, when the economy (and other policy issues) have received no central direction!

Does this really matter? After all, the economy is holding up.

Against all that cheer, there is a very worrying undercurrent. As one journalist calculated:

The price tag for the next election is NIS 3.8 billion and the cumulative cost for all three national ballots is an estimated NIS 10 billion – enough to raise old-age stipends for one million pensioners in need.

Meaningless assumptions? One leading national charity has stated that:

Government policy tools directed at the issue are generally limited and insufficient to diminish the problem substantially, to which has been added stagnation in government and political instability because of the two elections a short time apart in 2019, leading to the loss of an entire year in the ability to deal with prevention and reduction of poverty and rescue from it.

It is known that:

  1. The national deficit is growing, as the government has no mandate to lower spending nor to raise taxes.
  2. New opportunities to attract overseas investors are going begging, as they require government approval.
  3. I was told by one pensioner that his drugs and tablets are in short supply, and he has heard of other cases.
  4. Specific stipends, such as for soldiers without parents, have run out of money.
  5. Start ups, relying on government funding, have been laying off workers, as there has been ‘no legal process’ to grant the transfer of funds.
  6. And………….

In other words, at the micro level, the immaturity of Israel’s politicians is beginning to hurt. But who cares?

The political uncertainty only impacts on the electorate but not those who consider themselves wise enough to make the laws.

 

For over two years, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, often called Bibi, has been investigated first by the police, who then passed on their recommendations on to the Attorney-General. Both teams were led by Bibi appointees. Both believe that Bibi has to answer charges in court on three separate accounts, involving bribery and breach of trust.

Bibi denies it all. And he realises that his best line of defense requires him to hang on to power. In a country where governments are always dependent on fragile coalitions, this has resulted in two inconclusive general elections within six months. Further, as the political stalemate continues, another walk to the polls looks likely in March 2020.

Where does that leave the economy? Ostensibly, not too bad. For example, “Moody’s senior credit officer Evan Wohlmann believes that Israel’s economic growth has outpaced most other advanced industrial countries over the past decade.” The credit rating remains at A1.

In parallel, FDI is strong. Unemployment is low at just under 4%. UK’s Pret A Manger restaurant chain is looking to enter the Holy Land. So, all-in-all, not a bad report, you might think.

Look again, much deeper.

GDP growth for Q319 may have clocked 4.1%, but this was based on one item. There was a freak one-off huge rise in car imports. Even worse is the fact that the greatest growth generator of the Israeli economy is also the main obstacle of economic growth—the endless traffic jams that decimate millions of work hours for the Israeli workforce.

How the Bank of Israel will react to these unreliable figures is to be determined. Israel’s top monetary experts must be worried by the fact that this year’s budget was cobbled together at the last moment. There is a clear gap in public spending programme. Further, there is no way that a budget for 2020 has been prepared, and there is no clear thinking how it could even be passed in the near future. That is a bright red warning light for the international financial markets.

Even that stunning unemployment stat is clouded with uncertainty.

Despite the record low in unemployment, the state of the labor market in Israel is not clear cut. The number of available jobs in Israel has been declining in recent months, a figure likely to indicate a slowdown in the expansion of economic activity.

What next? Bibi has always proclaimed his innocence and is determined to stay where he is. He still controls his political party, the Likud, just. So long as that plank of support is in place, the country remains paralysed.

As either Minister of Finance or Prime Minister, firend and foe will agree that Bibi can be credited for much much of the success of Israel’s healthy economic performance since 2001.

As we close off 2019, the economy will continue to plod along due to its own core strengths – the high tech sector, innovation, export sales to new markets, etc. However, that drive cannot remain in high gear for ever. When that slowdown eventuates, regardless of their political persuasion and ethnic background, the electorate will begin to ‘feel it’, which could determine how people will vote next time. Ironic?

 

 

 

I was listening to a wickedly funny yet pertinent and amazing post yesterday from Geoff Burch.  To cut to the chase, he asks why there are so many cold callers annoying people in their homes with set scripts that are usually irrelevant, if not insulting.

Hold that thought, and link it to a blog written by executive business coach and mentor, Tim Jackson. He ponders why most of us are so prone to distractions. As he bluntly puts it, it is our own responsibility to identify those issues and remove them, pronto.

I have lost track of how many people over the years have asked me if they should open an office or continue working from home. After all, it can cost a lot of money to fit out additional premises and pay the rent. Well, no argument there.

Maybe there is a deeper, hidden concern. If you take up on extra facilities, your are going to have to be more responsible for your work. You will be forced to go out and find extra clients in order to pay off the extra (“and wasteful”?) expenses. Hmmm!

Personally, it took me ages to come to a decision that I needed an office. I was getting by. I had learnt to deal with the distractions – most of them – in the home environment. I could meet people in quiet – or semi quiet – at coffee shops.

I then dilly-dallied, as I struggled to find the right area of Jerusalem to set up shop. Far too slowly, I realised that the all neighbourhoods had lousy parking and lousy traffic problems. Comparison was not easy. So, I chose the industrial park closest to where I lived.

And today?

Since moving, and also after getting used to the change, my productivity has increased by 10s of percentage points. It is difficult to pin point precisely why or how. However, I know of other freelancers who have had similar results.

The point is as follows. Before moving, the trader is so rooted in how much extra the change will cost them that they minimize the potential benefits. And yes, those costs are important to understand. Far more vital is the uplift. We forget that we are seeking to become more professional, and that is how others will see us. And that should result in lots of lovely extra revenue, way above the additional expenses.

So what was your original question?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how and when to change your business model. However, as good Israelis, many of my clients are impatient. They ask me how they can grow their enterprise, and do so quickly.

So, my skills as a business coach and mentor are thus challenged, big time.

Samuel Medly posted a fascinating piece on five corporate trends to watch out for in 2019. The first item refers to “Quantum Innovation”.

Quantum innovation is the name given to the kind of innovation characterized by bold and creative thinking designed to take an enterprise into a lucrative new paradigm – even if that means going beyond the bounds of the existing business model……

Companies should work towards a goal 10x greater than what they believe they can achieve, working from first principles and uncertain profiles, while emphasising speed and experimentation.

Even applying that to thought to my own set up is fascinating and fun. So why shouldn’t you follow suit also?

So I would like to combine Medley’s offering with the words of Dr. Robert Brooks, who posed the question: “What is the number one habit of self-made millionaires?” Spoiler alert – the answer revolves around the ability to ‘forge relationships’.

But how do you do that?

And this is where Brooks details ten core characteristics that are essential for success. Along with hard work and good ethics, these include gratitude, openness to feedback and an ability to encourage attitude. In other words, a good leader needs to be resilient.

Where does that leave you, the owner of your business? Clearly, quick and innovative thinking is required to move ahead. And addition, you need to take on board some personal abilities, which will help you to navigate through the changes. The two concepts are very much linked.

 

 

 

A post on LinkedIn from Geoff Burch referred to an a car repair job. Seemingly because he is a TV personality, the service was not insured. To summarise Burch’s thoughts, so much for customer care. After all, “happy customers make money”. (HCMM)

It reminded me of the time 30 years ago, when I had to go to the head Peugeot dealership in Jerusalem. They were incredibly rude. I complained to head office in France. The guys in Jerusalem were forced to apologise, but asked why I had not tried to resolve the issue locally in the first place. Er, um…. Meanwhile, I have not bought Peugeot again. Remember HCMM.

Have times changed? Last week, I ordered a new mobile phone via a website. I compared prices, delivery schedules etc between shops and decided on the retail chain called GoMobile.

Shortly afterwards, a rep of GoMobile called me up. “We just want to verify some details”. Oh yes, I think to myself. You know that it’s a trap, because he did not verify the model. Bottom line: The kit did not come with an original Samsung charger, but another make. If I am prepared to part with a small fortune, I can receive that and an extra year’s guarantee.

What the…? Why can’t they just put it in the package in the first place? Why the deception, from my perspective? To be fair, as was pointed out to me, this issue was clearly written on the website. But who takes in all the info, dotted all over the screen?

The rep was insistent and would not take no for an answer. So rather than trying to interrupt him, I let the guy waffle away. Finally, I was able to say no. I then told him that I would honour my order, but I think GoMobile is shooting itself in the foot. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“Because next time, I will not consider GoMobile as my first choice.” Suddenly, the rep was speechless. HCMM.

And if you think that is bad enough, try using Netvision as your e-mail server. That inbox receives about 30 spam entries a day from ladies suggesting various ‘services’. They all have the same content. However, Netvision will block this rubbish, if I just pay them around US$5 per month.

I have to ask myself: Why can’t Netvision just provide this service in an effort to provide excellent standards? Why are their customers subjected to this nonsense?

My three stories relate to incidents with Israeli services. However, I am sure that the world over is full of such incidents, daily.

When discussed as per above, it seems so obvious what suppliers should be doing. So why is it that so many fail? More importantly, what can you do to improve your service to your customers, right now?

Israel held its second general election almost a month ago, and there is no sign of a government in formation.

Incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu has a reputation of being a winner, usually. It seemed he had won back in April, only for one of his expected coalition partners (Yisrael Beiteinu) effectively to ditch him. Back to the electorate in September and he has actually ended up with a slightly worse set of cards to play with.

Today, he is a wounded race horse. The biggest evidence for this are those individuals, such as Gidon Sa’ar and Nir Barkat, in his own Likud party, who are beginning to announce that they are prepared to replace Netanyahu – of course, only if and when he resigns.

The same is true overseas. Assumedly one of his biggest fans, President Trump, has failed to do anything about recent Iranian aggression towards Saudi Arabia. Then last week, the Americans withdrew military protection from their Kurdish allies in northern Syria. Both items have sent shudders throughout the Israeli security services. (I remind you that one of Netanyahu’s key election posters included a photo of himself and his chum Trump, smiling together).

For good measure, Netanyahu’s supposedly close relations with President Putin are also being tested this weak. So far, Netanyahu’s words are having little impact.

Everyone knows that Netanyahu is facing legal accusations on at least three separate issues, involving bribery and the perverting of the course of justice. Many argue that the proverbial elephant in the room for both elections was Netanyahu’s desire to remain as Prime Minister for as long as possible. The law for removing a PM, if and when he has been formally charged, is unclear. It seems that technically he can stay where he is.

And what does this impasse mean for the average Israeli?

  1. The Bank of Israel has already issued a strong warning regarding the budget deficit, which has been out of control for nearly a year. Painful cuts are urged.
  2. The Bank of Israel has also reduced its estimates for economic growth in 2020 by a full half of one per cent to 3.0%.
  3. Reforms and incentives are held up. I have a client that wishes to apply for a government grant, which will help their company invest in new machinery. This will create employment and thus fulfill new export orders. The grant programme ran out a few months ago, and can only be extended when the Kenesset (Parliament) begins to work again. Meanwhile……
  4. Everyone accepts that the budget for the Ministry of Defense is large, relatively and absolutely. Including American support, it stands at 72.9 billion shekels (almost US$21 billion). Of this, 7.9 billion shekels (11%) is handed out in pensions. By way of comparison, the Ministry of Education is appropriated 6 billion shekels and the Ministry of Welfare 9.5 billion shekels annually. Disproportionate?
  5. As for the Ministry of Health, if you do not live in the key population centres, hospital services are simply poor. Pardon the pun, but I am sick and tired of seeing pictures of patients waiting in beds in hospital corridors. Unacceptable!

Aside from Netanyahu, there are at least three other politicians from the outgoing government awaiting for the Ministry of Justice to decide if they should be prosecuted. One of them includes the Minister of Health, Ya’akov Litzman, The Israeli political system is unwell, and most patients are demanding a new doctor be placed in charge.

Two Israeli Unicorns and both leading viral content distribution companies, Taboola.com Ltd. and Outbrain Inc., have agreed to combine forces.

Taboola was founded in 2007, has 1,400 employees and has raised over US$160 in a decade. Outbrain: founded 2006, 800 workers, and has raised US$150. Having spent years snipping at each other, they are now seeking to combine forces to take on Google. All change.

But most companies are not that global. Whatever the financial headlines, business is dominated by SMEs – individuals or small groups of people struggling daily to hit their targets in their own local neighbourhoods.

I recently was called in to three such operations in the Jerusalem area.

The first one was a relatively simple affair. The owner wanted to sell. I was asked if he was making the correct decision. Given the state of his business, his private situation and the offers received, the answer was a clear yes.

The good news was that here was a person that was prepared to put aside all his established thought processes, look beyond the jungle of clashing thoughts, and realise what needed to be done. Mega kudos points.

In the second scenario, I appreciated that the founder needed help, but that they could not be told out right what to do. So, I created a time line as to what would or would not happen, depending on their actions, carefully choosing a specific date months in advance.

I cannot say that the process was smooth. The initial meetings were accompanied by much resistance and the old-fashioned weapon of choice, ‘procrastination’. However, three months into the battle and we have a clear path forward and a completely new face to the marketing strategy. Quite literally, it is as if the CEO has discsovered a new language, judging by the way they are talking.

In case study number three, the story is more complex. Shortage of space forces me to narrow down the bare facts. This is a person, who is so caring that they will do anything for anyone. And this is the constant excuse why they cannot help themselves, because others need their attention.

The business model, such as it is, is truly weak, Nothing will change that pattern until they are able to comprehend that the damage they incur on themselves will eventually impact on those that they love.

We are taught that change is often seen as a threat. As a business coach and mentor, almost every week I try to show CEOs how in fact change can be such a fun, if not invigorating, challenge. Otherwise, we end up like approximately 80% of the Fortune 500 companies from  about 50 years ago – they are no longer around.

 

 

20190924_202609_001

It is that time in the calendar, when Jews celebrate the New Year. In Israel, the population now totals just over 9 million people. At a macro level, the economy is plodding along very nicely at over 3 per cent annually, and that despite buffoons for politicians in Parliament and enemies in Iran and in Gaza that seek a violent destruction to the capital of Jerusalem.

Israel has developed a reputation for innovation and entrepreneurship in the past two or so decades. Chat technology, cherry tomatoes, electric and driverless cars, understanding the sonar language of whales and much more. Hightech, fintech, cleantech, AI , foodtech, and the list drags on.

But what if……..

Somewhere around 2012, imagine a few nearly-thirty year old types gathered around a bar, sipping a wee dram of whisky. And then suppose one says how it is a shame that Israel does not have its own distillery. And then another poses the question: ‘well, what if we set one up?”

And thus was born the concept of The Milk and Honey Distillery, now located in a most uninspiring area of south Tel Aviv. No luscious green mountains nor lochs, but the noise of major road works and urban redevelopment.

The founders and original investors brought in Dr Jim Swann, the go-to expert for setting up distilleries in humid climates. (Unfortunately, he passed away, before he could taste the success of his efforts.) They rescued a pot still, abandoned in central Europe. They launched a micro funding campaign. They opened a visitors centre, which has hosted over 18,000 guests and sold much gin in the gap years.

Whisky from the first cask was sold after three years of maturation. (For the record, 36 months in a cask in Israel is the equivalent to a much longer time than in Scotland).  This week, the Founders’ Edition was released at a stunning gala event in Tel Aviv. I did enjoy a small drop of a 62 percent sherry cask, just 20 months after being distilled.

The distillery is now experimenting by placing casks not just in mountainous areas, similarly to Scotland. They are utilising the costal plain and also the Dead Sea region, the lowest point in the world. Export orders to around a dozen countries have already been fulfilled.

It has been a pleasure to be one of the founding investors in the micro funding project. And I do look forward to opening my bottle this week. The distillery itself will be exhibiting around Europe over the next month.

And as for the Jewish New Year…..Well, it is a tradition to welcome it by dipping apple into honey. Need I say more!  Lechayim and Slainte!!

 

 

 

 

 

Client Feedback

"Michael transformed the way I think and approach working, and also how to monetize my social media and communal projects."

CEO of digital media company

"Michael helped my high tech company take off."

CEO of clean energy start up

"Michael has been an invaluable resource to me throughout all of the steps of starting up my business."

Art Studio owner

CEO of digital media company
CEO of clean energy start up
Art Studio owner