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.

To receive your free 20-minute consultation with Michael (in English or Hebrew), call on 052 344 8453, or send an email to

Not sure about reaching out to me? Have a look at this blog, a case study of a client who was in your position.

Free podcast with Jonathan Gabay
That moment when you decide to change things around

For all the advice on offer: What is that one key lesson small business owners need to learn from corona?

Until Corona emerged, many of us had predictable or standard modes of working. We did not allow for major hiccups. Then along came February 2020 with the bat virus from a third-grade lab in Far East Asia. Boom! Everything turned upside down, and we had nothing to cling on to.

One of the most successful incubators for hightech companies in Israel is a military unit called 8200. Their core starting point for analysing anything is to take all known assumptions and to disconnect from them. That is how you create a disruptive tech that investors must have.

Corona is not a ‘must have’ factor, when it comes to health. But in business and trade, it is. For millions of enterprise owners across the globe, they have been forced to think again about their core business model. They have had to get up and lead, as if from scratch. And now it is your turn.

Let’s look at the story of Debbie (named changed), a client of mine in the field of personal welfare in Jerusalem. Mid 30s, she took on a loan to back her new enterprise in late 2019, and it quickly showed signs of progress. A few months later, lockdown killed the trade almost overnight. The debts began to mount alarmingly.

I was called in to help.

Debbie’s first reaction was one of skepticism, to put it mildly. After all, I had to admit that I did not know much about her line of work. However, I convinced her to go through a couple of sessions with me. I had identified something from our first few minutes of chatting that Debbie had not appreciated.

Until then, Debbie’s thoughts had focused on rescuing the “what”, the final product. However, I concentrated on “how” she approached selling. Debbie had told me that she has a track record in sales, setting higher targets from year to year. And by early 2020, she had become a true genius in e-commerce.

I encouraged Debbie to coordinate her energies around her core talents. Rapidly, out went the product. It was replaced by an offer of a package of advisory services. More importantly, she developed alternative revenue streams to pay off the loan. Debbie has become the ‘must have’ for others!

This story is not unique. I was listening to the CEO of a large plastics factory, describing how his order book had dried up. He had refused to lay off loyal, highly-qualified staff for as long as possible. Just as the first lockdown ended in Israel, he received a solitary order to make a couple of panels to protect workers at a check out till. Bingo! Suddenly, production went back into high gear, as he twigged that this was about to become a mass market.

The lesson is that if you run a business, never be complacent. Lead and lead again, with resilience and also clarity of vision. Leadership is not just about being the person that your team can identify with. It is about you – finding the skillset to identify what can be done differently in order to haul in the profits.

It is that skill of leadership that I install in my clientele. And I believe that it is one of the main reasons that none of my customers have shut up shop during 2020.

To find out more about my business mentoring and coaching services, contact me on 0523 448453 or via

Other blogs can be found on my website, via this link

To receive your free 20-minute consultation with Michael (in English or Hebrew), call on 052 344 8453, or send an email to

While you are here, look over this blog that I prepared for my customers.

Addressing StartMeUpHK – Pitch event for startups

Corona has been with us for nearly a year. As a business coach and mentor, not one of my clients has shut down during that time. And I have even on-boarded several during 2020, who have registered new enterprises.

Is there a magic formula to their success?

If we look back to the end of the winter earlier this year, economies around the world went into panic mode. In Israel, the core government action was to try to make loans available. In other words, the politicians came up with a plan to beat debt ……. by encouraging small business owners to take on more debt!

As one cash-strapped CEO observed to me, you should only take on a loan if you know how (and when) you are going to pay it off. The time of corona has taught us once again just how little certainly there is in commerce.

To state the obvious, there had to be another way from the direction of Jerusalem central government. During 2020, many of my clients adopted three basic principles. As a package, these measures have allowed their operations first to survive and then to go on to develop new sales’ channels.

So what can your team learn from these experiences?


Sounds obvious, no? Recall the woeful sight of the owner of a shoe shop in Tel Aviv just throwing his stock on the pavement and telling people to take. They would not even leave 20 shekels for an item. If you are contemplating giving stock away for free, there has to be an alternative.

I point to tour guides, who from the get-go embraced the suggestion that they offer virtual tours. I recall the book shop that brought forward plans to set up a website. I am working with a boutique fashion operation that established a VIP service. They meet with customers on a one-by-one basis and thus maintain social distancing.

You have a business. You have something to sell. Go find a medium so that your customers will run back to you.


Again, this may sound dumb. Actually, I am staggered how few business owners appreciate that this is the time, when your customers want to hear from you. They need to know that ‘you have got their back’, now more than ever. They may not buy on the spot, but your are building up kudos points for later on. For example, the quick-thinking gymnasiums have been creating online classes for their members. I have a number of clients in the medical / wellness business, who spent time phoning or emailing their own clients base.

One of the most encouraging stories I heard came from El Al, a company which is arguably positioned in the heart of the industry most impacted by corona. And they have a pretty dodgy reputation at the best of times. The airline was bought out during the summer. One of the initial decisions of the new owners was to guarantee repayment of prepaid tickets for flights that had been cancelled. I value that commitment.


Your business is founded on core skills and the ability to deliver. Those strengths do not disappear just because of a bat-related virus.

It is not just high-tech companies on international stock exchanges that have been doing well. Building contractors and design companies cannot stop selling. Wealth management practices have been flooded with clients. Where is your mojo?

Have a look at Bizzaabo. They design technologies for international conferences. They could have panicked back in February, when their market evaporated. Instead, they pivoted, creating “a platform that would have 10 functions that were until then in the hands of 10 different suppliers’. They have since raised US$138 million.

You are in business to sell. I coach executives to test and improve their business model, consistently. Corona has only sharpened that message – for all of us.

I have provided mentoring, coaching and consulting services for 15 years to a range of industries. To learn more about how I can transform your business, call on 0523 448453, or via  

Other blogs can be found on my website, via this link  

To receive your free 20-minute consultation with Michael (in English or Hebrew), call on 052 344 8453, or send an email to

Thank you for clicking through. I always try to provide additional support for my clients. For example, have a look at the blog below.

Chasing mountains in Italy

2020 has been bitterly cold and cruel to many business owners like yourself – in fact, doubly so.

We know that stats reveal that small business owners have been hurt harder than most. On the one hand, markets have shrunk, if not disintegrated. And then you look around. You see stock exchanges booming or renovation companies enjoying success. Unemployment pay encourages people to stay at home. It just does not seem fair.

Permit me to show off for a moment.

  • Most of my clients have learnt how they can boost sales, because of or despite corona.
  • Several clients have opened new operations since the early summer.
  • I have developed overseas markets on three continents in 2020.

The difference? How can you have a piece of this change? Start by abandoning the ‘corona mentality’!

Corona encourages us to think small. We go into survival mode. We stop looking for where the big money is. I assume that without wanting to sound greedy, you are in business to obtain your fair share of that jackpot.

The challenge is to realise that you too are good enough hold a mountain in your own hands.

Take two examples of clients from the past week alone in the Jerusalem area. Joey has for months threatened to launch a Facebook campaign, based on a free consultation. Meantime, he rested his laurels on miserly amounts of passive income. The moment he rejected this attitude, his posts began to go viral. His calendar has filled up and the bank account is starting to tick over again happily.

Alternatively, Susan had actually developed a full marketing campaign on a whim for a Fortune 500 company, but never had bothered to send it off for consideration. It remained filed away, until I convinced her to release it. She is now planning similar coups.

Thinking big commercially does not make you an immodest person, and it can improve your lifestyle. That is what my business mentoring programme is all about – clients rediscovering their thirst for success and my helping them turn on the proverbial tap.

To learn more about how I have taken businesses through corona, emerging with higher sales, call on 0523 448453, or via  

Other blogs can be found on my website, via this link  

About once a year, I publish a full article that has been posted elsewhere. As we are in mid-December, I feel it is finally time to ‘honour that tradition’ in 2020.

The financial newspaper in Israel, Globes, has just announced their annual award for the most promising start up of the year. Congratulations to Bizzabo!

However, such announcements always prompts the question: Whatever happened to last year’s success stories, especially as one might expect covid-19 to have a negative impact?

Globes has not disappointed. Below you will find a list of the top ten performers in 2019, startups that “were able to surmount the obstacles, get back on track, and even prosper,” this year.

I encourage you to read on and learn how they overcame the roadblocks:

No sooner had the year begun, when IoT security company Armis (fourth place) announced on January 7 that it was being acquired by venture capital fund Insight Partners for $1.1 billion. It was an unusual model for an exit being acquired by a venture capital fund. In effect it was a large secondary deal with the founders and employees realizing some of their shares and the company continues to operate independently.

Armis was forced to develop a product that could be installed remotely and after a weak second quarter, activities recovered and they are set to end 2020 more or less realizing their original forecasts.

Last year’s top ranked startup of the year was DriveNets, which has developed cloud software for communications networks infrastructure. DriveNets, founded by CEO Ido Susan and chief strategy officer Hillel Kobrinsky also had to find alternative ways for installing its solutions on customer’s networks. But the company enjoyed high demand from the start because of the changing ways in which Internet networks were being used – the shift to home working and studying made existing networks inefficient because they were built on the major part of capacity being within the office.

DriveNets made it possible to manage networks more flexibly and communication companies understood that this solution was needed by them. DriveNets also announced during 2020 that the core network of AT&T would be based on its technology.

Last year’s most promising startup runner-up JoyTunes, which has developed an app for learning the piano, also benefitted from the Covid-19 crisis from the very start. By April, JoyTunes had surpassed its annual target and in a June interview with “Globes” CEO Yuval Kaminka said, “Coronavirus uncovered something that in fact we knew that people really want to learn.” It’s clear that they will invest less time when they return to routine, he added, but somebody who has discovered that they love to do something will invest more time afterwards.

Third placed Fabric also benefitted from the pandemic. The company builds urban supply chains for retail in city center warehouses operated by robots. Fabric said the company enjoys high demand but operations are still in the relatively early stages although it has opened its first warehouse in New York.

Fifth placed Verbit, which develops technology for automatic transcripts and captioning, raised $60 million last month, to bring the total it has raised to $126 million and said that revenue has risen 400% over the past year.

Sixth placed Trigo, which develops technology allowing stores to dispense with checkout tills, said that it has met its targets in 2020 despite Covid-19, despite the shift in purchases from brick and mortar stores to online, in part because people are reluctant to wait in link at checkout because of the need to social distance.

Seventh placed Papaya Global, which has developed a payroll and payments automation platform, completed a $40 million financing round and has raised $95 million since it was founded.

Eighth placed, which has developed an open code based data analysis system for programmers that can identify errors, raised $23 million, after raising $52 million in 2019, and has raised a total of $120 million.

Ninth placed Wiliot, which has developed a battery-free Bluetooth chip, has also enjoyed heightened interest during the Covid-19 crisis because of the increased amount of deliveries and the need to track the consignments that are sent. Medical deliveries for example require tracking to ensure that chilled temperatures are maintained.

Tenth placed Duality Technologies, which has developed technology for analysis of encrypted data, said that it continues to grow and has imposed no layoffs or salary cuts.

Unless there is a last minute compromise – which could only look pathetic and ugly in the eyes of the public – Israel is spluttering, repugnantly and embarrassingly – to its fourth general election in 24 months. To illustrate how paralysed the decision-makers appear, current estimates do not assume a poll could be organised for at least 45 days, and possibly not until mid May!

It gets worse.

Sure, you are probably wondering, should not politicians be thinking about protecting people from corona rather protecting their own pensions? Yes, some public health officials have declared that the ‘third wave’ is already with us. There again, whatever his reasons, Prime Minister Netanyahu will not be summoning the corona cabinet to meet this week. Is he too busy with other matters?

As for the economy, I cannot be optimistic. No budget was passed for 2020. No budget for 2021 can be approved before February next year, and that in the most hopeful of scenarios. Amazingly, the Treasury, which has been weakened by the departure of senior staff, has predicted 5% growth for the year ahead.

Sounds impressive? That estimate reeks of ‘election economics’. Maybe the OECD has a more realistic term of reference. It believes that it will not be until 2022 that the economy will return to ‘normal‘.

The Bank of Israel has noted that the economy will have contracted by around 4.5% this year. Under the best of circumstances, unemployment will not be less than 8% by the end of 2021. (The current figure is about 20%, as furlough assistance actually encourages many to stay at home!). And government financial incentives are still determined by bureaucrats, which will keep the potential beneficiaries in long-term debt.

The key politicians in the spheres of health and economics are members of the Prime Minister’s Likud Party, which he totally controls. You do not see too many of these apparatchiks, walking around the streets of the main cities, being photographed outside the rows of shops that have shuttered up (or down).

To date, the electorate is repeatedly told by the PM that we are in a better position than other countries. Maybe encouraging, but hardly helpful when looking to pay your basic bills.

As we approach 2021, I do not find the current leadership of the country one that I can identify with, especially when it comes to core issues such as looking after my family’s health and finances.

For the third time within a year, Binyamin Netanyahu claimed this March that he had won a phenomenal victory at the polls. And for the third time. he ended up forming a coalition that could not last.

Jump forward to November 2020 and we see the inevitable beginning of the end of the current Italian comedy. The difference this time is that Bibi, as the Israeli PM is affectionally known, has discarded so many former allies that next time round, they may be able to form a government without him. (This assumes that their hatred and distrust of him is enough to bind them together, despite their clashing egos).

Politics in Israel has been dominated this year by first and obviously how to handle covid-19, and secondly the sensational development of relations with Gulf States. Bibi has been at the forefront of both.

During the Spring, Bibi was seen on TV constantly. By May, he was claiming that covid-19 was under control and that society could start a process of normalisation. He had risen to the task.

The summer brought……… hot weather. Economic hardship set in, especially for the sectors not tied in to hightech. Over 20% unemployment, a fiasco over loans for small businesses, a government budget that has yet to be passed even today and a series of arrogant statements by Bibi’s supporters that appeared to play down the woes of the common people. As a second lockdown then kicked in, Bibi was no longer seen making Churchill-like appearances on the telly.

The Autumn brought a flood of good news from overseas. The UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and with assumedly more to come countries established diplomatic links with Israel. Nobody doubts that Bibi has led the way on this matter. Equally, nobody also doubts that he has kept this credit from his coalition partners (or enemies), who actually hold the important portfolios of Defense and also Foreign Affairs. They were kept in the dark on key developments.

Would you call this leadership in the time of corona?

We must not forget that underneath all of these events lies the volcano of Bibi’s trial next year. He has been indicted on three counts, and only an oversight in the constitution allows him to remain as Prime Minister. That is what drives nearly all of his decisions. And his need to cling to power is what will lead the country into another unwanted election.

What’s wrong with that? S&P recently confirmed Israel’s high credit rating. However, in interviews on the radio, the author of the report indicated that internal political uncertainty will soon jeopardise that position. It will cost the country more money to finance its growing debts.

So if Bibi has led Israel to this point, what can he deliver in the future? Despite the rhetoric, he is a man who neither unifies nor shows compassion. Is he a person with you can identify with, even if you disagree with his politics? Multiple opinion polls suggest not.

So what does Bibi have to offer the Israeli electorate in 2021, other than revelations from his trials? We wait to see.

Last week, I wrote about the mental anxiety of Covid in Israel. I guess that when an economy drops into deep recession within months, racks up over 20% unemployment and begins to empty out its treasury, something will give.

According to Channel 12 news last night, 54% of the new unemployed were working for SMEs – small medium sized enterprises, which comprise over 90% of most global economies. It is estimated that 25% of these SMEs lost 80% of their sales, as opposed to 5% for large firms.

How does this play out on society?

ERAN is a charity, which provides ’emotional first aid’. They received 40,779 request for help during their first lockdown in the early Spring. 732 were related to suicidal conditions. For the second lockdown, the equivalent numbers are 31,583 and 820!

Many have pointed out that during the first lockdown, while the deaths mounted, there was an atmosphere of hope. ‘We will overcome’. Today, the formula is far more frightening:

Return of lockdown + government’s perceived incompetence + lack f leadership = depression (both the economy and the individual).

Channel 12 also referred to such details. According to their unnamed sources, during the previous 11 days alone, there had been 252 records of attempted suicide. Continuing the theme, there has been an 18% increase in reported domestic violence during the year.

There was no budget for 2020. Planning for 2021 is lost in the vagaries of coalition politics. Seven key civil servants in the Finance and Health Ministries have left their positions since April. And our exalted leaders can be heard, shouting at each other. However, I could find no pictures available of senior politicians visiting city centres or struggling businesses.

You sense that the PM along with the heads of those two ministries have abandoned the people who elected them. Meantime, Israelis are left to suffer – financially and emotionally. That costs the country, big time and long term!

Three unrelated points of informatio

  • In a podcast at the end of last week, The Economist Magazine examined how communities in the west are altering their views of preparing for death. Pardon the pun, but we are being more proactive since the onset of covid-19.
  • Last Tuesday, the Israel Psychiatric Association, warned that the second lockdown “took away all of our normal coping mechanisms for such an emergency.” Up to 20% of Israelis could be suffering from emotional and psychological distress as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • When I now have an opportunity to see friends and family, I have noticed a change amongst those who are stuck at home with little work. A fizz and bubble is missing from them. Disturbing.

Covid-19 has dominated news coverage since February and continues to do so around the world, including in America during election week. The reporting continues to emphasise that around 1.2 million have died, globally. Businesses have been destroyed. Political leaders, together with health and finance ministers, offer platitudes but no substance.

Interestingly, few have admitted that the mental health costs of covid-19 could be just as great as the immediate economic fall out. It appears a subject too hot that it must be ignored, at last in public statements. And yet it is right in front of us.

Here is a very simple example. Teachers have discovered zoom. Kids are thus learning, at least somewhat. But they are losing the ability to develop valuable inter-personal skills. And as for being cooped up at home with frustrated siblings and frantic parents…….. Don’t tell me, there is no social cost here!

Dr. Robert Brooks addressed the issue admirably in his most recent monthly paper. Citing the ‘Stockdale Paradox’, he notes that the famous POW in Vietnam, despite being tortured, “never lost faith in the end of the story.

In essence, the Stockdale Paradox captures the belief that one must maintain hope while being able to accept and consider options for dealing with existing, often seemingly overwhelming, hardships.

I suppose this is some what similar to the work of the Austrian psychiatrist, Dr. Viktor Frankl. In his ever-so-relevant book from 1946, “Man’s Search For Meaning”, he described how he and others coped with the dehumanisation of Nazi concentration camps.

Jonathan Gabay, an international brand expert and short movie demon, has created a fascinating series of podcasts, entitled “Thought and Leaders”. His talk with former political spin-king, Alastair Campbell, was amazing. You listen to it and you ‘suddenly get it’, when it comes to ineffective leadership.

What do I mean? Politicians like Trump, Corbyn and Netanyahu base their rhetoric on sowing distrust, creating divide, and searching for extreme arguments. At a time of pandemic, surely electorates deserve empathy and mutual compassion? We need each other to get through it.

Leadership in the work environment has also come under scrutiny. When everybody is located on the one site, it is relatively easy for the boss to be seen and felt. The virtual set up does not allow them to abandon that role. Even the most reliable of employee, as they operate from home, needs guidance and support…… and to feel that somebody has ‘got their back’.

Over the past 9 months in Israel, politics and personal aspirations have appeared to have shaped some key parts of the decision-making process. Most people, who I talk to, have simply lost trust in the ability of the government to act, decisively and in a bipartisan manner. It is depressing.

And it is not just me. More and more shops are opening up, in defiance of the lockdown, as the government seems unable to convince even themselves of what they are doing is correct.

But, hey, who cares? Let’s set everyone off against each other. It doesn’t cost anything…… on the surface.

Here’s a scenario that most of us can relate to – either from our own experiences or with our kids.

The child is revising for a crucial exam. Thy do not have the patience for another 30 minutes and just walk off (run away?) from the job. You are furious. Worse is that you cannot find the words to encourage them back.

Belatedly, I found a trick that appealed to children, reaching out to them through their sporting heroes. No matter how brilliant the player, these stars have coaches, who keep them training several days a week. They go over the same materials, despite the intrinsic skill and knowledge of the athlete.

If that is what the hero must do, the hero would expect no less from the kid. But now dear reader, swop the word athlete for business owner.

How many times have I come across a struggling CEO, who refuses to believe that I, a qualified business coach and mentor, can make that difference? After all, they are the ones that know. They are experienced. And I do not know their company’s history.

David Cluttterbuck, author of the classic “Everyone needs a mentor” has a beautiful story. One day, the golf trainers did not turn up to teach their students. Hasty replacements were found in some tennis pros. The trainers returned the following day and discovered to their bemusement that the swing of their clients had improved beyond recognition!

I was reminded of that when last week, I was honoured to receive a long letter of praise from a Jerusalem-based client. My wife suggested that I share the following excerpt:

My business was in a terrible state after the first lockdown, in fact it wasn’t really working even before the corona crisis started. I had tried on my own, unsuccessfully. Michael taught me business basics, how to …. and out of the box thinking for future growth. The last point is especially important in this challenging times. I look now much more confident into the future. I have a clearer vision of where I want to be and a path to get there.

You may be looking to generate new sales or tighten financial controls or develop strategy or more – but no law told you that you have to struggle on your own. That is rarely clever nor usually cost effective.

The very fact that you may even be considering a business coach and mentor is very often an indication that you could use one, starting right now. Help yourself out and stop trying to deny it!

Eight months into the Covid-19 crisis, and the Israeli government has yet to draw up a clear economic response paper to the crisis. As the country is leaving its second lockdown, we know that:

  • The economy imploded by over 10% in the first half of 2020.
  • In September, unemployment doubled within 30 days.
  • The shekel is still gaining against major currencies, ensuring that exports are less competitive.
  • And at least five senior officials at the Ministry of Finance have quit in protest at the incompetence of their political bosses.

A totally uninspiring scenario.

Yes, investment in hightech remains buoyant. The peace agreements with Gulf states are brining almost immediate economic benefits, at last for those at the top. The Israeli Prime Minister reminded his nation that the country is ahead of Europe, which is just heading into its ‘second wave’ of the virus.

But so what? The European Union is Israel’s second largest trading partner. It is facing the threat of what is known as ‘double dip recession‘. If so, this will further threaten the ability to buy goods and services from Israel.

Bibi Netanyahu was a Finance Minister, who helped to craft much of the success of the past two decades. Today, he is wedged between the impact of Covid-19, his preparation for three legal trials, and a political constellation that keeps him tied to an ultra-orthodox community that has little immediate interest in economic rejuvenation.

In other words, the Prime Minister has neither the time nor the ability nor the space to lead his country out of its economic mess. There is no “new plan” on offer. There are no suggestions to revamp city centres, which are turning into dustbowls, literally. People are still being paid to stay at home on furlough rather than giving the money the companies to re-employ them. Grants to businesses are still wrapped in confusing conditions and based on one factor and one factor only – did your revenues decrease by more than 25% in early 2020?

This is absolute nonsense. This is a leadership that has walked away from its electorate. This is unacceptable.

Nevertheless, it is amazing how some people have learnt to adapt and to pivot.

  • The clothing shop that offers a private VIP service.
  • A plastics factory that realised how shops and reception areas need screens
  • The bike store that has supplied dozens of home trainers.

None of these small business owners hung around, waiting for guidance from those who have been elected or promoted, because they are supposed to know better!

Is there hope? I leave with a piece of ingenuity from the younger generation. Four kids felt they were desperate for a burger and chips from McDonalds. However, the restaurant chain was only permitted to sell via drive-in takeaways.

Our heroes found some carton boxes and cut them into the shape of a car. With their new ‘attire’, they pulled up (so-to-speak) alongside the check out counter and dutifully ordered. Everyone was a winner and the government regulations were adhered to.

Well, it is easier to formulate regulations rather than dramatic new policies and provide hope for the future.

Israel is just about to start the process of unlocking its second lockdown. I have written previously about how parts of the government have created a deep lack of trust amongst the wider public.

And then this series of events happens.

First, it was reported yesterday that Jo Biden’s running mate – who remembers their names? – will not be hitting the election trail for a few days. Three of her team have contracted the virus.

Second, I have just read that the commander of the crack Duvduvan unit has been dismissed from his post. He broke quarantine rules, prayed with his unit on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and then lied to cover up his actions. 27 of his soldiers were later infected by the virus!

Next up? We know that many religious seminaries (Yeshivot) will open next week – in clear defiance of government rules. On the basis of the last 30 days, few fines can be expected.

Finally, let us recall the actions of the Gila Gamliel, a minister of government and member of the Prim Minister’s Likud Party. Infected, she prayed in a Synagogue on Yom Kippur. Other members of her staff became infected – via her? She evidently tried to ignore the press hiatus at first. She may have paid a fine.

Moral of the story.

You can be a soldier, risk your life for your country, make a bad mistake and get punished. Or you can be highly religious educator and fight for your religion or you can fight for the highest politician in the land, endanger people around you ….. and get away with it.

What do you think?

As Covid-19 is demanding from the world to face up to its biggest economic challenge since the onset of the Second World War, which CEO has the time muck around with the sophistication of branding?

The horrors of this international virus, which has leaped across borders like a virtual internet connection, has shaken up most of the cushy marketing agencies. They and their clientele have had to adopt ‘new’ words or attitudes like:

  • responsibility
  • sensitivity
  • genuine
  • self compassion

Take the airline company, El Al. For decades, the joke was that the letters stood for ‘every landing always late’. The food was rarely brilliant. On one long distance flight last year, my food-board would not hold up properly.

Last month, El Al sent out a brilliant letter to all those would be travellers, who held tickets for flights that had been cancelled. Showing humility and understanding, they created a simple set of ways to retrieve your money. Finally, the company was learning to value its name – its brand.

Many companies are claiming to have rebranded, when all they are doing is treating clients as thy should have done for years previously. For example, click on this list of supposedly great ideas from 33 Israeli outfits. many of which are just marketing corrections. Food manufacturers have been forced to realise that you can no longer stick up a persuasive sign in Tesco or Walmart, as people are no longer visiting supermarkets in such numbers.

A leading branding consultant, Jonathan Gabay, has built a fascinating audio library of how people have responded or adapted to the covid crisis. His “Thought and Leaders” global podcast series has ben most revealing. Decision makers, from all walks of life, have described their reactions to 2020, finding new value and meaning to their business strategies and personal agendas.

Gabay is based in London. He is seen regularly on Sky TV or the BBC, and he has consulted with members of the Fortune 500 club. His most recent podcast is a satirical but ultimately damning look at how the British government expects the unemployed to respond to retraining. Some people have not woken up to the fact that patronising and false empathy is OUT!

Business coach, Dave Bailey, asks if you can create an elevator pitch based around just 30 words. You just state the pain, USP and benefit. Difficult for many, but then just think about your logo – zero words. It is merely a clever picture which sums up everything

Branding is as important as ever. What covid is imploring us to understand is that words are cheap. They always were. Corporates (and politicians?) have to prove that their products and services contain true value. The words demand to be accompanied by affirmative actions.

Earlier this week, serial entrepreneur, Richard Branson, asked global thought leader, Simon Sinek:

“If you were starting a business right now, what problem would you be setting out to solve, and why?”

Sinek’s response is not an obviously commercial one. He asks people to question how we relate to each other. Leaders today lack empathy. We need to be more human.

So, here I am, a well-known business coach and mentor in my circles in Israel. How can I give this message some meaning to my clients around Jerusalem and beyond?

As I was pondering away, I came across an item from “The Economist” magazine re the importance of humour in the workplace. Can it up productivity? It can certainly bring in additional clientele, when used creatively, as this petrol station in the USA found out.

What Sinek, the Economist and the petrol station team are telling us can be summed up as a lesson in 101 marketing: Find a way to communicate, directly and with clarity, to your target audience.

  • Don’t create websites, which are full of catch phrases but distort or hide your core message.
  • Revamp seemingly clever pricing policies that offer so many options, and thus your target audience cannot reach a decision.
  • Remember who you are talking to and what is “their” objective. Whatever you have to sell, it is about them, not you!

Understand this critical dynamic, and you are starting to become that ‘human’ Sinek had referred to! Potential customers will listen to you. Sales will be engaged. You will have hit the commercial soft spot that Sinek alluded to.

Covid-19 has destroyed large parts of most economies in the OECD, much temporarily and some permanently. Most businesses more deeply cursed are SMEs – small and medium enterprises that typically represent 95% of all economic activity.

In the 1930s, Roosevelt introduced the New Deal into the dust bowls of America. A decade later, on a similar basis, the Marshall Plan ignited the economies of Europe after the Second World War.

And in Israel in 2020? This is an economy that has spent much of the past two decades outperforming itself, even after the global credit crisis. And look at the positives of October 2020:

  • Israeli tech companies, which raised a record $8.3 billion in 2019, have already raised over $7.6 billion in the first nine months of 2020….
  • The commercial agreements with the UAE and Bahrain will see vast additional monies enter the domestic markets, which gods and services are sent in the opposite direction.
  • Chevron has chosen to come to Israel, feeding off the new emerging energy industries.

The problem is that this is all top line stuff. It does little to help in the short and medium term the many shops that have fled respective city centres. There are now close to one million people without work, and just 3,000 of the clever ones may be retrained. The evening news reported this work a 30% jump in calls too help the homeless.

To be it bluntly, it will take years to make up this lost ground, nver mind the social aspects.

And what has the central government offered to date? Well, I am no supporter of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Finance Minister, Katz. However, we are talking about measures that are grounded in a different commercial era.

Billions have been allocated for loans. Never mind the paperwork still involved. This is simply storing up even greater consumer and commercial debt for a latter date. Bad!

Grants are available, if you can prove that your business has suffered a 25% drop in sales. Sounds like a good starting bar, no? But what happens to those operations, where income is always delayed and so cannot register any downturn for a while? Or those who have suffered a 10% fall off, but that is enough to force them to lay off workers? And so I could go on.

This is a one-size-fits-all approach. It has probably been created / cobbled together by civil servants and politicians who have yet to visit the desolate city centres and boarded up shop fronts. Few have ever run a business to know what is needed!

What is needed is clarity of vision, combined with sharp, new and refreshing angles – as per Roosevelt and Marshall. (As I write these words, I was struck by the sad irony that the death was announced of the marvellous reggae singer, Jonny Nash. His biggest hit was …… “I can see clearly now”.)

So rather than just complaining, what can be done? What can I suggest? Here are 5 separate tracks that together offer a very powerful impact.

Reduce the immediate pain:

  • Cut out / slash local rates, including for home businesses.
  • Ditto re national insurance contributions, which are stopping employers from hiring.
  • Reduce the income tax for self employed by 50%.

Give out money:

The Israeli government has belatedly realised that it is paying people to be laid off and then to stay at home.

  • Pay companies to bring back workers for 3 months.
  • Offer a grant to SMEs to pay for a marketing campaign on social media or revamp their website.
  • Pay for free / heavily subsidized business mentoring hours, and pay the mentors properly.
  • Convert part of loans into grants – against deliverables.
  • Training – pay for companies to do it in house. They know what they want better then anyone else.

Reduce the paperwork:

  • The kind of help described above requires public money to be spent. There so many checks and controls involved these days that entrepreneurs give up seeking help. (Maybe I should blog my own case studies).
  • RETHINK! Just say a few additional scams get through (sadly) becasue of weaker controls, what could be the much greater communal benefit?

Rezone empty retail properties

  • If a shop or similar lies empty for more than 6 months, maybe the local authority can force the landlord to accept a new tenant. (Yes – controversial).
  • Subsidise new businesses that have to pay high rents.
  • Where rows of shops lie empty, issue a compulsory purchase order, offer the owners a compensation rent, allow in on short-term minimal rents retail or service businesses. (Again , controversial).


  • If you can have incubators or accelerators for high-tech, can a similar concept not be developed for the retail and service sectors?

A government can rarely tell people what to do. A government CAN create the infrastructure so that people can help themselves.

To date, the Israeli government has failed in this task. You may not like all of my ideas, but they offer a way out of the current mess.

Trust matters in a pandemic—not only trust in the scientific and medical advice the government provides but trust among citizens. Perhaps the single greatest responsibility of leaders in times of a crisis is to inspire such trust.

Dr. Michael Sandel, as cited by Dr. Robert Brooks

In a previous post, I referred to a series of articles on the 1973 Yom Kippur War. For me, the stand out item shared the reflections of two 25-or-so years old students. Miki and Gideon were not heroes in a tank or paratroopers. Their job every night was to supply food and petrol to Israeli troops, along a 15km stretch in the Golan Heights.

They were dodging the fire of both sides. No maps. No GPS. And in the morning, they would rest. Occasionally, they would wonder over to the communications tent to hear the voices, belonging to those who could not be ‘got out’ from the battle field – literally uttering their final words to a helpless wire operator.

As in many of the stories, the soldiers ignored the fear of the moment, but returned home with unforgettable pictures and sounds. Essentially, they had been happy. They remained proud of their country. You did what you had to do, because you could trust your leaders to be honest, even when their judgement was askew. (The various intelligence services shouldered the blame for the mistakes of the war).

Over the past 24 months, Israel has seen:

  • 3 general elections – all inconclusive.
  • 3 indictments issued against the Prime Minister.
  • 2 budgets that have not been prepared. There is hope that the numbers for 2020 will be approved in December – I kid you not!
  • 1,682 Covid-19 related deaths, so far.
  • 2 lockdowns, the second of which is currently in place!

With the hindsight of 72 years, Israel has coped very well with the existential threats. But, last night, Saturday night, as the first part of the Festival of Succot (Tabernacles) came to an end, the country opened up to a new reality.

On the one hand, demonstrations, which had theoretically been severely curtailed by the lockdown, took on a vast new dimension. Instead of thousands located in a couple of positions. Hundreds turned up at hundreds of separate locations. Arguably, the effect of the protest was even more telling in this new incarnation. (I have little compassion for those few idiots who broke the law and fought with the police – MH).

The common theme of the shouting: ‘Bibi go home’. Why? Your party controls the Finance Ministry, when the economy has partially collapsed. You hold the Health Ministry, whose directives lack clarity and political support. And you Mr. Prime Minister have no moral ground to remain in office, when serious charges of corruption hang over your head.

To put that last sentence in another format: Most political analysts directly ascribe the political uncertainty in the country to Bibi’s desire to cling to power. This is not just an issue of ego. By doing so, he is seen by many as trying to ensure that his trial will never commence in January 2021, as he tries to weaken the powers of the judiciary.

Also last night, in some ultra-orthodox neighbourhoods, the police were attacked. Here, the socio-religious-political dynamic is more complex. However, it boils down to a simple component. There are sections of the community that have for decades not been encouraged nor forced to adopt the core cultural fabric of the State of Israel. So why should they start now, even when 40% (and growing) of new corona sufferers are from these very areas?

Uncannily, the wilder protesters from both groupings share a major dynamic. It is the same thought echoed over the dinner table or whatsapp groups or phone calls or any opportunity, when I can communicate with others. To be blunt:

There is a total lack of trust in the Prime Minister – neither as an individual nor in his abilities nor in his immediate circle – to get things done. His political longevity had been derived from slick slogans. Today, Israel needs the actions of a credible leader. Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu is not that person.

Dr. Sandel is correct! No inspiration. No trust.

Back in the early 1970s, Netanyahu was a young soldier in a crack unit. His brother was to give his life at the famous Entebbe Raid in 1976. Impressive and sad. But these historical interludes do not allow his entourage to characterise the demonstrators as anarchists. In effect, they (we) are looking for those values that got the country through the 1973 war.

The Netanyahu family does not provide those values today.

That same war led to the resignation of much of the top echelons of the political establishment. They had got it wrong. They found the guts and wisdom to accept responsibility. By 1977, their party was thrown out of power, rarely to return.

So let me leave you with the story of Geula, seen in the picture below protesting yesterday. I assume that at the age of 91, she would be flattered to be considered as a trouble-maker. Back in 1948, she was a fighter in the Yiftach Unit of the Palmach, as Arab armies attacked the newly declared State of Israel.

Geula – Protesting on 3.10.2020,

During training, she met her husband to be. He came from a family with roots in Austria and who was responsible for the initial building of much of old Tel Aviv. One of Geula’s sons, who I know, has an army record that can probably match that of Netanyahu. And he too is an active protester.

Yesterday was the 3rd October. The picture was shot around 6.00pm. The Yom Kippur war was launched at 2.00pm on 6th October 1973. How has leadership changed in Israel over 47 years?

Bibi: When the Geula’s of this world are prepared to risk their health during a pandemic and take to the streets, it is “cry out” to you! Either you prove to us what is so divine about yourself or you leave the political stage, immediately.

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.

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