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.

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).

Incubators

  • 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.

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

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

In a formal statement last night, the PM said:

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

His Finance Minister added:

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

Hmmmm! Reassuring? Sitting around and discussing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Israel, India amounts to a very special opportunity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this all add up to?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are three core questions business owners should ask themselves

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

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

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

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

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

2. Who is a good business coach?

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

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

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

3. Is a business mentor worth the investment?

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

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

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

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

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

Where do I come in?

Peter Fisk has written about the corona era:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immediately, sanity and calm was restored to the household.

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

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

Ostensibly, the news from Israel this week has been depressing.

  • About 20 more citizens died from corona.
  • The government’s economic policy for saving the economy looks amateurish, if I have to be complimentary.
  • The Prime Minister is seeking new elections, when the country needs leadership not political pranks.
  • Demonstrations and violent counter -demos in response to the actions of the Prime Minister.

The list goes on. It is no wonder that I cancelled the weekend newspapers months ago. It is poignant to note that yesterday was the day that Jews around the world recalled the destruction of the first two Temples. One of the background causes is considered senseless hatred, when communities turn in one each other. Ironic?

This morning, my face brightened up. Just after completing the 6.00am news on the Israeli Army Radio station – it is a 70 year old anomaly that this semi-commercial media outlet is still ostensibly run by the military – the announcer wished the Arab and Druze community “Eid al Hada Mubarak”.

Today is Eid-Al-Hada, the Feast of Sacrifice, for Moslems.

So there is hope! But is this a one-off incident? I invite to open this link https://www.facebook.com/19459912688/videos/750021899147879/

It is amazing how many wonderful things take place in this wonderful Holy Land between different religions, but is so rarely reported! When I look around at these and other similar stories, I note that none involve the government. People are doing it by themselves, for themselves.

It’s now about 4.00pm. One of the main TV stations has a special on how citizens can donate to charities, swamped with extra appeals in this time of need. During the chit-chat, there is a ticker at the bottom of the screen, publicising positions available.

Some cheer at last. Have a good weekend!

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