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.

The first night of Passover is now in the past. For others, Easter is approaching. Whatever your religion, corona does not discriminate. Businesses around the globe are in a mess.

Large or small, high-tech or retail, established or new – what can owners and senior management do?

For no obvious reason, yesterday, I found myslf reaching out for a book I had long forgotten about: “Success under stress” by Sharon Melnick. I challenged myself. What can a seasoned business coach and mentor can find that will have additional value for his readers?

Melnick wrote her bestseller back in 2013. That said, she makes several key points that are essential to our lives today. You get the point when tackling one of her first sentences in the introduction.

71% of senior executives around the globe reported that resilience to turn obstacles into opportunities is “very” to “extremely” important in determining whom to retain.

Makes you think – both as employer and employee. 20 pages later and we discover anotehr line that takes on added importance in the corona era.

Stress occurs when the demands of a situation exceed you r perceived ability to control them. The key is that the more you perceive you can control, the lower your stress, and vice versa.

(and then…….) Stress is not external. It’s internal.

Guys – reread that and internalize that message.

Melnick goes on to discuss subjects such as prioritising, basic muscle relaxing exercises, and self worth, amongst much more. And in an age when corona is making many of us question our values and capabilities, she reminds us that:

The stress of self-doubt is essentially a gap between how you evaluate yourself now and how you want to view yourself and experience your life.

I do appreciate that each enterprise has its own unique issues. And I am sure that we have yet to see the full global economic fall out from this crisis.

However, as I was going through the book, I found the Melnick had enabled me to rethink how corona impacts on business. If we ignore the panic, it allows us to focus on what our core skills are. More and more of enterprise owners are telling me that they now have an opportunity to try to establish what they really want to do.

In other words, they are onboarding Melnick’s key concept of “changing your perspective”. These people are saying that if the road to commercial success is very bumpy just now, they  are realising that it was never smooth. So let’s get on with it.

So let me leave you with this question. In order to benfit from the havoc casued by corona, how can you alter your own perspective?

Governments around the world have had to tackle the corona virus on two – at times, seemingly contradictory – fronts; the protection the health of its people and protecting their economy.

The former started through trial and error. It would be unwise to criticise the mistakes of some leaders. Who was to know better? But when it comes to the economy, some nailed it from the get go, and some did not. Sadly, Benjamin Netanyahu’s team in Jerusalem is firmly positioned in the second grouping.

A table in an Israeli weekend newspaper surveys 13 countries, including the USA, UK, Germany, Hong Kong and South Korea. All have pumped cash directly to companies and individuals. Keep people employed. Enable them to purchase from shops. So far, that tack has had an effect, without being able to stave off a recession.

The prime Israeli response revolves around handing out loans. Listen to leaders of Israel.Inc, business pundits, head of a Kenesset supervising committee, my clients, C-Class execs I have spoken to and they all repeat the same four points:

  • Why loans? They still need to be paid off
  • The paperwork is cumbersome
  • The banks have not stuck to government interest rates
  • The approval process is taking too long.

And after approximately six weeks into the crisis, not one special loan has been approved.

The government has also promised a two-phase grant to self-employed traders. Sounds good. There are tens of thousands of such people in the country, so I do not know them all. However, as a business mentor and coach in the Jerusalem area, not one of my clients is eligible, including myself.

Why? There are four key criteria, each containing a sting. For example, the starting base has to be less than 240,000nis income in 2018. This is not very high, relatively. Fine. Yet, one customer of mine received much more than that, only their expenses were also very high. They will end up with zilch, despite being in a desperate situation.

To make matters worse, the Israeli government has not allocated handouts to employ people. A company told me after laying off 25% of its staff, their is no immediate nor obvious help in sight from the distributor of taxpayers’ money.

As I wrote last week, these policies have been created by senior civil servants and politicians, who generally have never created a business nor even worked in commerce. They are not living under the threat of having their salary cut, as companies try to save themselves. They have not had colleagues sacked, even though unemployment has crossed the 20% barrier. What do they know about what people need?

Let me offer there practical and effective pieces of advice for any CEO reading this.

  1. Complete you tax returns for 2019 right now. Most of you will be due a rebate. Go and get it now, rather drag out the submission until the second half of the year, as often happens.
  2. If you want to secure a loan, obtain the help of somebody who knows the system. Do not waste your valuable time, by trying to do it by yourself.
  3.  I have written previously about corona offering business owners a chance to “reset” their company. Actually, it is more than that. For many, matters are so bad that this is when you can realise just how free you are to do what you want. You no longer have to abide by the old rules and restrcitions.

I am sure the Israeli government does care. However, we have Prime Minister in Jerusalem, who has to spend as much time fighting corona as he does in preparing to answer four charges of corruption. The Health Minister is deemed inept by all people I know and all media I read. The Minister of Finance has little clout, as he is about to leave politics.

So who in Israel has time for the small independent businesses, that make up 95% of all commerce, and can really make a difference? So far, nobody has answered the call and that is unacceptable.

An international ranking released on 1st April placed Israel as the safest country in the fight against corona. Certainly, it may be that there is a decrease in the rise of new cases in the Holy Land, but it is too early to be optimistic.

On the economic front, the economy is struggling to avoid shutdown mode. It is an accepted fact by most that Israel has not had a strong Minister of Finance for about 18 months. Unemployment has now shot up from 4% to over 23% in a month, but it can be argued that is an effect to be found around the world.

What does really irk me is what I wrote earlier today on Facebook

We all know of somebody who has been laid off, took a salary cut etc.

We have yet to hear of politicians taking a pay cut. In fact, I hear that MKs even got a pay rise from 1.2.20. And guess what? They can’t even meet at their place of work. So what are thy doing all day?

The Israeli government has allocated a massive amount of money to small businesses through loan schemes etc. I have spent much of my time this week explaining to clients why they may not be eligible for help or how slowly the sums might come through. But that pay rise….

One last question. It seems that we may have a new Israeli cabinet / government by next week. These get-togethers of men in suits have been as bloated as a fat whale in recent years. Do you think we have seen any sign of their numbers being cut?

But that pay rise….

Yesterday, I heard a story of a bakery that had ben barely surviving by making deliveries. A small boutique outfit, it employs about four people. The local council turned up without warning, deemed the premise to be an unnecessary business and closed it down on the spot!

That means that all four people are to be added to the jobless total. The owner has to throw out a week’s supply of raw materials. And as the business is relatively new, the loan schemes probably do not apply to him. For good measure, unlike other countries like Australia, there are no grants to keep staffed in employment.

The good news? The powerful men in suits (and a few token women) around the government table will still have their cakes at their next meeting.

It ain’t fun running a small business these days. As a friend of mine and branding genius, Jonathan Gabay, highlighted the point in a powerful short video. You can feel so lonesome, even when there are others around to help.

A few days ago, I wrote about how I had been left disgusted by my landlord, who would not consider lowering the rent of my office temporarily. He is likely to get a discount for municipal rates. And the owner belongs to one of the strongest commercial groups in Israel. (I am still arguing for now). Upsetting.

It makes you wonder if you are fighting by yourself.

And then there is the government – both the politicians and the civil servants. In Israel, we are still waiting for a full package to support the small biz sector that makes up about 95% of commercial activity. What is that taking so long?

I refer to a post from senior Bloomberg correspondent, Matthew Kalman, who posted on LinkedIn:

Why are governments mailing cheques to people who need cash, now? The VAT, sales tax and income tax payments database could be reverse engineered overnight to deposit the emergency cash straight in people’s accounts, using RPA like the systems developed by Kryon and others.
The same goes for farmers now stuck with too much/too little produce due to shattered supply chains. The computers that operate their milking and other systems can be tweaked to talk to other producers’ computers, and then to the computers of logistics, wholesale and retail companies to move local food around fast to the places where it’s needed.

But is any of that forthcoming? When? How? Answers are in short supply from our leaders, who tell us that they know how to govern and from the bureaucrats groomed in the culture of planning (for the sake of planning?).

Meanwhile, you can understand why the small, individual, insignificant biz owner feels a tad upset.

Point 1: There is one clear advantage to lockdown and isolation. You receive a rare opportunity in our 24/7 society to think and ….. to listen. You can reflect on what you have got right and wrong, and how you can make a positive difference. once things are back to normal.

Point 2: Name the country and SMEs – small or medium sized enterprises – comprise about 95% of the economy.

Yesterday, Thursday, the UK announced a series of wide-ranging measures to help the owners of small businesses. Some statutory payments will be waivered. Money will be put into the enterprises. And most loans will be interest free.

All fantastic. However, most of the key benefits will only kick in from the month of June!

Over the pond in Washington, Trump’s men are preparing a US$2 trillion package. Great, and this calls for money for the SMEs. However, there are few concrete or practical details how this will impact or when on small commercial operations.

In Israel, we have been promised a set of measures for most of the past week. So far, the only true policy to have been implemented is a massive loan programme. It has been so successful that thousands have already applied, including those who do not really need the safety net.

How the system will evaluate the really needy cases and rapidly, I have no idea. And many of the loans will require interest to be paid. Ouch again.

So what help do people need? I take myself as an example. I have a small office, in a building owned by one of the richest families in the country.

I asked for a reduction in the rent. My request was refused, politely but firmly. I guess they need the money to finance the construction of yet more offices opposite where I am located! They did offer to delay some of the payments, but this does not really help when you do the long-term maths of a cash flow chart.

Bottom line: I am currently paying full rent in Jerusalem for a premise that I cannot use.

Last night, we learnt in Israel that the Prime Minister had just locked up his short term political future. That means he can continue to sleep at night in his rent-free premises, but not in lockdown. And he is about to appoint a new Finance Minister, who has no obvious track record in business or in helping the community.

Is anybody listening? Does anyone know how to listen?

When decision makers at Israel’s Ministry of Finance first tried to deal with the corona issue, most of the initiative (ie funds) went into creating a new quick-fit loan scheme. Brilliant. All this does is permit extra debt for the SME sector, which is usually already in debt.

Move forward two weeks with unemployment at 20% and nothing much has changed. The Bank of Israel will borrow money, but there is little immediate help for the individual. The government – well, it is a one-person outfit and is not functioning.

Let me give you one example, but so wide-ranging in its implications.

Ami Appelbaum is Israel’s chief scientist and chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority. He is encouraging high-tech companies not to lay off staff, particularly at the small start ups. However, on survey has shown that “five percent of Israeli tech companies have already fired workers, and 64% have frozen new hires”.

But this is what is really crazy. Appelbaum appreciates that overseas sales’ trips are not possible. Much of the FDI has dried up from international VCs. However, monies promised by the government………….?

…….budgets have been put on hold. Indeed, the Innovation Authority in January said it would be halting the grants it provides startups for research and development projects due to the lack of approved funding. Appelbaum said he hoped to soon be able to finance the grants that have already been approved.

You must be kidding! How many people have to be laid off needlessly because the politicians and / or bureaucrats cannot work out a solution?

That approach is unacceptable. The Israeli public deserves better from the people whose salaries are paid for by the public themselves!

I have referred before to a tremendous article called “Titans of Transformation“. I love the opening section, which is so pertinent in the age of corona.

When it comes to disruption on the modern business landscape, company size is no safeguard. 88% of Fortune 500 companies in the 1955 -2017 period 1 have either gone bankrupt, merged with other firms, or dropped off the list for other reasons. What’s more, it’s estimated that digital disruption will wipe out 40% 2 of today’s Fortune 500 companies in the coming decade.

The message is clear. You do not know when something is going to come along that will knock you off your commercial pedestal – competitor or ‘the force’ like a virus.

A prime part of my working life is playing the role of business coach and mentor. I have been rushing around my clients – phone, zoom and the rest – over the past few weeks. The typical conversation starts of with a despondent review from their side but often ends up with a cautiously optimistic outlook.

Why? Well, as someone said to me: Corona is offering us all a chance “to press the reset button”. So true!

For example, I was speaking yesterday with Oded Barel-Sabag from the Jerusalem Development Authority. He told me that there are at least a dozen companies in the city working on a solution for the corona virus, several of them have either switched direction or just opened their eyes what their tech could do.

This morning, I had a new Facebook feed about a fruit seller from Jerusalem’s main street market. As old fashioned as they come. If you had asked him a couple of months ago to contemplate home deliveries via WhatsApp, I can only assume he would have laughed at you. But this week ……

I can give you anecdotes from numerous service providers and high-tech companies who have begun to rethink their strategies. Many of them are using outside consultants. And the reason for this is that it can take a fresh or neutral approach in order to rediscover that spark of hidden genius.

And this applies equally to the field of geopolitics:

Palestinian health care professionals have received training in Israeli hospitals. Israeli labs have analyzed Palestinian COVID-19 diagnostic tests, and doctors on both sides are sharing data…..The collaboration on the Coronavirus includes the health ministries of both governments, along with the Israeli military liaison. Israel in recent days delivered 250 virus test kits to the West Bank and held training sessions for Palestinian medical workers on how to protect themselves. Israel’s Civil Administration, the military-run authority in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, promised to supply medical equipment and training as needed

Corona is awful. The health, financial and social impacts will only be fully understood with the passage of time. That said, we can use the opportunities that it presents to make our commercial lives that bit stronger.

Corona is not an excuse to stop moving forward. It should be your motivation towards further innovation.

 

Top-15-Most-Inspiring-Denzel-Washington-Quotes-Pray-for-rain

I had the fortune of watching President Trump bemoan about how he had created a beautiful economy for America, but now that he has been forced to pump dollars into the system. HIs safety net has been blown away by the corona crisis.

Poor Mr. Trump is clearly not used to one of the maxims of the green berets: “Get used to being uncomfortable!”

Corona has come as a gruesome reminder to most of the world’s human population that we should not take things for granted. We should expect things to happen, even if we pray particularly hard. Parents do not always give children, what they feel they need and deserve.

I have spent the past week, wearing my hat as a business coach and mentor, reminding people that even if they are stuck at home, there is so much that can be done. Get inspired to use the resources around you, even if they seem so meagre.

Let me give you a non-commercial example. Three years ago, Hillel Neuer from the NGO United Nations Watch took on the international body, decrying its hypocrisy when handling the subject of Israel and human rights. They tried to shut him or seal him off, like a bad disease. Yet, his speech has now been heard over eight million times. And the rhetoric in the Council has (partially) changed.

That is one man’s voice against countless others.

In Jerusalem, one of my clients has been running quality extra curricula activities for young children for years. These usually take place in the afternoons. With the onset of corona regulations, she initially switched them to the mornings. Then, the government banned such meetings.

She looked around, literally. She saw her studio was full of materials. So she started creating kits and selling them online. A whole new revenue stream has been created within a matter of days.

Corona has acted as a reminder for all of us, and in the most unsubtle (and sometimes tragic) of manners. Never treat your customers as a given. And just because you may deserve better and life may not be fair, you don’t always get what you want.

The way forward? There is one. Get yourself into a position, where you can find that path, or use the help of an outside mentor to guide you there. For many of us, it is doable.

This is a period in our lives, when we are waking up, turning on the news and hearing numbers thrown at us. And what they all add up to is that more people have been infected by an anonymous virus, thousands more have been tested, and a few are actually dying. And it is the elderly, who seem to be most at threat.

So let me tell you about a little story of an old man in Jerusalem, who until this week was practically unknown, but who is now a hero of numbers. (For my information, I rely heavily on press releases from official sources).

Our story starts in 1918, when the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was founded by visionaries including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. To date, HU faculty and alumni have secured eight Nobel Prizes.

17 years later, Hillel Furstenberg popped into the world in Berlin. The family survived Kristallnacht and managed to flee in 1939. In America, Hillel became a mathematician. When one of his earliest academic papers was published, rumors began to circulate that “Furstenberg” wasn’t an individual but rather a pseudonym for a group of mathematicians.

He emigrated to Israel in 1965 and helped to consolidate the Hebrew University as a world class institution in his field. He won many prizes over the years.

This week, Furstenberg, along with Gregory Margulis from Yale University, secured the Abel Prize from Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. This is the equibvalent of the Nobel Prize in mathematics. The citation mentions their “pioneering the use of methods from probability and dynamics in group theory, number theory and combinatorics”.

Ironically, Russian-born Margulis shared a similar background to Furstenberg. He was also heralded as a leading mathematician from a young age. And being Jewish in the Soviet Union meant that Margulis was unable to secure a job at Moscow University and eventually emigrated, also to the United States.

We are facing enormous global adversity. These gentlemen have shown what can be achieved, despite everything. They have also illustrated to us mortals have numbers can be used for happier subjects.

Take a moment to bask in their triumph. Wishing everyone well and safe.

As I write, about 350 people have been identified in Israel as corona virus carriers. Five are in serious condition. Thanks goodness, nobody has died.

The numbers are expected to rise, unfortunately, but there is another side to this story, one that the country can be proud of and others can learn from.

In some ways, it was best summed up by a headline from Bloomberg: “The End of the Jaffa Orange Highlights Israel Economic Shift”.

Since peaking in the early 1980s at 1.8 million tons a year, Israeli citrus production has dropped almost 75%….. Just 1% of Israelis now work in agriculture, down from 18% in 1958, while the tech sector has shot up from virtually zero to 10% of jobs today…..

In fact, there are some 200 companies involved in agritech and related fields, as if the wheel has turned full circle.

However, Israel is particularly strong in the field of biotech and pharma. It seems that this is one part of the global stock market that has at least partially managed to resist the steep fall in share prices. Yesterday it emerged that three Israeli medical companies had just raised, on the same day, US$125million between them.

There are those that argue that Israeli high-tech is well positioned to weather the economic push back from the corona virus fallout.

The fact that most of its products are virtual, which has also contributed to bringing the Israeli tech industry to its current thriving self, could help it get back on its feet more quickly following this crisis. Additionally, unlike the dot-com crisis of two decades ago, the coronavirus crisis meets most Israeli companies at a good place business-wise, with stable business models, real market needs, and paying customers around the world.

Personally, I think this is wishful thinking. That said, I could not fail but to be amazed at a most powerful statement from Jon Medved, the CEO of Our Crowd Funding in Jerusalem. Describing how his teams are changing their work habits in these strange times, he mentioned that:

……..some two dozen companies on OurCrowd’s portfolio develop technologies that pertain directly to the corona crisis, from a company developing remote patient monitoring technologies to a company creating new kinds of disinfectants.

Staggering!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It appears that:

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

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

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

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

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

I decided to cancel the card.

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

And then the fun started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

And it happened yet again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy to hear your thoughts about this.

 

 

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now get this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their press release today points out that: –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So where is the proverbial “but”?

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmm.

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

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

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

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

What is this worth to the Israeli economy?

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

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

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