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.

It is over two decades ago, when I was discussing with a very street-wise sales manager a mistake he had made. His answer was direct. I should invoke the system of the Israeli air-force, where he had been a junior officer. And what was that, I asked, wondering what pearl of wisdom I was about to hear.

“If you make a mistake, shout back. And if it is a huge mistake, shout louder.”

Well, I had no answer to that, and off he strutted, no doubt smiling triumphantly to himself. (And today, he is the DG of a large travel company).

I was reminded about the incident twice this weekend. My good friend, Jonathan Gabay, quoting the author J.K. Rowling, observed: The best of us must sometimes eat our words. When you’re wrong, ensure the next words you utter aim to rebuild your identity, reputation, and relationships.

Fair enough, but how does that help us to be a good leader in the work situation? Dr Robert Brooks neatly answered the question in his latest blog. And it is worth taking a moment to ponder the depth of the statement.

It is difficult to learn from someone who never acknowledged mistakes in contrast to a leader who as one man described, “comfortably discussed his feelings of vulnerability and his struggles with mistakes.” Words used to describe the former varied, including arrogant, insecure, power hungry, a true denier, while the latter was seen as secure, comfortable in their own skin, empathic, comforting.

In my work as a business coach and mentor, I come up against this issue all the time. And, of course I can drag ethics into the discussion as well. The best practical and immediate illustration I can provide, which substantiates what Brooks has to say, is on the matter of delivering presentations.

Now, just about all of us at some point in time have to prepare a speech – for the department, for investors, for visitors, etc. The question is how to deal with questions, especially the tough ones or those that you do not know the answer to.

I always teach that the response should be an honest one. “I don’t know”; or, “I will need to check that statement before commenting”; Do not try to wing it, because sooner or later you will be found out. And that is you and your respect busted on the spot.

The headline news in Israel these days floats between elections, the Prime Minister’s altercations with the legal system, and the customary threats of Hamas. Somewhere amongst all of this cloud and noise is a very vibrant economy.

The problem is how to find out what is going on and how to present that news effectively to investors. After all:

IVC has seen a number ‎of trends over 2018 which might continue into the beginning of 2019: the Israeli high-tech ‎market emerges as more attractive to foreign investors over the years, especially VC funds. ‎ Their numbers might grow, thereby driving first investments in Israeli startups, since quite a ‎few foreign VCs establish Israeli-dedicated funds. While the ‎majority of funds originate in the US and Asia, European VCs lag behind, as Israeli tech ‎companies are mostly USA market oriented.”‎

The software sector is the clear favorite in capital investments, it is even ‎more evident among VC funds, as first investment shares in this sector grew from 29% in ‎‎2013 to 54% in 2018. The cyber security technology vertical is leading globally, and Israeli ‎companies in this field will continue to attract due attention in raising capital through 2019.

Thus surmised Marianna Shapira, Research Manager at IVC Research Center and quoted on ATID-EDI’s biweekly survey of economic news in the Middle East.

Their review is one of the best I have seen. Just on Israeli life sciences, it detailed 18 separate items in its latest issue. I was also taken by its info on the cyber community in the Holy Land.

Israeli cybersecurity companies and startups raised over $1 billion equity investment in 117 funding rounds in 2018, setting a new record and marking a 47% increase from 2017, according to a new report on Israel’s cyber sector by Start-Up Nation Central (SNC). The total sum of $1.19 billion in investments constitutes nearly 20% of the overall cyber investments made worldwide in 2018, second only to the US, according to the report…..There were also significant initiatives and collaborations in the cybersecurity industry, including the establishment of a new $85 million fund by cybersecurity think tank and foundry Team8, backed by Walmart, Softbank, Scotiabank, Barclays, and Airbus, among others;

It is worth pointing out that Israel yet again has been recognised yet again by Bloomberg as one of the world leaders in innovation. Samsung investing another US$150 million in the local economy. And Freedom House has ranked the Israeli economy as really the only true free economy in the region.

So, as Europe sneezes loudly over Brexit and as America freezes while its President blows hot and cold, where would you consider is a warm safe haven to place a safe investment?

 

 

Last week, I described why multinationals are still flooding into Israel. Since then, we have learnt that Intel will sink a further US$10 billion investment into the Holy Land.  As if that is not enough, it appears that S&P will affirm Israel’s credit rating at AA level. Amazing stuff!

Unemployment, although up slightly, is only 4.3%. The average wage is still on an upwards path in real terms. Inflation remains low, at below target levels. Economic growth hovers around 3%, even if 2019 may see a slight slow down.

All in all, very encouraging, except that……..

First of all, this is election year. You wonder who is in control, as the PM hits the campaign trail, and while he is spending overtime defending himself from anticipated charges of corruption.

And I also suspect that the economy has suffered from a subtle ’bout of election economics. What has the Finance Minister given away so that he can be seen as the good guy? Back in 2017, the budget deficit was 1.9% of GDP. Depending on whose version you believe, that figure has shot up to at least 2.9%, if not 3.6%.

To simplify that statement. The Israel government has to fund an extra deficit of 50 billion shekels or around US$13 billion. So, no accurate figures and whatever those number are, they are worse.

On the foreign trade front, Sver Ploscker, a leading journalist points out in today’s newspaper that when the current government was formed in 2015, Israel reported a positive trade balance of US$2 billion. While the final stats for 2018 are not yet in, exports have dropped by US$ 2 billion to US$62 billion. Imports are 30% higher at around US$80 billion. That trend is dangerous and certainly not sustainable.

I still maintain that some of the fundamentals of the Israeli economy are superbly strong. Great, but that should not blind us to some inner core problems that require immediate attention. What I do not see is a set of government ministers with the will, care and ability to do something.

 

 

 

I consider myself a typical blogger. I enjoy writing, and like many other people, I try to ensure as wide an audience as possible. I do not have to hide the fact that blogging is an essential marketing tool as a business coach and mentor.

And the internet is awash with blogs telling you ‘how to do it’ – how to create traction with your potential audience. If I was to sum it up in a sentence: Present in an exciting manner, ensure that the subject matter is meaningful, and try to make the content come over as new material.

Simple enough. The truth is that few people succeed as well as they want to, but it does not stop them from trying afresh the following week.

Last week, I believe that I posted interested material on this feed, as well as via LinkedIn and on my commercial Facebook page as Business Ambassador. Meanwhile, on the domestic front, my brand new ironing board broke. Like the nursery rhyme, it was stuck half way up and half way down. What’s the connection?

I posted this sad news on my private page, attaching a suitably mournful picture. Aside from a couple of useful comments re how to complain to the place of purchase, my friends used the opportunity to poke some fun at me. It became a joke in over the dinner table with guests. Even some clients had seen it and commented when they walked in to my office.

However, after some inspired thinking,  my youngest son fixed our prized possession. Naturally(?!?!), I had trained him. So, I posted again, this time with the picture of me and a fully operational ironing board. And here comes the punchline. I still looked absolutely morbid in the picture. (Yes, my children had a less complimentary description!)

The comments flooded in. And when I responded, my words only drew out yet more discussion.

Yes, this was new material – of a nature. It was reasonably well told. But meaningful? A man’s adventure with an ironing board is meaningful? Several people questioned why I still iron!

I suppose that the list of what you must do to become a successful blogger is missing one important ingredient. Way back in 1959, Stephen Sondheim wrote a song for the musical “Gypsy”. It was called ‘you’ve gotta get a gimmick’.

The anticipated picture should have shown me smiling. It did not. The picture encouraged people to think and then shout out. The audience was engaged.

Sounds silly? It had been intended, but I had not expected such a large number of posts back.

Postscript: A few minutes ago, I spoke to an Israeli client, a typical innovative SME I had helped them prepare their presentation for a multinational in the UK. He told me that what really won over the audience was his last line.

You see: I had assumed correctly that although his English is fine, his delivery comes over with an Israeli accent. He can sound dry. So, I trained him to sum up, then take a deep breath and like a good English politician say: “I commend this project to you”.

It was so unexpected: His audience was on the floor. The follow up is locked in for next month. (No, he did not take an ironing board with him, as well!)

It’s election time in Israel, always a dodgy period for any country’s economy. Financial markets look on anxiously. Bankers are concerned for long term growth traded off in return for short term political gains.

And yet this week, Israel was given a major vote of confidence from three separate and independent sources.

Let’s start with Ryanair, albeit not every travelers favourite low cost flier these days. However, it is still a key player in the travel market. It is been operating in Israel for just over three years, and CEO Michael O’Leary’ visit did not limit his praise for the results so far.

People are fed up with destinations like the Canary Islands and such places. Israel has wonderful beaches and very good food. If we can offer reasonable prices then Israel with its weather and beautiful beaches can become a preferred destination. We can bring millions more to Israel. We can grow as fast as the authorities allow us to.

In other words, if Ryanair is currently handling about 600,000 people a year in and out of the Holy Land, they are looking to  treble that number at the very least.

Moving over to high-tech, Bloomberg paid Israel a massive compliment. It placed the country 5th (up from 10th) in its 2019 Innovation Table. By way of comparison, it was only slightly off from South Korea, Germany, Finland and Switzerland, who came in ahead. Israel was also light years ahead of the next Middle East country.

Third, but of equal importance was the new trade deal that the UK has announced that it intends to sign with Israel.  As Westminster seeks to prepare for a post Brexit era, this news comes in addition to the new agreement between the two countries to reduce tax on investments.

UK-Israel bilateral trade reached a record $10 billion (£7 billion) in 2018. As one commentary noted:

A UK Government White Paper on trade in 2011 identified Israel as a trade priority for post-Brexit Britain because of the potential synergies between Israel’s high levels of innovation and British strengths in design, business growth and finance, as well as the UK’s own high-technology and scientific strengths.

Postscript:

Whilst I was writing this blog, I was told that the lower house of the Dail, the Parliament in Dublin, had passed a law boycotting Israeli products from the West Bank.

Does that mean they will boycott a plane, serviced by a person who lives in the West Bank? What about Intel products, worked on by people who live in that area? And as for all that potential trade that can create jobs…………..?

As Rachel Riley has argued, it is a pity for everyone, if not down right disgusting, that the majority Ireland’s elected politicians have chosen to be so selective (sic)!

 

International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. has around 13,000 employers worldwide, servicing about 30,000 customers. It develops and produces flavor and fragrance essences and raw materials, which it supplies to the food, beverages, personal care, and household products industries.

So why has IFF poured US$7.1 billion into purchasing Frutarom, located in Haifa with 400 workers and a customer base of 1,000? And it is worth noting that this one of the largest acquisitions in Israel’s history.

The online interview with IFF chairman and CEO Andreas Fibig is very revealing and bare lessons for other multinationals. He makes the following points.

Fibig says that the acquired activity in Israel enables him to be exposed to many aspects of the economy and industry in Israel. “One aspect concerns the very good agritech and biotech sectors that exist here, which can help us in areas of innovation.”

Fibig noted that Frutarom’s excellent tech capability can now be exposed to a much larger customer base.

And when it came to investor relations, Fibig did not hold back.

…we now have good Israeli investors, and we really want to nurture our base of investors here. We also saw that it doesn’t require too much effort on our part to be listed in Israel, too, in addition to trading in our share in New York. It’s also not too expensive, and that’s another reason why we said that we’d leave the share here.
We also want to increase the share of the Israeli investors in the company, because there’s a good base here of money and good financing, and we can work with it.

And then Fibig touched on the core of the start up nation’s raison d’etre, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Frutarorm dared to enter additional areas of interest to us, such as active cosmetics, food protection, natural colors, and healthy ingredients, which had stronger dynamic growth than what we had achieved. Through the acquisition, we obtained exposure to complementary and growing fields of business.

For decades, geopolitical considerations have restricted Israel’s ability to attract overseas investment. In an MIT review earlier this month, Matthew Kalman noted that

More than 300 global technology companies operate in this tiny Mediterranean country—most of them within an hour’s drive of Tel Aviv. A trickle first led by IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, and Cisco has become a flood of marquee brands: at least 117 companies from 21 countries have opened Israeli R&D centers since 2014, hoping to capture some of the magic in the country’s bubbling ecosystem of more than 6,000 startups.

The IFF – Frutarom case study sums up this lightening change in Middle East commerce. Who’s next?

For some people, presenting or pitching or selling is second nature. For others, these tasks represent all their worst nightmares rolled into one. And then comes that almost inevitable set of questions: What discount should I offer? How should I respond if they demand a discount?

It is panic time! Fortunately, there are practical guidelines to follow in order to ease the pain and halt the rush of blood.

Let us start with your ‘core value proposition’. Whoever you are pitching to, your base should not change. You should know what it is, why it is so unbeatable, and how you are going to describe it with immense natural passion. Once clearly on the table, the other side will find it very difficult to ask for a price reduction.

Want an example? Some years ago, my wife and I were looking to move house. We came up against yet another agent. In five seconds, he had described the size, layout and price, and he also knew from our body language that he had hooked us. Straight to the paperwork!

Second, keep some perspective and thus put your adrenalin in the correct place. Your prospective could be an individual or a team. More often than not, they are just as anxious as you are. They are looking to you for help of some kind. Ironically, that puts you in the driving seat, and not the other way around.

To explain that in another way, it is you that should set the tone. When I am acting as a business coach and mentor to larger organisations, I often find that they require meetings to clarify issues and progress. I very early on in the proceedings will look for a way to set the agenda, and frequently find that participants are relieved by that leadership.

Finally, find time in your life for a 7 letter word: p r a c t i c e. Too many people approach me within 24 hours of their big event to ask for help. And I know that even if I fix up the approach, that usually does not leave them enough time to internalize the changes and learn how to express them. That is so disappointing for all concerned.

All of these action items are doable. Much will depend on you. Are you prepared to let your strengths have priority over your fears, which are sometimes also known as those ‘what if’ statements? Worth considering before your next pitch, no?

 

 

 

Israel, the start up nation: a record US$6.4 billion of investment poured into 623 start up deals in 2018. Foreign exchange reserves ended higher at the end of the year. And growth forecasts for 2019, even if they have been trimmed back recently, still remain at a comparatively healthy 3.1%.

However, what often counts in an economy are the micro figures. It is the combination of many small businesses, that when they are generally somehow managing to progress – stutter forward – together, then economies have a base from which to take off.

For example, in Israel, the Arab sector is gradually finding its way into the high-tech arena. In Jerusalem, ICE, a new co-working space opened up in August, catering for the specific needs of the ultra-orthodox community.

MATI, an NGO, which helps new businesses in the Jerusalem region, received 4, 530 inquiries during 2018. It prepared over 300 business plans and secured loans worth over US$12 million. (And I should disclose that I am proud to be one of the many business mentors who have been helping some of these entrepreneurs open up and develop their enterprises).

In the West Bank (settlements), the official population level reached 448,672 people. Nearly 13,000 joined the numbers in 2018, a slightly slower rate of growth than for the past decade. Naturally, this population change opens up some of the peripheral areas of the country.

For me, one of the most important stats revolves around the growing role of women in the domestic economy. I would not say that all is perfect. However, one new forum is training 2,500 orthodox women in computer sciences. And the employment level in the traditionally conservative female Arab sector has shot up to 40%.

What next in 2019? Who knows what will be the fall out from the general election in April and the probably multiple charges against the Prime Minister? In the global economy, China-USA trade wars and Brexit could have multiple repercussions.

It should be remembered that Israel survived the 2008 credit crunch better than most. The current state of its micro economy indicates that the underlying infrastructure is predominantly resilient.

 

…hopelessness is the saddest of human emotions, especially when it follows upon the excitement of hopefulness. The moment when hopes are dashed and dreams abandoned is, for me, the saddest moment of all.

Thus wrote Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb when discussing the position of the children of Israel in Egypt. They had fallen from the euphoria of the protection of Joseph down to the slavery of a new pharaoh. For Weinreb, this is arguably the saddest point in the five books of Moses.

Many different types of people enter my office to receive business mentoring or coaching. And it is not just because I am located in Jerusalem that I find the above reflection ironic.

Some clients walk in with a pretend an aurora of strength and some place their weakness right out on the table. When you come in to an office like mine, it is because you need some commercial guidance. Frequently, people have started out with high aspirations, but things have not worked out as anticipated. Most are (eventually?) prepared to take on the challenge of my methods and to change.

Others question themselves and then seek my approval to give up. The problem for them is that I do not take on clients if I think that their project / concept / operation has minimal value. Thus, I do not readily offer them the path of turning back.

How can I instill in them a feeling of hope? As I explained to somebody this week, my role is to allow them to hold on to the true meaningfulness of what they are trying to achieve. That will provide a large beam of light to aim for.

Over the past few days, I have been working with a couple of teams, both separately aiming to establish large projects in the tourism trade. They are not easy to pull together. In fact. the odds are stacked against them.

However, all involved are learning so much and in a short passage of time. They are getting much satisfaction out of their struggles. And they are clearly overcoming the barriers, one by one. Many of my teachers from schooldays would have called this approach stupidity. Others today view this as resilience. And the despair of my clients is gradually being left behind.

I have just watched a clip on Facebook of a young man from Far East Asia. He has no legs. He ‘walks’ around placing two stool-like objects in front of him, one after the other. The film pans out to reveal him shopping with his wife. The last clip is of him, pottering around quite normally at home.

Clearly this is somebody who did not give up.

 

 

 

In a statement today from Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Yariv Levin stated:

In 2018, we have reached an amazing and historic record with over 4.12 million tourists arriving in Israel. We have broken incoming tourism records and this achievement is the direct result of intensive work that we are doing at the Tourism Ministry. This achievement is a result of a revolutionary change in marketing strategy; infrastructure development; opening direct routes from new destinations and creating collaborations with some of the largest travel agents in the world. Incoming tourism makes a huge contribution to both Israel’s economy and its’ image.

His DG, Amir Halevi, added

This is the second consecutive record-breaking year in incoming tourism to Israel and this year we have crossed the threshold of 4 million tourists in a year…… We are optimistic about 2019 that begins with the opening of the new international airport at Timna, that will enable us to continue bringing new flights to Eilat. What was considered a fantasy a few years ago is today a reality

Not bad for a country with no natural borders to Europe or the USA. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, revenue from tourism in 2018 reached about $5.8 billion (about NIS 22 billion).

Apparently, the top six source countries to Israel for incoming tourism are the United States (897,100), France (346,000), Russia (316,000), Germany (262,500), UK (217,900) and Italy (150,600). – those very countries most exposed to the campaigns to boycott Israel.

A statement from the ministry added:

In 2018, leading international market research firm EuroMonitor named Jerusalem as the fastest-growing tourism destination in the world…… In 2018, 61% of all tourists were Christian, 22% were Jews, 12.1% were not affiliated, 1.8% were Muslim, 0.6% were Buddhists, 0.5% were Hindus, and 0.1% were Bahais and 1.7% others.

Here’s to the success of 2019.

Tuesday morning, Christmas day. A bit chilly, but the sun is shinning. No snow in the Jerusalem hills and none down the road in Bethlehem.

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has just released some figures re the Christian community in the Holy Land, arguably the sole place in the Middle East where the numbers are increasing. And I quote directly: –

  • Approximately 175,000 Christians live in Israel; they comprise about 2% of the State of Israel’s population.
  • 77.7% of the Christians in Israel are Arab Christians.
  • In 2017, the Christian population grew by 2.2%, compared to 1.4% in the previous year.
  • The increase in growth resulted mostly from the immigration of 597 Falash Mura Christians from Ethiopia.
  • Most of the Christian Arabs reside in the northern part of Israel: 70.6% reside in the Northern District.
  • 40.9% of the non-Arab Christians reside in the Tel Aviv and Central Districts; another 33.8% reside in the Northern and Haifa Districts.
  • The localities with the largest Arab Christian population were Nazareth (22,100), Haifa (15,800), Jerusalem (12,600), and Shefar’am (10,200), as of the end of 2017.
    800 Christian couples married in Israel in 2016. The median age at the first marriage of Christian grooms in 2016 was 29.2, and that of Christian brides was 25.6.
  • In 2017, 2,504 infants were born to Christian women, about 75% of whom were born to Arab Christian women (1,877 infants).
  • Among all students studying toward a first degree, Christian Arabs were most highly represented in the following fields: public administration (14.2%), history of Israel (12.1%), and the multi-disciplinary humanities program (10.7%).
  • Women constituted 75.2% of Christians studying toward a second degree, compared to 62.7% among all students studying toward a second degree.
  • Compared to Arab Moslem students, the percentage of Arab Christian students studying education and teacher preparation was lower, and the percentage studying engineering, architecture, law, and medicine was higher.

The numbers are not large, but they are the follow up to a major act in the world’s history. Funny how the open roles of Christians in Israel, in Jerusalem, never seem to be reported with the honesty that they deserve.

It may be a tad British, but I am currently enjoying a fascinating podcast about leadership. Interviewing a former England cricket captain, the key feature is how you can take an average team – in sport, commerce or a social group – and mobilise it into something sensational.

In terms of the Palestinian issue, much has been discussed recently about how President Abbas has just started his 15 year of his term in office, when he was only elected for four years. It is too easy to be cynical. Just how much of a motivator is he?

However, as if to add to the challenge, this week Abbas demanded the dissolution of the Palestinian Parliament.

The reason?

Abbas is recognizing that at 83 years old he must consider what will happen the day he leaves office. Under PA (Palestinian Authority) law should the president leave office without a successor, the Speaker of the Parliament takes over as President of the Palestinian Authority for two months after which presidential elections are held. The current Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament is Aziz Al-Dweik from Hamas.

And let us recall that Hamas threw the PA out of Gaza in a most violent manner, and is challenging its position in the West Bank.

The above synopsis sparked a series of comments from a financial analyst, David Frankfurter. He observed:

I wonder if these members of the parliament that did not meet are to continue receiving a salary, benefits, electoral assistants and other financial assitance? How much did it add up to? This could be another element of side effects of the US withdrawing financial support to the PA.

If so, it would be a signpost to the Europeans on how to introduce efficiency to the aid they keep flowing. It is yet another indicator to the European taxpayer as to what a wasteful manner their elected representatives and finance ministries use their taxes on misdirected foreign aid.

Worth a thought. Maybe write to your rep and ask them?

It has been a quiet week. A chance finally to update my LinkedIn profile. And that should be an easy task for me to write, as I am a business coach and mentor?

Hmm. How to write in 120 syllables what I do? How to text out an elevator pitch? It could read too generalistic. More pondering.

As I was driving home, I was contacted by a customer, who had been taking a break from meeting me in order to absorb and to implement what we had been discussing. He asked me to recall how I had suggested to him that before taking out a large commercial loan, he sorted out his personal loan.

Bottom line. The bank has agreed to slash the rate of interest he pays, saving him thousands of shekels in the process. Further, they are now revamping his request for a commercial loan, both for a higher amount and with much improved terms.

Cool! And it spurred me to think about what other projects I had been involved with over the past few days.

One of my current favourite case studies concerns a finance intermediary company, facilitating loans worth tens of millions of shekels annually to families and businesses who usually ‘fall between the gap’. The CEO has been worried that his sales force are not effective enough, despite a healthy bonus system.

I have been gradually introducing the owner to alternative forms of ‘incentives’, often seen as the one word to summarise the entire theorem of economics. Had he asked his staff what motivates them? Had he realised that different people are motivated for different reasons and by different means? What is it about his new employee that makes him an immediate success, and from which others can learn?

In other words, this ten year old company is on the verge of restructuring its back office sales structure. All this from a CEO, who had originally informed me outright that he did not believe I could mentor him.

And the two subjects that particularly motivate me at the moment? I am thrilled to be involved in the expansion of the services of one of the  business hubs in Jerusalem. More on that another time.

Second, a provider of medical services has called me in. Formally, they only opened their doors less than two years ago. With minimal outreach and with even less advertising, they are already attracting hundreds of people a week. Effectively, they are entrusting their confidence in me to show them how they can create a stable business model to finance a multi-operational facility in Jerusalem.

On reflection, I find that there is a single factor connect all of these (and several other) exciting projects. I cannot claim to be an expert in most of the specific fields of activity. However, that is the role of a mentor and coach; to use core generic skills, developed through a range of experiences, to understand how to bring out the best talents in their customers and to offer a multiple of customised approaches.

And it really is fun to be involved with these people. The question is how to put all this on LinkedIn?

In March 2018, Israel’s Prime Minister gave a rousing speech to a group of supporters in America. After touching on geopolitical issues, Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) quickly moved on to comment on the strength of the Israeli economy. At the 9 minute mark he said:

We made it (the economy) stronger by moving to free market principles, which unleashed a spark of genius…..

He probably would not want to be reminded that this process was started in the middle of the 1980s by his arch enemy, the late Shimon Peres. Ironical. And as finance minister 15 years later, Bibi carried the success further forward.

What is not ironical, but sure seems hypocritical, is the Prime Minister’s current handling of matters.

Before explaining, I must point out that Bibi is the PM, Foreign Minister and Defense Minister, as well as holding at least 2 other portfolios. He is not the Minister of Finance, but his influence is there to be seen.

Ostensibly, the official rate of inflation remains low in Israel, a little over 1% annually. However, the shelves of supermarkets are dominated by about ten local food manufacturers or importers, and their prices have increased significantly in recent years. Public utilities, such as the electricity company and local water authorities, are set to introduce new price hikes. The cost of bread, a staple of poorer families, is also expected to rise. And thus it comes as no surprise that the yellow-jacket symbols of Paris have now reached the streets of Tel Aviv.

Under a free market economy, the government should be saying: “Sorry, as unfortunate as this may be, there is nothing we can do”. In fact, in direct contradiction to the stirring words of the Prime Minister, the very opposite is happening. It is intervening. There will be a limited increase in the price of bread. A smaller shift in the cost of power and water is in preparation.

And how will this be paid for? Higher taxes, in all likelihood. In other words, more intervention.

The Minister of Finance, Moshe Kahlon, is a coalition partner of Bibi and they are sworn foes. The two are considered the smartest political movers in town. Kahlon has agreed to keep deferring duties on the imports of some food products. I should be grateful?

How about relaxing all duties? How about allowing the import of fruits and vegetables for those items when they are not in season in Israel? Why does a carton of Alpro soya milk cost 2.5 times as much in Jerusalem as it does in London, to give one example?

You have got to wonder just how indebted are the politicians to these strong interest groups in the economy that they lack the political will and skill to set the Israeli economy truly free?

Palestinians should be allowed to improve their economy without worrying about whether they will give up on their national cause.

Thus wrote Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, on the Ma’an News Agency website of the Palestinians.

He is correct. Whatever side of the seemingly intractable Palestinian – Israeli argument you may be on, the economies of Gaza and Ramallah seem unsustainable. And whatever the true numbers, unemployment is super high, productivity continues to find new levels to sink towards, while overseas aid is petering off.

Reliable figures for the financial activity of the Palestinian government have been hard to obtain for many years. The reasons vary. Recently, former Israeli military intelligence officer, Yossi Kuperwasser set out an analysis of the 2018 budget. The key points are: –

  1. The total budget is about US$5 billion dollars.
  2. Around 15% or US$775 million is supported by overseas aid, including the taxpayers of Western countries.
  3. US$155 million is allocated to aiding prisoners and / or their families in Israeli jails, assumedly for charges relating to terror incidents.
  4. And: The P.A. budget for supporting the families of “martyrs” and the wounded is $185 million. This sum is used to make sure that 24,000 families of “martyrs” and wounded who reside inside the “homeland” get a monthly allowance, 13,500 such families who reside outside the “homeland” get a monthly allowance, 375 families get special monetary assistance, 28,000 families get health insurance, and monthly allowances are paid to the victims of the 2014 conflict in Gaza. 

Earlier this week, Saleh Barghouti calmly drove past a crowd of Israelis at a bus stop and  mowed them down. Of the seven wounded, one was a woman in her seventh month of pregnancy. The baby was delivered in hospital, but was immediately diagnosed with difficulties, resulting from both the shooting and its premature arrival.

Last night, 4 days old and with barely enough time to name him as Amiad Yisrael, the child was buried. In the picture below, the infant is seen wrapped in a prayer shawl. The man looks petrified that the body in his hands is so small and light that it may fall.

Image result for picture of funeral of Amiad israel

Of all the terrible stories of terror from around the world – Manchester, Boston, Bali et al – this is truly the saddest picture that I have ever seen. I saw it and froze.

As for the other parties to this story, it appears that Amiad’s mother is beginning to recover from her serious wounds. Meanwhile, Barghouti was shot dead by Israeli forces while resisting arrest. However, as per the strictures of the Palestinian budget approved by President Abbas, Barghouti’s family is set to become the financial beneficiaries from his heinous crime.

One postscript for Abbas, who this week celebrated his 15th year in his position, originally democratically elected for just four years: Earlier today, a couple of miles from where Barghouti struck, two other Israelis were slain. Clearly, this will place a further demand on the Palestinian budget, leading to additional calls for aid from European treasuries.

 

thinking

Every now and again, business owners have to face up to that dreaded task of updating or upgrading their presence on social media. For many, especially those who run SMEs, small and medium sized enterprises, the very thought of such change can be emotionally exhausting – and I am not exaggerating.

Just recently, I took on the task of revamping my own presence on LinkedIn. I decided that it was time to do this properly, and I have been investing hours in a self-learning process. Most of the blogs have concentrated on creating a winning profile. I can offer that the Top Dog Social Media Company is particularly thorough on this aspect.

Others look at strategy creation. And a surprisingly relatively few number of articles relate your LinkedIn efforts to raking in clients. After all, let’s be frank. We write subtle and glowing praise about ourselves in order to generate additional revenues.

As I was doing my homework, I felt that something was missing in the process. Late last night, the ‘very obvious’ dawned on me. Before I could move ahead, I had to define four stages, and do so in a most clean, clear and pertinent manner.

  1. Define what I do
  2. Explain why I am successful at that task, and thus….
  3. What I deliver
  4. What are the results

Agreed, nothing too revolutionary in the first line. However, adding in the next three and also demanding specific statements that can be validated, now that is something very challenging.

As a business mentor and coach, surely I should have been aware of the fundamentals of this process. Yes. I have to admit to my guilt.

There again, as I recalled to a fitness instructor in Jerusalem this week, I remember talking to a top software sales person, who informed me that they do not update the antivirus on their home computer. (The instructor observed that he has become too casual about how he uses gym equipment and is slovenly about changing his own routines.)

And how to go about completing these four stages? Few can do it properly on their own.  I strongly advise taking on the help of second party to bounce off ideas and who is not afraid to offer their own thoughts….that you may not wish to hear.

 

 

 

My client finally turned up for their second meeting. He was late and the gap had been far too long. I could tell immediately that progress had been minimal, and that is being complimentary. I may be operating in the holy city of Jerusalem, but it was clearly time to “kick some aXXe”.

It is my job as a business mentor to find a way through the billowing clouds of excuses and to jolt people forward towards their commercial vision. I had a plan for the gentleman, and I was going to take no prisoners along the way.

I had taken stock of what I had to work with. Young, quietly clever, a very talented sales assistant, and relatively new to the city, our hero had little commercial background. However, I assumed (correctly) that he carried a hidden determination to succeed.

I laid out my pitch. It was time to stop talking about theories and to create a practical action plan. Agreed. OK, I asked, what is your target? The response: a few clients over the winter, although a 100 are needed to establish traction.

Fine, I said. We are going for 200 in 3 months. Gasp. Surprise. I then demanded a work schedule from next week, as to how he would haul in the magic 100. The key is to start from the end. In other words, understand what needs to be done in the final week, and then in the penultimate week. Etc. The confusion dissipated into full engagement. He had decided to enjoy the journey.

We laid out the basic “offer”. We determined the “how”. We considered “why” clients will buy in. We analysed his weaknesses, suggesting solutions to each one.

Sixty minutes later, the white board was pretty filthy. My client was looking bemused. Before entering my office, he had some vague concept. He was leaving with a lot of homework, and very much up for the fight.

And what had been the trigger? He was prepared to change, and I had seen that in the first meeting. I was able to utilize that fearless flexibility in him.

By the beginning of next week, he is expected to have drawn up a time chart to ensure he can fit in all the tasks over the coming weeks. Speak to me at the end of the winter to see what happened.20181206_150020

Many argue that we are a slave to technology and the pop up menus of the social media platforms around us. On average, we check our phones 150 times a day. We are afraid of missing something……when we think we already know it all…. and then crave more info.

In a compelling analysis, Tristan Harris recalled that:

Cornell professor Brian Wansink demonstrated this in his study showing you can trick people into keep eating soup by giving them a bottomless bowl that automatically refills as they eat. With bottomless bowls, people eat 73% more calories than those with normal bowls and underestimate how many calories they ate by 140 calories.

This week, wearing my hat as business mentor and coach, I was interviewing people in Jerusalem. In one hour sessions, the aim was to understand their concept, give them some initial advice and then consider how they may approach official agencies to receive additional coaching.

The first customer of the day strutted in. With the briefest of intros, he wanted to know if we could prepare a business plan for him.

A fair request, but I needed more info in order to answer. Very quickly, he interrupted my approach. The questions were declared irrelevant. He demanded a yes / no answer. I tried to explain, but was interrupted. I tried again, but I could that his patience levels were diminishing far quicker than the daily life of my mobile battery.

I was then asked if I could write the plan. I replied that in theory that was possible, but I felt there was not enough chemistry between the two sides. To my surprise, this comment was taken as an insult. On reflection, I suppose that he had assumed that if we were sitting in the same room, we have clicked and thus the next stage will happen automatically.

My point is that I felt that he had been tricked. He had treated me like Google. He had expected to walk in, ask, and be answered on the spot. Who needs an hour? Waste of time. Turn out a biz plan today so that the bank will me the loan tomorrow, no?

Social media is here to stay. However, it has changed thought processes. Those like Harris may argue that it has diminished our ability to think and to help ourselves.

The role of a business mentor is to pose questions that people are uncomfortable with. The success of Facebook et al will not take that power away from me. The question remains if we can retain our ability to realise that the importance of human intelligence.

How will Britain leave the EU? Under what terms? Who will be the PM? I am not placing my bets. What I have found significant is that amongst the hubble and bubble and much trouble, Britain’s Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox, has found the time to pop over to Israel. Why?

There are some very significant facts for the UK economy, that Israel’s opponents would have you ignore.

  • Britain’s Department for International Trade said goods worth $9bn were traded between the UK and Israel in 2017, a record year.
  • The number of Israeli companies that set up in the UK after the Brexit referendum increased by 28 per cent, as did Israeli investment in the UK by 33.5 per cent.
  • Israeli-made generic pharmaceuticals are also a major supplier for the NHS.

Earlier this week, yet another seminar was held in Tel Aviv encouraging cooperation between the two countries health sector. And add to that Fintech and a whole series of innovation tech partnerships. In other words, the economic and commercial bonds between the two sides are growing, mutually, for the benefit of all.

Bilateral trade has almost doubled in recent years, despite or in spite of the hate of the BDS movement. Looking ahead, there are clearly plans on the table to resolve expected hiccups from the exit from Europe.

Item One: Last week, several anti-Israel protesters took to the streets of London. As members of the LGBT community, they were protesting against the performance of the Israeli singer, Netta. What a video of the event clearly brought out was the ignorance of the demonstrators, because Netta herself is a proud to associate herself with LGBT.

Netta’s visit to the UK was action packed. She went on to appear at an event on behalf of British Airways. It was only a few months previous that she had been introduced to Prince William, who is just two places away from being the King of England. Imagine boycotting those royal institutions. Bizarre!

Item Two: Where the BDS – boycott movement – against Israel seemingly recorded some success was the threatening announcement of Airbnb. This global brand has a jaw-dropping 150 million users on its mobile app . As senior commentator Tom Gross observed: Airbnb is targeting “Jewish owned” properties in the West Bank. “There are about 200 other disputed regions in the world but Airbnb will not be boycotting any of these others (for example, Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus, Chinese-occupied Tibet, Crimea, Moroccan occupied Western Sahara, and so on).”

In his weekly report, Tom Gross also added with great contrast how a “female BDS activist, Jess Balding, has fallen in love with a female Israeli soldier and converted to Judaism. Balding has now moved to Israel and says she now wants to study to be a rabbi.” Maybe she will meet Netta?

Item Three: Dodging between this hypocritical noise is the not-so-well-known Idriss Deby, the President of Chad. His visit to Jerusalem this week is significant because, he is not just the leader of a country, which is 60% Muslim. HIs territory is full of raw materials such as oil and gold.

Deby has received full coverage. In similar fashion, Prime Minister Netanyahu has openly travelled to Bahrain and Oman in recent weeks. And who knows what is happening behind the diplomatic scenes between Saudi Arabia and the Holy Land?

Which reminds me: Did you hear the news about Saudi’s boycott of………..the Palestinians?

Yes, it is stupid. Actually, it is worse. BDS is malicious and hateful. But could you imagine what would happen if the movement was really successful?

Item Four: Sniffphone“. I kid you not with the name. You see………..

Israeli Professor Hossam Haick of the Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology was awarded the European Commission Innovation Prize last week for his invention of the SNIFFPHONE, a device that uses nanotechnology sensors to analyze particles on the breath and is able to pinpoint to exact diseases, like certain kinds of cancer, pulmonary and even the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases.

Haick is not Jewish. And while the country may not be perfect, as far as possible, Israel practices pluralism. Thus its citizens come up with these invention that can have a truly positive global impact.

However, BDS would have you believe that this life-saving product should be boycotted, like Netta. Strange? Funny? Bizarre? Or just downright anti-Semitic, the very antithesis of pluralism.

 

 

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