Archive for November 2010

Networking – avoid the crowd & get to the top people.

November 29, 2010

I have just attended a London meet up of hundreds of people, considering business opportunities in Israel. And one of the questions that popped up repeatedly in different forms was how is it possible to seek out decision makers in a foreign country, where English is only the second language.

One answer I threw back was to use a recognised local business mentor. But is that enough, especially if you are in a new environment?

This weekend, I read an article about networking your way to the top, avoiding the traps along the way.

  • Get to be known by being useful
  • Take charge of new situations, without dominating
  • Expand contacts book
  • Research who you are going to meet
  • Sit / stand opposite those you wish to influence

Simple enough if you are in a meeting scenario. But what happens when you are faced with an event of some kind?

  • Prepare some opening lines in advance
  • Avoid taking about yourself too much
  • Step outside your comfort zone and drag others into the conversation.
  • Try to show honest interest, even empathy, in what is being said to you.

If you let a strange language remain as your handicap, you will never move onwards.


When to use a business mentor

November 25, 2010

“Business mentoring” is one of those newish fads that has creeped up on the commercial community in the past few years.

In Israel, the Ministry of Industry actively encourages small and medium businesses to use mentors. The cost is subsidised by up to 75% and the paperwork is relatively painless. In the UK, the new government has taken active steps along similar aims. Despite recent initial criticisms, the project is moving forward.

The question is when to turn to a business mentor. Recently, I held a preliminary meeting with a potential client, where I felt the need to be very frank. I asked them to demonstrate their level of future intent to the project discussed. There was a possibility that we would be wasting each other’s time, a precious resource in itself.

The Institute of Independent Business has over 5,000 associates in over 20 countries, many providing direct support for those in need of mentoring. A fellow associate is Bill Cunningham from Shepperton, London. Bill has drawn up a simple check list for mentors to ask before taking on a client.

Many of these issues can be turned on their head and used by the person considering such a service.

  1. Can you provide an agreed statement of requirements?
  2. Do you have a top priority?
  3. What is your timescale and why?
  4. What is your sincere and genuine commitment?

Bill’s longer discussion is worth reading in full.

I would add one other point: “Why are you here”? This seemingly innocuous question tends to prod people towards some very revealing answers.

OECD looks to learn from Israel’s economy

November 22, 2010

Israel’s economy has just turned in its 6th successive quarter of growth. While slightly down from earlier stats, the Finance Ministry is looking towards achieving 4% for the year, with a similar target set for 2011.

So the comments of OECD Secretary General, Angel Gurria, will come of no surprise. During his visit to Jerusalem, the international financier noted that Israel’s economy is doing better than others. Earlier Gurria had observed that:

The Israeli economy had grown during a recession, and OECD countries can learn from that. Unemployment is also low than the group’s average.

A compliment indeed, and very encouraging. Gurria did not hide his concerns for the future. He feels that more can be done financially to help the Palestinians. And the minority and poorer sectors must not be ignored.

However, Israel’s economy still faces three key challenges. Fortunately, none are concerned directly with budget deficits.

  • It is faced by a continuing rise in the price of real estate, a rare issue for the rest of the OECD. The government is taking too long to release new land on to the market.
  • The shekel continues to remain strong despite the open and continuing efforts of the Bank of Israel to buy dollars. This is damaging the profitability of exports, a key part of the country’s economic success.
  • And major overseas markets are cramping up, forcing exporters to look for alternatives. Not so easy after a global recession.

Where to next? As the OECD struggles with the Irish crisis, Israel is already looking beyond to a different set of hazards.

When failing is succeeding

November 19, 2010

As a mentor, I hear this scenario so often.

  • You ask the client what they are trying to achieve. That is often a clear and elaborate answer
  • You then question what is needed to progress. That question may well be greeted by a grunt, otherwise recognised as the “ouch factor”. 
  • You then analyse what they have done to move towards that vision. That is often a very brief discussion, at best.

So here’s the conundrum for the mentor. You are faced with a client who wants to succeed, but has effectively done by themselves. And that is all the more strange because the challenge on offer has been established by the client themselves. The territory is supposed to be within their on comfort zone.

I am no shrink, but time and again it turns out that many of us have been “programmed” either to consider success a dirty word or to understand that failure is no-go territory. We should be so perfect at what we do that failure is not on the table for discussion.

Click on utube and you will find speaker after speaker preaching the opposite. They will point to many mega examples of those who mucked up before succeeding. However, our “teachers” – at school or in the home – have ignored these stories. Maybe they wanted to cover up their own failures. Maybe they thought that preaching perfection while hiding reality was effective.

The bottom line is a large number of people are left wanting to succeed but to afraid of negative results. And where does that leave them? A lot of brain energy not being converted into a thriving commercial project.

Is there a solution? You bet. Get somebody to help you to shout back at those hidden voices and then go and do what you really want to do in life. Enjoy!

So what inspires you?

November 17, 2010

I was pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction to my previous two postings on what inspires different people. Maybe it is one of those themes that people are just waiting to be directed towards.

And he subject came up in conversation earlier this week. I was trying to establish with a client what motivates their agents. Within 60 seconds, several answers had been thrown around, yet nobody could be sure what was the definitive reason.

This morning, I was caught by an internet posting on what or who encourages London entrepreneurs. Apparently, women look for guidance from Harry Potter creator, Ms. J.K. Rowling. However, menfolk go in a totally different direction, preferring the gruff Mr. Alan Sugar.

Consider power point presentations – whose main aim is to convince or inspire people to carry out new actions. A business acquaintance, Siu Ling Hui, recently directed her twitter followers to a site with 33 brilliant  and dynamic slide shows. My own favourite is “steal the presentation“, but again each to their own.

One thing that these anecdotes show is that inspiration is very much a trait that is specific to the individual. Be it for academic or environmental or whatever reasons, each one of us responds in our own different way.

What is important is to find a way which allows you to believe in yourself and then allow that method to come through for you.

How some socialist kibbutzes are making big bucks

November 15, 2010

My latest client is a very decent sized manufacturing concern situated in the heart of an agricultural kibbutz. The members own 50%.

Yup – the remaining shares are in the hands of a private group. Long gone are the days when the kibbutz movement, now celebrating its 100th anniversary, was a bastion of socialism.

I have no intention of knocking kibbutz and what it stands for. Over the past two decades, the 273 communities have evolved. For most, debts have been paid off, the next generation has stopped leaving, European volunteers are returning; etc, etc. Good times are returning.

Commercially, success stories abound. In the past 12 months, there have been at least 3 major “exits”.

  • Materna, baby milk supplement from Kibbutz Ma’aborot, sold to Osem/Nestle for 268m shekels ($70m)
  • Shamir Optical from Kibbutz Shamir, sold to Essilor for 130m shekels ($35m)
  • Tivoll, soya based foods from Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, sold to Osem / Nestle for 500m shekels ($135m) 

Only a few weeks ago, it was announced that the listing of the number of kibbutz owned firms on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is set to double. The movement may account for less than 2% of the overall population, but its 127,000 members drive over 8% of Israel’s GNP. Impressive.

And if you think that all I am talking about is a few large factories tagged on to a massive agricultural ego trip, you are wrong. Venture south towards Eilat, and stop off at Ketura. You will find some of the most sophisticated solar power units in the world. No surprise that Siemens has been investing heavily in the venture.

What next? Simple. Raise your glasses to the next 100 years of commercial success for these communities and then join in the boom.

Why no rain in the Holy Land is “good news”

November 14, 2010

About 5 years ago, in the midst of the Intifada and suicide bombings, some of the leaders of  main religions of Jerusalem came together for a  very unique press conference.

No, they did not call for peace. Nor did they offer a joint prayer for those who had been injured or killed. They could barely bring themselves to shake hands with each other.

The issue was the proposed march through the holy city by a group of homosexuals, lesbians and their supporters. The leading clerics – Muslim, Christian and Jew – were appalled and demanded the cancellation of the walk.

The calls fell on deaf ears. In fact, the walk has also taken place every year since then. And we all thought that we would not see such a sign of religious unity again, at least until after Israel had won the world cup.


This time, the rallying cry has not been to do with “settlement building”. Nor unsupervised excavations by the Wakf in the Old City. Not even the divisive management of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. No – we are talking about rain, or rather the lack of it.

It is mid November, and barely a drop of water has fallen in Israel this month. In fact, a heatwave is predicted for the next few days. The Kinneret, a main water resource, is running dry. Desalinization will only become fully effective in about 3 years. The country has a major problem.

So, several religious leaders – Jew, Muslim and Christian – came together last Friday for a joint prayer session. It took place in an Arab village, just outside Jerusalem.

Will it work? Will it be more successful than the previous act of unity? It will take a brave person to predict the future.

However, the event itself can be seen as one small drop in helping to make the garden of coexistence grow, despite the terrible environment. Long may their efforts continue.