How to do business with Israeli companies?

Adi Yefet, Business Hub at Aster

Israel is known as ‘The Start Up Nation’, a place where a lot of companies are developing new ideas and breakthrough technologies that can bring a real change to the world we live in. The small country with a population of 8.5 million people, is a home for over 5,000 startups. You probably know some of the technologies that were established and invented in Israel, such as WAZE, Mobileye, Wix and Netafim (drip irrigation). Being the world leader in R&D investments as a percentage of the GDP (4.25%), around 300 top global brands across different sectors opened a R&D center in Israel. Other brands like Volkswagen Group, Coca-Cola, ENEL, Citi Bank and more are operating an innovation activity in Israel to accelerate their business with young Israeli innovative companies and to play an active role in this vibrant ecosystem. Also, as a state with domestic VC funds raising over 1B annually, some brands like Verizon, Intel, General Electric or Visa prefer to have a VC presence in Israel.

So, the global community is aware of the Israeli added values, but still find it challenging sometimes to do business with Israeli companies and entrepreneurs, due to cultural gaps.

As an Israeli who works frequently with foreigners and has experienced such cultural differences, I decided to write some tips to the non-Israeli audience, which can be used while doing business with Israeli companies to minimize the potential struggles and the misunderstandings that can occur. It’s relevant to all types of business communication you might have, no matter if you’re the seller, the buyer, the investor or the one to be invested in.

Be direct

Israelis have a very direct communication style, which can be so straightforward that they might come off as rude or pushy. Nevertheless, this is a cultural characteristic of the startup nation — saying whatever one thinks, speaking on issues and expecting others to be responsive and direct as well. This mentality is also known as “Chutzpah” (the Hebrew word to ‘insolence’), which is considered to be a positive characteristic and part of the fuel that motivates and inspires the Israeli entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Therefore, don’t hesitate to be direct just as your Israeli colleagues are! If you think their idea is not the best, tell them. If you don’t see a future of doing business with them, tell them. If you have some comments, tell them. You’ll be highly appreciated and get your Israeli partner’s trust if you honestly share your thoughts and intentions, so don’t be shy!

Be Creative

When you work with Israelis, it is natural to wonder if their idea has the potential to succeed. Sometimes you might be amazed how the vision of the entrepreneur sounds weird and with very low chances to have a real market. Sometimes their idea will sound different and random, since they might transfer different needs and solutions from one sector to another. Also, having unusual ideas of models to collaborate is part of the creativity that might frighten you in the first place. So, changes in plans and schedule might occur but often prove to be more efficient.

Try to stay open minded and creative in areas you didn’t expect to. Thinking out of the box or inventing a totally new box is what makes thriving innovation. Try to adopt the ability of being flexible with your mind!

Be Quick

Life in Israel is very vibrant. Israelis like to be spontaneous and to move fast, also when it comes to business. Businesses are fast paced and often you might feel under pressure due to the sense of urgency they might have. No worries, it’s just the cultural tempo. Answering quickly to emails, moving on with processes, creating action items and complete them on time and taking quick action to resolve issues are some of the things that Israelis will appreciate.

If you’re interested in doing the deal, don’t wait, take action!

Be a friend

When you visit Israel, you can easily notice that the sun is very strong. Its high temperature is not only of the climate, but also in the Israeli people’s blood, who are very warm and welcoming. Personal relationships are very important to Israelis, so it is natural that colleagues and business partners will become close friends, socialize together and create strong connections. It is a very connected ecosystem where people get to know each other and create relationships that stay relevant across sectors. In this relationship-oriented culture, it might be surprising to find out how honest emotions are primary, while objective facts may be secondary. Personal opportunities can also be created by the informal and casual culture: when you’re doing business with Israelis, be ready to get some new friends and to be part of the Israeli community!

Culture is deep in people’s blood and usually influences their behavior in all aspects in life. This is also true when it comes to business, which can be a barrier when people from different cultures are trying to negotiate or work with Israelis.

In the article above, I’ve tried to give some tips for those who are wanting to do businesses with Israelis and are not very familiar with the Israeli way of life. Rest assured that Israelis are aware that they are assertive and persistent people, and to the fact it is not always easy to do business with them.

To summarize, the Israeli people are highly creative and innovative, but doing business with them might be challenging. Nevertheless, when you overcome the cultural hurdle, you will easily find the values and benefits you’ve earned. Hopefully these tips will assist you to find the best way of doing business with those who hold Israeli culture in their blood.

Good Luck!