What is Israeli Chutzpah? From a brief, spontaneous, fascinating meeting I had with Noam Lanir at the Dinings Restaurant in the Norman Tel Aviv hotel…
Noam Lanir is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Israel. In my new book, “Israeli Business Culture,” I mention Lanir as an example of an Israeli entrepreneur. Lanir began his career in 1990 as a public relations advisor for Tel Aviv nightclubs and, in a radical shift, he and a partner subsequently opened Empire Online, a company which marketed gambling websites. Seven years later the company was valued at one billion dollars.
As I explain in the book, Lanir and other wildly successful Israelis exemplify what is unique about Israeli business culture. The book discusses the best way of working with Israelis to succeed in business dealings with them.
In tiny Israel, I happened to run into Noam Lanir a few weeks ago when my husband and I went to dine at an interesting, prestigious Japanese restaurant called Dinings, located on the roof of a boutique hotel, The Norman Tel Aviv. After glancing at the menu, we quickly grasped that the prices were way beyond our everyday budget. Nevertheless, we stayed for a glass of wine and to enjoy the atmosphere. Ofra Strauss, chairwoman of Israel’s second largest food producer, was sitting a few tables away from us; and sitting right near me, at the bar, was…Noam Lanir.
Now I admit I was not personally acquainted with Lanir, and it took a bit of Israeli chutzpah for me to go up to him, touch his shoulder, and say, “Noam Lanir, it’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Osnat Lautman!” Before I had even finished speaking, he stood up, smiled broadly, and said, “And what is your connection to the charming Dov Lautman?”
Dov Lautman, who passed away in November of 2013, was an industrialist and Israeli businessman. He founded and owned the “Delta Galil” textile plants, was a president of the Israel Manufacturers Association, and an Israel Prize laureate for Lifetime Achievement – Special Contribution to Society and the Nation. I’m sure that such a family connection could have helped me access many important businesspeople, such as Noam Lanir. But, the truth is, I have no relation to Dov Lautman. My grandfather did go visit him years ago in an attempt to locate family members after the Holocaust, but after a few hours of nice hospitality they both realized there was no familial connection between these two branches of Lautmans.
When Noam Lanir stood up at the sound of my name, I smiled as well. That’s just the way it is in Israel. Quite a few people at the top of the Israeli business, political and military worlds know each other. I told Lanir in amusement that he could sit down; I had no connection to Dov Lautman and had approached him because of a new book I had written in which he is mentioned.
I told him that the book, Israeli Business Culture, includes a practical model that uses the letters in the word “Israeli” as a basis for organizing the characteristics of Israeli business culture:
I explained to Lanir that his success story is included in the book’s chapter on Entrepreneurialism. I told him it describes how he, as a successful entrepreneurial business figure, has an overall vision and possesses the ability, against all odds, to turn his vision into reality and make difficult, intuitive decisions. The fact that he started as a public relations advisor for Tel Aviv nightclubs and today is the controlling shareholder and CEO of the Livermore Investment Group, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Babylon, and also the founder of Life Tree Marketing, a company that markets the medical services of Israeli hospitals to residents of the Commonwealth of Independent States, makes his life story and business success even more amazing.
When Lanir heard what I said and saw the digital file of my book on my mobile device, he rose once again and gave me a giant hug, whispering in my ear, “This is an Israeli businesswoman. This is Israeli culture….This is Israeli chutzpah!!” He took my phone number and promised to read more from the book and then send me his comments.
Although I haven’t heard from him, at least not yet, I think that this encounter has provided me with another great anecdote. This one is about a short dialogue between two Israelis that raises many points for considering and defining what Israeli culture is. Many of the salient points in my model were expressed in the meeting that only a lasted a few minutes: our informal dialogue (not to mention casual attire, including flip-flops and a non-button-down shirt in a fancy restaurant); the straightforwardness of the way I approached him and the things we both said; loudness, not in volume but in the crossing boundaries of personal space – my touch on his shoulder and the warm parting embrace; and of course the improvisational moment – my seizing the opportunity for an interesting conversation, one which gives a lot of food for thought.
Anyone interested in better understanding the Israeli business culture, its roots and characteristics, is invited to purchase the book Israeli Business Culture on Amazon. This practical book combines background information with real-life anecdotes and recommendations for good cross-cultural communication.
Read more about the author of the book and the blog, Osnat Lautman, and the services offered by the company OLM Consulting, at the website www.olm-consulting.com.