The Do’s and Don’ts of Doing Business in Israel
With high investment returns and profitable business opportunities available, doing business in, and with, Israel is often part of the global strategy of many thriving companies. Capitalizing on these opportunities can nevertheless seem overwhelming to even the most experienced business professionals. Understanding Israel’s immense respect for technical know-how, innovation and forward-thinking entrepreneurs will help to ensure your venture goes as smoothly as possible. We look at giving you the vital insights – the Do’s and Don’ts – that are the platform of a successful journey, for both you and your business.
Do know who you are going to do business with. Business culture in Israel is casual and informal. Israelis are direct, assertive and persistent. Business is fast-paced and often conducted with an inherent urgency. At the same time, personal connections are of the utmost importance. Colleagues and business partners take time to get to know one another, socialise and drink coffee together.
Do your cultural homework – Israel is a young country with few natural resources and it frequently faces adverse conditions. These factors play into all aspects of Israeli culture, including its business environment. Known as the Start-Up Nation, Israeli business is pervaded by technology and innovation. Israelis prize intelligence and creativity, showing respect for experts and prominent specialists in their field.
Do expect Israel junior team members to voice their opinion and take an active role.
The management style in Israel is often collaborative, and the concept of hierarchy is practically non-existent. Israelis are interested in solutions and results, and everyone is given the opportunity to voice their opinion. Nevertheless, the most senior person will have the final say in the decision-making process.
Do be prepared for interruptions during your business meeting. The informal atmosphere of Israeli business combined with the importance of relationships means that people will take the time to answer calls or visits from other people. This may be very distracting and may seem impolite but being efficient in Israel means doing more than one thing at the same time.
Do respect the religious background of your business partner. Religious Jews, for instance, won’t shake hands of members of the opposite sex in this way. When working with religious colleagues, it is important to be aware that they will not be available on the Sabbath (sundown on Friday until Saturday evening). It is customary to ask if there are special requirements when serving food or drink, as some Israelis observe the dietary laws of Kashrut (Kosher).
Don’t use understatement and subtleties. Israelis are direct and state their opinions. You should try to do the same. Israelis will trust you more if you are honest and direct. Expect business to be straightforward and emphasize the “bottom line.”
Don’t be offended if an Israeli invades your personal space, stay where you are. Taking a step back will offend your partner. Personal space is much smaller in Israel than in North American and Asia, and Israelis will put a hand on your shoulder or your arm during conversation. There is also more physical contact, and conversations often involve gestures and touching.
Don’t do business on Friday or Saturday, as this is the Jewish Sabbath day. People typically work 40 to 45 hours per week from Sunday to Thursday.
Don’t make the assumption that just because you have experience working with people in an international environment, you will not encounter cultural minefields. Israel is a culturally complex country.
Don’t discuss Israeli government, politics or religious issues during a business meeting. However, listen carefully if your Israeli partner starts talking about these topics and try to remain neutral on the subject to avoid causing offense.