Editor’s note: Conexx, the American Israel Business Connector, each month posts a leadership message from one of its executive committee members. In the June edition, staffing executive Todd Porter explains why traveling to Israel is a must when doing business there, and why going with Conexx makes sense, especially for those who need to make strong initial connections.
For those of you who don’t know me, I have a search firm that primarily recruits for Israeli companies hiring in the U.S. I started my business in 1997 and have been working with Israeli companies since 2000. Over that period, I’ve worked with more than 200 Israeli companies.
With the typical business model of keeping R&D in Israel and going around the world to sell their solutions, our typical search is normally focused on sales and support or engineering. While I do work with U.S. companies, Israeli customers make up about 80 percent of my business.
I’ve been a member of Conexx since 2000 and went on my first business mission trip in February 2001. Since that time I’ve been to Israel a total of 17 times. What I have found is that Conexx is the best way to make entrée into Israel. Though I now have enough experience to make these trips on my own, I could have never gotten to this point without Conexx’s initial assistance. Also, I still depend heavily on Conexx providing me intelligence for these trips.
My goal in traveling to Israel is always centered around meeting current and past customers, firming up relationships I’ve developed over the years. Also, I’m always trying to target potential companies that are ready to hire in the U.S. or will be in the near future. To accomplish all of this and make the trips as productive as possible, I always try to wrap my trips around large events and conferences.
In May 2018, there were three great events over a period of four days centered around food and agriculture. I have Israeli customers in all these areas and thought it would be a great opportunity to add more companies to my portfolio.
Before you say agriculture is boring or not as sexy as software or cybersecurity, you should understand there are 400 Israeli companies in foodtech and 700 in agritech. I feel confident that I’ll eventually be able to look back and count at least 10 companies that I met at these events who will eventually become customers.
One company I met was FieldIN. They have an IoT crop management system. I’ve been trying for five months to connect with this company, since I saw they raised $4 million earlier this year. I sent a note through LinkedIn and the CEO asked me to stop by their booth at AgriTech and say hello. When I did, we ended up sitting down for 20 minutes discussing the company. He asked if I could visit their office in Yokneam, which I did the next week. After I got back to North Carolina, we were able to lock down our contract and have started a search for them.
In addition to the week centered around these events, I also spent a second week visiting companies around Israel. During this period, I met Conexx representative in Israel Michael Piha, who introduced me to an interesting company called Aug-Wind. I was able to meet the CTO, thanks to Michael setting up an introduction. They aren’t ready to hire but I’m sure they will soon need people in the U.S.
I also picked up a new customer in the retail industry called MySizeID. An old friend who had been a customer now sits on their board and provided me an introduction. The company has solutions to measure things with a cell phone app. They also went public earlier this year. We’re now recruiting a key business development person for them.
To make a trip like this beneficial you need to prep for two or three weeks. Between the events and interesting companies you can identify literally hundreds of people you might want to meet. You can reach out to key individual either directly or through LinkedIn. When I do this, my response rate is normally about 50 percent.
After the trip, there is a lot of followup that doesn’t take weeks but months and even years. All of this takes time and isn’t easy but can be very productive if you take the time before, during and after your trip.
So I hope you see that if you are dealing with Israeli companies or want to, there is huge value in traveling to Israel on a regular basis. I always tell people if you want to deal with the Israelis, you HAVE to go to Israel. Conexx can get you started and after they do, the sky is the limit. I’m always willing to talk to people about my story and history of working with Israeli companies. If you have any questions feel free to send me an email or give me a call.
Conexx will be heading back to Israel Oct. 20-25. For additional information on how to use the trip to find new customers or reconnect with old ones, contact Conexx’s Barry Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.