Archive for February 15, 2010

Networking in Israel – Feel Good or Effective?

Especially in Jerusalem, it seems that networking OFFLINE is the new online. It is rare that a week goes by when there is not a networking event to attend. Obviously, there are regular groups that meet such as GBN and BNI, but I am referring to specific events which are put on to ‘get people together’.

Is there value in this? Yeah, of course there is…however, I personally think that there are things that are of greater value than spending around 2 hours standing around awkwardly or meeting and speaking to someone that has little to do with your current business plans.

However, let me stray slightly and come up with counter arguements:

1. But you could meet someone who will (give you big business)/(give you that big idea)/(refer you to someone)…

I’m sure that you could . But is it likely? Perhaps. Has it happened in the last 10 networking events that you have attended? If yes, then great. If not, then who are you kidding? It actually reminds me of when I was single and used to attend singles events or go on blind dates. Remember your married friends who told you that there was no harm on going and that she could be the one ?

(For more on the perils of going on lots of dates, see http://habitza.com/) We actually went on a date once, but she has forgotten – but I digress)

2. As a freelancer, it is important for me to meet people who are in a similar situation to me…

I actually agree with this in a way. I work in an office on my own and rarely meet other people. I am lucky to have a wife who is in a similar (but very different) business and we can and do brainstorm at times. However, it is doubtful to me whether meeting with a set of semi-random people who generally want to talk about their own business and have little interest in your’s is the best way to do it.

3. Sometimes I need to get out of the house…

Agreed. Majorly important. However, I prefer the cinema/restaurant/pub etc.

Alright, I realize that I am being slightly cynical. I think my point really is that there is a value to everything that you do in addition to your time. If you are just attending networking events because that is what you have been told that you should do as a business owner then you may want to think again whether that is the best use of your time. Whatever business you are in, there are ALWAYS additional things that you could be doing especially in the marketing of it.

I think that a good think about networking events is that everyone is there to network and therefore you feel less embarrassment to approach someone and to ultimately pitch them. However, if you have something genuine and useful to the person that you are pitching then there is no reason to feel that nervousness.

A great alternative to networking at all is to phone someone up.

Who is the leader in your industry?
Who can be a great connection to you to introduce you to new business?
Who is the most likely person or company to purchase your product?

You would be surprised at just how effective it is to pick up the phone and tell someone how you can help them. Ask them first what their problem/concern is and then tell them how you can help them. Reciprocity is extremely powerful (read Robert Cialdini’s book and weep) and if you offer someone, then you are majorly likely to score a hit.

My point (again?)?

Spread yourself thickly rather than thin and make sure that you spend your time wisely. Be laser targeted to the ONE person who can help you the most rather than meeting with a load of people who there may be a small chance of them helping you.

Keeping it fairly real,

Ben S

PS. Didn’t really fit in above, but definitely another post coming soon about the usefulness (or lack of) of the ‘breakfast’ networking clubs…any thoughts?

Are you a networking fan? Am I totally missing the point? Do you find networking ridiculously useful and has it made a different to your business? Please let me know by commenting below:

Paypal – Friend or Foe?

What I want to do is this post, is briefly cover why I use Paypal for the majority of my online transactions and then also go into some specifics of using Paypal as an Israeli.

Especially for the niches that I operate in, Paypal works extremely well. In the business to business marketplace, Paypal is accepted as a standard and people feel comfortable making payments.

Reasons why?

– it is perceived as secure

– people see it as ‘play’ money and are more likely to spend

– there is a certain amount of protection in some ways more and some ways less than paying with a normal credit card

– people indirectly use their credit card with Paypal, so it is an added bonus

– it is fairly explicit in the terms and conditions of a transaction

As an online business owner, there is an additional benefit in that it integrates very well with turnkey scripts. Also, there is far less hassle than using a regular merchant account provider as Paypal takes care of the background hassle for you.

There is no need to have your own secure server, or deal with credit card numbers or make sure that your payment page is set up according to terms and conditions of the providers – not always as easy as you may think – infact V difficult.

What interested me though, was that I was speaking with a business consultant (Daniel O) at a Bris a few weeks ago who said that he actually thought when a site was just offering Paypal that it gave less credibility as they had not bothered to get a ‘proper’ merchant account. Apples and Oranges I guess…

As an Israeli, there are some additional advantages of using Paypal over a merchant account provider:

– it is notoriously difficult to do any reasonable volume online through an Israeli credit card provider

– no need to fill out long forms in Hebrew (not even joking!)

– with a normal processor, your customer wherever in the world that they are is charged in Shekels which are then converted to their currency. How would that go down in Iraq?! 🙂

To give you a bit of background about using Paypal as an Israeli:

1. Officially you are only allowed one Paypal account internationally

2. Paypal was introduced to Israel fairly recently and even more recently allowed you to withdraw money via your bank account and/or your credit card

3. There is no easy way to get money into your own Paypal account via your Israeli credit card or bank account, so you need to either be creative, receive a payment or make a purchase by using your credit card on your paypal account.

4. There IS a small Israeli office in Israel for Paypal who are currently working to make it more friendly for Israelis.

5. At present, Paypal does not accept or show screens in Hebrew – not so great if you are using Paypal to sell to Israelis who don’t know English…

A few tips if you are using Paypal as an Israeli:

1. Make sure that you have the correct address details. If your account is ever limited (convo for another time) then you will find it almost impossible to reopen otherwise.

2. If you are limited, then provide a translation that is signed by your lawyer of whatever they ask for you (probably also a convo for another time)

3. It is free and relatively quick to withdraw money to your bank account. If you withdraw to your credit card, it still ends up going to your bank account – it just costs you more and usually takes longer.

4. There is an option to automatically add VAT to anyone making a purchase from you in Israel. This is incredibly useful not just so you don’t lose the (currently) 16% but helps you also spot Israelis so that you can write them a separate receipt and pay the VAT. After all, is your usual price for a service $31.36?

5. Check your end of month spreadsheet line by line to check that there are no payments from Israelis. You can do a search in the downloadable Excel spreadsheet for Israel. Also do a search for netvision and other Israeli ISPs in the email address field – any other tips for noting Israeli transactions greatfully accepted.

In my next Paypal post, I will go into further details on how it seems one can handle their bookkeeping when using Paypal – not as easy as you may think. Especially if you have hundreds or thousands of transactions a month…

Am sure that I have missed something out. Let me know if any questions or comments below…

Keeping it real in an ‘Israeli’ world,

Ben S

A Brief Introduction…

Hi,

Just a bit of an introduction on why I chose to create this blog and more importantly what I hope to achieve.

I’ve been doing business in Israel for about 6 years now. 5 of those as an atzma’i (freelancer) and the last few months as a company. In another post, I will probably go into more detail on why I made the bureaucratic change, but my post is, that I have done it from a number of different angles.

Without tooting my own horn, I feel that I have learnt a huge amount over the last few years about conducting business in Israel and perhaps more so, from Israel.

I run a semi-successful business online reaching an international market. I do very little business anymore within Israel apart from consulting. Any additional business that I do to the Israeli market is more coincidence rather than intentional. What I mean by that, is that anyone in the world is welcome to purchase my products, and sometimes that happens to be Israelis.

Topics that I intend to cover in this blog are:

1. Processing payments as an Israeli (business) with a special focus on Paypal

2. Networking in Israel

3. Accounting and tax issues and how to overcome them (not an accountant, but spend a lot of money on them!)

4. International legal issues and whether they are relevant (not a lawyer, nor played one on TV…)

5. Recruiting partners and clients internationally

6. How to position yourself internationally

7. Doing business with Israelis

Very interested in your comments below on whether you think that you will find the above useful, if you have any specific questions and also if you have any other ideas for topics.

Keeping it real in an ‘Israeli’ world,

Ben S