Conexx event bridges U.S.-Israeli business gap

How can Americans and Israelis best conduct business?

That was the central question at the opening session of the 19th annual Professional & Business Seminar presented by Conexx: American Israel Business Connector on Wednesday, Sep. 30.

The event at Northpark Town Center aimed to discuss the differences between American and Israeli business cultures and explore methods to expand business partnerships between the two countries. The session was moderated by Cheri Levitan, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s vice president of community planning and impact, and featured keynote speakers Alon Zaibert of MaxMedia and Mark Satisky of NCR.

Photos by David R. Cohen Alon Zaibert (left) and Mark Satisky take questions to close out the Conexx session Sept. 30.

Photos by David R. Cohen
Alon Zaibert (left) and Mark Satisky (right) take questions to close out the Conexx session Sept. 30.

After a brief introduction by Levitan, Zaibert shared an Israeli perspective on American business culture. “Many Israelis can speak English,” he said, “but not all can speak American.”

Zaibert, who was born in Israel and has lived in the United States for two decades, explained that not only are there cultural differences between the countries, but there also are vast differences among States.

“In New York,” he said, “people are eager to get down to business, but in Georgia they usually want to establish a rapport. Every state has their own colloquial and sports team.”

The vice president of business development at MaxMedia described the advice he gave two Israeli professionals before a business trip to Alabama. “There’s only two words you need to know down there,” he told them. “Roll Tide.”

Just as there are subtle differences between the cultures, there also are many more challenging differences to work around.

Zaibert said Israelis are notoriously tough negotiators and have been raised to be naturally suspicious. Whereas Americans typically negotiate in three rounds, he said, Israelis never stop until a deal is finalized.

Satisky, the vice president of corporate development at Duluth-based NCR, detailed his company’s dealings with Israel.

“We bought a leading company in Israel, Retalix, and it’s been a great acquisition that we’ve been very happy with,” Satisky said after the event. “I was pleased to share with the group at Conexx why it has been a good deal and some of our lessons learned from the experience.”

After Satisky and Zaibert spoke, they participated in a question-and-answer session with Levitan moderating. The duo agreed that although navigating cultural differences can be difficult, both sides have a lot to gain by partnering.

The next session of the Conexx Professional & Business Seminar on Oct. 28 will address key considerations for Israeli companies that want to do business in the United States. The third session Nov. 11 will focus on new business models of Israeli startups. To get more information and to register, contact Barry Swartz at bswartz@conexx.org.