Published in The Business Conversation, Australia – June, 2022.
Bench Media CEO & Co-founder Ori Gold explores how his experience taught him lessons in resourcefulness, support and working together to nurture talent.
It remains one of life’s mysteries that some of our most profound learnings come from the most unlikely of places. Two decades ago, I left the Israeli Defence Forces to join a kibbutz – a small, self-sustaining community that offered a dramatic change of pace to the conflict and uncertainty of a post-9/11 world. As far-fetched as it seems, the two years I spent as a fisherman for this communal society taught me more leadership skills than many of my past career steps.
Now, as the leader of an Australian ad tech company, I hold three invaluable lessons from my kibbutz experience that have shaped my worldview and led me to where I am today.
Upon entering a kibbutz, one of the first things you learn is to become self-sufficient and to be resourceful. By its nature, a kibbutz is an egalitarian society whereby everyone cooks and does chores together and even looks after each other’s children.
Feeding and caring for up to hundreds of people is indeed a pressure. But it shows you a lot about finding and using the right tools. It teaches you to always find a better way – and if you can’t, create it yourself.
This way of thinking is something I have carried long into my career in technology and advertising. Over time, I have increasingly noticed gaps in existing tools and solutions in optimising media planning across multiple ad platforms.
Always believing there was another and better way of doing things, I made it my vision to address the shortcomings of the advertising landscape, including transparency, bureaucracy and the need for standardisation.
Marketers should always be able to find the best media for their business strategy at any given time by making transparent comparisons between different media and ad tech providers. They also need the ability to quickly shift budgets from one activity to another, otherwise these insights become wasted knowledge.
The desire to change this for the better is what led my co-partners and I to launch Bench together in 2012. As Bench completes its tenth year, my core belief in striving for better, whatever the situation, holds true. Success is a result of a long-term process that starts with understanding how to fail properly and using what you’ve learned to achieve a better result.
2. Everyone deserves support
The kibbutz’s history is rooted in sharing resources and education. In an egalitarian society, no single person is better than the other and everyone is entitled to the right support.
It is also incredibly diverse: guests from all different backgrounds and cultures come and go, each imparting their own knowledge, skills and levels of curiosity. From this, you soon gain many unique perspectives on different situations.
As a business leader, I try to mimic my kibbutz experience through a heavy focus on equal opportunities, including parental leave, and respect for all individuals. One core component of this is an anti-bullying policy that every employee must sign.
Initiatives like these are critical for leaders in a world where burnout and poor mental health are becoming prevalent. Not only are you protecting your team’s welfare, but you’re also laying the foundations for business success. That is because a team that is comfortable – physically and mentally – will always perform brilliantly regardless of circumstance.
3. It takes a village to nurture talent
My final takeaway from kibbutz living is this: nobody is born knowing everything, and skills are nurtured over time. When you have a clear purpose and a network dedicated to achieving it, sourcing the right knowledge and tools will soon follow.
In a kibbutz, people are united by the goal of making life comfortable for everyone. People raise other children like their own, train young people in skills and crafts, and the result is blanket progress and prosperity for the entire community.
If only the start-up ecosystem could take the same approach to talent. Instead, unfortunately, far too many remain fixated on the product alone. However, without a well-honed team to sell and execute it, a great product will never even leave the shelves.
Successful businesses are built on leveraging top talent and a culture based on excellence. Hiring based on enthusiasm and willingness to learn, rather than just skills, will pay its dues when creating this culture – though if you are willing to invest the time and resources into your people.
Like a kibbutz, the best businesses thrive when everyone pulls together and supports each other for the success of both the collective and every individual. Fostering this takes time and effort, but the rewards reaped will nourish both your business and the wider community for years.
Read the article which appeared on The Business Conversation Australia in June, 2022.