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Most Technologies Ltd. – From Segula in Petach Tikva to the World at Large / Hila Yaakobi

Most Technologies Ltd. got it start 11 years ago as a different company. In 1999 Most set out as an independent firm. The company has 100 employees, including 50 outsourcing consultants, and most of its operations are for foreign customers. We spoke with CEO Danny Marom, Human Resources Manager Dalia Shaul and Recruitment Manager Gila Shalit about the company's operations, character, recruitment processes and management-employee relations.

Danny Marom, CEO and one of the company's founders:

When Most first got started there were just four of us working for the company, and little by little more people joined, primarily through personal acquaintances, and today we have 100 employees. Of the original core group, 50% are still with us today.

What is Most's primary enterprise?
At first we specialized in upgrading mainframe systems. Later we expanded to other areas as well, particularly open systems. The company has clients in Israel and abroad. In Israel our operations are divided into projects and placing consultants. Outside of Israel we do systems upgrading, i.e. converting systems from one programming language to another, from one database to another. Outside of Israel our operations are based on highly sophisticated technology developed at the company, which knows how to do upgrading processes very precisely and quickly.

CEO Danny Marom with Recruitment Manager Gila Shalit (left)
 and HR Manager Dalia Shaul (right)

Who are the company's clients?
Danny: In Israel we're active primarily among large clients – banks (Bank Leumi, Discount, Mizrahi), healthcare funds, National Insurance and Isracard. Outside of Israel it's more complex. Our first foreign client was Federal Express. They bought a product that we developed and they have been making use of it for various needs ever since then. In 2000 we began focusing on systems upgrading. Our first major foreign customer was US insurance company, Aflac, which we have ties with to this day.

What's special about this project?
Danny: Aflac is a highly reputable company in the US with an annual sales volume of $17 billion. The company is 160th on the Fortune 500 list. The project went on for three and a half years and was executed primarily at our site in Israel. Two people were placed at the client site and another 15 people were working on the project here in Israel. Our initial contact with the client dealt with the question of whether it was safe to do business with companies from Israel. At the time it was the height of the Intifada, with 130 deaths in terror attacks, and the client was very concerned about the security situation.

How did you persuade them in the end?
Danny: We enlisted the help of several heavyweights in the local market – the CEO of IBM Israel, the president of Applied Materials and the heads of large organizations that conduct massive development work in Israel. We brought in the economic attaché at the Israeli Embassy in the US as well as the economic attaché at the US Embassy in Israel. Eventually a deal was signed and we got started with the project. (All this took place during the weeks leading up to Passover 2002, before the horrible attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya.)

Since then the project has grown substantially and the client eventually referred to it as one of the most successful projects in the company's history. As a result the CIO asked us to support other operations and invited us to take part in a project by its Japan subsidiary. That's what opened the door to Japan for us.

What was the outcome of opening the door in Japan?
Danny: We've been involved in the Japanese client's systems upgrade project for over a year and we estimate the project will continue for another 3-5 years. At the moment we have two people who were relocated to Tokyo and another 16 people working on the project from Israel. This is a real transformation for us, especially if you now what it means to work with a Japanese organization. It's very different from working with Israelis, Americans or Europeans. It's a totally different world.

How do the differences in culture and mentality come out in your work with the Japanese?
Danny: The quality of the work, meeting deadlines, the level of documentation, the fine details, the precision – these are critical factors in working with the Japanese. Their standards are completely different from what we're used to and it definitely has an effect on us. We can clearly see that if we want to be there for years we'll have to make our standards fit theirs. That demands a lot of us and I'm happy to say so far we've met their expectations and have received a lot of commendation. The Japanese are very impressed with the caliber our people display and with the quality of our work.

At present are most of your operations taking place abroad?
Danny: About half of our operations are abroad – in Japan, the US and Spain. We've already generated more interest in Japan and we have operations in Spain with a local partner. In the US, in addition to our ties with Aflac, we have another client, a subsidiary of General Motors, and there's a lot of interest coming from South Africa.
All of this activity is managed primarily from Israel.

How does a company this size manage to execute large, complex projects for foreign customers, all out of your Segula location in Petach Tikva?
Danny: Everything starts and ends with people and their level of quality. Their commitment to the success of the project and the success of the company is unmatched. One example of this is that a considerable number of employees wanted to work during the holidays in order to meet our deadlines.

How do you get people to be so loyal and committed?
Dalia: It starts from the top. This is a group that was built when Danny founded the company and just as Danny is Most, so is the entire group.
Danny: We're a very tight group. We've gone through a lot together, including some difficult experiences. In 2002, when the [high-tech] bubble burst, there were some hard times, and we were among the first companies that took steps to reduce expenses in order to avoid layoffs. From the employees' standpoint it went great, and there were even words of appreciation, because the alternative was to fire workers. During that stormy period we didn't fire a single employee.

Do these relations come across in employee turnover as well?
Danny: There's no substantial turnover here. Most of our people who were with us from the start remain with us today.

Do you take measures designed to retain employees?
Danny: There's a built-in system based on an awareness of the importance of this matter. It doesn't happen on its own. There are people who definitely have more tempting options on the outside, yet they choose to stay with us for many years. I think this speaks for itself.
Gila: When you feel the company is committed to you, you're aware of things you're getting that go beyond your paycheck.

Yet salary is no piddling matter. What added value do you provide?
Dalia: I believe that salary is very important, but when an employee chooses a place to work, there are a series of factors that lead him to choose where he wants to work. If several options are available to him the jobseeker will choose the place that offers him elements that speak to him.

Danny: Our employees are treated well and challenged professionally. Sometimes you can pay a worker more, but that doesn't guarantee he'll be happy to come into the office in the morning. I think that people enjoy working here and being in the company of the people here, and that's a very important element in their decision-making.

What characterizes Most's organizational culture?
Danny: It's a very apolitical company. When there are groups generally there's politics and intrigue. I don't like to get caught up with this stuff, and from my perspective as CEO that's a big advantage. We're involved in complex projects and everyone here is willing to help others, without creating problems or friction. All of us enlist to help out and we work together to solve problems and advance projects and make things happen the best way possible. That's also reflected in our reputation on the outside. The company has a good reputation, both in terms of the quality of the people and in terms of its professional capabilities.
Dalia: The company is on very good terms with its customers and we feel that's very important.
Gila: There's a lot of social interaction and bonding.

How would you describe management-employee relations?
Gila: I think the main factor is the mutual commitment. The employees are very committed to the company because they know the management is very committed to them. The workers feel the sense of responsibility the CEO and the management has toward them. Danny's efforts to avoid dismissals as much as possible essentially says, 'I'm committed to you as an individual.' This also comes across in the interest taken in the employee's personal life and family. Our open-door policy is not just a slogan, but a real feeling that Danny and the management staff are there for you and your needs, whatever they may be. That's something very unique at Most. It's not just part of the rules of the game, but a policy we choose to pursue.

Danny: The management here is very different. Employees feel comfortable coming to me regarding matters totally unrelated to the job, but rather on a personal level based on the bond between us. I don't perceive this as something unusual. If I can help I'm glad to lend a hand. We also err sometimes, but when that happens we're aware of it and try to learn from our mistakes rather than repeat them. We're not perfect, but we try. In my view people come first, not technology.

What are your selection criteria?
Gila: We have a staff that's really exceptional from a human standpoint. We're looking for similar people. We try to create homogeneous groups. We don't hire people at all costs, and won't increase the number of workers here at all costs. We're very selective and we don't advertise ourselves glaringly and don't do massive recruitment drives, but rather very specific, limited recruitment.

Which recruitment sources do you make use of?
Gila: We work very well with Jobnet, which is almost our only recruitment source. We have a few more sources through the Internet and elsewhere, but there, too, we try to be focused. Qualified people come to us through Jobnet and the use of the website has made our work more effective.

And what about recruiting consultants (i.e. outsourcing)?
Gila: We always have open positions. We don't take on short-term projects. We feel a commitment to the employees and don't hire a worker if we don't know whether we'll be able to offer him another job when the project ends.

Dalia: We have no interest in saying we recruited 50 people in one month and then have 50 people leave the company at the end of the year. That's not good for the company and it's not good for the employees. We always try to relate to employees in the long-term.

How is recruitment conducted at Most?
Gila: Responsibility for recruitment is not in the hands of the Recruitment Department alone. The staff is committed to recruitment at every possible level and we're there to provide the candidate a response to any question or issue that may arise. We're involved in all of the reservations every candidate has and provide him as much information as possible to allow him to decide. Every company is an unknown entity at first and I believe that when a candidate receives information it makes it easier for him to reach a decision and choose the best place for him.

How do you make a match between the employee and the client?
Gila: Just as we're selective in choosing employees, so too are we selective in presenting candidates to our customers. We never flood the customer with dozens of candidates, but carefully choose two or three who precisely meet the professional profile they're seeking, with the knowledge that each of them is right for the job. All that remains for the customer to do is to see which of them clicks best in terms of personality. We work in a very focused way in this matter.

There are so many companies active in outsourcing out in the market. Which advantages can you offer job candidates?
Danny: When you work with very large companies you're just "another worker" and your main bond is your paycheck and the annual company event. At a smaller company the manager's ability to pay attention to and help employees is much greater. At a large company if the hiring was not successful, that's one less "worker" in its stats. At Most we closely follow the hiring process and are committed to its success.

Dalia: A lot of people who worked at large companies say explicitly they prefer a small company where they know their direct supervisor and he has time for them. There's no such thing as a new employee who started working at Most and hasn't met Danny.

Danny: Although unlike the large companies we don't appear in the media every day, the employees' satisfaction travels from ear to mouth. People sense we have a group of quality people here and want to be a part of this company.

What is Most's employee benefit policy?
Dalia: I regard this field as a project and manage it the same way the company's projects are managed. I strongly believe "G-d is in the details," i.e. in thoroughness, in critique, in repeated quality assurance. We invest a lot in the little things, not necessarily in the showcase events. We make a point of holding a meeting of all employees every other month, acknowledge birthdays, children who started first grade, gifts for soldiers, etc. One a year we hold an event for all company employees and their spouses, and once a year the activity includes children as well. We also distribute a monthly newsletter called the "Moston."
Our employees are also involved in activities that make a contribution to the community. We've forged ties with Kav Lechaim. Our contribution is very modest, but important. We help transport children and volunteer for various activities around the country.

What lies on the horizon in terms of the company's operations and size?
Danny: Our plan is to increase foreign activity and bring as much work as possible to Israel. I don't want to grow to excessively large dimensions, so that we can continue to know the people and manage the company the same way.

Why are you looking outside of Israel?
Danny: It's more interesting and more challenging, it expands your horizons and gives people more opportunities. Our foreign operations are conducted without neglecting our operations in Israel, but I want two footholds – the local market with the customers we work with faithfully hand-in-hand, and operations with our foreign customers.
The challenge is enormous. We do this almost without resources, from one end of the world to the other. It's an unrealistic dream in some ways and runs counter to every theory taught in business administration schools, but we're succeeding and proving it can be done.

What do you think is the key to the company's success?
Danny: People, people, people. When you move forward and don't need to look back because you know your people are there with you, you can climb the highest mountains. I know that no matter what problem we encounter we'll pull through it stronger. The people who stand behind me are very good people, and no less important, supportive. At many difficult points, and we've been through our share, they were behind me, giving me a tremendous push forward. It's sort of like ping-pong – I give and take, give and take. I don't know who invented ping-pong, but it's a game of a lot of give and take, and it's an amazing feeling at the individual level.

For the Hebrew Article  

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