Taking Stock / Who Is a Good Manager?

Shlomo Dovrat, Dov Lautman, Shlomo Nehama, David Federmann, Zadik Bino, Chemi Peres, Meir Shamir, Ofer Nimrodi, Gershon Salkind, Eli Ayalon, Shlomo Eliahu, brothers Yehuda and Zohar Zisapel, Eliezer Fishman, Motti Zisser, Ishay Davidi, Meir Dor, Lev Leviev, Yitzhak Tshuva, Itschak Shrem, Yanki Margalit, Ofra Strauss, Jacob Perry, Izzy and Dedi Borovich.

What do they have in common?

They are the most successful businesspeople in Israel.

How do we know? Because most of you, dear readers, know their names. You read about them in the papers every other day. They control some of Israel's biggest businesses, each of which with hundreds to thousands of employees.

Are these the parameters of success? To control a big company? To make the front pages? Usually, yes. If you can claim all that, you're probably very successful.

But there are other success criteria in business, most of which are more important, such as creating value for shareholders and outperforming the market in which you operate. How many people meet the test of these criteria? A lot less than the 25 names we mentioned above.

The list contains three types of managers and entrepreneurs: those who made big money for their investors, those who made big money for themselves, and those who made headlines. How did they make the money? In the free market, by controlling a monopoly, by raising it on the stock market or from institutionals, by milking the state? Well, some of the members of that distinguished list did it simply enough: they issued securities for top dollar and took the money home. The loss of their investors was their gain.

In a series of columns, we will try to genuinely evaluate the performance of Israel's top business personalities. We are not using the usual criteria of power, clout, control, size and number of headlines, but economic variables, first a foremost creation of value for investors.

Our conclusions may prove surprising. Some of the managers with the shiniest images may prove to be terminators of value, opportunists who failed at actual management. And some of the managers quietly subsisting on the sidelines may prove to be genuinely talented at creating value in competitive markets.

The main reason our results may be a shock is that our analysis takes a long-term view. You can't judge a person in a day or even a quarter or year. We chose to take the 10-year view.

Why 10 years?

Over a period that long, people will prove their mettle, or lack of it.

Managers can take a failing company and make it work. It is enough time to leave their stamp on their work, not merely struggle to rebuild the ruins left by their predecessor.

Ten years is long enough to iron out the wrinkles of seasonality and cycles, of spikes and troughs in the economy or financial markets. During 10 years, there will probably be at least one crisis and at least one boom, sometimes more.

In short, a manager who fails the 10-year test probably won't pass the 20-year one. And if the manager passes the test, it most probably is not sheer luck.