He is one of those who has left an indelible fingerprint in my life and who has had a major influence on my career.
I always thought highly of him, admired him, looked up to him. However, I have this gnawing frustration that we had an unfulfilled and not fully accomplished relationship. There was something I did not get right; Perhaps I could probably have behaved differently where our relationship is concerned.
There are worlds which separate us; we can never agree on many basic issues in life, he is a right-wing supporter, I am a social-liberal. He is religious, I am a world-traveller, he is a “Hamish” person. We are so different. All of the above, though, has not resulted in any reduction in my deep love and appreciation for Manuel.
He is as honest as you can get. He is a man of righteousness, he is a family man, a great father, the sort of grand-father you would want for your children, a great and supporting husband to Esterella. He is creative, innovative, courageous, he is everything I admire. A man of strong convictions.
Insurance and sales
I was in my late twenties when I answered an advert for “Chail Insurance Company” who were looking to grow their sales force. It was all about selling health and life insurance plans. I was exposed to the newest trends and sales theories known at that time. Manuel came to Israel from Canada, bringing with him the latest and updated most professional approach to sales of insurance policies.
There was a fascinating and clever way to identify the customer’s needs. We were not allowed to “sell”, but we were obliged to offer the proper solutions that would work for the customer. It was there and then where I was first exposed to the magic of health and life insurance. I had the best teacher. Manuel liked me and I admired him. Soon I became a frequent visitor to his office and was later welcomed into his house. He was interested in my life, in my personal dilemmas and life-challenges. Manuel became a great personal guide, a professional mentor and a true friend. The time I spent with Manuel has laid the foundation for my success in business, and his approach and wisdom has been my guiding light up to today. I owe a lot to Manuel, more than he will ever know.
It was a Tel Aviv summer’s morning. We had coffee in his office. I told him of a friend who was selling a farm which I was dreaming of buying. I was looking for “only” 80% of the price. I wanted him to allow the insurance company he was the CEO of, to grant me a loan.
“What? Are you crazy? Guys come here with requests for loans for 20% of a purchase price, not t 80%. The answer is no”.
I got the loan and bought the farm. 😀
This was Manuel – approachable, kind, flexible. That real estate had a major influence on my financial situation. With such a large loan it forced me to succeed in my sales and career. I had to pay back this loan. And so I did.
Manuel was born in Romania in 1934. He arrived in Canada with his family, as immigrants, in 1935. Listening to his life story, you think about the leaders of the original family who could foresee what was to come of the communities of Jews in Europe. Jewish families on the move have learnt to put food on the table by working hard. Soon they would open shops and become prosperous.
Manuel matured under the wings of his father and uncles who found ways to make it in this land of the free. Childhood memories of going fishing with his father, stories and songs which became the aspiration to reach the promised land (of Israel) he recounts.
There was a family member who took a bicycle and rode all the way to the land of Israel. Until these dreams could come true, they lived their lives in Montreal, dreaming of the day of “Alya”(*1). “We lived our working life; we were free to live our Jewish life and dreamed of reaching the promised land.
I am sitting in Manuel’s home in Israel, listening to some stories I have never heard before. He is now well over 80, but still sharp and vivid as always. As he tells me his story, I imagine the life he had in a world that none of us will ever know; about his father whose close relationships with him enlightened his ways in life. An autodidactic and clever guy “who had an answer for everything”.
“My father taught me to trust myself, to think, plan, and act accordingly. I trusted myself and he made me feel I could make it with my own strengths.”
His dad’s life story can fill another book through which the tormented Jewish nation could be seen.
In those days, (though also today in some religious circles) religious marriages were “arranged” by families.
“The private teacher who used to come to our house spoke to my father about Estrella, who was the woman who would probably be a good match and with whom you could have a successful marriage. So I called her and asked for the opportunity to meet up that evening;
“You are calling me for a meeting set for the same day? This is unacceptable,” she said. But Manuel knew something about sales, and in a proper sales exercise on the phone, he “sold” the appointment.
“She is the only lady I even had or will have in my life” he stresses.
In today’s world, this sounds like a bedtime fairy tale for children.
But I did not need to hear that declaration to know how deep and true that was.
For many years, I was a welcomed guest in Esterella and Manuel’s home. I could sense the depth of their relationship, their partnership, the way they would address each other, the friendship, the respect. What can I say… I am writing these words not knowing how to convey what I feel about this couple. There is something regal in the way they have treated each other.
Once, during a trip in his car, I made a forward move and asked Manuel about their relationship and about the ways to keep a marriage so fresh (that was arranged – remember?). Manuel was quick to answer… read this carefully:
“If you make your lady a queen, you will have a queen in the house…
And after you have made her a queen, she will make you a king”
Honestly, throughout all my life, I did not hear a nicer and more clever statement about marriage like this one. On the contrary, all we hear is cynical jokes and a sense of disappointment about married life. Manuel and Esterella knew better.
Manuel and Esterella moved to live in Israel. They have four children and numerous grandchildren. They have a full family life; their house is always full, and the door is always open. It doesn’t matter how close you are to the ‘royal couple’, you are always a welcomed guest.
A friend introduced Manuel to the local world of Canadian insurance. From the start, back then in Canada, Manuel becomes a story of success. He sold an impressive number of life insurance policies and made a good income for his family. When sales were slow, his boss forced him to leave the office, to “go out there -onto the street,” where the customers were.
His boss was the same type of boss Manuel became for me later on. A source of inspiration, encouraging, knowledgeable, kind but demanding. Perhaps this approach had some influence on the type of boss I was to become later on myself.
The push to succeed, to implement order and systems in the daily work schedule, order on your desk, priorities. The ultimate approach of getting your sales pitch right, the respect and true care for the customer.
But mainly the strive to be the best, to be a “better me” and to reach the peak of your dreams”. If I have some of this in myself, then much of it was taught or influenced by Manuel.
Manuel brought much of the drive and professional passion and professionalism to the insurance industry in of the State of Israel. It may sound strange, but in the Israeli life insurance industry of the late 1980s, his knowledge and approach were to become a benchmark for a professional approach. Much of my success started in the office of Manuel, in our conversations, discussions and analysis of reports and meetings with customers. He was probably the only insurance company president in the world who would happily go with an agent or with a broker to see a customer, even for a moderate sale. His dedication, love for insurance sales and curiosity drove his desire to be on the front line. I think (and hope) my staff will read this and see many of those same features in the way I operate today.
In his insurance career, Manuel became a co-owner of the company we worked for. This did not end so well for him as some changes in the company cut him out and left him feeling that an injustice had been done.
Manuel moved on but never started a new career. I was building consultancy business and Manuel was with me on a project. Looking back, I feel guilty about this time. I think I could have been a closer friend and be more active in keeping this relationship intact. But I started my adventures in Europe, and our ties grew weaker. Now, as Manuel is over 80, I sense the loss of the years where I could have been closer to him and enjoy the great conversations we had, his wisdom and his sense of humour.
This, perhaps, is no longer possible, but Manuel will probably be pleased to hear of the great gifts he gave me and the massive influence he has had on my career. In many situations, I find myself still presenting the principles of insurance the way I saw it done during the first meeting I had in his office.
I find myself stating his phrases and repeating his jokes.
Many thanks, Manuel for the “so very much” you gave me. I am so happy we met. Your huge and kind addition to my life has always been, and will be very noticeable.
I am ending this article with warm wishes for both Esterella and you for many more years of good health and happiness.