At a recent conference on Human Wealth in Tel Aviv, I had a chance to listen to an impressive array of influential hi-tech CEOs. One in particular struck a chord: Herzel Ozer, founder and CEO of AllJobs. Ozer served in key roles in the Israeli economy and was ranked one of the 50 most influential figures in telecommunication in Israel.
Ozer was CEO in leading Israeli companies: in telecommunications, Bezek, Hot and Yes; in food, Elite, Osem, Sugat; in infrastructure, Nesher; and start-ups, AllJobs and Ciber2.
Ozer is also well-known for his military service: he captured the arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar, in April 1979.
A young military platoon commander, Ozer was stationed in the north of Israel when he indirectly got information that terrorists infiltrated the sleepy seashore city of Nahariya. He contacted his commanders and was told to go back to sleep, that all was quiet.
Not taking no for an answer, Ozer did his own tour of the seashore with his platoon. When he saw figures running on the beach, he decided to send his second-in-command to check out the area. The second-in-command saw the two terrorists attacking a four-year-old girl who was held hostage after they killed her father. He then shot the terrorists, killing one and injuring Kuntar, who was then captured. The military historian Uri Milstein wrote in his report on this terrorist attack that the only one who functioned well in the chaos was Herzel Ozer.
He always encouraged his soldiers to think independently and to gather as much intelligence before acting. He told me that a lot of the techniques, such as looking for weak points on the opposing side, he learned in the army. All this stood him in good stead as moved up in the business world. Throughout his career, he never took anything for granted. As he is fond of saying “we can’t be captives of our preconceptions.”
“We can’t be captives of our preconceptions.”Herzel Ozer
A business career
Ozer started out as a research economist in the Bank of Israel. He used his research paper for the bank as his thesis for his Tel Aviv University degree, as he had no extra time serving two months a year in the army and sleeping only a couple of hours a night.
Though all these companies were very different in nature ranging from food to telecommunications, what they all had in common was a highly inquisitive CEO who constantly questioned conventional wisdom. For example, at Nesher, he expanded the company from an exclusive cement to a concrete company, and expanded Sugat from sugar to herbal tea – always looking for a niche to outperform competitors.
Ozer said that most organizations are resistant to change, and challenging economic concepts was not easy.
When corona landed on our shores, Ozer was one of the best-prepared CEOs in the country. The digital transformation he initiated had already been under way. Ozer created AllJobs, matching the widest range of companies with potential employees. He won all the lawsuits brought from the newspapers, and the company was eventually bought by Yediot.
Here too he added a much needed niche for freelancers and those who chose ‘hybrid work’ – partial work from the office and home.
Applying all his business experience, Ozer has served as the chairman of the Management College in Rishon. He has become a mentor to numerous students throughout the years as part of his payback to society.
When asked if it seems he has always challenged the rules to bring about change, he answered modestly that that was precisely the title of the book he has just finished writing. ■
The writer is a journalist and director of Torah Life Center.