The importance of first impressions

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport is giving potential investors a proper first impression.”A first impression makes a lasting impression.” As with most clichés, there’s more than a kernel of truth in that statement. I happened upon this thought during a recent …

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport is giving potential investors a proper first impression.”A first impression makes a lasting impression.” As with most clichés, there’s more than a kernel of truth in that statement.

I happened upon this thought during a recent business trip to Israel. In the general chitchat before our meeting was set to begin, I started talking with some colleagues about the “new” Israel airport.

Ben Gurion Airport’s Terminal 3, Israel’s international gateway was finally opened in October 2004 after more than 10 years of planning and construction and almost five years behind schedule (it was originally supposed to coincide with the mass tourism expected in light of the millennium in the year 2000).

A beautiful, modern, comfortable, WiFi equipped complex, Terminal 3 saw over 10 million international passengers in 2007, according to airport statistics and was ranked first out of 40 European airports in a 2006 survey by the Airports Council International in terms of most customer-friendly airport.

This is in sharp contrast to the international terminal of old.

In the mid-’90s, during the first dotcom boom, I brought a potential investor to Israel to check out the burgeoning Israeli high-tech industry. Israel was already selling itself as a global technology leader, but this was in no way obvious to the newly arrived.

While the casual tourist may have been touched by what might be described as the quaint appearance and workings of the old international terminal, a modern day investor was not. Walking down a rickety mobile staircase, across the tarmac, herded onto a bus and driven across the property to passport control was a shocking experience for my guest. In his words Israel’s international airport looked (and functioned) more like a bus station than an airport.

The comfort of flying first-class was immediately erased by the on-ground experience. Needless to say, there was no business lounge to comfort him in the aftermath of this rather bumpy landing. He was less than impressed and thereafter found it hard to believe that Israel was indeed a global technology leader. A potential investor was lost by a poor first impression.

And perhaps rightfully so. There is a reason why people dress up for work, invest in office décor, and print high-quality business cards. These things make a positive impression. They show a familiarity and appreciation of a certain business culture, and just as importantly, a willingness to invest in one’s self. If you aren’t willing to invest in yourself, it’s hard to imagine you’d be able to convince someone else to invest in you.

With Terminal 3 as a first encounter to new arrivals and potential investors, at long last Israel can give a proper first impression.

Printed by courtesy of The Jerusalem Post