Zoomed in / Iscar Love what you do

Editor: Barbara Schulz

Israel – ETMM's Editor-in-Chief, Barbara Schulz, visited Iscar’s headquarters in Tefen in the northern part of Israel in March this year and had the chance to talk to Jacob Harpaz, CEO of Iscar and president of the IMC Group.

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"I would say that 50% of our sales are based on relationships." Jacob Harpaz, president of the IMC Group and CEO of Iscar, Israel.
"I would say that 50% of our sales are based on relationships." Jacob Harpaz, president of the IMC Group and CEO of Iscar, Israel.
( Schulz)

I found myself sitting with Iscar’s CEO & President of the IMC Group, Jacob Harpaz, in the company’s cafeteria, overlooking the hills at the border to Lebanon. We had a chat, and you never would have thought that you were sitting there, talking to a man who is responsible for more than 12,000 employees in 140 subsidiaries and 61 countries. He's perfectly pleasant and charismatic and has achievements to his name that very few in Israel can match; and he isn't a spotlight seeker.

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Nevertheless, he has shaped today’s No. 2 cutting tool producer like no other since he joined the company in 1972, 20 years after its foundation by Stef Wertheimer, the man who had the foresight and vision to challenge an established industry. The humble beginnings in an old shack in Nahariya, Israel, along with intense, hard work and commitment to continued innovation, have led Iscar to become an industry leader today.

Since 1982, Mr Harpaz and Stef Wertheimer’s son, Eitan Wertheimer, have run the company from one of the most rural and remote corners of the country, far from the commercial capital of Tel Aviv. Mr Harpaz’s office offers a commanding view of the region's open spaces. His closest neighbour is a Druze village, and beyond that are the rolling hills that mark Israel's volatile border with Lebanon.

While he says he is happy to be No. 2, all Mr Harpaz really wants is to be No. 1. That may take a while, because Sandvik Coromant is enormous. But the “Iscarites” are patient and are generating steady growth.

The only way to do great work is to love what you do

“The key is to love what you do,” Mr Harpaz said. “Right from the beginning, I was in love with the mechanical part of the cutting tool. When I joined Iscar in 1972 as a student doing research for Iscar, the company was hardly known.” After his studies, Mr Harpaz joined the small company in the research and development (R&D) department.

Had he ever envisioned being in the position that he is in today? Not really... but he has always been ambitious, he said. “I never thought I would work for Iscar for such a long time, nor to be in the position that I am today, but I was ambitious and always aiming to achieve more; it was a big challenge to turn a very small company into the large one that we are today.”

When Mr Harpaz joined the company in the early 1970s, 97% of Iscar’s sales were domestic. Today it is a mere 1%. The company has always remained privately held, and never publicly discloses its finances. Today, Iscar is the largest company in the IMC Group, which also has facilities in the United States, Korea, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy and Japan.