IDF officer-turned CEO: Navigating the battleground of business

Hagar Valiano Rips

February 04, 2020

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By Hagar Valiano Rips, CEO of Ladingo

We come across many different people and experiences in our lives, all of which shape us into who we are and who we strive to be, from the most seemingly insignificant conversation to a close friend that has stood by our side for years. My time in the Israeli Defence Forces, specifically, has prepared me to combat the challenges of the business world. Muscling through boot camp, and later training soldiers to shoot mortars, equipped me with tools I didn't know I'd even need at the time, helping later as I built my portfolio as an entrepreneur in an ever-evolving and dynamic industry.

My service as a young woman in the IDF was initially spent as a commanding officer for an artillery infantry, which gave me the privilege and responsibility of training soldiers. Later on in my service, I was given the more challenging task of overseeing reserve unit soldiers, a group of men in their 30s and 40s. I don't believe any man in the unit had imagined their commander would be younger than them -- let alone a woman. Nevertheless, the dynamic prompted each side to gain a new sense of respect for the other. I realized the best way to get the older men to take me seriously was to exhibit professionalism through displaying knowledge and expertise. By showing them I knew what I was doing, the reserve soldiers began to truly see and respect me as their commander and go-to knowledge source.

And that's only one example of how my IDF service prepared me for all sorts of other, figurative battlefields, both personally and professionally. As a result of my military experience, I was able to apply the leadership skills I developed and leverage them later in my entrepreneurial pursuits very early on.

After my time as a commander, I always knew I was destined to be a leader in whichever field I set my sights on going forward. I visited the U.S. shortly after finishing my army service and experienced a craze surrounding spray tanning that I had never before seen here in Israel. There was a gap in the market for this kind of product, so I jumped on the opportunity and essentially brought spray tanning to Israel. This was my first business, which I built at age 23 and sold only two years later. After my first successful shot in this entrepreneurial battle, I transitioned into high tech, which was the next natural step for me and my love for tech. I quickly worked my way up at a tech company, which further nurtured my entrepreneurial spirit.

Today, as the CEO of Ladingo and with numerous entrepreneurial accomplishments, I always knew I wanted to be in this line of work, from the moment I was selling necklaces to my classmates in elementary school. I've had many inspiring moments and people who have guided me across the battleground.

As a young girl, for example, I looked up to the mayor of my small city, Ariel. He was my first ever role model for entrepreneurship, as he had essentially built up our city from scratch, promising and delivering a university and more. Our mayor, among others, inspired me to delve into the unknown and capture different opportunities. Today as the CEO of Ladingo, my stamina is constantly tested.

Logistics, as many people are aware, is a very old-fashioned industry that has experienced very little advancement over the past few decades. There are, however, opportunities for disruption, which is what drew me to the industry. Life as an entrepreneur is tough. It might sound cliched, but you really have to enjoy it to have the power to fight through and break barriers, and the return is well worth it. You learn about new markets and products simultaneously and work to grow your dream in the process.

If I've yet to make it clear, the obstacles involved in the entrepreneurial journey are quite real. Just like in my basic training and the obstacles I continuously faced with my unit, the ability to rally and organize a team to finish products and ensure they are ready for market in time is challenging. Your teams inside and outside the workplace contribute to any kind of success achieved, no doubt. Your family acts as your team outside the office, and you need a supportive family to be an entrepreneur because, at the end of the day, everyone around you affects your performance and vice versa. Finding the right investors, too, can also be a huge obstacle.

If I could offer a piece of advice to young entrepreneurs considering suiting up for this kind of battle, I would say the willingness to constantly learn and adapt is key, especially when diving head first into an industry you have no prior knowledge about. As for skill sets, the greatest skill you can have is perseverance -- that willingness to fight and push through no matter what. You can't let a �"no” from investors break your spirit, as there will be plenty of them along your entrepreneurial journey. The ability to move on from extreme or difficult situations is critical for success. In addition, building expertise in an industry is essential, just as I did with my soldiers. You must know what you're talking about! Always remember the age-old adage, knowledge is power.

As I've shown through my experience, there doesn't need to be a connection between the business sectors that you've worked in and the ones you want to penetrate. It is key to identify where the business is, and where it should be; where the market is and where you can find a big opportunity that others have missed.
The business world can be a battlefield, and my experiences, from serving as a commander in the IDF to now running my own logistics-tech company, have offered me endless insights into how to navigate this battle. In order to have the willpower to succeed, entrepreneurs must merge grit with professionalism and mastery, which in turn will help them overcome all challenges, whether in business or in life.

About Hagar:

Hagar Valiano Rips is the CEO of Ladingo, and an entrepreneur and dynamic professional with more than 14 years of executive experience in business and product development across various industries. She started her first company at the age of 23 and sold it at 25. Valiano Rips also served as a commanding officer of an infantry unit in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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