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Yoram Kraus talks about the moral connection between mountaineering and project management

Yoram Kraus, a real estate and high-tech company entrepreneur, founder and CEO of SMS Project Management, manages to make time for the main hobby of his life, mountaineering. The field of mountaineering is not only a hobby for him, but a type of school for values, in which he learned an immense amount about himself, his physical and mental abilities, and especially about the correct way to conquer peaks of all kinds, even in his professional life. In this article, Kraus shares with us his perspective about the moral relationship and common principles between mountaineering and success in the business world.

Conquering New Peaks

Yoram Kraus tells that when asked how he combines his personal life with his professional life, he replied that there is no difference between them at all, they are almost completely intertwined. In his own words: “The secret is in making work a pleasure in itself, and in my case, mountaineering helps me every day at work. At the end of the day, the same determination, adaptability, perseverance and creative ability, are the values ​​I learn and develop in each climb, and these elements naturally assist me in conquering new peaks in my professional life as well. It could be Mount Kilimanjaro in one instance, and building offices for Google or Mellanox in another. The principles and values ​​with which they set up large projects or conquer a mountain top – are the same. The beauty of project management for a wide range of clients is that in the end it is the same structured and efficient process, just like the process of climbing different mountains on different continents around the world, the process is almost identical.”

What is the makeup of clientele of SMS project management?

“The nature of the companies or customers who contact us tends to vary, both in terms of the industry in which they operate and in terms of their respective size. It is clear that there is a significant difference between the characteristics of a customer such as the Ministry of Defense compared to a private entrepreneur, but with that being said, in each project, I know that in the end I will face a human being, with unique requirements and needs, and no matter who might face me, I know that they expect us to provide them with the most professional service, i.e. meet deadlines, meet budget requirements, conduct business in an efficient and controlled manner and finally provide them with a product that fits what they have asked for one hundred percent. We work with the Ministry of Defense, with the largest companies in the world, with real estate developers and private entities and in working with all these very different entities, you learn that the process is ultimately the same and it is very reminiscent of the process of climbing a mountain. Preliminary planning, professional work processes, team management, self-control and continuous improvement, all of these provide the basis upon which successful project management is built and as a condition for conquering the summit of a mountain. When you recognize that the process is identical and structured, then your experience allows you to succeed.”

Yoram Kraus is the founder and CEO of SMS Project Management, one of the leading project management companies in Israel as pertains to the supervision, planning and construction of complex engineering projects. Over the years, Kraus has become one of the leading professionals in the field. Over the years, SMS Management has built projects for the Israeli Ministry of Defense, high-tech companies, real estate entrepreneurs and more. Kraus makes sure to instill in the company the values ​​and principles he has accumulated as a mountain climber.

How Does Mountaineering Make You a Better Manager?

Kraus: “There are clearly identical characteristics between the management of a mountain climbing process and the management of a process of planning and building a complex project: First, the planning process, it is very important to carry out in-depth planning of the forward axis of movement. A mountaineer sits and plans for many weeks in advance the climbing axis, determines what the safest routes to climb are, what are the alternatives in case changes are required, where there are climbing cabins or surfaces suitable for accommodation and of course an in-depth examination of life-threatening areas along the way up and how to prepare for them in terms of equipment and manner of climbing. In project management, preliminary research and in-depth planning are critical. I always advocate to investment a great amount of time and resources into project planning and the various axes of progress. The more you plan, the more you can meet deadlines and save costs in the end. By the way, in project planning, preliminary planning saves money, but up there on the mountain – preliminary planning saves lives.”

“Second, the execution stage. This is where your experience and professionalism are required in order to meet the goal. You must utilize all of the tools at your disposal as well as cohesive teamwork in order to complete the project or, alternatively, reach the summit of the mountain. It is very important to learn to trust your team and that they will trust you back.”

“The third characteristic is the control processes. Along the way it is very important to exercise strict control over every process and every milestone of progress on the way to the project’s completion. We need to strive and work for continuous improvement and rely on strict control systems, so that excellence is achieved. Both in building a project as well as during the climb, you are required to test yourself throughout all the way, adapt, respond quickly and calmly, find solutions and maintain determination and perseverance until the task is completed.”

“Similar to mountaineering, when building a project, the client constitutes an integral part of the team, but they are the facilitator and we act in accordance to their needs and interests. There is teamwork of three factors here: the project management company, the architect and the client. We are always attentive, we will always be ready to hear another idea, or any new need or requirement and we are available to the client 24 hours a day. This is a joint process and accordingly it is of paramount importance that the customer knows how to trust us. The matter of trust is particularly significant in projects that are Turn-key Projects, i.e. projects that the client transfers to us as one unit in which we carry out the entire process from the planning stages through supervision, construction, control, budget management and project delivery. SMS Project Management is one of the leading companies in Israel as relates to Turn-key projects, and more and more customers are choosing this path in order to enjoy a process that is as fast, efficient and cheap as possible.”

“One of the most fascinating and challenging types of projects for me is the building of data centers for large companies. These are very sensitive and very complex projects because unlike a regular project where which we work with an architect, in data center projects we work mainly with the company’s technology division, and the project incorporates sophisticated and dynamic components such as computer systems, satellite connections, complex communication systems, electrical backup, telephony and more. A great multitude of knowledge, technology and quite a bit of creativity come together and finally the client receives an active and dynamic data center, the client receives a life, it is not an inanimate object but rather is alive. We have carried out such projects for companies such as The Phoenix, Bank Hapoalim, Hot and other companies. What is exciting and amazing about this kind of process is the fact that you build a project for a company that actually helps it grow and develop and then when the company grows and requires another project to be executed, we are called back into action and combine forces together and grow together.”

Yoram Kraus has been climbing peaks around the world for over 20 years, including conquering peaks in Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia. Kraus intends to complete the “Seven Summits Challenge” which includes, among others, Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, which Yoram Kraus plans to climb over the next two years.

Where do the principles you have learned on the mountain express themselves in building such complex projects?

“The mountain is not an inanimate object, it lives and changes all the time, I have climbed different mountains several times and each time I met a different mountain, the snow looks different, the weather is different, the conditions and the climbing axis are different, and you need to know how to adapt and use all of your skills, knowledge and experience in order climb up to the summit. Similar to conquering a summit, building a complex project also requires all of these abilities in order to complete the project, and here too, the project eventually comes to life, it is dynamic, people manage their lives in it, it affects them and they it and it changes the environment, just like an organism, just like the mountain.”

For further reading:

Yoram Kraus – A Mountaineer Who Builds the Offices of the World’s Largest Companies