Yisrael Kleinman // Clearbrook Builders, The Cuttery

I spoke to Yisrael Kleinman for about two hours for this article, and I probably could have spoken to him for many more. In fact, I hope to in the future, because Yisrael is one of the most fascinating, insightful entrepreneurs I have spoken to in a long time—and he’s funny, too.
A multifaceted businessman, Yisrael runs Clearbrook Builders in Lakewood, a boutique construction firm that handles renovations, additions and new builds for residential as well as commercial customers.
Based off this business, Yisrael started The Cuttery, where consumers can order custom made woodworking parts, usually for custom closets, to install on their own.
He also runs a small Amazon business, is a practicing social worker with evening hours and teaches in Touro College once a week.
Yisrael relies on strategic and thought-out SOPs (standard operating procedures) to keep his company extremely organized. He is a master at delegating, and the way he structures his contracts will surprise you—but chances are good that you’ll implement it in your own business, too!
Enjoy!            —Nesanel


I was born and raised in Flatbush. I went to the Mir for elementary school and then Torah Temimah for high school. For beis midrash I learned in Stamford, Springfield and then Brisk in Eretz Yisrael, followed by BMG in Lakewood.
“We davened with my zeide, Rav Shmuel Lichtenstein, at his shul, Khal Nachlas David. My brother, Rabbi Daniel Osher Kleinman, is the rav there now.
“My father started off as an accountant and then started teaching accounting; he also made some investments. Today, he focuses on teaching and writing sefarim, such as the popular ArtScroll series Praying with Fire.
“Any business sense that I have comes directly from my father biyerushah. It’s in his kishkes, and a little of it made it into mine. My sister, Aviva Weiss, has a lot of it, which she applied to make her company, Fun & Function, successful. The entire family has this middah of being willing to do what makes sense to us even if it’s off the beaten path; we aren’t afraid of being unconventional.
“My mother was a sheitelmacher until later on in life when she decided to become a therapist. She went to school, became a social worker and is now very popular.
“My first real foray into ‘business’ was hypnosis. As a kid, I was fascinated by a stage show I once saw featuring hypnosis and decided to learn how to do it. But it was only after I was older and married that I actually got it to work. I was pretty hooked and would play around with it, doing fun tricks like sticking people’s hands to the table and making them forget their names. Then a friend asked if hypnosis could help him with his anxiety. He said, ‘I’m so anxious that I can’t eat in public at a restaurant. If you can make me forget my name, why can’t you help me with that?!’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but I could try.’ And I was able to help him.
“I started doing that at night out of my apartment. I was in kollel for first and second seder every day, and I would see clients at night. I didn’t charge per session; I charged a $500 flat rate, and if I wasn’t able to help, I would give a refund.
“What I quickly learned through a lot of real-world experimentation is that everything that can be done with hypnosis can also be done without it. Using the word ‘hypnosis’ just distracts people and has them asking you to do parlor tricks for them.
“I also realized that if I ever wanted to be taken seriously and get actual clients, I had to get a degree, so I enrolled in a two-year program at Kean University.
“Going back to hypnosis, on its own, it doesn’t help anybody. Hypnosis is like a very concentrated form of influence. It turns out that if you want to change someone long term, especially for something that he’s very connected to, just influencing him or even hyper influencing him wears off after a while. It doesn’t last very long. Imagine the most inspirational schmooze you ever heard in your life times a hundred. Even that’s going to wear off after a week, or two, or three.
“If you want long-lasting change, the solution is that while you’re being influenced by the inspirational speech, you actually work on the issue. That’s what you have to do. Once you understand that the real chochmah is not the influence but actually doing the work, you realize you can drop the influence part and just work seriously on the issue itself.
“One day, just after I graduated, I was sitting and learning in a shul and heard two guys schmoozing about Amazon. I asked them about it, and they became very secretive… Chas v’shalom they should give away any info. Then one of them pipes up and points to his chavrusa and says, ‘Oh, you want to know about Amazon? You have to talk to this guy. He’s the rosh yeshivah of Amazon and will teach you how to do it.’ Really? So I went over to the guy and said, ‘Nu, you do Amazon?’ He says, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘You’ll actually teach me?’ He says, ‘B’chavod gadol.’ His name is Yisrael Meir Leeder, and he’s a real tzaddik. He lives in Lakewood and looks like a regular guy. He runs an Amazon business and is successful, and he teaches people how to do what he does.
“I would say he’s taught a few dozen people how to directly compete with his business. I’ve never seen such a thing in my life. He is the nicest and sweetest guy in the world. I know a lot of his talmidim. The amount of parnasah being made in Lakewood today as a direct result of his actions is staggering. What he did for me is part of what motivates me to help others when they are starting out.
“I went to his house, and he sat me down in front of the computer and said, ‘Here’s how you find a deal. Here’s how you sell it on Amazon. Do you have a business credit card?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘but I have an LLC I opened because my wife started a small business selling baby blankets.’ ‘Get a business credit card.’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Yes, go for it.’
“On the spot, I applied for a couple of business credit cards. They came through. A week later, I was in his house ordering $3,000 worth of computers off of Staples, and I was sweating bullets.
“Baruch Hashem, within two months I was getting cases of iPads, huge boxes of desktops, orders and orders on my front porch, and I started to set up all these systems of how to track everything; I even realized some deals that I was able to share with him. Baruch Hashem, I was making parnasah. But after a few months I wondered how much longer I could flip electronics. How long before everyone is doing this and the margins are all gone?

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