Breakfast in America - with Guenther Edelsbacher

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Steyr businessman paves the way into America for other Europans

A pioneering Austrian entrepreneur has spoken of how he moved to America and creating a business network first for Austrians and later for all Europeans.

GŁnther Edelsbacher left his Upper Austrian hometown Steyr in 1999 and says he has no intention of coming back to Europe anytime soon.

But Edelsbacher only planned to stay a short while in the US when he arrived there in September 1999. Speaking to Austrian Times, he tells the story of his private and professional life.

Edelsbacher says things might not have turned out so well had he come to the US with a plan to settle there and do business. Together with his wife Elke and their daughter Kimmy he flew to the US for a totally different reason.

"We just wanted to let our daughter learn English at New Gate School, the model school of The International Montessori Foundation. But we loved the way of life here in Sarasota, Florida, so we decided to stay.

"We were a bit naÔve at the beginning. We arrived with three-month visitors' visas. It was only when they were about to expire that we consulted some visa attorneys who helped us along," he says.

Next to Edelsbacher Design Group, Advertising Agency, Guenther also set up a website called "US Austrians" an official partner of the Austrian Times. By going to the homepage, Austrian companies considering doing business in America can get first-hand advice from Edelsbacher and his experienced team. Years later he startet Europeans in America - offering the same services to all European fans of the United States.

Edelsbacher says the winning formula is that his team deals with various requests from firms of all sorts and sizes individually. "Everyone who e-mails us gets a detailed reply answering all questions within 48 hours," he pledges.

Edelsbacher explains a main challenge in adapting to the lifestyle in America was getting used to the culture of small talk. He says with a grin: "Small talk dominates conversations in this country, that's one of the reasons why an actor can become president or some other high political figure here. They are just good talkers and entertainers. Americans like that."

The businessman says he found out how to make the most of this for his business, while keeping his "Austrian mentality." He says he is confident he and his wife successfully passed on a lot of that to their two daughters.

Less close bonds within families and among friends were another striking difference compared to the mentality in Austria for Edelsbacher.

"In Austria, family members are closer to each other and people find it very hard if someone moves abroad. Here, it is a perfectly normal thing if close family members live with thousands of miles between them.

After getting more and more used to the American way of life, Edelsbacher was able to fully focus on his business projects which soon blossomed. This positive development persuaded him not to go back to Austria.

He says one of the most positive aspects of doing business in the US is the larger potential customer numbers.

"Whatever you do, there is a good chance you get 10,000 customers at once, while it would be just 100 in Austria," he explains.

But Edelsbacher has also had to accept good times are always followed by bad times.
"Like everybody, the economic crisis hit us badly, we lost many of our customers," he says. Edelsbacher was forced to dismiss staff and relocate one of his offices. However, the credit crunch failed to diminish his creative spirit and positive thinking. His top10city concept and the fully automated birthday club system was a winner and Edelsbacher Design Group was able to land clients like the Ritz Carlton, Guy Fieri's Mt. Pocono Kitchen, Bistecca by Il Mulibo and Johnny Rockets. He proudly says: "We came out smelling like roses, and recently decided to set up an office in Austria again to focus on international businesses as well."

Edelsbacher, who loves traveling through the USA, reveals he sometimes fails to find the right German word when speaking or writing to friends in Austria.

"Some accuse me of being cocky because of that but I don't do it deliberately," he laughs.

Edelsbacher, who spends a few weeks per year in Austria, does not hesitate for a second when he says what Americans think of when they hear the word Austria after he says he comes from the Alpine country. "Mozart, Salzburg and Schwarzenegger," he laughs.

But Edelsbacher says he does not regret a minute of his years in the USA.

"I think everyone can and should move abroad at one point. It opens your eyes and widens your perspective. It can be adventurous, of course, but it is great to get to know other cultures.

"It doesn't have to be 15 years why not live in some other country for a few months?" he says.

As far as his business is concerned, Edelsbacher is confident about the future. Global online successes of social media platforms do not trouble the razor-brained Austrian entrepreneur. He says: "Don't regard them as competition but rather as a good additional way to make people aware of what you offer, we can benefit from the attention raised there."

Since things are going well for Edelsbacher, there is little he really misses from home but one thing many Austrians apparently struggle with is finding original European food which can match up with the delicacies they got used to at home.

It is no surprise Edelsbacher has a solution for this problem, "I cook a lot stuff we love," he explains.

"And I'm really fortunate to have a German butcher just around the corner. I even get wonderful Schweinsbraten there!"