The Slovenia Times

You can rely on a Slovenian handshake



Under his leadership, the company experienced great progress. Today, Porsche Slovenia employees 107 people, and is linked with 53 contractors. His efforts also linked the automotive branch in Slovenia, which created the personal and transport vehicle section within the Chamber of Commerce. Mr Windisch, you are a foreign manager with perhaps the longest "mandate" here in Slovenia. In fact, you are probably more qualified than most to comment on our free market economy as you have been here since its inception. What were your first impressions of the market when you came here twelve years ago and what changes have you seen since? When I arrived here I could see that conditions for developing a solid automobile retail business were quite favourable. I saw greater potential to develop the business here than I did in the other countries where I was involved such as Hungary and Slovakia. We opened in 1993 and experienced rapid growth during the first six years. Actually, the whole market grew rapidly in those years. But it was not healthy growth; it was being overstimulated by the prevailing taxation policy. Anyway, we made the most of it and opened up a number of showrooms and workshops. But the bubble burst in 2000 and many companies found themselves in trouble. Since 2003, however, the market and the economy in general have stabilized. This year 58,000 cars were sold, which I think is a good indicator of the commercial capacity of the country. You already had a wealth of experience in the business before you came to Slovenia. What are the main differences in the working and business attitudes here and in Austria, which has a far longer tradition of being a free market economy and is also your home? I can't see any significant differences. You can rely on a Slovenian handshake as much as you can an Austrian one and our partners and suppliers here in Slovenia are reliable. This has helped make my experience here a particularly pleasant one. In our line of business, market conditions mean that there is a constant battle to maintain and develop market share. In Slovenia, a strong action always tends to draw out an overreaction. Western managers always try to analyse the situation and to hold a little bit back in reserve. Here you often see excessive discounting or absurd marketing solutions that, commercially, make no sense whatsoever. This is the only difference I see and I think that it is only a matter of time before this becomes more balanced. Here, the free market is only fourteen years old; in Austria, it is sixty. However, many Austrians have a drop of Slavic blood, so we know more about the local psyche than the Germans. Comparatively, Slovenians spend much more on their cars relative to their salaries and pay far more attention to their maintenance than others do. Do you feel that cars are more highly prized here than elsewhere? In all transition countries, cars are often perceived as status symbols, although here in Slovenia you simply need them for mobility. Public traffic is quite well developed here in the capital, but in the countryside you need a car. They are a must for business, etc. The status symbol element also exists in Slovakia. In all these young countries, the car has a strong attraction. I have to say that when I came here I didn't think that there would much demand for air-conditioning and other optional equipment. It quickly became evident that our customers wanted fully equipped cars. It was a short, sharp learning curve but I learnt my lesson! Germans and Austrians would rather sweat a little in order to save the cost of having an air-conditioner. Your company mainly offers German brands that have the reputation of being precisely engineered, reliable; "cold elegance" in other words.... Would you say that people lean towards a certain style or "nationality" of a car? We have had great success with Audi in the "premium" segment. Benchmarks put us well ahead of BMW and Mercedes. Certain circles want these cars, usually business people: managers, entrepreneurs, etc. As far as private customers are concerned, I wouldn't dare qualify or classify them. I think French cars also have their advantages, perhaps because they maintain a certain "French" charm in much the same way German cars perhaps stand for something else. In general, your customers could be regarded as good drivers. It has been said that Slovenians are "unpleasant" drivers... I go to Austria almost every weekend, which gives me the opportunity to compare Slovenian drivers, Czech drivers, Polish drivers, Hungarian, etc. I have to say that most drivers in these countries drive a little bit too aggressively. It strikes me that these people are driving as we did in the sixties. Their behaviour is quite similar - impatient. When I was young, I also wanted to feel the power of the engine, the freedom of mobility... so I can understand why there is such hunger to flex the muscle of these more robust engines now they are available in these countries. Your company has also contributed to the development of the country by sponsoring - among other things - the Olympic committee. Is this because of some general brand or company policy or is it down to your personal affiliation with sport? It is our way of doing things here in Slovenia. I think that the stronger companies have an obligation to give something back to the society that they function in. They can make it possible for the public or their customers to experience cultural events that would otherwise cost a fortune. We sponsored Pavarotti for example. This generates a lot of good will with the public and we feel a responsibility to do it. It probably also has its commercial advantages. Is it as effective as the more "classic" forms of advertising? I can only say that with Audi we went that way for a long period of time and our performance here in "tiny" Slovenia is, in no small part, the result of sponsoring a balanced mixture of sports and cultural events. You are leaving Slovenia after a long and successful career here? Is there anything you will miss? I'm a little bit sad because I have had such a good time here in Slovenia. For me it will always be the place where I realised all my aspirations and where I was accepted by so many families as a friend... And your future plans - professionally and personally? I want to make use of my experience, which I believe is of a fairly high level. Maybe there is a chance for me in consulting. Let's see. On the personal front, I will start taking geography lessons. It has always been something I've wanted to do but my mother was very convincing when she said: "It's better to get into the business world; geography hasn't as many opportunities". She was right of course! As a man of broad knowledge and experience, what advice would you give to young people who would like to follow in your footsteps? Team work! You should be a good organizer. You need good dealers, good managers - all working together. Success is not down to a single person's efforts. Here, in Slovenia, it is necessary to develop the young cadres, to give them the proper schooling, to give them a chance...


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