With its rambling palaces, winding cobbled lanes, great museums and elegant coffee houses, the capital of Austria, Vienna is steeped in history. Yet it’s also at the cutting edge of design, architecture, contemporary art, and new directions in drinking and dining. Enjoying all this, we travelled this time to this amazing city to meet Samuel Plüss, the General Manager of Sika Austria.

1. What are your personal secrets for managing a team?

I try to set clear targets, to empower, to coach, to lead by example, to maintain regular communication, and to understand the motivation and individual situation of each team member. Finding the right balance between distance and proximity to teams is important. However, rapid mobilization, keeping control over developments and optimizing performance are just as crucial. At the same time, I'm straightforward, sincere and open, and I like to give employees recognition for a job well done. Enjoying the job and having "fun" with the team members are essential for everyone's motivation. 

2. What is the first thing that comes to mind about working at Sika Austria?

I have had the chance to work in various countries and experience different cultures. To be an expat in Austria is definitely one of the best options. For me, the most exciting things about Austria are the perfectly functioning infrastructure, Austrian friendliness and hospitality, the skilled and committed workforce, the professional business conduct and the high level of personal security. My colleagues are very hard-working and the public administration is still very efficient. It's a beautiful country with lots of variety and a real feel-good factor. The best place to live and work is probably Vienna.

But I still don't understand why so many Austrians are resistant to change, new technologies and creative ideas and unwilling to adapt to the rapidly changing environment. 

Typical of Austria are the many and often long titles sported mainly by people in public and government positions as well as the relatively complex and bureaucratic government organizations.

3. After four years of disappointing economic growth, businessactivity picked up in 2016. It was bolstered by a fiscal reform that boosted household disposable income, catch-up investment and solid job creation. These factors will continue to fuel growth in 2017. What is your view on this?

I agree: in the first quarter of 2017, Austria's economy recorded the strongest growth in six years, driven by higher private consumption and investment.

Forecasts estimate economic growth for this year at 1.8%, with 1.5% predicted for 2018. The momentum comes from the robust domestic demand and a slight upturn in exports.

Since last fall, however, raw material prices have risen sharply in Austria too and this has necessitated price adjustments for the relevant products. And, naturally enough, we have to convince our customers that this is justified. Nevertheless, I am still very positive about the  future.

4. And the construction market? How exactly does Austria profit from Sika?

There is a high demand for additional living space in Austria – especially in the urban centers and surrounding conurbations, but also in some rural areas. The public sector is investing in infrastructure expansion, particularly in the transport, energy and communications sectors. For example, the Brenner Base Tunnel, running from Innsbruck into Italy, is set to become the world's longest rail tunnel system. With our products and systems, we are ideally positioned. Our professional distribution network and highly efficient logistics enable us to meet the constantly changing requirements of our customers.

Sika Austria was established as early as 1939 and boasts a long track record of expertise in the construction industry. This know-how was further expanded at the start of this year through the acquisition of bituminous waterproofing system manufacturer Bitbau Dörr. Sika is now able to offer its customers an even wider selection of high-grade, durable waterproofing systems.

Today, Sika Austria can also cater for the rapidly growing interest in sustainable construction and thereby make its own contribution to climate protection.

5. What infrastructure do you think is needed to simplify everyday life and trade in Austria in future?

Although Austria is a small country in terms of area, the journey from east to west is long and sometimes arduous. The country's high Alpine regions account for over 62% of its geographical area – hence thelarge number of tunnels and bridges needed for road and rail traffic. Despite the constant expansion of the country's rail infrastructure in recent years, particularly in the mountainous western regions, much remains to be done. My personal wish would be a high-speed train link between Vienna and Bregenz to simplify travel within the  country.

6. What are Sika Austria's long- and short-term goals?

Our main goal is to achieve profitable growth in all target markets and to become a preferred workplace for employees. We aim to be the leading supplier for the Austrian construction chemicals markets and for the countries to which we export our products and technologies. We can only achieve these goals by retaining and attracting skilled and highly motivated employees, who are guided by strong and customer-oriented leaders. That is why we are constantly improving working conditions for staff, e.g. by modernizing workplaces in offices, laboratories and elsewhere. Furthermore, training and continuing professional development are crucial for managers and the entire workforce.

In mature markets, growth can be accelerated by purposeful acquisitions – though also through product and service innovation, and a closer understanding of customer needs.

We are seeking to expand our presence in the distribution network, mainly via the leading builders' merchants, to build better customer relations through  added value, to develop new products, systems and integral solutions for our customers, and to strengthen our brand reputation.

7. No country waltzes so effortlessly between the urban and the outdoors as Austria. One day you’re cresting Alpine summits, the next you’re swanning around imperial Vienna. It's a small but versatile country where hospitality comes first. Do you see this as an accurate description of Austria?

Definitely. There are boundless options in both summer and winter. You can go skiing or hiking in the mountains, go bathing in lakes, visit cultural monuments or
attend events. That is why Austria is a tourist destination and hospitality a top priority. Of course, the country's centrality within Europe and easy accessibility are also important.
8. What do you personally enjoy most about living in Austria?

Vienna is a fantastic place to live. This year, for the eighth consecutive time, Vienna occupied top spot in the Mercer rankings – ahead of even Zurich, Munich and Auckland – as the city offering the highest quality of life worldwide.

I can confirm that. Vienna is connected, offers an abundance of cultural activities and has fantastic facilities for all kind of sports. It is a safe place to be, is full of restaurants with delicious cuisine and has many other great places to enjoy unforgettable moments with friends and family. Whether you're into skiing or wine-tasting or are just looking for some peace and quiet in a natural setting, then you will find numerous places around Vienna to explore and enjoy.
9. What are your aspirations for the country in the future?

I hope that Austria will continue to be one of the world's safest countries with the highest quality of life.