Dr. Günther Eisinger: “In the search of excellence”.
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Born on the 25th of December 1976 in the countryside of Lower Austria (south of Vienna), I grew up on a mid-sized farm run by my parents. As a child, I lived a modest but happy life in the fantastic natural and well-preserved environment in the foothills of the Alps. After having joined the Austrian Armed Forces and after having successfully qualified as a Special Forces soldier (Jagdkommando) I studied at various universities (including the University of Vienna, the Australian Catholic University of Sydney and the Vienna University of Business Administration and Economics). There I earned two master degrees (Sport Science and Sports Management as well as Business Administration). After my studies, I started to explore the world of science as a research assistant and PhD candidate at the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Physiology (University of Vienna) where I finally graduated. In addition, I was promoted to commissioned officer of the Austrian Special Forces – this is how one could summarize my life before I was accepted at the Zurich Elite Business School for the International Management Program.
The fact that I was accepted for the program was indeed fantastic since I knew that only a few candidates were chosen to join this particular program. Having experienced academic life extensively both as a student at various universities and courses and as a young researcher, I was not just looking for another MBA program. It was clear to me that I would enrol in a first class business school not just offering theoretical courses but most of all having a very strong connection to real life business. The Zurich Elite Business School not only offers these two afore-mentioned features but provides another innovative one – the leadership program. With the ZEBS leadership program, each student is assigned a mentor. It is the mentor’s task to permanently monitor the student’s performance as to the job, the ZEBS courses and the overall behaviour. Due to the fact that all mentors are very successful business men and women applying a solid predefined and proven methodology, one’s weaknesses are quickly identified and pinpointed countermeasures as well as extra training and support are offered. This approach was and is indeed unique for business schools and therefore ensures the improvement of a person`s soft and emotional skills which are often mentioned but rarely attained.
At the Zurich Elite Business School I got the opportunities to join an international MBA program, to make a scholarship at a company I wanted to work for in the international Security, Risk and Crisis Management area and to be guided by a mentor who was monitoring my progress and who provided support, if needed. It did not take me long to accept this package when it was offered to me.
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The 18-month period of being a ZEBS student was certainly an intensive time. Although I was almost always able to do different tasks at the same time, this chapter of my life required really good planning in order to still have enough time for my private life, a fact that has always been very important for me, too. Despite the tight weekly schedules necessary for the preparation of the ZEBS modules and in spite of the tight schedules for the ZEBS ‘weekends’, we were, nevertheless, able to socialize within the small group of fellow students and sometimes even with the professors and/or the ZEBS management. The coffee breaks or the free evenings were filled with very interesting discussions concerning various topics we were dealing with in the courses. Due to the very close contact between the fellow students, the numerous challenging case studies in small groups and the discussions which were sometimes very passionate, we soon got to know each other very well and became a ZEBS team. Indeed I can say that with the exception of the experiences I had made and the bonds I had established to comrade soldiers during my time in the Army, I have never experienced such strong bonds to other colleagues or students before. Although some years have gone by since my graduation, I am still in regular contact with most of the fellow students. And even more impressive is the fact that I am also still in very close contact with my mentor and the ZEBS management. So, in my opinion, the ZEBS way – in particular the leadership program – proves to be the right one; I really believe that this is unique among business schools.
Also the courses themselves were ‘different’. Due to my very strong academic background and the fact that I have seen many different universities around the globe and that I have listened to hundreds of professors in my courses, I really have extensive references in order to compare the different courses. Interestingly, it is not the content that makes the ZEBS courses so unique. In fact, many of the discussed or presented topics were not entirely new to me. It was the way the information was offered. It was soon clear to see that not only the students but also the professors and teachers were handpicked. At times, I thought that they must have gone through an even harder selection process than the students. I still remember many occasions with very innovative approaches presented by the teachers. Although I have graduated in business administration I must admit that I never really had a particular interest in accounting and financial management. Consequently, my understanding was limited. When this topic came closer I thought that the following ZEBS weekend might be a hard one for me. But things turned out to be different. The professor actually managed to teach me more within three days about financial management and accounting than other teachers during all the years at university. Sure, it has to be said that I had at least a basic understanding by then but from that time on I was finally able to really comprehend and understand the whole subject. So how was that possible?
The answer is simple: The professor made us play a game – for almost the whole weekend. We were assigned different roles: either CFO, responsible for keeping the ‘company’ going and making sure that the cash flow was guaranteed or COO, tasked with optimizing operations, producing and delivering in time, keeping the machines and workforce busy or Chief of Human Resources, ensuring the training and the development of personnel, keeping the high performer in the company while still having an eye on the costs for personnel or sometimes one was assigned CEO, responsible for practically everything: from leading the business to informing the shareholders and so forth. It was incredible to see how one’s decision had an immediate, mid or long-term effect on the business. Every little decision changed the game and this fact clearly illustrated how all those systems related to each other and why it is so vital to have a sound knowledge of accounting.
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What seemed to be a very long time at the beginning was passing by quicker than one would have imagined. I suppose this is due to the fact that I never felt bored during my 18 months at the ZEBS; and graduating was also very special. One could actually say that the USP of the ZEBS is its management since everything is done a little differently. The graduation ceremony is a very good example for this statement.
It must be indicated – and this shouldn’t be mistaken by the reader – that you will not find yourself being in the lap of luxury in the materialistic sense but rather in terms of values, attitudes and the willingness to perform and continuously work in order to improve yourself.
Once more back to the graduation ceremony. You shouldn’t think of the most luxury event location but rather the ancient Hellenic stadium of the famous little village Marathon. The place where historians claim victory was brought over the Persian invaders thousands of years ago. While the horrifying battle cries have ceased, with the Marathon run, we still pay tribute to the courier soldier who ran all the way to Athens in order to announce victory to the king and people. The stadium is surrounded by mountains and nestled in a valley where we were ceremonially given our graduation certificates. Indeed, you don’t need to have a sport scientific background to find out that this historic arena is a very appropriate place for celebrating ‘victory’.
Once on my own, it was soon clear that the role which was valid for me at that time would not offer me the right opportunities. Having said that, I must state that the organisation I was working for was a very good enterprise and my role there was certainly not bad at all. However, the Zurich Elite Business School had certainly changed my views and the way I thought about business and business opportunities. The ZEBS lessons have undoubtedly contributed to the fact that I now believe in chances rather than in risks, that I am impressed by performance rather than by inherited wealth, that I understand that in almost all cases negotiating is about creating win-win situations rather than outgunning your opponent.
I would like to mention to the reader that the indicated method is the way the ZEBS program worked and is still working for me. This does not mean that the program encourages taking risks or even turns people into risk taker personalities. However, it gave me the courage and the self-confidence to exit the ‘conventional’ career path and to do it my way. I have found that short-term assignments in the International Security, Risk and Crisis Management area are bringing me closer to my goals and with the help of the leadership program respectively the mentor, it has soon become apparent that my strengths and ambitions, hence, my occupational future is rather in my hands than in the hands of a certain organisation.
Furthermore, I realized that the decision to exit the common career route which was inspired by both the leadership program and the mentor, did pay off also in terms of income which, in the meantime, has reached executive levels.
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Today I am working as an independent often embedded consultant in the international Security, Risk and Crisis Management area. I am meanwhile well established in the named industry and well-recognised for being an expert for high and extreme risk environments. My military background (meanwhile having attained the rank of Captain) along with my academic experience which was brushed up by the ZEBS leadership program, enable me to understand complex and intercultural security and crisis management situations by providing solutions on a tactical, operational and strategic level. The Zurich Elite Business School claims to always be on the spot, providing outstanding coaching and international networks. This ethic is indeed lived in the ZEBS halls and is, during the respective courses, literally ‘injected’ into the students. Furthermore, I want to mention that although being a very small group of students, we represented almost as many nationalities as we counted heads. This reflects another area which must never be underestimated and for which I was well prepared by the school: Intercultural skills – also one of those soft skills which are always mentioned but hardly ever improved at normal universities or business schools. Things that sometimes seemed to be difficult before the ZEBS course were often much easier afterwards. The ability to understand other cultures and people even in tense situations and the ability to adopt this in minimum time turned out to be extremely important and useful in my day-to-day business. It may be a person in Afghanistan having links with Taliban (as almost everyone in certain areas has) a Libyan belonging to a certain tribe or a British investor in London who is interested in certain areas in Africa – it is crucial to understand how people think and live in order to find solutions.
I truly believe that my ZEBS time has let loose those skills, values and ambitions and consequently makes me confident when working in those extremely difficult, sometimes dangerous environments, at times under duress with very limited or unconfirmed information and knowing that human lives may be at risk. Looking back I realize that I have lived and spent almost all of my time after graduation at (in my view) in the most interesting places. These have included the Central African region; Libya, Egypt and Bahrain during the Arab Spring and uprisings; Johannesburg in South Africa; Sudan during the secession period; the US – where I was invited as a guest speaker at a NATO conference; Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan; Kazakhstan; Gabon; Pakistan after another critical Allied Forces strike at the border to Afghanistan.
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The outcome of this chapter is certainly open. What I do know, however, is a clear way towards my personal goals. Entrepreneurship and innovative behaviour have always impressed me. I am currently, together with two partners, in the process of founding a corporation and thus I am about to realize one of my main personal entrepreneurial goals. Having mentioned the leadership program of the ZEBS approach on several occasions, it may now not come as a surprise that I have had my ZEBS mentor heavily involved in my thinking and idea generation as well as business planning process. His experience and advice were and are priceless – and so may be the ZEBS leadership program if one applies the principle of causal nexus. It may further come as no surprise that my prior ZEBS mentor has offered to eventually step in as an investor and a partner.
As I outlined at the beginning of this passage the outcome of this project is yet unclear. Starting a business is always a risk. I am very confident though that I will be able to prevail in one way or another. The Zurich Elite Business School has certainly sharpened my entrepreneurial understanding and, most importantly, my personality. I was convinced then and I am convinced now that the ZEBS is to set new standards in the business school landscape – particularly with the unique leadership program which will be proved right by the entrepreneurial success of its greatest asset – the Zurich Elite Business School graduates.
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