Team Austro

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They’ve made a DIFFERENCE!

Owners: (From Left) Gary Miles, Richard Stampfel, Daniel Rothlisberger, Brian Downs 

I first met Daniel Rothlisberger in 1985. I had been given a referral by one of my clients who told me that I should go and see Daniel, a young Swiss immigrant who sold wood-working equipment in Industria North. “He would be a prime candidate for an entrepreneurial development workshop,” I was told.

Since I never let prospective work slip through my fingers, I made the phone call. The next day I was sitting on an old wooden chair on the open mezzanine floor of a small warehouse at number one, Factory Road, Industria North. Within a few minutes and a few well-chosen questions Daniel was sharing his hopes and dreams as if we had been friends all our lives. He was indeed a prime candidate for what I had in mind. He knew what he wanted: he spoke of his future with a strong certainty, as if it was already happening. “So why do you want to do a TAG course?” I asked. “Who said I wanted to?” He grinned at me and sat back in his chair and waited. So did I. We must have sat there for an eternity both testing the others courage and resolve. Slowly I moved forward and put my elbows on his desk. He moved forward to listen and I knew the sale was made. “So,” he said, “I’m waiting!” “Because I am going to introduce you to twice the person you think you are, and you are going to need all of him to make this dream come true.” This time I wasn’t smiling.

Unlike most people Daniel knew what he wanted. He had a clear vision of his future. He had loads of courage. He had already proved that by immigrating to a country where he could hardly speak the language. He had followed his dreams and was quite prepared to accept full responsibility for his own life. It was also evident, from that first conversation, that he was smart enough to choose his friends very wisely.

One thing that really stood out at that first meeting was his obvious passion for quality. I’ll never forget the way he looked at me and said,”Now I’m too small for the best manufactures in the world to take me seriously, but soon they will be coming to me to ask me to represent them in South Africa”. While he was showing me the range of tools he sold, he stopped, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Only fools think it is smart to do things on the cheap!”

Austro Engineering was founded in 1980 in a 100 square meter factory with Daniel, one assistant and very little working capital. They worked like slaves day and night and ploughed everything back into the business.

In 1981 Richard Stampfel joined the team and proved that he to had what it takes to service in a world of exceptional performers.

By 1982 Austro needed more space and moved to Factory Road in Industria North. Every day was a struggle for survival, and every day this amazing little team rose to the challenge, pushed new boundaries, and never compromised the service that they willingly gave to the customer. By the time I came on the scene in 1985 their 450 square meter factory was bursting at the seams and there was an obvious aura of pride in their achievement that was tempered with a real knowing that there was still a long way to go.

In 1986 Brian Downs joined the team and soon I had trained both him and Richard who are now both partners. The team was becoming a real Mastermind with all the key players working in perfect harmony towards common goals, armed with a simple philosophy that building the company that feeds them and servicing the customers that employed all of them was without doubt the most important things they had to do. At Austro exceptional performance education is not a luxury, it’s an ongoing fact of life for everybody.

By the end of 1986 other South African companies were already losing their agencies to Austro’s efficiency and the future had never looked better. Now it was time to plan and build their own 2000 square meter factory. In 1992 they moved in and in the following year Gary Miles joined Austro’s team.

When I can shape and utilise wood
When men around me are wasting it
When I can produce wooden objects
With purpose and panache –
That kings desire
Yet common man can afford to own
When I can do this every day with ease –
And not by chance
When I choose machines that enhance my abilities
And clearly leave the worn out tools to others
I shall be sleeping well
And dream creative dreams


With the political uncertainty of the 1994 general elections looming and the market place getting nervous it was time to make the next move. I remember Daniel reminding me of my own words. “When the market is uncertain and hesitant it’s time to make a move.” They did. The Austro Team put their heads down and pushed like they had never pushed before. By now they had really got the attention of some of the world leading manufacturers of woodworking machines and Daniel’s words of 1985 were reverberating through the market place. “The world leaders will want Austro to market them in South Africa.” They now had the sole agencies of the best companies in the world. Proof that winners will always want to associate with winners.

Once again Austro had out grown its home and was renting 500 square meters of additional storage space. (And all this while the market place was complaining that things were getting tougher and tougher and MD’s and CEO’s where looking around for some one else to blame for lousy performance.)

In 1997 Gary Miles was made a partner and Austro made another quantum leap. Austro Cape was opened under Gary’s watchful eye. While all this was going on a magnificent new head office and factory showroom was being buildt to house Africa’s most dynamic and successful woodworking machine sales and service company and the 49 members of its team. This 5000 square meter dream factory is a working monument to the potential and quality of the tools it houses and sells as well as the many incredible craftsmen who created it. Daniel got his customers to use these tools and machines to prove that some South Africans can still produce standards that are world class. People now come from all over the world to explore the possibilities demonstrated by this small-dedicated team of truly exceptional performers.


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