Career Story: Martin Seidl, Austrian Audio GmbH

February 17, 2018

Global Executive MBA alumnus

What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?

Quite a few because my life changed completely a few times. Performing on stage in front of 10,000+ people for the first time. You go through this in your mind hundreds of times. You dream of being there, and in your dreams, you put on a good show. But on the big day, everything is different. You take the stage and start performing. The challenge seems almost insurmountable. And then there is this great feeling when the audience applauds. The inner party. The cocktail of dopamine and endorphins. A never-to-be-forgotten feeling. In hindsight, I can say that living through this and acquiring a considerable wealth of on-stage experience has taught me many lessons that come in handy in business:

  • Do not think you know what is coming your way. Be curious, expect the unexpected and stay incredibly alert and flexible.

  • By putting on a good show, you can enthuse, captivate and motivate many—even as an individual.

  • Careful preparation reduces stress … no matter what the situation.

  • My first executive management meeting as a “newcomer” on the management team of a Fortune 500 company. The setting was impressive.

  • They put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us.

  • If there is anything you do not understand, just ask.

Did you originally want to pursue a different career? If so, what made you change your plans?

Yes, for the first 18 years of my professional life I wanted to become a successful singer/songwriter, musician and producer. And I earned my living this way for more than 20 years (I started out while still at school).

Somewhere along the line, what I expected of life and wanted in terms of output began to exceed what I could provide for at the time. Moreover, new factors, such as my family and above all my children, came into play. There is hardly a job that is less family-friendly than being a musician. That said, I found great joy in it.

Eventually, the success and recognition, to my mind, were no longer worth the effort. Worn out...

How and why did you come to work for AUSTRIAN AUDIO?

To begin with, I started working in this field. Professional audio technology. It had a business side of things to it, but it was also very close to what I was passionate about: music, recording studios, producing and broadcasting. At the time, Austria was home to an industry player of international renown: AKG Acoustics, which made world-famous microphones and headphones. It goes without saying that when I joined the company I was far down the pecking order. But, step by step, I worked my way up, and I attended the part-time Executive MBA program offered by WU Vienna/Carlson Business School. Our class, which was only the second in the program's history, comprised just 13 students.

I then moved to a new position within the same group (at the time, AKG was already a member of the HARMAN group, USA) and started working at JBL Professional (loudspeaker systems), a California-based sister company. After another 8 years, I was sent back to Austria where I joined the management team of AKG as VP, Global Sales & Market Development.

In fall 2016, technology giant Samsung swallowed up HARMAN, and Harman announced the closure of AKG Acoustics in Vienna. I had left the group in 2014, but I realized that this was a huge opportunity. In collaboration with international partners and supporters, I managed to secure the funding for establishing AUSTRIAN AUDIO GmbH. The majority of AKG's research and development team, which was highly renowned internationally, started working for us, as did some key employees in the fields of finance, marketing, measuring technology, project management and product management.

At present, AUSTRIAN AUDIO is developing solutions for OEM clients in the following areas: acoustics, audio electronics, mechanics and customized measuring technology. Moreover, we are working on our first own products in the high-end microphones and headphones segments.

What has changed in your career as a result of your MBA degree? How did the program (state-of-the-art knowledge, skills, networking) support you in reaching your career goals? What concrete career opportunities (promotions, new responsibilities, etc.) have opened up for you?

Attending the MBA program at WU Vienna was very important for me. I had a background in music and sound engineering, and, in the 1980s, I had completed the certificate programs in sound engineering and electroacoustic music at the University of Music. As a result, clients respected me. Also, I came from an entrepreneurial family where I had been able to absorb a lot of general knowledge about business, margins, profits, etc. That said, developing my understanding not only of theoretical business fundamentals, assessment tools and key performance indicators but also of statistics and finance was a real challenge. However, if you lack this knowledge, you had better not discuss business matters in an international setting. The fact that the program was taught in English was also an asset, allowing me to establish myself in a huge, international group.

Unfortunately, there was not much networking as far as my MBA experience is concerned. But perhaps I am in too specific an industry for that. I worked for the biggest player in our field, but compared to other sectors, it is still a niche champion.

What has been your biggest professional/personal success?

Founding AUSTRIAN AUDIO and ensuring that there is a sound financial basis that allows the company to operate and gives us the time we need to establish the new name with a view to keeping this tradition of international renown alive in Vienna.

What are your goals for the coming year? Your goals in general? Is there still something you absolutely want to do?

In the coming year, the first AUSTRIAN AUDIO products will hit the market. Our first products, designed and developed by masters of microphone technology and marketed under our own brand name. That is a very ambitious goal and a great feeling. I will once again be on stage in front of thousands of people, and I will do my best to enthuse them. Another goal would be to bring out a new album on vinyl... one of these days.

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

Being able to enjoy life. I go to work in the morning and return home with more energy in the evening. That was not always so, and I cannot appreciate this feeling enough. What this means is that I work with people who are enthusiastic and enthuse others.

But it is also a great luxury to be able to forget about everything for a while, to still play music, to perform together with colleagues and, obviously, to watch the kids forge their paths in life.

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?


How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? Has it been influenced by a leadership role model?

I want to enthuse, not convince, others. And I let them enthuse me. Leading is not a one-way street. No, I do not have a specific leadership role model. I cherry-pick a few ideas here and there.

How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career?

By playing music and singing. I am still an active member of a jazz band of seven. Der Herr SEIDL & Die Jäzzpoeten. Also, by playing golf, which I am fond of.

If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

Uh... what a question... Perhaps Dustin Johnson so as to be able to experience for myself how long the road to perfection really is... But, quite honestly, I would not want to change places with anyone.

Why would you recommend the Global Executive MBA of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?

It is a great add-on - not only for those who are active in business but would like to gain greater confidence when it comes to navigating international settings but also for those who (like I) have a background in a different field and seek to complement their experience by acquiring traditional all-round business knowledge. The program has certainly changed a lot since I attended it, but already back then the professors and lecturers were very much in tune with their students. They were very approachable and gave us a great deal of individual attention.


My motto in life:
Happiness is not given to you. It comes from within... and is best enjoyed with others. Both privately and professionally.
I can laugh about:
Georg Kreisler, Joseph Hader and about me playing golf (occasionally!)
Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive:

Those made in the process of trying to do the impossible... despite a high probability of failure.

I would spend my last money on:
The ZERO-calorie schnitzel with ZERO-calorie mayonnaise salad... that does not taste like a no-calorie schnitzel.
In 20 years I will:
Be 20 years older... I hope.

Read more interesting Career Stories from our students and alumni here.

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