Interview: Paul Bruck

Paul Bruck, M.Sc., MBA, is the founder of Bruck Consult, Vienna and Most Service and Most Management in Moscow, offering consulting, management and outsourcing services in partnership with the law firm Balashova Legal Consultants. Based in the Moscow office of Balashova Bruck & Partners, Paul Bruck is the only export consultant certified by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce working in Russia.

Paul Bruck is married for 30 years with Katharina and has 2 sons, Markus, 27 and Mathias, 23.

After 2013 and 2014 “Race across Russia” world record projects, Paul Bruck organizes this year for the second time a great and extraordinary project “Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme”, the longest bicycle stage race in the world, which proves to be an unprecedented sporting and cultural event.

Today we have an exclusive opportunity to talk to Paul Bruck and ask him about his life, his experiences in Russia, and the extraordinary “Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme”.

You are doing an outstanding job in promoting cooperation, understanding and business integration between Russia and Europe, in particular, Austria. Could you, please, tell us how this idea was born and how you decided to start working in Russia?

I learned Russian in the “Theresianum”, maybe Austria´s best school, where besides English, French and Latin, Russian is obligatory taught, actually the only school in Austria, where you have no other choice.

When I started to work after my studies for an American chemical company I was asked in my second trainee year, whether I would want to run an agricultural project in Russia. So I moved in 1987 for the first time with my wife to Moscow and was able to follow the opening process of Gorbatshev’s Glasnost and Perestroika period. This means from “not being allowed” to leave the city to “free travel” within a few months. A good friend told me then, either you hate it or you love it. But when you love it, you will always come back to Russia – this was 30 years ago.

«Russia is full of opportunities and is, besides business, an unbelievably fascinating country»

We know that your company Bruck Consult offers a full range of support services for western businesses in Russia, and your experience in this field is truly unmatchable. What are the advantages of Russia, the attractive sides of doing business in Russia?

We are speaking business here. Russia is the largest market in front of the door of the European Union. The conglomerate of the Moscow region hosts more the 3 times the population of Austria! Russia has become the largest Internet market in Europe. Russia has enormous growth potential and a very long way to go to reach western European quality of life and income. This offers growth potential like almost nowhere in Europe. Russia is full of opportunities and is, besides business, an unbelievably fascinating country.

What are the most challenging issues that western businesses face in Russia?

Many things need a long time to be done or understood. But if you know what you want, you can work as efficient in Russia as anywhere in the world. It used to be the big excuse about bureaucracy, but in the meantime it is easier to found a company in Russia than in many European countries. The biggest challenge today are the negative politics of “the West”, the unnecessary and unsuccessful sanctions, because of that the weak economy and the fluctuating Ruble. I would like to repeat here what the president of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce recently said: “Economy should never be used as a weapon. Economy should be used to communicate and build up good relationships between nations.”

It is time for change: our politicians should fulfill their obligation and concentrate to build circumstances so that our economies can grow and build wealth and safety for their people. They should go back to the plan to build a free market from Lisbon to Vladivostok and should stop damaging their own economies with contra productive politics.

«The market is huge, but nobody awaits you and you need patience, lots of patience»

Could you give a piece of advice in a couple of sentences to those willing to do business in Russia?

Plan and calculate carefully. The market is huge, but nobody awaits you anymore and you need patience, lots of patience. There are excellent people, well-educated and enthusiastic. Russia is different and mentalities are too. But be sensitive and open, then you will be successful. I need to say that of course “get advice of experienced consultants”. But isn’t this the same wherever you start a new venture?

What, in your opinion, makes for a good businessman – is it the knowledge of human nature, or anything else?

A combination of “smelling” the right opportunity at the right time and steady and disciplined working focusing on set targets. And have a feeling for people and partners you can trust.

You started a great and extraordinary project “Race across Russia” in 2013. Could you, please, tell more about it?

The AusTriaTeam, 4 Austrian bikers wanted to set a world record in a non-stop race from Moscow to Vladivostok in less than 14 days. The Austrian Chamber of Commerce recommended us to support them. I was reluctant to work on such a crazy idea, but my wife loved it and somehow pushed me into it. Getting more and more into it we understood that this project could be more: “showing Russia”, how even the Russians don’t know it.

And the 4 guys managed it in 13 days and 5 hours. In 2014 we organized the second world record project, only 2 guys, Andi Fuchs from Austria and the Russian Anatoly Nesterov. And they also made it in less than 14 days. They were unlucky with the weather, otherwise they could have been faster than the four. Together with Red Bull we agreed to change the concept from non-stop to a stage race, so actually 3 times the “Tour de France”.

Race Across Russia: Steve Harvey from the United Kingdom, Paola Gianotti and Paolo Aste from Italy, Denis Madjara, Mikhail Ignatyev and Ivan Kovalov from Russia, Thomas John and Johannes Rosenberger from Germany, Kristof Allegaert from Belgium, Eduard Fuchs from Austria. Photo Credit: Red Bull, RARU Official.

We know, that you have published a book devoted to the Trans-Siberian Extreme, entitled “Race across Russia”. What is the most memorable response that you have received to the “Race across Russia”?

Many, many. Most people cannot believe that it is possible to bike more than 9000 km. Most Russians are surprised that there are roads in Siberia and believe that it is all so dangerous to travel through Russia, all a big mystery. This country is so fantastic and sooooo big and soooo beautiful

«Most people cannot believe that it is possible to bike more than 9000 km. Most Russians are surprised that there are roads in Siberia…»

Race Across Russia: Mikhail Ignatyev from Russia, Johannes Rosenberger from Germany, Paola Gianotti from Italy perform during the 12th stage Chita — Svobodny at the Red Bull Trans Siberian Extreme race in Russia, on August 1 2015. Photo Credit: Red Bull, RARU Official.

What are the most enjoyable things in this project and what is the most challenging aspect of it?

It is all about people. We have built up a great team, doctors, physiotherapists, cooks, mechanical support, photographers and “my Moscow taxi drivers”. Great guys who did not believe in what I was doing and are now waiting for the next race to be again part of it. I mean the Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme bicycle race takes 23 days. All in all the support team needs to take almost one-month holidays!! AND they cannot wait until the new race starts.

To manage almost 100 people, coordinate more than 20 support cars and keep the team together for more than 3 weeks is challenging.

To watch how the team becomes a team is a great experience.

Race Across Russia: Mikhail Ignatyev from Russia, Paolo Aste from Italy, Thomas John from Germany perform during the 1st stage Moscow-Kostroma at the Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme race in Moscow, Russia on July 15th, 2015. Photo Credit: Red Bull, RARU Official.

How do you balance work and leisure? Do you have any time management secrets?

I have a great family, a very supportive wife and 2 great sons, successful in their career, and I have 3 Russian ladies as partners in my Moscow based companies. This leaves me time to manage also a little bit more crazy things like my bike race.

I love cooking and very often when I come home I cook with my family and enjoy a glass of wine or two. This lets you forget business or brings you energy for new ideas.

«I enjoy every day watching and living in this amazing, blossoming, fascinating Megapolis with all its surprises wherever you go»

Do you enjoy living in such a big city as Moscow?

As much as I like nature, I would never like to live outside a city. I lived in Moscow in grey soviet times with no restaurants, sad looking people and no colors at all. I enjoy every day watching and living in this amazing, blossoming, fascinating Megapolis with all its surprises wherever you go.

Our readers are keen travellers. What places would you advise to visit in Vienna, except for the popular tourist attractions? What are your favorite places for dining in Vienna?

Take a bike and investigate secret corners of this great city. Or walk off the main touristic paths, dig into the seventh and eight district with its small roads and small “Beisln”. Enjoy the Heurigen, no matter whether in Ginzing or in Sievering or in Gumpoldskirchen, best in a combination with a walk through the Wienerwald. Take your time to visit the surrounding of Vienna, the Wachau, Melk, Klosterneuburg, or the south Thermal region with its great wine, or get a trip to Burgenland and Neusiedlersee, also great wines and culinary attractions. In less than an hour you can see so much around Vienna. In less than an hour in Moscow, you are nowhere. Don’t miss the Prater.

Vienna offers many great places for dining. Escape from the touristic places and check out yourself. Don’t miss the “Kaffeehaus”. My favorite is an Italian restaurant, because I feel like at home and know the owner for maybe 40 years. My very favorite is eating at home with my family and friends!

We thank Paul Bruck for this really inspiring interview and wish a lot of success with his significant projects and good luck with the Race 2016!