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      US Ambassador: Don’t let failure stop you

      US Ambassador Donald Beyer encouraged students to not let failure hinder them in career paths. Talking about cultural differences in business between the USA and Switzerland, Ambassador Beyer said it is considerably easier to fail and bounce back in the USA. “You fall down six times and then succeed on the seventh. Don’t let failure stop you,” he said.

      Ambassador Beyer addressed the ConnectUS student preparatory seminar at the FHNW School of Business on 14 February.  The one-week seminar, covering mostly networking and entrepreneurial topics, is organised by a student project team and preparatory to a two-week on-site seminar to the north-east USA in March/April.

      In his session with about 40 students in Olten, Ambassador Beyer focused on ten main cultural differences in business between the two countries, a number of which centred on what he termed Americans’ “talent for risk”.

      US Ambassador 1

      From left: Robert Buttery, Head of International Relations; Anita Graf, Professor for HRM; Evelyn Bürkli, Student; US Ambassador Donald Beyer; Olivia Jeup, Student; Gabriela Stefanini, Student; Antje Leukens, Dean; Foto: Jeanette Merguin)

      “US business persons seem to have a much higher capacity to borrow money", he said, illustrating with the high debt he himself and his brother ran up to run and expand their chain of car dealerships in Virginia (where he was Lieutenant Governor for many years).  Similarly, US business people were less process-committed than their Swiss counterparts.

      “US entrepreneurs tend to be rule-breakers.  Think of Zuckerberg, or Jobs or Obama.  Why should a black American with the name of Barack Hussein Obama, whose ancestors were slaves, with a Muslim father... why should he run for president?  He didn’t follow the process at all."

      “The Swiss are way more process committed.  One of our primary jobs here at the embassy is to explain to Washington DC why everything moves so slowly in Switzerland. But then, we often hear here that in the US it’s like a pendulum swinging back and forth whereas in Switzerland it’s more stable.  But it does move forward.”

      The Ambassador, who was posted to Bern three years ago by Obama, felt the US and Switzerland were the two most innovative countries in the world.  Additionally, he felt the countries shared three other attributes including great resilience, employment longevity and hard-working employees. He voiced contentment with current trade relations and admiration for many aspects of his host country, including the concordance politics and work-free weekends. “Switzerland punches above its weight.”

      The ambassador’s input was followed by a 60-minute Q & A session where he fielded questions from students on networking, student loan debts, maternity leave, work-life balance, the forthcoming elections in the US and opportunities for Swiss students to work in the USA.

      The ConnectUS preparatory seminar continues until Friday 17 February.

      For detailed information on the project, preparatory and on-site seminars visit

      For information on the other two students seminars of the School of Business, Focus India and Insight China, which are also holding preparatory seminars this week, visit and

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