Hans Steiner: In the name of the rose
He left Switzerland nearly half a century ago and now Hans Steiner is currently Chairman of the company Ecuaquimica, in Guayaquil. In such a capacity, he has been been importing FELCO tools for thirty years. Let’s look back on the extraordinary career of a happy man.
"It was in 1967. Three or four years after completing my training at the Kaufmännische Berufs-Schule in Lucerne, I began my career in Lausanne, then in Zürich, when I came across an ad. Founded by Swiss who lived for 30 years in Ecuador, the Max Müller company sought to recruit an administrator. I thought it was an opportunity to learn a new language, discover another culture and another country".
A three-year contract!
Aged 25, Hans Steiner hopped aboard a banana boat to cross the Atlantic. He arrived in Guayaquil, as Deputy Director of the agricultural section of the Max Müller Company, specialized in the import and distribution of pharmaceuticals, plant protection products and tools. He did not speak a word of Spanish and never for a second imagined that he would spend his life in South America "At the time, it was simply a trip. Max Müller paid for my ticket. In exchange, I had committed myself for three years".
My Ecuadorian Adventure could have ended in 1970. But to this date, Max Müller divides its activities between several companies, amongst which Ecuaquimica, which resumed the importation of tools and chemicals for agriculture and joined Hans Steiner. "I was offered the opportunity to establish a branch in Quito. The work was very interesting, and after the first six months it took to adapt, I loved living in a country so different from Switzerland".
Every year, the contract of the young expatriate was extended as his career progressed. Appointed Director of Ecuaquimica at the end of the 1970s, he became shareholder in the 1980s.
My friend the rose
It was also at this time, when rose production began its development in the mountains of the region of Quito, that the Ecuaquimica company imported the first FELCO pruning shears. "During one of his visits, the representative of a Swiss company asked me if I knew the FELCO brand, recommending it to me. At first it was not easy as the tools were expensive for an Ecuadorian. However their very good quality ensured their success".
In fact, used intensively for 6 to 8 hours a day, the tools very quickly found the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to best meet the requirements of the professionals. Thirty years later, the production of roses represents one of the pillars of Ecuadorian trade, along with oil, bananas, coffee and cocoa. Grown throughout the year, at an altitude of between 2500 and 3000 meters, in a region known for its brightness and its eternal spring, Sierra roses, cut using FELCO pruning shears, are exported mainly to the United States, Western Europe and Russia.
A beautiful life
Thick mustache, thick and dark hair, sparkling smile, Hans Steiner is now Chairman of Ecuaquimica. Under his leadership, it has become a heavyweight in the local agricultural industry. Aged 71, he continues to get up (very) early and travel around the country to visit the 15 branches within the company, without the slightest intention to stop.
At most, even slow down a little. "I think I could probably go on holiday more often, and finish a little earlier in the afternoon. But I still dedicate 70 or 80% of my time to my business activities".
And when he throws a glance in the rear-view mirror, the Chairman of Ecuaquimica is sure of one thing: if he could do it all again, he wouldn’t change a thing. "I still have a sister, three brothers and about twenty friends in Switzerland, whom I visit once a year for the holidays. But, in addition to a work that I love and which represents a very important part of my life, I found a new homeland here. I got married twice, I am a father of a son and two daughters, I have friends... I have had a very nice life. The conclusion is that I have discovered how to live happily in Ecuador".