If you are not Austrian setting up your own business or being self employed can have its very own challenges. You still want to found your own business or startup here? Perfect! Because we talked to Dr. Michele Moriarty, who recently set up her orthodontic practice in Salzburg. And although a practice is not a startup by definiton, there is still lots to learn from her experience for all you founders out there.
My name is Dr. Michèle Moriarty and I am originally from South Africa. My Father was born in Vienna but emigrated to South Africa in the 1960’s as he felt entrepreneurship was not encouraged at the time in Austria. I qualified as a general Dentist in South Africa, and then furthered my tertiary education in London, specialising in Orthodontics. My husband was then offered a position at a design agency in Salzburg (Kiska), and we decided to move our young family to Austria. Having qualified within the EU, I was able to register as a Dentist here without any big problems. After 5 years of living and being employed in Salzburg, I decided to open my own Orthodontic practice in Grödig.
Yes, this is my first business – after qualifying as a Dentist in 1999 and having gained experience at many dental practices around the world, I decided it was time to finally open my own practice.
I never had the desire to open a practice in South Africa or London, as I somewhere felt these countries were not the ‚last stop‘. As my family felt so settled here in beautiful Salzburg, I decided it was time to properly put down my roots and open a practice.
It took me about a year to find suitable premises, to complete the necessary registrations at the Zahnärztekammer (dentists‘ association) and purchase equipment and materials. It’s definitely a work in progress and I’m excited to develop and grow my practice in Salzburg.
One of the biggest challenges when emigrating is that you suddenly don’t have a network or support structure any more, both on a personal and a professional level. On a personal level, the ITG (the Innovation service for Salzburg) has been helpful in bringing me together with other expats and providing support with my family’s general integration in Salzburg. On a professional level, the biggest support for me was from colleagues in the same profession. Orthodontics is a relatively small community and I have been fortunate enough to have been welcomed with open arms. I also have a very good accounting firm who help me with the financial side of things, as that is also very different to either country I have worked in before. The Zahnärztekammer has also been helpful if I’ve had questions regarding legislation and procedures. And of course my Father has been crucial in imparting his business knowledge to me.
The biggest challenge for me initially was having my postgraduate education recognised in Austria. Historically, dentists here studied Medicine first and then only specialised in Dentistry afterwards. Universities have slowly changed their study programmes to be on par with the rest of Europe, with Dentistry being a seperate 5 year programme. As a result of this, Austria is one of the only countries out of the 28 EU member states that does not recognise dental specialities. In the United Kingdom I was a registered Specialist Orthodontist, having completed a three year full-time Masters in Orthodontics degree and a subsequent Board exam. And then on my arrival in Austria, I was no longer allowed to use this term as no such thing exists in Austria. I find this incredibly frustrating as patients have no way to evaluate the training of the very clinicians treating them.
The other challenge here is that Dentists are not allowed to advertise, which has made it very difficult as a new business. These heavy restrictions mean that new patients do not know my practice exists, so it will take a while for ‚word of mouth‘ to start spreading.
I would definitely disagree with this statement as most Austrians I have met on a professional level, and as patients, have always been very welcoming, helpful and kind to me and my family. Having emigrated twice, I can say the biggest factor is how much effort you make yourself to integrate into your new country. If you are friendly to your host countrymen, and bring value to the community, you can almost be guaranteed that you will receive the same in return.
I feel that German is crucial to starting a successful medical or dental practice in Salzburg. It was very difficult to come here as a non-native speaker and then have to suddenly enter a specialist profession speaking German at the highest Niveau. In my own case, I was fortunate to have spoken some German as a child (unfortunately only occasionally), so this helped me to achieve the C1 level required for registration with the Zahnärztekammer. It was a great challenge to slowly learn the necessary vocabulary for my specific profession, as this is not offered in your average ‚Sprachkurs‘ (language classes)! In Orthodontics I need to explain very difficult concepts to patients about their own dental health and treatment, and their ability to understand me is an important part of the consent process. I am thankful that most patients are gracious enough to oversee my occasional grammar mistakes and instead value the wealth of knowledge and experience I have brought with me. I am also pleased to be the only native English speaking Orthodontist in Salzburg, which is an advantage to the many expat families who have now settled here.
Starting your own business in Austria in general takes a lot of bravery and determination, but it is possible. Do a lot of research relating to your own specific field, surround yourself with local experts who can help you achieve your vision, and draw on the support of organisations like ITG to make things a little easier.
(Bilder: © Unplash/Mike Petrucci, Unsplash/Erik Odiin)