On the road in Washington DC
The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.
Okay be honest. When seeing the name "The Bureau of National Affairs" for the first time doesn't it conjure up visions of a government agency. Actually, it's a privately held publisher of specialized business, legislative, judicial and regulatory information services. BNA was founded in 1929 and was part of U.S. News & World Report until 1947 when it incorporated in its present form as an employee owned company. Revenues in 1992 were $209 million, net income $10 million. BNA is the oldest fully employee-owned company in the US.
William Beltz, President and John Schappi, Vice President-Human Resources, give me the low down on the company sitting in Beltz's modestly furnished corner office. Headquarters consists of three company-owned, side-by-side buildings near the Georgetown area of Washington. Roughly 1,500 employees work in the complex, with the tallest building being eight stories.
Though Beltz is a super guy, I can't wait to get out of his office. Why? He's a chain smoker.
BNA publishes more than 70 print and electronic reports and research material. Here's a sampling: the Daily Labor Report, the Federal Contracts Report, the United States Patents Quarterly, Chemical Regulation Reporter, World Pharmaceutical Standards Review, BNA Pension Reporter and a biweekly report called Collective Bargaining Negotiations and Contracts. And those are the more interesting ones!
Earlier in the day I stopped by the Washington news bureau of Bloomberg Business News. After announcing I was off to visit Danaher Corporation (1992 revenues $949 million, net income $32 million) a Bloomberg reporter who covered Danaher said not to bother because the company has a reputation for being close-mouthed and not talking to reporters. "Nobody's going to talk to you PLUS, you don't even have an appointment".
Corporate offices for Danaher, which manufactures tools, environmental controls products and components for automotive and diesel truck engine manufacturers, takes up half the eighth floor of an eight-story building near the Georgetown area (only a block from The Bureau of National Affairs). Marge Myhre, Executive Secretary to CEO George Sherman, greets me with enthusiasm as we walk back into Sherman's office to answer questions.
Looking around Sherman's corner office (who isn't in today) I count three plants (real), a computer, a spotless desk and absolutely nothing on the walls. Matter of fact, walking down various hallways to Sherman's office I noticed every wall is barren. "Why is that?", I ask. Myhre had asked Sherman that same question. According to Sherman, pictures and paintings are distractions. A plaque helps keep Sherman focused. It reads:
RULE #1 IF WE DON'T TAKE CARE OF THE CUSTOMER
SOMEBODY ELSE WILL
Myhre gives me a thorough walk around the place, which isn't saying much because there're only 16 employees. I do note secretaries get fresh flowers every week.
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
With 1.4 million members, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is one of North America's largest unions. Administration of the Teamsters is the responsibility of the General Executive Board, which is directly elected by the membership. The top executive officer is Ron Carey, General President.
Headquarters, a seven-story building built in 1957 and added on to in 1977, sits right across the street from the Capital Building. Cindy Impala, Education Department Representative, says they like to tell people it was built here to keep on eye on the legislators.
Over 450 employees work in the union-owned building. Walking down a hall I see large portraits of past General Presidents hanging on the walls including Roy Williams, Jackie Presser and Jimmy Hoffa. There's a meeting going on in the boardroom but I get to peek in. Impala says the boardroom table is the world's second largest mahogany table. "Oh, who has the largest?", I ask. She doesn't know, she's only going by what someone else had told her.
National Geographic Society
Since the National Geographic Society is the world's largest non-profit scientific and educational organization I figure it's worth a visit. Offices are in a complex of three buildings in downtown Washington.
Barbara Moffet, Manager-Environmental Projects, walks me around the place. Built in 1903, Memorial Hall is the oldest of the three structures. The tallest building is 10-stories and it houses Explorers Hall, the Society's museum-which by the way is jam-packed with visitors.
About 2,000 employees work in the complex. The boardroom in the old Memorial Hall building is a beaut: a 50-foot ceiling and fireplace highlight the room.
U.S. News & World Reports
About a block from Danaher Corporation near the Georgetown area of Washington sits the seven-story headquarters of U.S. News & World Report.
Fredrick Hannon, Media Relations Manager, gives me a blah reception in the lobby of the building. Showing no interest, Hannon says about 200 employees work in the leased building.
I was hoping to see owner Mortimer Zuckerman's office but Hannon says his office is in New York. The lobby is as far as I get.
Marriott Corporation and Martin Marrietta
With Marriott Corporation (1992 revenues $8.7 billion) being in the hospitality field and Martin Marrietta (1992 revenues $6 billion) a defense contractor one would think these two companies have nothing in common. Wrong. Both are headquartered in suburban Bethesda, MD within two blocks of each other in an office park and both gave me a lousy reception during my first visit six years ago.
Time heels all wounds as nice guy Buzz Bartlett, Director-Public and Community Relations at Martin Marrietta takes time to answer my questions in the lobby of the company's three-story, 500,000 square foot headquarters built in 1977 and located on a 21-acre site. About 250 employees work at the company-owned building, who's stone exterior was supplied by the company's Materials Group subsidiary-the nation's third-largest producer of construction aggregates.
Time doesn't heel wounds at Marriott's six-story headquarters complex down the street. I count over thirty flags of different countries flying outside the place. Six years ago I was handed a press kit and shoo-ed away after waiting almost two hours. This time I leave empty-handed after waiting an hour and a half. Judy Hadfield, Corporate Relations, says she "doubts" she can answer my questions and passes on talking with me. Boy, this is the same company which I tout as having the best hotel properties in the country. Residence Inn, Marriott Hotels and Courtyard by Marriott each make my list of ten best hotel chains.
Manor Care, Inc.
Silver Springs, MD, roughly 10 miles north of Washington DC, is home base for Manor Care, a holding company in the healthcare and lodging industries. Besides operating 166 nursing homes, Manor Care (1993 revenues $1 billion) owns Choice Hotels International, a franchiser of over 2,800 hotels. Choice Hotels are located in 50 states and 29 countries operated under the brand names Clarion, Quality, Comfort, Sleep, Rodeway, Econo Lodge and Friendship Inns.
Nothing fancy about the five buildings (325,000 square feet) making up the headquarters of Manor Care. The tallest is seven stories and it's the one housing the senior executives.
Everyone from the security guard up to the CEO's secretary is friendly in the plain-looking and plainly furnished building. I expected the place to look like one of their hotel properties but I'm way off.
Troy Albright, Manager-HR Planning and Systems, walks me into CEO Stewart Bainum Jr.'s fourth floor corner office and the view isn't much to crow about-he looks out at a rental storage complex across the street. Bainum's office contains a half-dozen pictures of family, a map of Germany and one of the United States.
No formal boardroom here, the law library doubles as the boardroom. The company has one corporate aircraft: a Citation-which uses BWI Airport 30 minutes away.
Note: Itís mid-summer and Iím changing course to take advantage of good weather. After going through Colorado, Wyoming and Utah I fly back to Washington DC and will visit about a dozen more companies in the DC area.
On the road in Washington DC Part Two
Riding up to defense contractor DynCorp's six-story headquarters building in suburban Reston, VA I'm prepared for the worst. Past experiences with defense contractors have shown many to be less-than eager to meet with me.
Sitting in her office, Charlene Wheeless, Communications Manager, quickly puts those fears to rest as she hands me a poem written by the staff. It's titled:
Ode To Paul Wolsfeld
At DynCorp we can really say, there's nothing strange to us-
We've had so many visitors come, by plane, auto, and bus.
Now Paul Wolsfeld comes to visit, and sets us on our heels-
Our first official visitor who arrived on just two wheels.
We're really thrilled to render, a DynCorp welcome to you, Paul-
Our twenty thousand employee-owners are glad you made this call.
Our C-E-O- Dan Bannister, the man you've come to meet-
We know that when you talk to him, you'll find he's pretty neat.
As you collect your trivia, on companies large and small-
When you review your visit here, you'll like us best of all.
DynCorp is a pleasant place to work, also to play-
This you will find yourself as you visit today.
We may be short of trivia, but we're very long on spirit-
And proud of our company, as you listen you will hear it.
So take your photos and your notes, our time is yours to share-
Just remember DynCorp as a firm, of people who all care.
Boy, how can you not like a company that commissions a poem for your visit. Founded in 1946, it's DynCorp's sixth year as a private, employee-owned company. 1992 revenues were $911 million, with 58% being Department of Defense contracts, down from 73% four years ago.
Located in an office park about five miles from Dulles International Airport, over 300 employees work in the 154,000 square foot company-owned structure built in 1988.
CEO Dan Bannister, 63 years old, sits in a boring corner office on the sixth floor with a football signed by former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs being the highlight of the room. This doesn't mean Bannister is a boring man. You've heard of MTV? Well, the company put together an employee orientation video for its 20,000 employees called DTV and it's a riot. It's a take-off on rock videos and in one segment CEO Bannister is dressed up as Elvis doing a take-off on "The King" singing Jail House Rock. DynCorp has a contract with the US Postal Service to sort mail and another segment of the video has management singing "Mailed in the USA" by Dick Springsteen and the D Stree Band. (there's no T in Street)
Six years ago I visited General Dynamics (1992 revenues $3.5 billion) when they were headquartered in St. Louis. The company leased space in an office building and said they weren't interested in talking to me. Figuring new surroundings might make them more receptive I drop by their new offices in Falls Church, Virginia, 12 miles north of Washington DC.
The company occupies three floors in a 10-story building, part of a new office park. A Marriott hotel sits across the street and Mobil's world headquarters is a tee shot away across the freeway.
The reception area on the third floor is very small. Four yellowish-orange chairs, an American flag, the Virginia state flag, two security cameras and a security guard sitting behind a desk together occupy space the size of a Cadillac car.
Ginger Rutherford, the hospitable secretary to CEO J. Mellor walks out to the lobby and says Paul Hesse, Corporate Vice President-Communications, will meet with me.
Why did this defense contractor move to Falls Church? Hesse says it's to be closer to its biggest customer-the US government. About 100 employees work in the place.
I never get past the lobby. My request to see the CEO's office and boardroom is denied. Why? It's not for security reasons or because meetings are going on. Hesse says I can't see the CEO's office or boardroom because he thinks what I'm doing is "silly" and "can't believe someone is sponsoring you".
First Virginia Banks, Inc.
Well, this bank holding company shoots down Paul's Law #1 on banks which is: headquarters will always be located downtown. First Virginia's is about six miles from Washington DC in the suburb of Falls Church, VA (population 9,000).
The twin 12-story buildings look identical except for the fact one was built in 1972 and the other in 1988. Why is First Virginia Banks (1992 revenues $602 million, net income $97 million) headquartered here? Douglas Church, Senior Vice President, says the bank was founded here and it's a central location-even though First Virginia has zero offices in Washington DC.
CEO Robert Zalokar likes it when I tell him his corner office on the 12th floor is plainly furnished. How does Zalokar describe his bank? Is it a regional bank? Nope, Zalokar calls the almost $7 billion in assets financial institution a "super community bank".
The boardroom is worth mentioning only because of the yellow carpeting and yellow chairs-which seems pretty flashy for this conservative bank.
Public Broadcasting Service
This private, nonprofit corporation founded in 1969 calls a seven-story brick building in Alexandria, VA home. PBS provides TV programming to 347 noncommercial stations in the US, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and Samoa.
Income for 1991 totaled $1.34 billion, with 81.3% of the funding coming from nonfederal sources such as subscribers (21.3%), state governments (19.0%) and businesses (17.1%).
Before meeting with Robb Deigh, Director-Corporate Information, I note Mr. Roger's Neighborhood playing on the television in the lobby. Over 300 employees work in the place in which PBS leases six and a half floors.
The all-time most-watched public affairs program was in 1991: "General Norman Schwartzkopf"...Talking With David Frost. The most-watched PBS-distributed program of all-time was the 1982 National Geographic Special: "The Sharks".
American Association of Retired Persons
With 32.7 million members, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is the second largest association in the country behind the American Automobile Association.
The AARP leases two new side by side 10-story buildings in Washington DC two blocks from the Chinatown area and halfway between the White House and the Capital.
I tell Thomas Otwell, Media Liaison, Public Affairs Department, I'm surprised to see so many "young" people working in the two buildings. Otwell assures me you don't have to be an AARP member to work here. Membership is open to anyone age 50 or older, both working and retired.
Over 1,200 employees work in the two structures which features an eclectic collection of art scattered throughout. Revenues in 1992 were $305 million. AARP members receive Modern Maturity, the nation's most widely circulated magazine.
National Rifle Association of America
I placed bets with friends on whether or not I'd find guns displayed in the lobby of the National Rifle Association. The answer is yes and no because off to the side is the entrance to the National Firearms Museum which features more than 1,000 firearms on display.
The lobby area itself is small and very dumpy. Waiting for Mary Sue Faulkner, Media Liaison, I take a seat on one of the two clothed chairs-both of which are ripped in several places. The eight-story, 110,000 square foot building, which is five blocks north of the White House, looks like it was built in the 1950's. A plaque on a wall lists 16 honorary life members of the NRA. Two names are familiar: Ronald Reagan and Charlton Heston.
On a windowsill is a flashing red counter that gives updates on the NRA's membership. During my 10-minute wait, membership increased by seven to 3,248,881. I leaf through two magazines published by the NRA: American Hunter and American Rifleman.
Faulkner says the building was indeed built in the late 1950's but, early next year the NRA will be moving into a spanking new 286,000 square foot facility in Fairfax County, VA.
This is the first organization visited in which there's a shooting range in the basement. The furnishings throughout the building are strictly no-frills. The boardroom features an NRA flag, A US flag and cheap-looking wood paneling.
Wayne LaPierre Jr., Executive Vice President, and the top management person has a corner office on the top floor. Nothing fancy about LaPierre's pad; barebones furnishings, several pictures of him hunting and shooting, two plants, several awards and a painting of a western scene. Shoot, no firearms of any kind in his office.
American Red Cross
The three buildings composing the headquarters for the American Red Cross, the world's largest humanitarian organization, look like they could use some help themselves. The three-story Main Building, which houses the executive offices was built in 1917. The other two were built in 1930 and 1932 and the insides look their age.
Brian Ruberry, Manager-Media Relations, says over 1,000 people work in the three structures known as Red Cross Square. Rent is a good deal with the landlord being paid a dollar a year. The US government is the landlord. The American Red Cross is big business with revenues of $1.6 billion in 1992.
The Board of Governors Hall in the Main Building is quite impressive because of its three Tiffany windows. Commissioned in 1917, the windows are reputed to be the largest suite of Tiffany windows still in their original location, except for those that remain in churches. Ministry to the sick and wounded through sacrifice are the theme of the windows.
Mary Doering, Curator, shows me some of the Red Cross's collection of memorabilia that it isn't able to display due to lack of space. The most interesting? It's definitely the quilt received from schoolteacher Eva Jones of Santa Monica, California. During World War 1, Jones and her 7th and 8th grade pupils sent red cross squares to famous people and asked them to autograph the squares in an effort to raise money for the soldiers. Over 100 signatures appear on the quilt including: inventor Thomas Edison, actresses Sarah Bernhardt & Mary Pickford, General Pershing, naturalist Luther Burbank, Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, composer George Cohen, Justice Louis Brandeis, musician John Phillip Sousa, Helen Keller, actors Charlie Chaplin & Douglas Fairbanks, and Orville Wright to name but a few.
Doering shows me the trunk bed American Red Cross founder Clara Barton lugged around the battlefields during the Civil War. The heavy trunk opens up into a bed and it's where Barton placed the sick and wounded while nursing them.
I didn't fare very well showing up at Gannett's headquarters back in 1987. I remember the exact words used by the woman in the Corporate Communications department: "Who do you think you are showing up here without an appointment?, we don't have time to talk to you".
Washington DC has a building height limit of 12 stories. Right across the Potomac River is Arlington, VA-with its cluster of high-rise office buildings. The tallest and most recognizable buildings are the two twin 31-story glass towers. One has the name USA Today atop the side and the other, Gannett.
This time around I get an extensive and thorough tour of the place thanks to the charming Diane MacKnight, Director-Facilities Operations. Each building contains 500,000 square feet of space. Gannett leases 50% of the space in each building.
Gannett, with revenues in 1992 of $3.5 billion, net income $200 million, is the largest US newspaper group with 82 daily newspapers, more than 50 non-daily publications, 10 television stations, eight FM radio and seven AM radio stations, publishes USA Weekend-a weekly newspaper magazine with a circulation of 16 million and, owns Gannett Outdoor Group-the largest billboard advertiser in North America.
The 500 employees in the Gannett building share use of an impressive 22,000 square foot company fitness center with the USA Today employees. Besides an indoor jogging track there's an indoor driving range and putting green.
The view from the boardroom on the 31st floor is spectacular! You can see Georgetown, Arlington National Cemetery, planes coming and going at Washington National Airport and all the famous sights in Washington. It's a good thing the view is great because the boardroom itself is one of the gaudiest I've seen. Everything from the carpet, brass horse head and four large suede sofas to the telescope and working fireplace is either colored beige or gold. Who takes the credit for this? Former CEO and USA Today founder Al Neuharth.
Separated from the boardroom by clear glass is the office of CEO John Curley. On the other side of the boardroom is Neuharth's old office-left intact. Though much of the 31st floor is furnished in Neuharth's loud taste MacKnight says it hasn't been changed because of the cost involved. That explains the three Leroy Nieman paintings hanging in the hallway and the goat's skin table in one of the conference rooms.
The Sweet Dream cookies at the Firehook Bakery in Alexandria, VA make it into my Bakery Hall of Fame. The chewy cookies contain among other ingredients: chocolate, almonds, powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Georgetown University has some of the best looking women in the country. George Washington's Mount Vernon home, 20 miles south of Washington, is interesting. Did you know George's "home" encompassed 5,000 acres and had 300 slaves?
Visited $300 million in revenues, privately held Mohasco Corporation in Fairfax, VA. Met with CFO John Sganga. Eight employees. Nothing worth mentioning.
Visited Mobil Corporation in suburban Fairfax, VA. I was sent a letter saying they weren't interested in talking to me. I was rebuffed in 1987 when they were located in NYC. I show up at their eight-story Fairfax headquarters and end up talking to Joyce Hall in Public Relations. She answers my questions but requests I run my story by them first and not mention her name. I'm going pass on writing up this paranoid company with the fortress mentality. Every visitor passes through a metal detector. The grounds on the 120-acre site are beautiful. Tons of security people. The security camera kept following me around the lobby as I walked back and forth. Had a run-in with security in which I was told to leave. Address is 3225 Gallows Road-would make a great prison.