On the road in Wyoming
SafeCard Services, Inc.
Visiting SafeCard Services' headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida back in January of 1992, I was given no inkling of their planned moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Then again, the secretive, distrustful Director of Security I met with wouldn't even admit to the company having a cafeteria.
SafeCard, sells a variety of services to credit card customers of SafeCard's credit card issuer clients. SafeCard's Hot-Line Credit Card Protection is the world's largest credit card notification service. SafeCard, Wyoming's first and only company whose stock is traded on the NYSE, had revenues in 1992 of $158 million, net income $22 million.
About three miles from downtown Cheyenne I spot the long one-story, 115,000 square foot, green reflective glass headquarters located next door to a grocery store and residential area. The company must be partial to green reflective glass because their Ft. Lauderdale building was green reflective glass.
Oh boy, this looks like an instant replay of my miserable reception in Florida. The not-too-quick receptionist seems to think I'm a delivery guy and directs me to the receiving area around the back of the building. I start to explain she's mistaken when a security guard comes out from behind a set of reflective glass doors and says to her, "did you buzz me?". Evidently my protesting her decision to send me to the delivery area caused her to push the silent panic button.
After explaining to the guard what I'm doing, Estelle Haefele, secretary to W.M. Stalcup, President, is called. The friendly Haefele walks out to the lobby and says the company never received
my advance material. "Oh no, I can't believe this!", I blurt out, "I visited your company in Florida back in January of last year and received a lousy reception and that's one of the reasons why I'm visiting you again. I even sent you a news clipping from the Miami Herald which did a story on me and in it they mentioned the poor reception I received at SafeCard". With that said I pulled out a copy of the Miami Herald story and showed it to her.
While waiting in the lobby for Haefele to find someone to meet with me I make note of the nine potted palm trees scattered about, the dark green leather couch & chair, the two brightly colored oil
paintings of Indians on the walls, the close-circuit camera watching me and seven issues of Wyoming Wildlife magazine on a coffee table.
Agneta Breslin, Executive Vice President, greets me and her warm personable style ends up erasing any prior bad feelings I held. Breslin is one of the 55 employees who relocated with the company and says she recalls reading the Miami Herald article when it came out.
Why did SafeCard move from Ft. Lauderdale? Breslin says it's a variety of reasons: Wyoming has no corporate taxes, Cheyenne is near the geographical center of the US, clean air, recreational
opportunities, low crime and small town life-style.
It's about 80 degrees outside on this warm, sunny August day as I ask Breslin if she's learned to deal with the harsh Wyoming winters. It's a loaded question because in her office (remember it's late August) a portable heater is heating away. She deftly answers, "This is a great place to raise a family".
Four hundred-thirty employees work in this place which I'm surprised to learn used to house a K-Mart. Cheyenne's (population 50,000) puddle jumping airport is three miles away. SafeCard has no
corporate aircraft with the nearest major airport being two hours away in Denver.
Wyoming's population of 453,588 ranks it 50th in population. With 97,914 square miles, Wyoming is the ninth largest state. What the state lacks in people it makes up for in natural beauty and splendor. Stopping alongside a road I watch two young red foxes play hide & seek in the tall grass. Farther along, with the piercing blue sky as a backdrop-eagles soar above and several times in the next hour I come across groups of between 20 and 30 wild antelopes grazing peacefully in large open fields.
Laramie (population 25,000), home to the University of Wyoming, the only-four year school in the state. The 780-acre campus and its 12,000 students is the reason for the town's existence.
Several blocks from Laramie's main drag I come across an interesting business named Taxidermy Unlimited. As you may or may not know taxidermy is the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the skins of animals. Walking inside I come face to face with a head mounted Cape buffalo, a life-size elk and dozens of life-size mounts of animals such as badgers, bobcats, deer, ducks, coyotes and fish. I find owner Richard Hoel in the back, painting a fish.
Dozens of ribbons and awards received at state, regional and national levels of competition line one wall. Even without seeing the awards and ribbons the well-done mounts speak for themselves. "Are you and your two assistants good at what you do?", I ask. "We get business from all over the world, animals are shipped here from Russia and Europe to be mounted", replies Hoel.
We talk turkey. How much to do a life-size mount of a water buffalo?, I ask. $4,000.00 he answers. How much for a fish? $8.50 per inch with an $80.00 minimum. How much to mount the head of a wild boar? $290.00 with a charge of $25.00 extra for an open mouth. Just to let him know I'm no city slicker I ask him if those fifteen mounted "jackalopes" on a wall are for tourists. He laughs and says, "yes". For the benefit of you city slickers: a jackalope is a stuffed jackrabbit with the oversized antlers of a deer mounted atop its head.
On the road in Utah
Thiokol Corporation, the world's largest builder of solid rocket launchers, leases a six-story building smack dab in the middle of downtown Ogden (population 65,000). One hundred twenty-five employees work in the 80,000 square foot structure built in 1988.
My visit with Steve Lawson, Manager-Public Relations, starts off poorly because he's mistakenly informed by the receptionist that I'm looking for a donation. This explains why he walks up to me and abruptly says, "I'm sorry but we aren't interested in participating". After clearing the mix-up, Lawson turns out to be a real nice guy.
Sitting in the two-story lobby I spot two close-circuit cameras keeping watch, count nine fake plants and two 15-foot tall fake trees scattered about and two books on a coffee table; "NASA-A Quarter Century of Achievement" and," NASA-The Journey Continues".
Why is the company headquartered in Ogden? A nearby plant is the largest integrated solid rocket propellant research, development and production facility in the world.
The company has one corporate aircraft, a Hawker-Siddley and uses Salt Lake City airport 35 miles south.
Smith's Food & Drug Centers, Inc.
Nothing fancy about the headquarters location for Smith's, a regional supermarket chain (1992 revenues $2.6 billion, net income $54 million). It's about four miles west of downtown Salt Lake City
in an industrial area. The company-owned, one-story building used to house one of their warehouses.
My visit is fun, thanks to the affable Shelley Thomas, Vice President-Public Affairs. Thomas, a former television news reporter for a Salt Lake City station, thinks what I'm doing is so interesting she calls her former station while I'm in her office. The reporter is very interested in doing a segment but only if he can follow me inside as I visit a company. I nix the idea because of several bad experiences doing it that way. For instance: in Seattle a television reporter talked me into allowing him and a cameraman to follow me UNANNOUNCED as I visited the offices of a dairy co-operative. It was a disaster. The receptionist freaked out upon seeing the camera, company officials were appalled in not
being told ahead of time of my arrival being accompanied by the media and lastly, the stupid cameraman tried to follow me into the restroom to film my changing from shorts into long pants!
Tooting the company's horn, Thomas shows me the September issue of Consumer Reports that just came out. In rating supermarkets nationwide, Smith's came in second behind Publix. I spend the next 15 minutes going down the list critiquing the various supermarkets for Thomas. Besides having visited the headquarters of almost all the chains listed I've make it a point to visit several of a chain's stores. Based on my own experiences, Smith's high rating is justified.
At many companies Fridays are designated casual dress day. Thomas says Wednesdays AND Fridays are casual dress days for the 200 employees as we wonder down the halls of the plainly furnished building.
Don't ask CEO Jeff Smith, how's the weather outside? He wouldn't know because his office is void of windows. Down the hall, Thomas says the recently remodeled boardroom raised eyebrows because of its lavishness. Though the marble boardroom table is a beaut, I tell Thomas not to worry-I've seen over a 1000 boardrooms and theirs is only slightly above average in its plushness.
Franklin Quest Co.
A mile down the road from Smith's is the red brick, five building headquarters complex of Franklin Quest, which conducts time management seminars and sells Franklin Day Planners. Though the company doesn't have the minimum $300 million in revenues to be on my list, I added them on because they're ranked 49th on Fortune's 100 Fastest Growing Companies in America (1992 revenues $120 million, net income $17 million). Since fiscal 1987, sales have increased at a compound annual rate of 76%. Net income and earnings per share have had a growth rate of 82% and 88%, respectively, over the same time period.
Riding up to the front door I notice the huge American flag fluttering away on the flag pole and a life-size bronze of Benjamin Franklin sitting on a bench. It's not until I walk in the front doors and see an oil painting of Benjamin Franklin, a miniature bronze replica of Independence Bell and an antique wooden miniature replica of Benjamin Franklin's office and workshop that I figure out who the company was named after.
"So, how big is the flag flying out front?", I ask Susan Thomson, Executive Assistant-Legal Department. "I've been told it's the second largest in the state", she replies. As I imagine most anyone would, I ask who has the largest. She answers, "I don't know".
The complex of company-owned two-story buildings is situated on 39-acres with 169,000 square feet used for warehousing, manufacturing and distribution and 83,000 for administration.
When the approximately 1,000 employees have meetings they're in rooms named after famous men from Ben Franklin's era; Patrick Henry room, Jefferson, Adams and Hancock rooms.
Items having to do with Benjamin Franklin are everywhere. On a wall outside CEO Hyrum Smith's second floor corner office hangs a complete set of Benjamin Franklin half dollars (1948-1963) plus, there's a complete set of commemorative Benjamin Franklin stamps. In Smith's office I find a small iron cast of Ben, a Norman Rockwell print of Ben, a bronze smaller version of the life-size bronze I saw outside of Ben sitting on a bench, two stained glass works featuring Ben and, a miniature bronze of Ben sitting at a desk. Whew! Smith has over 70 plaques lining his office walls-most are awards, two fake plants, no computer, an American flag and lots of family pictures.
On-site is one of the company's 19 retail stores. Thomson and I walk over and check it out. The interior looks like a fancy bookstore.
Why is this company growing so quickly? It could be because large organizations have embraced the Franklin System. These include General Motors, Dow Chemical, General Electric, Marriott, Intel and the Internal Revenue Service. What about me? Nah, I don't need no stinkin' diary to remind me to do things. Oh oh, I just remembered I was suppose to have my bike at the bike shop two hours ago to be repaired. Gotta go.
Huntsman Chemical Corporation
So where does Huntsman Chemical, the largest privately held chemical company in the US have its headquarters? In the fanciest building in downtown Salt Lake City (population 165,000). Known as Eagle Gate Tower, the 22-story blue glass structure has been home to Huntsman for six years, occupying two and a half floors.
Huntsman is the largest US producer of polystyrene, used in products ranging from toys to television cabinets. Remember when McDonald's and all the other fast-food servers came out with those Styrofoam-like containers for their burgers a few years ago? This is the company that came up with the idea.
According to Forbes magazine, company revenues total $908 million. I ask Don Olsen, Senior vice President-Public and Environmental Affairs, in his 20th floor if the figure is correct. Olsen says revenues for Huntsman Chemical total $1.3 billion. If you include Jon Huntsman's other companies the figure is $1.8 billion.
Why is the company located in Salt Lake City? Its 55 year-old CEO Jon Huntsman, who founded the company, lives here. He's very involved with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose general offices of the worldwide organization are right across the street.
Employees get free parking, which is always a big perk in downtowns and use of a fitness center in the building. The company has a lodge in a ski area called Deer Valley. Olsen says the lodge contains a highly regarded collection of Indian and western artifacts.
CEO Huntsman's VERY large corner office on the 20th floor is overflowing with photos, plaques and mementos. From his windows he can see the capitol located about six blocks away and the 28-story Mormon Church Office building across the street-which by the way is the tallest building in Utah. Looking around Huntsman office, blue seems to be his favorite color. Most of the furniture including two big sofas are dark blue.
Huntsman was Special Assistant to President Nixon in the early 1970's, which explains all the pictures of him with the former Commander-In-Chief. Presidents Ford and Bush also make appearances on his walls. Another Republican from the past holds his own on a wall by himself: Abraham Lincoln.
I see dozens of family pictures lined up behind his desk, 10 real plants, six military caps from the former Soviet Union, a picture of him fishing and large bowls jelly beans and lemon drops-
which I'm told he loves.
With operations in 56 facilities worldwide, located on 44 sites in 15 countries, how does CEO Huntsman get around? On the corporate jet, a Gulfstream 1.
On the back of company business cards is the corporate policy: "We endeavor to deliver on time, defect-free products and services that meet the needs, expectations, and requirements of our
customers, every time!"
First Security Corporation
Built in the 1928, the 14-story building sits on a corner in downtown Salt Lake City. Spencer Eccles, CEO, of First Security Corporation, a bank holding company with $7.6 billion in assets, tells me the building was bought from another bank that went under in 1933.
The 94,000 square foot structure is home to 277 employees and the main office of its major subsidiary-First Security Bank. Revenues in 1992 were $569 million, net income $87 million.
When Eccles shows me the boardroom I comment on how plain and simple it is. Having visited over 100 of the largest banks in the country I'm used to see pretty fancy digs in bank boardrooms. Three oil paintings featuring scenes of the Utah countryside are the only items on the walls.
So how come this company with the futuristic-sounding name of Questar has an ugly greenish building built in the 1950's for a headquarters? According to Curt Burnett, Vice President-Public Affairs, it's because this natural gas holding company wanted its recently changed name to reflect its diversification. As with many utility companies, Questar has branched out into other fields. Questar's (1992 revenues $605 million, net income $71 million) activities include oil and gas exploration, production and marketing; interstate gas transmission and storage, retail gas
distribution and telecommunications-primarily specialized mobile radio.
The company-owned, eight-story building sits a few blocks from the core of downtown Salt Lake City. About 1,000 employees work in this and two other near-by buildings.
Checking out CEO R. Cash's fourth floor plainly-furnished, corner office I spot a laptop computer, five African wood carvings, an Indian headstone, two miniature oil drilling rigs, a toy tiger and a large autographed poster of NBA basketball player Karl "The Mailman" Malone, who plays for the local Utah Jazz. Cash and Malone live in the same neighborhood. Matter of fact, they've become such good friends-Cash's wife is Malone's business manager. Cash is visibly pleased when I tell him is office is functional and nothing fancy compared to other CEO's offices I've seen.
Corporate offices for WordPerfect Corporation, manufacturer of the world's best-selling word processor, are in a complex of buildings several miles from downtown Orem (population 60,000).
Actually the city of Orem butts up to neighboring Provo (population 75,000) which is better known to most people because it's home to Brigham Young University (BYU), with 30,000 students-it's the
largest private university in the country. Salt Lake City is 40 miles to the north.
Lesa Carter, Corporate Communications, says the 21 red brick buildings (with the tallest being four stories) sit on 100-acres and total 1.4 million square feet of space. Located on an old apple orchard near the base of the 11,750-foot Mt. Timpanogos, you can't call the complex a campus-like setting because public streets cut through.
Privately held WordPerfect had revenues of $622 million in 1991 and a decrease to $579 million in 1992. Why is the company located in Orem? Bruce Bastian, Chairman of the Board, and Alan Ashton, CEO, co-founded the company here in 1979. Carter several times makes a point of telling me WordPerfect owns all its building AND the company is debt-free.
Hungry? Employees eat in the "Hard Disk Cafe". Want to play? Recreational facilities include two volleyball and two basketball courts.
Carter walks me over to a nearby building where we spend 20 minutes watching one of WordPerfect's disk jockeys do her spiel. Disk jockeys? Spiel? Most computer and software companies have phone numbers to call for assistance. Many companies put you on hold listening to elevator music and forget about you until a service technician comes on the line. Not at WordPerfect. Working in shifts and sitting in a control booth just like in radio stations, these disk jockeys play music (which they get to pick), periodically come on the line to inform you when the next technician will be available, give weather and news updates and pretty much keep you from feeling forgotten. Equipment in the control room lets them monitor how many calls are waiting on the various lines and can transfer you to a shorter line.
A mile from downtown Provo, three miles from the BYU campus and literally a 9-iron shot away from Interstate 15 lies the six building headquarters complex of Novell, a computer software company.
I'm not kidding about the 9-iron shot because Novell offices are located on Provo's former municipal golf course. Novell had raised the possibility of the company relocating elsewhere. To keep
its premier company in town CEO Raymond Noorda tells me the city sold Novell the golf course to enable Novell to have plenty of room for expansion.
So, besides having four basketball hoops and two sand volleyball courts, the company has a partial golf course. But as Noorda explains, the course is subject to shrinking. When the company needs more room, a hole is closed and a building is built. In a few years there could be no more golf. Why? Revenues and net income in 1988 were $347 million and $36 million, respectively. In 1992 those figures were $933 million and $249 million.
A sign in the main lobby reads: "All outside diskettes must be properly licensed and scanned for viruses before entrance". Magazines lying around the lobby coffee tables include Working Woman, Business Week, Reseller Management, Enterprise Systems Journal, Windows, Government Executive, Cadence and IBM Internet Journal.
My visit with CEO Noorda is fun. He's self-depreciating with a great sense of humor. He makes my list of ten Favorite CEO's. Noorda and I go into a small conference a few feet from his first-floor office because he says, "I hate being in my office". Small wonder. The tiny, windowless office doesn't have the space to hold a second chair. The desk of Noorda's secretary is about twice as big as his. During the course of my 90-minute visit Noorda asks me four times if I want to play golf. Actually, with the nearby Wasatch Mountains as a stunning backdrop I almost say, yes.
Checking out the boardroom takes us on a 10-minute walk from Noorda's office because it's in another building, which are connected by walkways. The tallest building is three stories and approximately 1,400 employees work on-site.
Stealth Bomber of the Bird World
Leaving Novell I start riding toward downtown Provo via the main drag. Near the side of the road I spot a dead great horned owl. Since owls fly at night and its now 10 AM, I assume it was hit by a car last night. It's not very often you see these large owls so I get off my bike to snap a picture. Using my shoe to turn it over for a view of its face I'm startled to find it isn't dead! What to do. I can't leave it and go for help because it's bound to get hit again. The size of its huge talons cancels the option of moving it out of harms way because I'd hate to have those things get their hooks in me. After 15 minutes of standing around I spot a Utah Highway Patrolman pull into a nearby gas station. He agrees to call for help. As if he needed to tell me, "don't get near those talons" he cautions and drives off. Another 15 minutes goes by and a woman Provo police officer pulls up in an animal control truck. The pick-up truck is filled with tied-up garbage bags that reek and it doesn't take a genius to figure out what's in the bags. The officer gets out with a shovel thinking she has another dead animal to scrape off the pavement. She's just as surprised as I was when she finds out the owl is still alive. The fish and wildlife people are called and the officer ends up being told to transport it to their offices.
Will it live? Did this owl have a family? The great horned owl has been called the "winged tiger" because of its size and power. Was it chasing a meal when it got hit? What was going through its mind as it lay helpless on the asphalt? Things for me to ponder as I ride on down the road.