In the road in and around Providence, Rhode Island but first more from the Boston area..
Reebok International Ltd.
Deja vu! It’s pouring rain as I ride up to Reebok’s new six-story brick headquarters located in a Stoughton, Massachusetts office park (revenues for the nine months ending 9/92 $2.4 billion;) When I visited Reebok’s headquarters five years ago it also poured rain on me. There the resemblance ends, however. Five years ago, CEO Paul Fireman’s secretary gave me a hospitable welcome and an extensive tour of the place. At that time she told me of the company’s plans to build a new headquarters. This time my reception stinks. Paul Fireman is still CEO but he has a new secretary, Dorothy Hyman, who transfers me around and around. Finally I speak with a woman who, when I ask for her name, declines to give it to me. She says, "Oh no. You’ll put my name in your book and I’ll be known as the one who told you to leave." That’s right.
As I ride off, I notice the company has a basketball court and a tennis court on the premises.
(For more information: RBK )
Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.
Did you know cranberries are one of the three major native North American fruits? Concord grapes and blueberries are the other two. Ocean Spray Cranberries, a cranberry and grapefruit growers co-op, has one of the most beautiful headquarters I’ve ever visited. The firm sits on a 350-acre, heavily wooded site near Lakeville, Massachusetts, about 30 miles northwest of Providence.
A quarter-mile ride up a winding driveway takes me past a 10-acre lake stocked with fish. Then I pass over a small bridge with 15 acres of cranberry bogs off to either side. Cranberries grow on vines in beds layered with sand, peat gravel and clay. These beds, commonly known as bogs or marshes, were originally made by glaciers.
Headquarters is a white, three-story, Colonial-style building with a cupola on top. The lobby looks like a cozy bed and breakfast inn, only on a much bigger scale. It has wood floors and New England-style furniture.
Near the receptionist’s desk I see a six-foot tall, teak wood sculpture of three seagulls. Over a vast fireplace in the corner of the waiting area hangs a large scenic oil painting of cranberries. There’s also a quilt decorating one wall and a grandfather clock.
Every year since 1974, the Ocean Spray hosts a contest for its employees; the employees try to outdo each other creating elaborate costumes for dolls. The company displays the winning costumed dolls in the lobby.
Irene Sorenson, Communications, tell me the co-op, with its 750 cranberry and 150 grapefruit growers, just passed the $1 billion revenues mark. She shows me a framed invoice hanging on a wall outside the boardroom. It’s from a supermarket and it commemorates one billion Ocean Spray products sold.
Over 500 employees work in the 165,000 square-foot building. For joggers this is a great place to work. Jogging and walking trails criss cross the grounds. Deer, fox, turtles and a variety of birds live here too.
So, what about perks. At Sunkist in California, employees get free orange juice in the cafeteria. At Land O’ Lakes in Minnesota, employees get all the free ice cream and milk they want in the cafeteria. At Ocean Spray, the cafeteria serves cranberry juice in its cafeteria but employees must pay for it. I guess that’s the famous New England frugality.
The company names its conference rooms, which have wood floors and New England-style furnishings, after its growers.
Though CEO John Llewellyn is in the middle of a meeting in his corner office, he graciously invites me in to look around. He has a great view from his veranda. He can see the lake and bogs. He also has a gas fireplace.
I tell Sorenson how much I enjoy Nabisco’s new Cranberry Newtons made with Ocean Spray Cranberries. I drank tons of cranberry juice when I was a kid. I had bad breath and my mom said drinking cranberry juice would eliminate the problem. I ask Sorenson about it and she says it’s an old wife’s tale.
Textron, a conglomerate with 1992 revenues of $8.3 billion; net income $-355 million, is easily the biggest player in Rhode Island. It has a low profile, however. Textron doesn’t even have its company name on the outside of its 24-story headquarters’ building in downtown Providence.
I visited Textron five years ago on my first trek but left after spending two hours waiting in the lobby. What a difference five years makes. This time I get a warm welcome from John Carberg, Director: Public Relations and Advertising.
Last year the company bought its headquarters building after leasing since the 70’s. Currently 400 employees work on five floors. Future plans call for the company to occupy more floors.
I ask Carberg if the company has any corporate aircraft. They have a Cessna Citation and a Bell helicopter. Textron owns the Bell helicopter and Cessna companies so it was a trick question.
James Hardyman, CEO, has a corner office on the building’s top floor. He has a great view of the State Capitol building and nearby Brown University. Hardyman sits at a regular desk but he also uses a stand-up desk. I’ve seen half-a-dozen CEO’s with stand-up desks. They usually give one of three reasons for using this kind of desk: 1) a bad back; 2) used to be in the Navy; or 3) they’re antsy. (For more information: TXT )
Providence Journal Company
This privately-held media company is headquartered downtown with their flagship newspaper, "The Providence Journal-Bulletin." The company-owned, 220,000 square-foot structure, built in 1934, has undergone extensive remodeling. Across the street, Providence’s spiffy new convention center is nearing completion.
Jeff Hiday, a business reporter for the newspaper, walks up to me in the lobby and asks if the bicycle out front with "Bloomberg Financial Markets" painted on it is mine. I confirm it is.
Hiday hollers, "You must be Paul the Biker." Hiday goes on to tell me the Journal’s news staff has BLOOMBERG in their newsroom and they follow my progress around the country.
Howard Sutton, Vice President: Administration, meets with me. He tells me the company owns radio stations and a large cable company as well as the newspaper. He confirms that company revenues are between $300 million and $1.5 billion, but he refuses to be more specific.
Sutton takes me to see the wood-panelled boardroom. It features a non-working fireplace, a grandfather clock and bookcases—lots and lots of bookcases. The bookcases contain over 1,500 books!
I’m not expecting much information from Sunbeam-Oster, a consumer products company (1992 revenues $967 million). The company has been in turmoil recently because of the highly publicized termination of their Chairman and CEO, Paul Kazarian.
Riding up to the 13-story office building housing their offices (called One Citizens Plaza), I find the fire department there before me! They were summoned by a fire alarm. Luckily it’s a false alarm or this company visit would have really made my record books!
After taking my questionnaire to her superior, Kelly Campbell, Assistant Legal Team & Office Manager, gets the okay to sit in the tiny lobby (two chairs) and answer my questions.
I can’t see the CEO’s office because they don’t have one. I can’t see the boardroom because it’s "in use." She tells me the clock on the wall in the lobby area is a Sunbeam and that’s as far as I get.
(For more information: SOC )
A.T. Cross Company
Corporate offices for A.T. Cross Co., a manufacturer of pens— but please, call them writing instruments—and Mark Cross luggage is on a 51-acre site in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Lincoln is a hamlet ten miles north of Providence. 1992 revenues were $200 million and net income was $11 million.
It’s nine o’clock in the morning. While I wait in the lobby for Donna Blinn, Customer Relations Manager, in walks Bradford Boss, CEO. He’s late for a meeting in the boardroom but he kindly takes me on a quick tour of his office and the boardroom.
The small boardroom is upstairs with access via a spiral staircase. Several pictures of old manufacturing plants plus a picture of A.T. Cross, who founded the company in 1846, hang on the boardroom walls.
Boss’s second floor office has a terrific view of the company parking lot. Boss, who’s in his 50’s, has pictures of himself skiing and sailing with his family. Near his desk is an old beat-up racing helmet that belonged to his father. His father raced cars.
Walking across the hall, I get a quick look at Russell Boss’s almost identical office. Russell, President, is Bradford’s younger brother. To complete the family picture, Bradford has three sons and Russell has three daughters.
As Donna Blinn walks me around the various departments I spot check employees to see what kind of pens they’re all using. I see only Cross pens—not a single Parker or Bic pen in sight. Blinn tells me every employee, on their first day of employment at Cross, receives a Cross desk set with their name engraved on it.
Normally I would get to see the Cross Antique Writing Instrument Collection but right now it’s on tour. I do get to see a huge mural painted by Robert James Pailthorpe. It stands seven feet tall and measures nearly 100 feet long. It represents the development of man and the progress of his written language through 25,000 years of civilization.
(For more information: ATX/A)
On the road in and around Hartford, Connecticut...
The Travelers Companies
This landmark 36-story headquarters of the Travelers Companies—called "The Tower"—was built in downtown Hartford in 1919 and used to be the seventh tallest building in the U.S. It has an unusual beacon on top of its cupola, which beams a blue light, visible for many miles. The light serves as a guide for aircraft flying at night.
Marnie Duggan, Media Relations Specialist, and Shannon Henaghan, a student intern from the University of Connecticut, corral me and a couple of security personnel for a trip up to the loggia (observation deck) on the 27th floor. They tell me the loggia has been off-limits to visitors and employees for years but I’m a special case.
Later, Duggan and Henaghan answer my questions while we sit in the company museum. This museum features several paintings from the company’s extensive collection of Currier & Ives works.
Travelers (1992 net income $-658 million; assets $54 billion) occupies space in eight different buildings in downtown Hartford. Most are company-owned. Over 12,000 employees work in all of these buildings.
The company gives every new employee a red Travelers umbrella-the company’s logo. On a rainy work day, the view from one of these high-rise buildings is of thousands of red umbrellas going to work.
Travelers’ fitness facility, open to all employees, is state-of-the-art. Employees can play in an indoor swimming pool, a sauna and a Jacuzzi; or they can jog on the indoor jogging track (11 times around equals a mile), or sweat on dozens of the latest rowing, biking and weightlifting machines. The company even supplies the work-out clothes.
And to insure you’ll have some pounds to lose, Travelers also sponsors cooking classes for employees. The company teaches its aspiring gourmets in the full kitchen next to the company swimming pool. (For more information: TIC)
Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance Company
In a world filled with four-sided buildings, this insurance company stands out. Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance Co. built the world’s first elliptical office tower in 1963. The 13-story, 395,000 square-foot tower is properly called a lenticular hyperboloid or elongated oval. The locals, however, call it the "boat building." This bluish-green reflective glass structure only has two sides—like a boat.
Located in downtown Hartford and clearly visible from the main freeway, this very unusual looking building gets plenty of attention. Its architects, Harrison & Abramovitz, also designed the United Nations building in New York City.
In a situation analogous to King Arthur’s Round Table where no knight could sit at the head of the table, no one can have a corner office in this building. And speaking of tables, the boardroom table on the 13th floor is shaped like a curved triangle and sits at the end of the boardroom where the building comes to a point.
Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company & Home Life Insurance Company of New York
Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company and Home Life Insurance Company of New York merged in July of 1992. Revenues for 1992 totaled $1.9 billion, with over $11 billion in assets.
When the two companies merged, the question of logos came up. Phoenix’s company logo was green and Home Life’s was blue. To compromise, the two companies decided on a RED logo—two interconnecting red diamonds.
People eagerly tell me the story of "boat building’s" first Christmas. The building has a high-profile location next to a busy freeway so, a few years ago around Christmas, the company got this great public relations idea. They decided to create a spectacular holiday sight by rigging up a giant "NOEL" in lights on both sides of the building. Well, the big night for flipping the light switch finally came. Most of the company’s employees plus most of the local citizenry eagerly lined the streets, gazing up at the building in anticipation. The company engineers threw the switch and the huge Noel lit up the sky. The holiday crowd was delighted...well, actually only half of the holiday crowd was delighted. The half standing on the other side of the building saw the word "Leon" in giant flashing holiday lights. "The first Leon, the angels did say..."
Aetna Life & Casualty Company
Aetna Life & Casualty Company, an insurance behemoth (1992 revenue $17 billion; net income $56 million) is my next stop.
Amiable Michael Bazinet, Manager: Media Relations, meets with me and spends several hours answering my questions and giving me a tour of this big place. How big is it? It’s the world’s largest colonial-style brick building. It was built in 1929 and several additions have been added on through the years. Together with its two adjoining building, the complex has more than two million square feet.
Over 9,000 employees work on this 23-acre site outside of downtown Hartford. I count three cafeterias but I only eat in one. The food is excellent; I have a turkey burger.
Travelers Insurance Co., down the road has more impressive employee fitness facilities but Aetna has three indoor squash courts and two pool tables. (For more information: AET )
Headquarters for Loctite Corp., an adhesives and sealants producer (1992 revenues $608 million, is on the 5th floor of a 10-story building located on the fringe of downtown Hartford. The building is called the "Candy Cane" building because it’s shaped like a giant candy cane, outlined in red trim.
I love the reception area. I count over 60 magazines and newspapers to glance through while I wait. This extremely diverse collection of publications includes: "Chemical Week," "The National Law Journal," "The Economist," "Consumer Reports," "The New Yorker," "Sports Illustrated," "CFO" and "Popular Mechanics."
I tell Western Todd, Vice President: Corporate Communications that he has one of the strangest first names I’ve come across.
A man of few words, Kenneth Butterworth, CEO, has a sparsely-furnished corner office with a view toward the Connecticut River. Butterworth doesn’t have far to go to get home at night. He lives several blocks away in a downtown high-rise. (For more information: LOC )
The Dexter Corporation
Founded in 1767, the Dexter Corp. makes specialty materials (1992 revenues $951 million) and is the oldest listed public company in the U.S. Headquarters is in a three-story building in Windsor Locks (population 12,000), 12 miles north of Hartford. The company has operated its factory, located across the street, since 1767--initially as a grist mill.
The lobby has several glass display cases filled with company history and products. I learn that Dexter was the first company to package sheet toilet paper back in the 1880’s. Then, in the 1930’s, Dexter introduced porous long fiber tea bag paper.
Robert McGill, III, Executive Vice President, tells me 65 employees work here. McGill, who has been with the company for 30 years, sits at a desk that is a reproduction of George Washington’s desk.
We take the elevator to the no-frills boardroom located on the Garden floor. Actually, McGill says the floor is the basement but since "basement" sounds so unglamorous, the company calls it the Garden floor. (For more information DEX)
Ten miles northwest of Hartford on a 210-acre site, I ride up to the headquarters of Kaman Corp. (1992 revenues $785 million) Kaman has a very diverse product line. They build helicopters; they are the largest independent distributor of musical instruments in the U.S.; they do defense contracting; and they distribute repair and maintenance products and services to the industrial market.
The company’s two-story headquarters rests on former tobacco land. During and after World War II, Kaman Aircraft built planes at a rented hanger in nearby Bradley Field. But then the National Guard wanted to use the large hanger themselves so they ousted Kaman. Probably to atone for this eviction, the Navy, in 1953, bought this site for Kaman and built a plane-building facility.
Russell Jones, Vice President, takes me to see CEO and Founder, Charles Kaman’s large corner office. The 70-something Kaman isn’t in when I visit. Jones tells me Kaman usually brings his two German Shepherds with him to work. Kaman loves dogs. He founded the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation that provides guide dogs to the blind.
In the corner of Kaman’s office is an Ovation guitar. Jones
says Ovation—A Kaman company—is one of the world’s best known acoustic guitars. CEO, Kaman plays the guitar and has even recorded several record albums.
In a hallway outside Kaman’s office, I stop a moment to study a model display of 18 planes and helicopters built by the company over the years. (For more information: KAMNA)
Barnes Group Inc.
Bristol, a well-kept community located 20 miles southwest of Hartford (population 55,000), is my next stop. I’m visiting Barnes Group, Inc., a diversified international company (1992 revenues $529 million; net income $-35 million), founded in 1857.
The company’s Associated Springs subsidiary is the largest springmaker in North America. Not bedsprings. Barnes’ springs are used in computers, cars, airplanes, and a zillion other products. That must be why the three-story, spiral staircase in the company’s lobby looks like a giant spring.
I meet John Sand, Jr., Director: Public Affairs. He tells me
something unusual about the company’s headquarters—the Pequabanck River runs UNDER the building.
Next I talk with Wallace Barnes, Chairman of the Board. He’s an avid pilot. His nearby home has its own air strip and he parks his plane in the garage next to his car.
Barnes tells me a boardroom love story—the story of how he met his wife, Barbara Franklin, a former Secretary of Commerce. It all started because Barnes and Franklin both sat on the Board of Directors at Aetna Life & Casualty. For five years they sat across from each other at board meetings. Each assumed the other was married and so never approached the other. Finally, Barnes learned, in the course of a conversation with Franklin, that she wasn’t married and bingo. The rest, as they say, is his- and her-story.
In fact, Barnes is just getting ready to fly to Washington D.C. to pick up his wife after our meeting. Even though it’s a two-hour flight, the 67-year-old Barnes speaks as though it’s a drive to the neighborhood drugstore. (For more information: B)
Waterbury is an old industrial town with a population of 100,000. A century ago, Waterbury was the clock-making capital of the U.S. Dozens of local companies produced millions of clocks. Timex is a direct descendent of the Waterbury Clock Company (founded in 1857). It’s also the only Waterbury clock company that successfully made the transition from clocks to watches.
Corporate offices are in a one-story, bunker-type building located on a steep ridge. I arrive around noon and find everyone out to lunch so I browse in the tiny Timex retail shop next to company headquarters. It only has room for three display cases, which don’t do justice to the company’s extensive product line.
Timex’s lobby has a gigantic grandfather clock, built in 1880 by the Waterbury Clock Company. It’s really beautiful. It’s about three times the width of a normal grandfather clock.
I learn that during World War II, Timex made weapon fuses. As a precaution from enemy air raids, the company designed its roof so that it could be filled with water. This made the building look like a lake from the air.
I check the employees’ wrists to see if they’re wearing Timex watches. They are.