On the road in Michigan
Leaving Toledo, I headed 70 miles northwest to Ann Arbor, Michigan, (population about 100,000). The huge University of Michigan campus is located right next to downtown Ann Arbor which makes for a real interesting mixture of stores and restaurants.
Six miles east of downtown Ann Arbor in a somewhat rural residential area is privately-held Domino's Pizza. What a place! Headquarters is a 300-acre, $150 million, multi-use complex called, Domino's Farms. Riding up to the complex the first things you notice are the approximately twenty flags of various countries flying on flagpoles and then, the long copper roof on a long, red brick building. Darwin Matthews, Corporate Archivist, answered questions and gave me a nice tour of the unusual headquarters complex. In the lobby area is an exhibit that takes you through the history of Domino's Pizza. Mr. Monaghan, the CEO, is a Frank Lloyd Wright freak (thought by many to be America's greatest architect), and has one of the largest, if not THE largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright memorabilia in the world. Matter of fact, the complex (which is being built in phases), reflects the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. The mailing address for Domino's Pizza is a post office box but the street address is, 30 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive. The Domino's Farms complex consists of four phases, of which two were already completed. Phase 1--was the construction of a 220,000-square foot, four-story office building in 1985 and, Phase 2--a connecting 164,000-square foot building housing distribution facilities and office space. Phase 3--is a 400,000-square foot structure housing a Domino's Pizza classic car museum and the Frank Lloyd Wright collection. Phase 4--will include an additional 300,000 square feet. The two connecting buildings already completed hold the distinction of having the largest cooper roof in the world. Domino's Pizza may have its headquarters on the 300-acre Domino's Farms complex but, it owns adjacent acreage that totals up to 1300 acres. Eventually a golf course will be built on part of the property. About 700 employees work in the two completed buildings, with space being rented to outside tenants. I was told there were fifteen flags flying out front, the first one being the University of Michigan flag, followed by the Domino's Pizza flag, followed by flag of various countries in which Domino's Pizza does business. There's a nice fitness center, which had an indoor jogging track, weightlifting equipment and facilities for aerobics. I did notice several closed-circuit cameras in some of the hallways AND in some of the offices. The elevators in the building are designed to go slow on purpose. According to what I was told, this was done to encourage people to exercise by taking the stairs. While walking up and down stairways I noticed several notes on the walls saying, "Please No Smoking," and they were signed by Margie Monaghan, the wife of the founder and CEO, Thomas Monaghan. When you first enter the building, near the main reception area is a sign which says, "This is a smokeless building, no smoking." I don't know if any of you have ever ordered a Domino's Pizza or been to one but, did you know the Domino's Pizza store located inside the headquarters building is the only store (there are over 3700) which has sit down seating? The pizza is guaranteed to be delivered anywhere in the building within 15 minutes. (Their ads usually guarantee delivery within 30 minutes.) The employees eat in a cafeteria called, "The ERA Club," which stands for "everything but anchovies." There're four executive dining rooms called, "Mario 1", "Mario 2", "Mario 3", and "Mario 4." Mario is the name of the executive chef.
Walking into Monaghan's office (the CEO), my feet felt like they were walking on a foam padded carpet. Looking down I found I was walking on a leather tile floor. The wood-lined office is huge. In the one corner is a full-sized leather chair shaped like a baseball mitt (Monaghan owns the Detroit Tigers baseball team), and there's a good-sized fireplace. There must be at least 400 books scattered around his office, many of them on baseball and architecture. Most of the CEO's offices I've been seeing usually had the CEO's desk with his chair behind it and then, one or two chairs on the other side for visitors/ guests to sit down and chit-chat. Not Monaghan, I counted eight chairs around his desk. Leaving his office, you take a circular stairway to the floor below to a reception area. Before you walk into his office, there's a long wall of pictures of Monaghan with various celebrities and politicians. There's a helipad outside (the company has a helicopter), and the company has four corporate aircraft. From his office window, Monaghan can check out Domino's Pizza's petting farm, an actual farm where visitors can see and pet a variety of farm animals. Fruits and vegetables are grown on Domino's Farms and are sold to employees as well as the public.
As Matthews walked me through the various offices and departments, I noticed Domino's Pizza banners, pennants and logos everywhere; on office walls, people's desks and in the hallways. It's definitely a "rah-rah" kind of a place where pep talks and motivational exercises are common. Matthews scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
On the road in Detroit
Leaving Ann Arbor, I head almost due east about 40 miles to downtown Detroit. It's hot and muggy with the latter being the key word. Downtown Detroit is a very depressing, disappointing place. Usually, when the national news has a story about Detroit, they always seem to show the Renaissance Center which is a high-rise, glass office/hotel/shopping complex built in 1977 and located on the Detroit Riverfront. I spent a night in the hotel (Westin) located in the Renaissance Center and it sure wasn't up to the Westin's usual high standards. (My room was on the 37th floor of the 73-story hotel.) The Renaissance Center is one of those places which looks better from far away. I think they were trying to make it a "self-contained city" but, the complex is full of flaws, one of which is the lack of directories telling you how to get from one building or store to another. I found myself walking around in circles and from what I was told, it's a very common occurrence.
General Motors Corporation
I eagerly made my way to General Motors Corporation, the largest company on my list with over $100 BILLION in revenues. GM is located about five miles northwest of downtown in a massive, 15-story structure built in 1920. I entered the lobby and went to the security booth for General Motors. I was on the phone for over fifteen minutes and, after being transferred at least four times, Fred Nowicki, Director, Finance Administration, came down to the lobby. The lobby area is more like an indoor shopping mall with retail shops lining the long corridor, which must be/almost as long as a city block. Several General Motors cars were on display in the hallway corridors. Nowicki and I went into a tiny, dumpy room that was part of the security booth, and went through my questions. Nowicki showed no interest in my project or in answering my questions. He seemed more interested in smoking his cigarettes than talking to me. Over 4000 employees work in the 1,320,536-square foot building, which is equivalent to about thirty acres of floor space. There's a cafeteria, a junior executive dining room and a senior executive dining room and reserved parking spaces are allocated on "basis of responsibility." The CEO's office is on the 14th floor and the boardroom is on the top floor (15th). On the roof of the building there's a big sign which reads, "General Motors" which is evidently turned on at night. Talking to Nowicki in the smoke-filled back room of the security booth was as close as I got to getting any kind of a tour. Very disappointing reception. It wasn't so much General Motors being the largest company I would visit but, not being shown around a building which looked to be a classy, historical structure. Nowicki scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
About two blocks away from General Motors, stands the headquarters of Unisys whose name stemmed from the merger of Burroughs Corporation and Sperry Corporation. Being located in a less than desirable area explains the fence going around the 650,000-square foot building. The main reception area is manned by a security guard/receptionist. James Kenyon, Manager, Press Relations, came down to the lobby area and spoke with me for a few minutes. Kenyon had an air of indifference about him and made me feel like I was a mouse begging for crumbs. The company-owned, 5-story building was built in 1971 and over 2500 employees work in the building. My tour of the place consisted of following him up to his office to get one of his business cards. I was told CEO Blumenthal keeps an office here and one in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. Kenyon scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE Mr. Kenyon never did send me an annual report and literature on the history of the company as requested.
First Federal of Michigan and NBD Bancorp.
I stopped by First Federal of Michigan and NBD Bancorp, two banks located on the same street, several blocks apart from each other in downtown Detroit. I was told no one was available to talk to me at First Federal, which was located in a building that looked to have been built in the 1950's. At NBD Bancorp, I was told the Public Relations staff had gone home for the day (this was around 4:00 p.m.). NBD Bancorp did have a money display on exhibit in the lobby. Both bank buildings looked pretty drab and with companies to visit in the suburbs, I decided to forget about making a second visit. I also decided to skip going to Detroit Edison, a utility company headquartered downtown.
Getting up early in the morning, I rode north along the waterfront (Lakeshore Drive) to Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Shores, two of the 70 most affluent suburbs in the country. The suburbs are next to each other and are about a dozen miles from downtown Detroit. Very nice areas. Going through Grosse Pointe Shores I passed the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, which has tours open to the public but, not the day I went by. The guard at the gate let me peek in and take a look at the beautiful, 90-acre estate. The main house, gatehouse, staff apartments, garage, recreation house and powerhouse are all done in the style of the Cotswolds in Worcestershire, England which, I guess you could say, is a kind of gothic-Tudor look. It definitely has the look of big, big bucks.
Stroh Brewery Company
Stroh Brewery Company is headquartered about a mile north of downtown on the riverfront in a recently renovated complex, which at one time, was a facility for Parker-Davis, a pharmaceutical company. Headquarters is a 6-story, red brick building, which looks like it was built around the turn of the century. I had to be cleared by the guard at the gate before I was let on the 21-acre site. The main entrance is on the riverfront side and the grounds overlooking the water are beautiful and well kept. The river is what separates the United States side from the Canadian side. A sign over the entrance to the building says, "The Stroh Companies, Inc." Walking into the tiny lobby, I was greeted by a security guard/receptionist smoking a cigarette. Correct me if I'm wrong but, it just looks so unprofessional to be smoking or eating at the main reception area of a billion dollar company. But then again, Stroh's is a privately held company and they could probably care less what I think. Stroh's is the largest privately held brewing company in the U.S. and the nation's third largest brewing company behind Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing.
The guard/receptionist sent me up a noisy, old elevator to the fourth floor to see Karen Wiecha, Editorial Supervisor, Corporate Communications. The company has been on the site since 1981 and leases space from Stroh River Place, of which Peter Stroh is the owner. About 850 employees work at headquarters and there's a cafeteria and a formal dining room. Peter Stroh, the Chairman, smokes a pipe. In the lobby area were several beer steins dating back to the 1700's. The company logo is the family crest. Did you know Stroh manufactures ice cream which is only sold in the state of Michigan? My request to see the Chairman's office was denied because, "they are peculiar about that kind of stuff." Wiecha scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
Leaving the downtown area, I cautiously headed north on Woodward Avenue to Chrysler's headquarters in the suburb of Highland Park. Why did I say, "cautiously?" Well, a few days earlier when I was riding from Toledo to Ann Arbor, I met a bicyclist who told me he worked at Chrysler's headquarters and after I told him about what I was doing, he said, "I hope you aren't going to ride your bike to Chrysler's headquarters?" He went on to say it was in a seedy area and it was bad enough having to drive to work there, let alone riding a bike. This guy gave me great words of encouragement! I told him I had already ridden through some of the worst parts of Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City and was well aware of the dangers. Murphy's Law being what it is, I always seem to get lost in places/areas I don't want to get lost in. I finally found the main entrance gate to Chrysler's headquarters complex at about 11:30. and explained to the guards at the gate the purpose of my visit. After standing around for a good twenty minutes, I was told no one was available in Public Relations to talk to me. With persistence being one of my stronger points (not pushiness), I told the guards this was a one shot deal for me and I wouldn't be able to come back. A guard called again and was told by a receptionist/secretary (who, by the way, refused to talk to me), that a big press conference was going on and no one in the Public Relations Department would be back until 2:00 p.m. I told the guards I would wait. Was I allowed on the property? Nope. After waiting about an hour, I rode off to find lunch and found a McDonald's about a mile away. It must have been 95 degrees and very, very muggy and guess what, the air conditioning at the McDonald's had broken down and it was like a sweatbox. What kind of area was it? The kind of place where I didn't want to leave my bike LOCKED for a second. I headed back to Chrysler and waited at the gate until 2:00 p.m. The guard called up and was told someone would get back to him. It is now 2:45 p.m. and no one has gotten back to the guard at the gate. I called up from the guard gate and, after being transferred several times, I was told someone would get back to me. At 3:15 p.m., I called up again because no one had gotten back and FINALLY, I was told someone would come to the gate and escort me to see someone. This is the first company which told me I couldn't bring my bike on the premises. I had to lock the bike up at the entrance guardhouse and was driven to the Administrative Building, which was one of 19 buildings on the 139-acre site. After being escorted upstairs to the office of Karen Stewart, Manager, News Relations, Stewart explained to me Chrysler had reported their second-quarter earnings today and it was a pretty big production. Stewart pretty much went through the motions and made me feel like I was a pest. The six-story Administration Building we were sitting in was built in 1928 and it looked it. The lobby area has a collection of historical automobiles and an escalator takes you to the upper floors. Over 9000 employees work in the complex which also houses Chrysler's North American headquarters for administration, research, engineering and styling. When asked how many corporate aircraft they had, I was told they owned a Gulfstream. There are two cafeterias and three formal executive dining areas. Total square footage of the 19 buildings is 3,338,400 square feet. My request to see the CEO's office was denied and Stewart made it seem as though Lee Iacocca, the CEO, was some kind of a god and I, a mere peon mortal, wanted to take a look at his office??? Was I disappointed in my reception? You bet. I waited four hours in the hot, miserable, muggy sunshine at a guardhouse smelling the exhausts of hundreds of cars going in and out, to be driven to a building for a five-minute talk with someone who was indifferent and made me feel like I was wasting her valuable time. Stewart scored 4 points on my 1-10 scale.
Ford Motor Company
Leaving Chrysler, I headed to Dearborn, a suburb about 15 miles southeast of Highland Park and home to Ford Motor Company. Near the front entrance, a sign out near the road reads, "World Headquarters". The Ford logo is atop the blue, 12-story headquarters building. I arrived at Ford's headquarters about 4:45 p.m. and was greeted by a friendly security guard/receptionist. Mike Moran, Press Representative, Public Affairs, Corporate News Department, came to the lobby area and talked for a few minutes. The massive, company-owned building was built in 1953 and looks it. The first seven floors of the building are served by escalators. There are two cafeterias, snack bars and executive dining rooms. Over 2000 employees work in the building. Finding a parking spot isn't so bad because there are 2500 parking spaces. Vice Presidents, on up, get reserved spots. I was told the fitness center includes a basketball gym, swimming pool, and weightlifting equipment. The company has eight corporate aircraft. Twenty-eight flags from various countries line the driveway outside the front entrance. I was told too much red tape was involved in my request to see the CEO's office and boardroom. Saw about a half dozen cars on display in the lobby. I also noticed a lot of the cars in the parking lot weren't Ford cars. Mr. Moran scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale. Leaving the 90-acre corporate headquarters site, a sign explained part of the company grounds being the "Arjay Miller Michigan Arboretum." The sign went on to say that all the trees and shrubs in the immediate area are native to Michigan. Arjay Miller was a former President of Ford Motor Company.
I checked into the Hyatt Regency Dearborn, which was across the freeway from Ford. Nice place. The fact my room was complimentary made it even nicer. I would take a wild guess and say the hotel caters to the business traveler. Why? About 11:30 p.m., I looked out my hotel room window and saw a helicopter landing in the parking lot and several men in business suits got out. Next door to the hotel is a huge, indoor shopping mall. I was disappointed in the receptions I had received from the "Big Three" car manufacturers and, for that matter, all the companies I had visited in the Detroit area.
Getting up early, I rode over to see Henry Ford's impressive estate; Fair Lane and then rode about five miles to Masco which is located in the suburb of Taylor. Masco Corporation manufactures a whole slew of products: cabinets, plumbing fixtures & supplies, home furnishings and garbage disposers, to name a few. A big, brown sign which says, "Masco Corporation" greets you at the entrance to the company's headquarters. A long driveway takes you to the 2-story, white building which is set way back from the street but, the rear of the building backs up to Interstate 94. I entered the building and explained the purpose of my visit to the receptionist. The receptionist called her supervisor, Edna Combs, who came out and said no one would see me and they "don't need any kind of publicity." We got into a brief discussion in which she informed me that I needed to have an appointment and I told her I had been successful about 95% of the time--sending my postcard ahead of time to the CEO and then kind of just showing up. Combs, the receptionist's supervisor, went into another room and came out several minutes later with the final words which were, "no one would see me." Hmmm, no flexibility and unfriendly people. The way they acted, you'd think they were a private company and not a publicly held one. I did notice several paintings in the lobby area and a portrait of someone who is probably the founder of the company. Seems to be a secretive company.
American Motors is about 20 miles northwest of downtown Detroit in the suburb of Southfield. Southfield is a booming area with office buildings going up all over the place. American Motors leases space in a blue, 25-story building with its name atop the structure. I met with Michael Aberlich, Manager, Governmental and Internal Communications, who said Chrysler was in the process of buying American Motors. I told Aberlich I still wanted to visit his company because sometimes acquisitions aren't consummated. American Motors has the 16th floor and floors 19-25. As I had seen at the other "Big Three" car manufacturers, there were several new cars on display in the lobby area. Over 500 employees work in the building and smoking is allowed anywhere. The company has no corporate aircraft and I got to see the CEO's office and boardroom. The CEO's office and President's office looked like they never got used and was told that both gentlemen spend a lot of their time in France because Renault owned a big chunk of the company. Aberlich scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Leaving Southfield, I headed about five miles northeast to the booming suburb of Troy, home to K-Mart Corporation. On the way to Troy, I passed through Bloomfield Hills and Franklin, two of the 70 most affluent suburbs in the country. Bloomfield Hills is a nice homes with nice yards kind of place, while Franklin had more of a rural setting and was in a much hillier terrain even though the two places were within several miles of each other.
I had envisioned the corporate headquarters of K-Mart to look like one of their stores: plain, cheap looking and functional. Boy, was I wrong! It's an unusual looking complex of connecting chocolate-colored buildings. Out near the main entrance is a discreet, five-foot high sign that reads, "K-Mart Corporation, International Headquarters." Entering the building, you notice quite a few modern sculptures scattered around. The receptionist, an older lady, was very friendly and personable. I received a warm and enthusiastic reception from Michelle DeLand, Publications Editor, Public Relations. The complex was built in 1972 and, at that time, K-Mart was about the only company in the area, which is about 25 miles from downtown Detroit. Now, the area is booming with office parks, shopping centers, hotels and restaurants. Over 3800 employees work in the company-owned complex and there are two cafeterias. There's a very extensive corporate art collection, which seems to be a mish-mash of just about every kind of art. The boardroom was pretty typical except, for the modern sculpture inside the room, which had to be finished inside the boardroom because it was too big to get through the doors. I was also taken to K-Mart's product testing lab where items carried by K-Mart are tested to make sure they meet K-Mart's specifications. While there, they were testing diapers by pouring some kind of god-awful looking orange liquid on various brands of diapers. I was also taken to the company's huge mailroom where various types of correspondence get sent to the thousands of K-Mart stores. Each store has a mail slot and dozens of employees were sorting mail. Smoking is allowed anywhere. The tallest building is four stories. I was really impressed with the people I met and the treatment I received. DeLand scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
The newspapers and television stations had been running stories all week about it being the 20th anniversary of the Detroit riots. Hell, the flashback pictures on television of the rioting and burned-out areas of downtown Detroit twenty years ago, looked the same TODAY as they did back then.
Flint, a city of 160,000, is about 60 miles north of Detroit. Several big auto assembly plants are located in town. It had been a long, hot, muggy, sweaty day for me as I checked into a Hampton Inn. Hungry, I walked next door to grab a bite to eat in the only restaurant around. The place was packed because the PGA tour was in town and the Buick Open was being played down the road a few miles. Anyway, I was eating dinner when a man comes up to my table and introduces himself as the manager and says, "the people several tables over would like to have your autograph." I told the manager I was flattered but, I asked him why? The manager said, "Aren't you playing in the golf tournament?" "No", I said, as the manager apologized and walked back over to the table of my fans. I would have loved to have heard what the manager told the couple. It was probably something like, "Sorry folks, he's just a nobody", or "You folks blew it, he's just a smelly, bike rider."
Dow Chemical's corporate headquarters sits on a 160-acre site about a mile from downtown Midland. It felt as though I was on a small college campus as I followed the signs to the building where visitors register. After checking in with the receptionist, Wanda Hop, in the small spartanly furnished lobby and, after a few minutes wait, Carl Shafer, Manager, Community Relations Resources, came to the lobby and gave me a warm reception. Headquarters consists of four orangish-brick buildings totaling 760,000 square feet that were built in stages starting in 1958, with the last in 1968. The tallest of the four was built in 1966 and stands eight stories high. Dow Chemical owns the land and buildings. About 3000 employees work at headquarters and the 2200 parking spots are enough because quite a few employees car pool. Executive management gets reserved parking spots. I do know for a fact that everyone eats in the cafeteria because as I was being treated to lunch, I saw Frank Popoff, President and recently announced CEO, eating in the cafeteria and carrying his own tray to the disposal area. I did see several picnic tables on the grounds. In many of the hallways, television monitors were hanging from the ceilings. These monitors spew out news releases, stock quotes and in-house information.
Looking out the main lobby window, I saw an unusual flag flying on a flagpole. Shafer told me it was the Presidential C-Flag which, according to the brochure I was handed, is given to organizations (like Dow) for making "extraordinary contributions to the communities." The Presidential C-Flag was started by the White House Office of Private Sector Initiatives.
I spent a few minutes talking with Popoff, President and recently announced CEO, in his plainly furnished office and was impressed by his bluntness, warmth and wit.
Shafer gave me a complete and extensive tour. How extensive? Well, usually when I visit companies I like to ask where the nicest parts of town are because many of the executives in these billion dollar corporations usually live in the best parts. Shafer did more than tell me, we got in his car and drove around town, pointing out where various officers lived. Not far from headquarters is one of Dow's chemical plants, (it's one of the largest in the world), and adjacent to the plant is a company store. In case you don't know, a company store is where employees can buy company products, usually at a discount. We went inside and I was given some Ziploc bags and Kolantyl Wafers (which are antacid wafers manufactured by their Merrell Dow Pharmaceutical subsidiary). My most prized memento from my Dow visit is the doorknob hanger; it's similar to the ones hanging on hotel doors which say, "Do Not Disturb!", Dow's say, "Please Do Not Disturb/Doing Great Things" which is a take-off of one of their advertising slogans.
Not being close to a big city or large regional airport, I was amazed to learn Dow has only five corporate aircraft. I was given a brochure which gave me a summary of employee benefits at Dow. On the front page, Dow's "Code of Ethics" was presented and it's called, "Dow Core Values." After the last line of the Code of Ethics is a quote from H.H. Dow, the founder, and it reads, "If you can't do it better, why do it?"
Is Midland a company town? How many cities of 40,000 people do you know have a botanical garden, (Dow Botanical Gardens) or have a community center with two halls, one seating 2000 and the other 1200? I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and tour of Dow. Shafer scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
On the road in Grand Rapids
Leaving Midland, I headed southwest to Grand Rapids. I arrived in former President Ford's hometown on Saturday, (7/25/87), and figured this city of 180,000 people must have something going on because I had four companies on my list to visit here. *NOTE All four are privately held.
I rode out to Spartan Store's headquarters Saturday morning as a dry run for my visit on Monday. Headquarters is about 11 miles from downtown on 165 acres of company-owned land in a light industrial area. No one seemed to be in as I knocked on the front doors of the two-story structure. Behind the headquarters building is what looks to be a huge distribution center for the third largest food co-operative and 11th largest food wholesaler in the country. I went up to the guard in the guard shack guarding the entrance to the distribution center and asked if there was any kind of instructions in case a fellow on a bicycle shows up. Sure enough, there was a note telling the guard to call Ron Thompson at his home if a bicyclist shows up. So get this, I call Ron Thompson, Supervisor, Associate Services, at his home on a Saturday morning and he readily agrees to come to the office to talk to me and show me around.
The offices in the 104,320-square foot, 2-story building are pretty basic. Mr. Patrick Quinn, the CEO, has a corner office on the second floor with a view of the parking lot. Built in 1976, there's no smoking allowed in the building, no corporate art collection, no corporate aircraft but, there's a small cafeteria.
This was a first for me: Thompson gave me a tour of the distribution center. The several giant warehouses contain almost a million and a half square feet. How did Spartan Stores come about? In 1917, a bunch of independent food retailers got together to pool their resources in order to buy commodities for less so they could compete against the big chains. Thompson scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Early Monday morning I headed about 12 miles east of Grand Rapids to the rustic little village of Ada. It's a quaint little place with shops having the "country store" look and nice homes lining the river. The quaintness was shattered though, when I came upon Amway's huge corporate headquarters complex. The complex of buildings must stretch for at least a mile. A big sign on the side of the road says, "Welcome to Amway World Headquarters, Weekday Tours 9am, 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm." There was a strong smell of detergent in the air as I followed the signs to the visitor's center. The lobby area is filled with several sculptures designed by Howard deMyer. The largest sculpture, "Building Together The American Way" tells the story of free enterprise. Also located in the lobby are bronze sculptures of Amway co-founders, Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos. Robert Johnson, Public Relations, Supervisor-Corporate Tours, came to the lobby area and took me into a small auditorium and showed the ten-minute film visitors are shown on the history of the company. Amway is a privately held firm with sales of $1.3 billion. The company considers the whole 390-acre complex of manufacturing plants, research and development facilities and office buildings to be part of corporate headquarters. Total square footage is a little over three million. The first building was built in 1959 and 3500 employees work in the company-owned complex. There are seven cafeterias, with four of those being full service. The company has a Boeing 727, two BAC-111's, a BA3-800, two Cessna Citation 11 aircraft and a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter. Amway also has two yachts; the 149-foot ENTERPRISE IV (which can accommodate ten passengers with a crew of nine), and the 131-foot ENTERPRISE 111. There's a heliport on the property and the company has its own man-made water treatment plant in the back of the complex called, "Lake Amway", which is 60 feet deep. I was told I couldn't see the CEO's office (which is on the second floor) or the boardroom. Matter of fact, my visit lasted about fifteen minutes and I never got past the lobby area! This kind of a reception from a man whose business card said he was "Supervisor-Corporate Tours?" Was what I encountered the supposedly "weekday tour" the sign down the road said happened at 9am, 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm? As I went outside to leave, I found they had moved my bike from the front entrance area in order to display a racing car the company sponsored. Why they didn't lift up my bike is beyond me; the three guys could have lifted it up but nooo, they had to drag my locked bike around, thus getting the cable lock stuck in the gears. It took me about fifteen minutes to undo and then took another ten minutes to clean the crud and grease off my hands and cable. Johnson scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
Well, Spartan Stores had been located about 11 miles South of downtown Grand Rapids, Amway was 12 miles EAST of downtown and now I was at the headquarters of Meijer, Inc., a privately-held department store/supermarket chain, located about 10 miles NORTHWEST of downtown. Headquarters is a good-looking, company-owned, 4-story building built in 1985. Jennifer Downs, Coordinator, Public and Consumer Affairs, met me in the reception area and we then went into a small conference room next to the reception/lobby area. What a lousy experience! Downs said she had only worked at Meijer for three months and probably didn't know the answers to most of my questions. That didn't bother me, what did, was her constantly looking out the door at every person who walked by. You would have thought she could have, at least, feigned some kind of interest in carrying on a conversation with me. Smoking is not allowed in the building, there's a cafeteria and a formal dining room, one corporate aircraft and a softball field behind the building. I never got past the lobby and conference room. There's a mural in the lobby called the, "Meijer Mural" by Paul Collins. The good-sized lobby/reception area is nicely appointed. Fred Meijer, son of the founder of the company, is the Chairman. Across the street stands a huge Meijer distribution center. Downs scored 3 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I was sent information on the company as promised but, none of my unanswered questions were answered such as square footage of building, parking spaces and number of employees.
Steelcase, the world's largest manufacturer of office furniture, is located about 8 miles south of downtown Grand Rapids in a beautiful (inside and out), 385,000-square foot building built in 1983 at a cost of $50 million. I met with Kathleen Partogian, Manager, Public Relations, who told me the office areas function as a working showroom for Steelcase products and as a laboratory for the company's ideas and philosophies. A short but, long sign out front near the street announces, "Steelcase, Corporate Headquarters." Headquarters sits on a beautifully landscaped, 22-acre site with a one-acre pond out front along with 3000 trees and shrubs. Adjacent to headquarters is a six million-square foot manufacturing complex. Over 900 people work at headquarters, with over 8000 in the Grand Rapids area. The cafeteria seats 350 inside and 125 in the outside patio area which overlooks the pond. The 4-story atrium in the lobby area includes a waterfall and a stainless steel sculpture by James Rosati called, "Ode IV." Steelcase has a 627-piece corporate art collection which is scattered all over the headquarters building. The collection is a mish-mash of paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, 18th and 19th century Oriental furniture, Art Nouveau and Art Deco lithographic posters, contemporary American realism and decorative works from 16th century China to Andy Warhol.
There are six gas pumps (four diesel and two regular) and 861 parking spaces. Who gets one of the 598 reserved parking spaces? The CEO, president, vice-presidents, directors, group managers, managers, employees with ten years or more of service, visitors and handicapped employees. I didn't get to see the boardroom because it was in use but, got to see the CEO's office. The CEO's office and president's office are next door to each other and they share a nice patio terrace area. Muzak was playing throughout the building and the main reception area gives out matchbooks with the name "Steelcase" inscribed inside; also given away are chocolate mints. Steelcase is a privately held company with sales of $1.3 billion. The company is listed in "The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America" by Robert Levering, Milton Moskowitz and Michael Katz. Kathleen Partogian scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE Steelcase sent me a huge packet of information about the company including several large color photos of the Steelcase corporate aircraft hanger. The passenger lounge area accommodates 27 people and by looking at the enclosed pictures, is nicely furnished. Since Steelcase's headquarters is sort of a working model of their products, I imagine a lot of companies fly their people to Grand Rapids on company planes and it makes sense for Steelcase to have a good-looking hanger.
While in Grand Rapids, Ms. Clare Ansberry of the Wall Street Journal newspaper tracked me down and said she needed a picture of me to go along with the story she was working on. I told her I didn't have any pictures of myself and she said to have some made and sent to her in Pittsburgh via Federal Express. I told her I thought those pictures used in the Wall Street Journal were drawings. Nope, they're composites using pictures. What did I do? I went to one of those one hour photo places located inside a Meijer superstore and had the fellow take pictures of me standing outside the front of the store.
Leaving Grand Rapids, I headed southeast to Battle Creek, a city of 60,000 and home to Kellogg Company. Right smack in the downtown area is the spiffy, new, 5-story, company-owned headquarters of Kellogg. Built in 1986, a glass atrium greets you when entering the building. Diane Dickey, Senior Communications Coordinator, met me in the lobby and answered my questions as well as giving a deluxe tour of the impressive facility. Each level of the building has interior and exterior patios. There's a definite emphasis on grain throughout the building with a wheat motif in etched glass, wood paneling, oak parquet flooring and leaded glass sidelights. In the lobby area is a solid brass sculpture designed by Chris Reay called, "Wheatfield", which is essentially a wheatfield out of brass. Also in the lobby is a marble sculpture by Tino Nivola called, "The Family", which is so strange looking I can't even describe it to you. One of the first things I said to Dickey was how much the building reminded me of Levi Strauss's headquarters in San Francisco. She said it should because the same architectural firm (Helmuth, Obata & Kassabaum) was used. I got to see the boardroom and the CEO's office. CEO William LaMothe does his work from a stand-up desk. The view from his office is pretty interesting because, besides having a view of a neighboring landscaped park adjacent to the Kalamazoo River, LaMothe has a view of the competition; a big Ralston Purina flour mill located several blocks away. Closed-circuit cameras are mounted atop the outside of the building and seven flags of various countries surround a much larger U.S. flag out front of headquarters. Terra cotta panels representing food products are located over entries to different parts of the building. I checked the cafeteria to be sure they carried Kellogg cereal (they do), and there were several private dining areas, one of which is named after the founder, "The W.K. Kellogg Room." When getting a soft drink in the cafeteria, one gets to pour his or her drink into "Tony the Tiger" cups. The exterior and interior of Kellogg Company's building is definitely one of the most beautiful and well designed headquarters I've visited so far. Lots of REAL flowers are found all over the building. Over 600 employees work in the building. On the backside of the headquarters building, in the Kellogg Garden area, is a kinetic sculpture by George Rickey called, "Triple 'L' Excentric Gyratory Gyratory 11." Dickey scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Across the street from Kellogg's corporate headquarters is a new indoor shopping mall/marketplace which is connected to a Stouffer Hotel and the Kellogg Center. The rest of the downtown area is drabby.
The Upjohn Company
About thirty miles west of Battle Creek is Kalamazoo, home to 80,000 people and The Upjohn Company. Headquarters for the pharmaceutical company founded by William E. Upjohn, M.D., is about ten miles from downtown Kalamazoo in a company-owned, 2-story building built in 1961. Across the street is a huge Upjohn manufacturing plant. I arrived about lunchtime and was told by the receptionist to grab a bite to eat in the cafeteria because no one was in the public relations office. Mamoru Ohara, Public Relations Associate, met me in the cafeteria. Ohara didn't know the answers to many of my questions because he was relatively new. Headquarters is functional, nothing fancy. I wasn't able to see the CEO's office or the boardroom. Company has four corporate aircraft. I was told company has several Norman Rockwell paintings. There's a softball field on the premises. Getting free vitamins is an extra benefit of employees eating in the cafeteria. Of course, the vitamins given away are ones manufactured by Upjohn. Bathroom near the reception area has a perk I hadn't seen before; a dispenser of eye wipes for wiping/cleaning glasses. Besides having his name in English on his business card, Ohara also has it in Japanese. Ohara scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I was sent a huge press kit but, Ohara failed to enclose square footage and acreage of headquarters. The manufacturing plant across the street sits on a 1700-acre site.
Whirlpool is located about three miles from downtown Benton Harbor on a 160-acre site. There are about half a dozen buildings totaling 550,000 square feet. The first building was built in 1956 and the last in 1970. The tallest of the buildings is four stories. The company has two boardrooms, one in the new building and one in the old building. The corporate logo which looks like the eye of a tornado, stands for the "ring of truth." The office of Mr. Sparks, the CEO, is on the fourth floor overlooking the street. Sparks was retiring from the company and, during my visit were in the process of cleaning out his office. Company has the seemingly mandatory pond on the premises (which is used for irrigation), and also located on the property is a training center where they bring dealers and technicians. Closed-circuit cameras were visible on the buildings. About 1525 employees work in the Benton Harbor area. Company has four corporate aircraft. Warkentien scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale.
I was really surprised to find Benton Harbor such a dumpy area. Being on the Lake Michigan lakefront, I figured the place would be a little tourist town. Benton Harbor has some real slum areas. My original plan was to ride from Benton Harbor to Chicago but, I opted to ride thirty miles south to Niles, Michigan and catch an Amtrak train into Chicago.
On the road in Chicago
Old Republic International
I was back in Chicago again to visit companies I had added on or missed the first time. My visit to Old Republic International, an insurance holding company, brought back memories of the treatment received from Chicago companies on my first visit. Headquarters for Old Republic is in a high-rise office building on Michigan Avenue. The security guard/ receptionist connected me on the phone to a lady in Personnel who, after I went through my whole spiel about what I was doing, told me the company has no public relations department and that they were a financial holding company and they had nothing to say. I explained to the lady in Personnel about my sending a postcard to the CEO and was wondering where it ended up. The Personnel lady transferred me and this guy comes on the phone and, without introducing or identifying himself says, "We're a financial holding company and we don't have anything to say" and with that, he hung up on me. I was steaming! I couldn't believe it actually happened. I couldn't understand why he hung up on me. It couldn't have been because he thought I was pushy, obnoxious or a jerk because I never got to say a word to him and besides, I'm not that kind of a person. Was it just the guy who hung up on me or is everyone in the organization the same way? I know it won't have any impact but, you'll never catch me ever buying insurance from them and I will tell everyone I know what happened.
Leo Burnett Company
Leo Burnett Company, an advertising agency, leases about a dozen floors in the Prudential Plaza building on Michigan Avenue. I waited in the lobby area a few minutes before seeing Charles Werle, Vice President. Two receptionists sit in the lobby area and they aren't very friendly. The lobby walls are lined with samples of work for clients such as McDonalds, Samsonite, United Airlines, Marlboro and Dewars. In the small lobby area (four chairs), I read a brochure about how on the first day of business in 1935, the receptionist at Leo Burnett set out a bowl of fresh apples to welcome visitors. Since then, according to the brochure, apples are given to every visitor and client. In 1986, 318,732 apples were given away in the Chicago headquarters. Why am I telling the story about the apples? Because as I sat in the lobby area, I didn't see any apples and no one offered me one. I mentioned this to Werle and he said they must have been out of apples. I was told bike messengers liked making deliveries to Leo Burnett because of the free apples. Leo Burnett will be moving to new quarters in 1989 because a new 46-story building is currently being built several blocks over on Wacker Drive. Leo Burnett will occupy about 23 floors. Over 1700 employees work on about a dozen floors (425,000 square feet), of the Prudential building. There's a company cafeteria which serves 7-Up and Pepsi because Pepsi owns 7-Up International, one of Leo Burnett's clients. The privately held firm has over a billion dollars in revenue and was listed in the book, "The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America" by Robert Levering, Milton Moskowitz and Michael Katz. Leo Burnett has no corporate aircraft but, is the second largest customer at O'Hare Airport (after the accounting firm, Arthur Andersen). There's no boardroom and, a card which is inserted into a slot is needed to get past the lobby area into the office area. Wasn't able to see the CEO's office because he was in. Corporate logo is of a hand, reaching for the stars. Werle scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale. On my way out, I noticed a bowl of apples had been placed on the receptionist's desk and I helped myself to a crispy, crunchy one.
The Marmon Group
The Marmon Group is a privately held, diversified holding company with almost $3 billion in revenues. Headquarters is in a company-owned building in downtown Chicago. A small sign on the outside of the building says, "The Marmon Group, Inc. Building." The building directory said to go to the fifth floor so, up I went. As you come off the elevator there's a receptionist sitting in a glass-enclosed booth, sort of like at a movie theatre. I explained to her who I was and she said, "Oh yeah, we've been expecting you." Mr. Steinberg, Director of Communications, came out to the lobby and in an apologetic and at the same time abrupt tone, told me they had been trying to get a hold of me because they didn't want to be a part of my project and, that they weren't one of the largest 500 companies and weren't even a holding company. My visit lasted about three minutes. Mr. Steinberg told me they were a small staff of about ten people. I asked if I could see the Chairman's office and Mr. Steinberg took me to a plain, functional-looking office with a lot of papers piled on the desk. I asked if they had a cafeteria and Mr. Steinberg took me down the hall to a small room with a table and a few chairs and said, "That's our cafeteria." I was given a booklet which looked like an annual report and was sent on my way. Mr. Steinberg sure tried to downplay the largeness of his company. He must really think I'm the village idiot. Jay Pritzker and Robert Pritzker are co-CEO's of the Marmon Group and are two of the wealthiest men in the country-worth several BILLION. The 30-page booklet I was given talks about the more than sixty companies which belong to the Marmon Group and, nowhere in the brochure is mention made of who owns or runs the company (the names of the Pritzkers appear zilch). From the booklet: "The Marmon Group comprises the divisions of several multi-unit corporations. Each of these member units operates on its own, under its own officers and executives. Through a consulting arrangement, a small executive-professional service organization in Chicago-The Marmon Group, Inc.-manages and invests the financial resources of member companies, and aids and advises them in accounting, legal, tax, finance, personnel and related business matters." The only company of the 60 listed that I had ever heard of is Trans Union Credit Information Co., a consumer credit reporting company. Mr. Steinberg scored 3 points on my 1-10 scale. The Pritzkers also run another billion dollar, privately-held company, The Hyatt Corporation.
The main reception area of the Hyatt Corporation is on the 39th floor of a brand new, 40-story building in downtown Chicago. I went there three times on a Thursday. On my first visit (which was in the morning), I was told everyone was in a meeting. On my second visit I was told the lady didn't have time to see or meet with me but, if I called her the next day, she could talk to me over the phone. I told the receptionist I could have stayed home in San Diego and talked to her on the phone. The reception area on the 39th floor is set-up just like a check-in desk at a Hyatt Hotel, with applications on the counter for the Hyatt Passport Club and the company's frequent traveler program. Two receptionists stand behind a counter and I also noticed two switchboard operators. I even looked around half expecting to see a bellman in the lobby. I wasn't totally disappointed in my visit to the privately-held company with over $1 billion in revenues because on my third visit I got to meet Jay Pritzker, the CEO. Well, I didn't exactly get to meet him. Here's what happened: I was in the elevator all alone heading up to the 39th floor, when the elevator stopped on the 38th floor. The doors opened and I could see the whole floor was still under construction with just concrete floors and wires hanging out. I held open the doors and peeked out and saw a man who I recognized as Jay Pritkzer, walking two people around the floor. I closed the doors, went up to the 39th floor and, as I was talking to the receptionist, Pritkzer walked by with the two other people and I asked the receptionist if that was Jay Pritzker, the "Big Cheese" and she said, "Yes." I never realized he was so short.
I again attempted to visit the offices of Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm. The company leases space in a building called, the Brunswick Building. After being sent from the 18th floor to the 35th floor to the 20th floor; a fellow in the marketing department eyed me with suspicion and said to call the next day and make an appointment.
I went back again to Beatrice Companies whose main reception area is on the 25th floor of a tall, downtown high-rise. I struck out again at Beatrice; a lady in the public relations department coldly and rudely told me over the phone that the company was being "restructured" and no one had the time to talk to me.
The same rude, unhelpful receptionist I encountered on my first visit to USG was again, in the lobby. I used a pay phone to call up the public relations department and was told by the lady who answered the phone that I needed an appointment. My story of having been here months earlier and of this being a one shot deal fell on deaf ears. USG sure has some very unfriendly and unprofessional employees.
I, again, dropped by Farley Industries which is in the Sears Tower and was told everyone was in a meeting or out to lunch. Mr. Farley's secretary was out to lunch so I couldn't find out if they had received a postcard.
Ameritech, one of the "baby Bells", leases six floors (150,000 square feet), in the Chicago Mercantile Building which was built in 1985. Ameritech leases the space from LaSalle Partners of Chicago. I had tried to visit Ameritech on my previous visit but had gotten the runaround. This time I met with Bill Hensley, Public Relations Director, in his office. Hensley seemed uncomfortable talking to me and I, in turn, was uncomfortable talking to him. His answers to my questions were short and guarded. For instance, when I asked him if I could see the CEO's office, he said, "No" and wouldn't even tell me what floor it was on. About 300 employees work in the nicely appointed offices. I never got past Hensley's office but, the offices looked nice from what I could see. My poor reception seemed to fall in line with the receptions I had been receiving at the other "baby Bells." Hensley scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
Also located in the same building as Ameritech, is the Chicago Board of Trade. I went to the public viewing area and watched the action in the "pits."
Stone Container Corporation
Stone Container Corporation leases ten floors in a 41-story building on Michigan Avenue. I went to the 17th floor reception area where the receptionist made a few phone calls and Ruby Ninan, (I never got a business card from her and don't know her title) talked to me for a few minutes. About 440 employees work in the building which was built in 1985. I wasn't given a tour except for. Ninan trying to take me up to see the boardroom on the 41st floor. When I showed up at the reception desk I wasn't sure anyone was going to see me so, I hadn't changed from my shorts into my long pants. When Ninan took me up to the 39th floor, I was wearing shorts. When you step off the elevator on the 39th floor, there's a receptionist and behind her is a huge picture window with an incredible view of Lake Michigan. As we were standing there looking out the window, we heard the sound of someone clearing his throat. We turned and looked and this man was looking at us shaking his head. Well, according to the receptionist and Ninan, that was Mr. Stone, the CEO, and I guess he was probably shaking his head because I was up in the executive area wearing shorts. Rather than risk Ninan getting into trouble, I told her to forget taking me up the staircase to the boardroom. Ninan scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale.
RR Donnelley & Sons Company
On my way to RR Donnelley & Sons Company, commercial printers, I rode around McCormick Place, the monstrous convention/trade show center by the lakefront. RR Donnelley & Sons is located about two miles from downtown Chicago in an area which has seen better days. I met with Susan Levy, Administrator, Community Relations, in the small lobby. Next door to the 3-story building is a printing plant called, the Calumet Plant, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Over 1500 employees work in the two buildings. In the lobby area are several display cases of such items as the first issue of "Life", "Look", and "World Book Encyclopedia" printed by Donnelly. On display is the company's first employee magazine printed in 1917. There are lots of magazines to read while you wait in the lobby area and I'm told Donnelley prints all of them. The printing plant is eight stories but, a section of the building goes to twelve stories and houses a Memorial Library. Levy scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.