On the road in Cincinnati, Ohio
Standing on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, you get a great view of the Cincinnati skyline. Looks more impressive than what I used to see on the television show, "WKRP in Cincinnati."
Western & Southern Life Insurance
Western & Southern Life Insurance is a privately held life insurance company with over $4 billion in revenues. Headquarters is downtown in several connecting buildings, the tallest being a dumpy-looking, 7-story structure. Security guards are the receptionists. Robert Starnes, Vice President, Director of Public Relations, came to the lobby area and talked with me for about two minutes. Not a very friendly person. He wouldn't answer any questions while I was there but, I was told to leave the questions and he would mail the answers. Starnes scored 2 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE Mr. Starnes did mail me my questionnaire back. Headquarters has been at the location since 1901 and office space totals 500,000-square feet. Over 1450 people work in the company-owned buildings and all 848 parking spots are reserved (he didn't say for who). Starnes neglected to send any literature on the history of the company as I had requested. I mentioned my less-than-cordial reception at Western-Southern Life to several other companies I visited in Cincinnati and was told the company has a reputation for being secretive.
American Financial Corporation
American Financial Corporation, a privately held holding company with interests in insurance, savings & loan, transportation and investments. I had been looking forward to visiting this company because I had read a lot of articles about CEO Carl Lindner. Matter of fact, American Financial Corporation had taken over United Brands (Chiquita bananas), which had been on my original list of companies to visit. Headquarters for American Financial is in the Provident Bank Building. Not seeing a public relations department listed on the building directory, I went up to the 9th floor where I was sent down by less-than-receptive personnel to Administration on the second floor. I was then sent to the Legal Counsel department on another floor. I was told by the less-than-friendly people in Legal Counsel that they wouldn't talk to me and were a "private company and close-mouthed." Offices looked very plain and functional. Building must be over twenty years old and I wondered if Lindner owned the building and the bank. I must have dealt with about half a dozen people and none of them were personable, nice or helpful.
Federated Department Stores
Federated Department Stores is located in a 21-story building. The building directory said public relations is on the 15th floor so, off I went. Coming off the elevator, there's a phone and a sign says to call whomever you are there to see. So, I went down a list of names of people in the public relations department and picked out a friendly-sounding one. After making a few phone calls, a woman came out to the lobby and said no one was available to talk to me. I told her my tight time schedule and asked if there was any chance I could see the CEO's office and boardroom. She told me she wasn't suppose to answer any questions but, she did take me up to the 20th floor where the CEO's office is located and we walked up the stairs to the 21st floor and I got a quick look at the boardroom. People I dealt with on the phone at Federated weren't friendly or helpful at all.
The Kroger Company
The Kroger Company, primarily a supermarket chain, is headquartered downtown in a 25-story building built in 1958. Originally, the company owned the building but, now leases. In 1982 the building was renovated. It's highly unusual for a supermarket chain to be headquartered in a high-rise. I went in and called the CEO's secretary to find out where my postcard had been trickled down to and was told they had just this day received my card. After waiting a few minutes, Paul Bernish, Director-Public Relations, came to the lobby area and chatted with me for a few minutes. Bernish acted very disinterested. Over 800 employees work in the building. There's no cafeteria, no art collection, senior management and employees with longevity get reserved parking spots. Company has three corporate aircraft. Lobby area has lots of company trophies, plaques, old pictures and mementos. I didn't make it past the lobby. I was told, however, that the CEO's office is on the sixth floor and he has a corner office. The reception area has two receptionists who were average. Bernish scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
Cincinnati Gas & Electric
Cincinnati Gas & Electric was the next company on my list to visit and was told by the receptionist I needed an appointment. I went across the street to a new building called, "The Atrium" and used a new pay phone. I stuck a quarter in the pay phone and nothing happened so, I put a quarter in the next phone and made my call to the gas company located across the street. Well, it really bugged me that I had lost my quarter in the new pay phone and what made it even worse was the fact Cincinnati Bell Telephone had a retail business phone store about ten feet away from the pay phones. So, I went into the phone store and told them I had lost a quarter in their new pay phone and I wanted it back. The lady told me to pick up a courtesy phone and dial the business office. I call up and I'm put on hold for eight minutes before a woman comes on the phone. I tell the woman I'm passing through town and had lost a quarter in a new pay phone and wanted to see about getting it back. The lady says they could probably credit my phone number in California as she puts me on hold for about five minutes. She comes back on the line and tells me I have to call the operator. I hang up, call the operator and end up having to wait five more minutes until this guy comes on the line and says sarcastically, "Well, we just can't give you a quarter!" Him and I get into an argument over the phone and all of a sudden in the background, I hear a woman's voice (the woman I spoke to earlier who told me I had to call an operator) saying, "Oh, is that the guy about the quarter?" Now, I'm really upset and ask the guy why the lady made me hang up, call back, and wait another five minutes if she was sitting right next to him? Why couldn't she have just transferred the call? I told the guy I felt like I was being taken for a ride and he said I had "an attitude problem". The guy took my name and address and said he would mail me a quarter. Well, considering how our conversation went, I figured he wouldn't follow through so, after hanging up the phone, I walked over to the counter and asked to speak to the store manager of the phone store. After a few minutes wait, Richard DePoy, PhoneCenter Manager, came out and spoke with me. I told him the whole story and said it wasn't so much the quarter but, the fact it was a brand new pay phone, it happened outside a phone store AND the red tape I had to deal with. DePoy reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter. I told him I didn't want his quarter but, I wanted an address to write to in case the fellow on the phone didn't follow-up on sending me a quarter. *NOTE When I arrived home, I found an envelope from the phone company with a quarter taped inside.
Cincinnati Gas & Electric is headquartered in a 14-story, company-owned building built in 1929. I met with Judy Thompson, Supervisor, Editorial Services, in her office. She had to call her supervisor to make sure it was okay to answer my questions. From the street, the building looks kind of funny because there are dozens and dozens of window air conditioners hanging out the windows. I was told I couldn't see the CEO's office or boardroom because there were "too many problems getting up there." Pretty typical, blah, utility company headquarters. Thompson scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale.
My receptions in Cincinnati have been horrible. I don't know if it's me or the companies themselves. U.S. Shoe is the only company on my list not located downtown. Corporate headquarters is comprised of three buildings located about 11 miles north of downtown, next to Interstate 71. The Corporate Office building has 203,000-square feet, the Raw Material building, 245,000-square feet, and the Finished Goods Distribution building, 500,000-square feet. Built in 1982, the company-owned complex sits on a 55-acre site with all three buildings being three stories. I didn't catch the name of the receptionist but, she was an older lady and very hospitable. I met with Stephen Leesman, Facilities Manager. About 700 employees work in the complex with parking no problem because there are 992 spaces. Upper level management get their name stenciled on their parking spaces. There's a cafeteria, one corporate aircraft, no corporate art collection, no recreational facilities, but showers are available. The grounds are popular for employees taking afternoon walks. The orange brick and black glass with red trim Corporate Office building is a pretty good-looking structure. A U.S. flag flies out front. Leesman scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale.
Cincinnati is home to two of the seventy most affluent suburbs in the country; Village of Amberley and the Village of Indian Hills. I wasn't too impressed with Amberley. I stopped by the Amberley Village hall and picked up some literature on the place. It's approximately five square miles and the population is about 4000. I noticed none of the homes have fences. Seven business firms are located in the village including, the corporate headquarters of Gibson Greeting Cards (not big enough to be on my list with only about $300 million in revenues). I knew when I was going by Gibson's headquarters because out on the front grounds of the property, the name "Gibson Cards" is spelled out using shrubbery. I assume there's a large Jewish population because, according to the brochure, the only house of worship in the village is Temple Sholom. A few miles east of Amberley is the Village of Indian Hills. This affluent suburb with rolling hills seems to be home to the country club and horse-riding crowd. I visited Indian Hill's Historical Society and saw pictures in a book of some of the big estates, most of which can't be seen from the roads.
Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble was the last company in Cincinnati for me to visit and I should have known I would be treated shabbily because I always seem to get lousy receptions at consumer-oriented companies which spend big advertising dollars (see Coca-Cola and McDonalds). Before starting this project, I had seen pictures of Procter & Gamble's spiffy new headquarters in several magazines and it is, indeed, quite a place. It's located downtown, right across the street from Western-Southern Life (the less-than-friendly insurance company). I entered the main lobby area and was greeted by a receptionist and a security guard. The receptionist gave me a phone extension number and told me call a Mr. Fitzpatrick. I called up Mr. Fitzpatrick and was told he had no time for me because he was working on the company's 150th birthday. I said, "You don't even have ten minutes to talk to me?" "No", he said. This was on a Wednesday and I told him I could come back anytime on Thursday and he said, "No, I still won't have time for you." He said I should maybe contact the facilities manager. So, the receptionist tried contacting the facilities manager but, no luck. What a disappointment! Procter & Gamble is one of the biggies with over $17 billion in revenue. The lobby area did have an interesting historical exhibit of the company. Out front of the headquarters is a one-block by one-block plaza area which has a park-like atmosphere. I did leave one of my questionnaires with the receptionist and asked her if she could send it to the appropriate department and have it filled out and mailed to me along with literature on the company's history. *NOTE I did receive my questionnaire (filled out) and literature in the mail from Edward Rider, Corporate Archivist. A handwritten note accompanied the material in which Rider apologized for the delay in responding. The new company-owned corporate headquarters was built in 1985. Adjacent to the new headquarters is the old, 11-story headquarters built in 1956. The new headquarters, which has two twin, 17-story, octagonal, pyramidal towers, has a total of 800,000-square feet. There are two cafeterias and formal dining rooms. Approximately 4000 people work at corporate headquarters.
I was surprised to find out the city of Cincinnati only has a population of about 380,000. I took time out to visit the small but, impressive Taft Museum and, the magnificent Cincinnati Union Terminal which was built in 1929 (Art Deco style). To this day, the terminal is the world's largest, permanent half-dome ever built having a span of 180 feet. The city purchased the building in 1976 and there's a neat little museum inside. The terminal building also contains the world's largest collection of non-religious murals. Some are glass tile mosaics, 25 feet high and 344 feet long. Someone mentioned Cincinnati being a conservative place and told me I wouldn't find any "peep shows" in town and that was true.
Stayed in some nice downtown hotels including the Omni Netherland Plaza. The Omni Netherland is part of the Carew Towers complex, (no, it's not named after Rod Carew the former Minnesota Twins baseball player), which is the tallest building in Cincinnati (49 stories), and is a gorgeous Art Deco structure built in 1929.
Several weeks before my arrival in Cincinnati, I bought a roundtrip airline ticket from Cincinnati to San Diego. I wanted to take a two-week respite and Cincinnati was one of the few cities in the Midwest which flew non-stop to San Diego. I have this "thing" about flying non-stop whenever possible because the less stops and changes of planes means the less chances of the airlines tossing my bike or losing it. Did you know the Greater Cincinnati International Airport is actually located in Kentucky?
On August 26, 1987, while in Cincinnati, I picked up the Wall Street Journal and there on the front page, along with my picture, was an article about my trek! The next several days, I got half a dozen calls, all from New York City, from people wanting to be my literary agent. A couple of them were pushy and obnoxious. I told them I had no agent and wasn't looking for one yet.
Thirty miles north of Cincinnati is Hamilton, a city of 60,000 and home to Ohio Casualty. Hamilton looked to be an old steel town and had made quite a name for itself recently when some of the townsfolk tried to legally change the name of the town to "Hamilton!" That's right, they wanted to add an exclamation mark after the name. Hmmm. I stayed downtown in a new, 120-room hotel called, the Hamiltonian, and it's a real first-class place. I rode around town and found it funny to find Diebold and Mosler, two companies known for their safes, to have manufacturing plants located right across the street from each other.
Ohio Casualty, an insurance company, is located downtown and I met with Ginger Stawver, Publications Editor, who gave me a warm reception. Corporate headquarters sits on a nine-acre plus site and is comprised of three company-owned buildings, with a combined total of 652,260-square feet. The first building (six stories) was built in 1927, another was added onto it (eight stories) in 1975, and across the street is another building known as the Printing Building. There's a security guard in the lobby along with a receptionist. Muzak was playing. Alongside the headquarters building is a drive-in claims area which is something you usually don't see at corporate offices. Over 1900 employees work at corporate headquarters and the company has a "no lay-off" policy. Headquarters is a pretty functional place. Parking for the masses is dished out on a seniority basis; the longer you work there, the closer you get to park to the building. I spent a few minutes talking with Mr. Sloneker, the CEO, in his plainly furnished, small office. He's a very personable guy who quickly makes you feel at ease. What was interesting about his office was the location. Offices are lined up in a long row with glass partitions separating the offices. From his desk, Mr. Sloneker can look to his left and see about half a dozen executives at their desks lined up in a row and looking to his right, Mr. Sloneker can see another half dozen executives behind their desks. He told me it was set-up like that so he could "keep tabs on everyone", winking as he said it. Everyone eats in the cafeteria. Shawver scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
On the road in Dayton, Ohio
Dayton, a city of 200,000, is about 55 miles north of Cincinnati. About a mile from downtown Dayton on a 34-acre site, sits the headquarters of NCR. A sign near the street reads, "NCR World Headquarters." I noticed a closed-circuit camera mounted on a wall as I entered the premises. Built in 1976, the 5-story, glass and red brick structure looks pretty impressive. I met with Gary Stechmesser, Director, Public Relations.
The main lobby receptionist is a security guard. Scattered throughout the hallways of the building is an impressive collection of art. Who selected the art? Well, before the building was completed NCR asked its offices in foreign countries, (over 100), to send in a piece of art native to the place where they are located. For example, the Peru office sent a rug hand-woven by a Peruvian native and it's now displayed on one of the hallway walls at corporate headquarters.
A long row of flags are flapping on flagpoles outside the main lobby entrance. The 32 flags represent some of the countries in which NCR does business. They have a very distinct pecking order; the first flagpole is reserved for the country from which NCR derives most of its foreign revenue; the second flagpole is reserved for the country from which NCR derives the second largest amount of its foreign revenues, and so on down the line. In case you're wondering, the Japanese flag was flying on the first pole.
The company cafeteria is a huge place; it's picture windows allow views of the well-kept grounds and of a creek which meanders through the property. CEO Charles Exley smokes cigars. You can smoke anywhere in the building except for the rest rooms and the non-smoking section in the cafeteria. There are four executive dining rooms and each one is named after a past chairman.
Off the main lobby is a large showroom area where NCR displays their product lines to potential corporate clients. I was amazed at the variety and was surprised to learn NCR is a large supplier of ATM machines.
CEO Charles Exley, occupies a corner office on the fifth floor with a great view of the front grounds and the downtown Dayton skyline. NCR is 17 miles from Dayton International Airport and has two corporate aircraft. Stechmesser guesstimate there being about 40 acres of parking, with vice presidents, on up, getting reserved spots.
NCR has a huge presence in Dayton with 1500 employees at corporate headquarters and 15,500 in the Dayton area. Total space is 1,428,000 square feet. Behind headquarters is a 105-acre private company park for employees. What a place! Seven tennis courts, football fields, soccer fields, shuffleboard courts, a miniature golf course, a gigantic swimming pool complex with several boards for high diving, along with quite a few covered picnic tables. You can jog along the tree-lined trails or take a canoe and wander up the creek that runs through the park and circles the headquarters complex.
I visited NCR a week before Labor Day and was given an invitation to attend their company picnic if I was still in the area over the Labor Day weekend. I wasn't able to attend but, with over 15,000 employees AND their families expected, I'm sure I wouldn't be missed. Stechmesser scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Spent the night at a Marriott located right next to NCR's headquarters. Rode around the University of Dayton, which has a nice little campus a few blocks from NCR.
Super Foods, a food wholesaler, is located in a light industrial park area in the suburb of Kettering, which is about two and a half miles from downtown Dayton. Headquarters is a small, plain-looking, one-story building about the size of a McDonalds restaurant. The name, "Super Foods", is on the side of the building. I did see a bird feeder in a tree outside the entrance. The lobby is very small and, after explaining to the receptionist who I was, she told me Mr. Twyman, the CEO, would meet with me and answer any questions. As I was waiting to see him, I kept looking at his name on my notepad and wondering why the name "Jack Twyman" sounded so familiar. Twyman walks out, shake hands and we walk into his office where, after spotting several trophies, I figure it out. I said, "Now I know why your name sounds familiar, you used to be a professional basketball player!" He indeed had played ball with the Cincinnati Royals in the 1960's and then, was a sports commentator. I had a hard time asking Twyman questions because he kept asking ME questions about my trip. The company leases the building, which was built in 1968 and Twyman said the 20-year lease was up next year (meaning 1988), and they would probably move. Seventy-five people work in the plain, functional, 30,000-square foot structure located on a five-acre site. Smoking is not allowed, there's no cafeteria but, vending machines. Twyman's office was pretty plain and the boardroom was a no-frills set-up. As I do with whomever I end up talking with at a company, I asked Twyman for his business card but, I made a request; would he mind autographing the back? He did. Twyman is a super guy and was really enthusiastic about my project. How enthusiastic? His daughter lives in Chicago and is an editor for Outside Magazine, a magazine about skiing, biking, mountain climbing, etc. He called up his daughter while I was in his office and told her about me and what I was doing and said she should do an article about me. Twyman scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Mead Corporation, a paper and packaging company, leases space in the second tallest building (366 feet) in Dayton. Above the entryway to the 28-story building is a sign that says, "Mead World Headquarters." Walking into the lobby area, I got VIP treatment from the security guards. I was given a place inside to lock my bike and was escorted up to see Tom Hausman, Manager, Public Information, who gave me a warm and enthusiastic welcome. Hausman said he had read the Wall Street Journal article about me (which came out a week ago) and they had been planning for my arrival by compiling a sheet of paper with trivia facts about their building such as: 1) there are 158 commodes and 58 urinals. All the rest rooms in the building are locked except on the top two executive floors; it's like a reverse status symbol to have a rest room key. 2) There has never been a baby delivered in the building. 3) The employees at Mead's headquarters building boast the largest Kazoo Band (138) among the forest products companies with which they normally compete. 4) If you laid all the employees at the corporate headquarters building end to end down Main Street, "they would probably be very irritated with you, and it would tie up cross traffic for days".
I was given an extensive tour that included a look at the boardroom and the president's office. The CEO was in a meeting in his office. Nice view from the top floor. About 860 employees work in the building in which Mead is the major tenant. Square footage of the building built in 1977 is 369,062 square feet. Smoking is allowed anywhere, there's no cafeteria but, a formal dining room for executives. There's a Japanese motif in the executive offices. Company has two corporate aircraft and the CEO and president get reserved parking spots. The plaza area in the rear of the building seems to be THE hot spot for the downtown crowd to brown bag it. Hausman gave me a demonstration of one of their products called, "LEXIS", which is a news retrieval service. He asked me if I had any other write-ups besides the Wall Street Journal article and told him I had a small blurb in the Los Angeles Times newspaper about a year ago. He fed my name into a computer and a minute later, a printout of the article was staring at me. Before leaving, Hausman asked if I needed any writing pads or paper and said if I ran out he would "Federal Express" some. Hausman scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE Hausman mailed me the annual report I requested and information on the history of the company. Also included were several writing pads.
Leaving Dayton around noon, I headed 70 miles northeast to Columbus, the state capitol and largest city in Ohio with over 600,000. I was able to take the backroads to Columbus which meant going through corn country and sometimes, I wouldn't see a car for ten miles.
The Limited, Inc.
The Limited, Inc. operates over 3000 women's apparel specialty stores across the country. As I rode my bike up the driveway to the guard gate, I could see a large, 2-story, black building in the background. There was a huge building going up next to the black building and the guard said it was a distribution center for The Limited. After telling the guard what I was up to and he made a phone call. He then told me the public relations guy wasn't in today. I asked him if he could call up to see if someone else could talk to me. While this conversation was going on the security guard's supervisor drove up in a van and, after explaining to him what I was doing, he made a call and said the vice-president for public relations was out of town and for me to call him (vice-president) tomorrow. I tried explaining to the supervisor that this was a one-shot deal for me and was staying downtown which was thirteen miles away (each way). I asked the supervisor if he could call up the CEO's (Mr. Wexner) secretary to find out if my card had been received and, if so, where it trickled down to because I'd found many a time it ended up some place other than public relations. The surly supervisor said, "Mr. Wexner is out of the country and his secretary is out of the country and there's no way you're getting in the gate!" The supervisor drove off and after he was gone, I asked the guard if he could call up the CEO's secretary to find out if Wexner had received my card. He called up and Wexner's secretary (Susan) answered the phone (the supervisor had lied to me). The guard gave me the phone and I explained my situation to her and asked if she remembered seeing the postcard. She remembered seeing it and said it was probably sent to public relations. I told her I'd been told by a security supervisor that the vice president in public relations was out of town and was it possible for me to speak with someone else? "No", she said. Discouraged, I rode back out to the public street and crossed over. I then got off my bike and started taking pictures. As I've mentioned to you before, I always go out front of a headquarters and take pictures: a) to help me remember details; and b) proof to show I was actually there. As I was taking pictures, I noticed a City of Columbus police car coming OUT the Limited's entranceway. I watched the police car stop at the end of the company's driveway and, could see the policeman was watching me. Well, me being the shy guy I am, I walked across the street and asked the officer if he was watching me. He said he was. I asked, "How come?". He said, "I was told to kick you off the property." I proceeded to tell the officer about my project and couldn't understand why this was being done. The officer said, "Well, I was told you're to be off the property." I asked him if he was a private policeman and he replied, "Yes." I said, "How come you're driving a City of Columbus police car and are wearing a City of Columbus police uniform?" He told me he was privately hired. Jeez, I couldn't believe they were treating me like I was some kind of a wacko.
Leaving The Limited, I headed to the suburb of Dublin to visit Wendy's International. On the way over there I met a police officer from another suburb and asked if it was common practice and legal for City of Columbus police officers to be hired as private guards and at the same time drive City of Columbus police cars. The officer said it was. That really bugged me because with the police car coming out of the complex like that, it seemed as though The Limited has the City of Columbus police as their own little security force. Is the taxpayer paying for the gas being used to drive the police car around Limited's private property? Does it sound like I'm mad? Yep. Does it sound like I'm going to do something about it? Yep.
Wendy's International is located about fifteen miles north of downtown Columbus in the suburb of Dublin. I hate to admit it but, this was one of the few times I've gotten lost. I missed a left turn somewhere and ended up going nine miles PAST the place, which meant a total of eighteen miles of backtracking or, more than a hour of unnecessary biking. Corporate headquarters is a 193,578-square foot, 3-story, brick building built in five stages. Phase one of the company-owned building was built in 1976 with the last stage being completed in 1985. Entering the building there is a big lobby/reception area and on one of the walls are two good-sized portraits side-by-side; one is of R. David Thomas, the Senior Chairman of the Board and Founder, and the other portrait is of Robert Barney, CEO and Chairman of the Board. After checking in with the receptionist I was waiting around the lobby area for Kathleen Munger-Thomas, Public Relations Specialist, when a man walked past the receptionist's desk and the receptionist said, "So long Mr. Thomas!" I looked at the man walking out the front door, looked up at the portraits on the wall and realized it was Thomas, the Founder. What did I do? I blurted out, "Mr. Thomas!" Thomas stopped and looked back as I made a beeline towards him. I handed him one of my postcards, introduced myself and then told him I was travelling around the country on a bicycle visiting corporate headquarters and just wanted to shake his hand. He was nice to me but, I don't think he had the faintest idea what I was talking about. After he walked out the door, I looked at my notes and realized the postcard I had mailed ahead to Wendy's had been addressed to Mr. Barney, the CEO, which meant Thomas had probably never seen nor heard about the postcard and probably thought I was some weird, pushy salesman. Anyway, Munger-Thomas came to the lobby area and we went downstairs to a vending machine area and went through the questionnaire. There are 21 kitchen/vending areas in the building, with free soda being dispensed in Wendy's cups. In case you're wondering, as in their stores, Coke is it.
Coming in the main entrance, besides noticing the long, low-slung sign out front which reads, "Wendy's International Corporate Headquarters", I also saw quite a few closed-circuit cameras on top the building. Munger-Thomas took me into the security control room and there must have been 20 different screens showing various parts of the corporate headquarters but, what was funny; there was no one in the control room watching the monitors. I was told it's only manned in the evening. So, there you are in the parking lot, you look up and see these security cameras moving back and forth and you assume (wrongly), you're being watched. Smoking is allowed anywhere and three parking spots out front of the building are reserved; one for the Founder, one for the CEO and one for the President. Which reminds me, after I introduced myself to Thomas, I watched him get into a big Mercedes. I wasn't able to see the boardroom because it was being used but, I got to see Thomas's office. It's on the first floor, a corner office with a view of a small pond. There were quite a few family pictures in his office and if you may or may not know, the company was named after one of his daughters. The company has two corporate aircraft, a jogging track and a baseball diamond on the 28-acre site. About 650 employees work at corporate headquarters. I was given several coupons good for free hamburgers, French fries and a soft drink. Munger-Thomas scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company is a company I almost didn't have on my list. Mutual insurance companies are private because policyholders own the company and many of the directories I used in compiling my list of companies to visit didn't include mutual insurance companies as well as; farm and dairy cooperatives. Nationwide was a company I added on after reading an article about it and I'm glad I did because it had revenues of over $5 billion dollars last year. Headquarters is a huge complex known as, One Nationwide Plaza, which is located in downtown Columbus and highlighted by a 40-story tower. Completed in 1978 at a cost of $80 million, there's over 1.4 million square feet of space making it the largest office complex in Central Ohio. I was given a warm welcome and an extensive tour by Louis Fabro, Director of Media Relations. Over 5,550 employees work in the company-owned complex with parking at a premium with only 1,644 parking spaces. Senior management get reserved parking spots. Company has an extensive collection of fire marks and, a collection of original Currier & Ives drawings (Revolutionary War Period). I didn't get to see the CEO's office because he had a meeting going on but, I did get to see the President's office and had a quick peek into the boardroom, (it was a quick peek because a meeting was going on inside). The executive floor was furnished in a style I would call Early Colonial. I was taken to the basement to see the Nautilus equipment and aerobics room. There are no restrictions on smoking, with the CEO smoking cigars. Company has four corporate aircraft. Down the hall near the Board of Directors chambers on the 38th floor, I was shown something you don't see every day in a high-rise office building; a cabin. This cabin was built as a gift to the late Murray Lincoln, one of Nationwide's founders and President from 1939 to 1964. Lincoln regularly used the rustic room as a retreat. When the new headquarters was built in 1978, it was moved into the new building. Many of the furnishings in the cabin are from the 18th century and all the lumber used in building, as well as nails, door hardware and window glass, was salvaged from a 200-year old farmhouse in eastern Massachusetts. Fabio scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Banc One, a multi-bank holding company, leases space in an old-looking, 25-story building in downtown. I was surprised to find the headquarters in such an old building because Banc One, from my readings, had a reputation for being innovative and a trendsetter; along the same lines as Citicorp, and I was assuming headquarters would be a big, futuristic place. The building was built in 1965 and looks it. I met with Johanna White, Marketing Administrator, who was blah and just went through the motions. Banc One leases 14 of the 25 floors and about 200 administrative people work in the building. There's a cafeteria, formal dining, and smoking is allowed anywhere. I was taken up to the 16th floor and got to see the CEO's office (it's a corner office) and the boardroom. White scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
American Electric Power
Also downtown, in what looks to be a brand-new building about thirty stories tall, is the headquarters of American Electric Power. I went to the receptionist in the lobby area and explained the reason for my visit. Several calls were made by the receptionist and I was told, "Two people in public relations were out of the office and there's no one who could talk to me." I tried explaining it was a kind of a one-shot deal but, to no avail. I wasn't really that disappointed because I've become use to unhelpful receptionists and indifferent employees at utility companies. Outside the main entrance is a sculpture of a giant generator that revolves.
The first two nights I spent at the Hyatt at Capitol Square and the third night I spent at another Hyatt in downtown called, the Columbus Hyatt Regency. While I was staying at the Columbus Hyatt Regency, the lady in charge of public relations called up and asked if I would do an interview with one of the local television stations. Seeing as how the hotel had been gracious enough to give me complimentary accommodations, I agreed. The whole idea being the interview would take place outside the hotel thus, giving the hotel exposure. I was a little nervous about doing the interview because I had no idea what kind of questions would be asked and I think it was more of, "fear of the unknown" than anything. Anyway, we're on the air and one of the questions asked was, "What do you think of the companies you've visited in Columbus?" I said something to the effect, "They've all been nice except for The Limited, they wouldn't even let me on the property."
Right after doing the television interview, I headed over to the offices of the local newspaper, "The Columbus Dispatch," because they had contacted me about doing a story. The newspaper reporter asked the same question the television reporter had asked, "What do you think of the companies you've visited in Columbus?" I went on to tell him about my run-in with the security supervisor and police officer at The Limited and how it was one of my worst receptions.
I never got to see if I made the local television news that night because I had forgotten if it was an ABC, CBS or NBC affiliate which had interviewed me. I did find out the next morning though, that I had been on television. How? I was up early riding my bike around downtown when an older gentleman, somewhat of a derelict, stopped me and said, "Hey, you're the guy riding the bike around the country, I saw you on TV last night, you must be crazy!" Hmmm.
I had read somewhere about Ohio State being the largest university in the country in terms of students, with almost 60,000. The campus was a few miles from downtown and to tell you the truth, I was disappointed. The campus is too big, impersonal and the buildings are ugly. Got inside the football stadium which is one of the ten largest in the country (seats over 100,000) and there's a terrific view of downtown from the top row of seats.