Deutsche Post AG

With Germany's government having recently completed its move from Bonn to Berlin I'm expecting Bonn to be somewhat of a ghost town. Then again, it's not likely to happen with Bonn still headquarters for two of Germany's biggest employers; Deutsche Telecom and Deutsche Post.

Deutsche Post, with over 260,000 employees and anticipated revenues of over $29 billion next year, is Europe's largest postal and parcel concern. It's been on a big buying binge across Europe and elsewhere gobbling up transport and logistics companies such as Danzas (Switzerland), ASG (Sweden), a stake in Nedloyd (UK) and recently made a bid for Air Express in the USA. Heck, I've been constantly checking my answering machine half expecting them to bid in for my services to transport mail via my bike. Next year the German government plans to sell as much as 49% of its shares to the public.

Deutsche Post's monster-size six-story head office stands about a mile from Germany's old Parliament building and amidst an area swarming with other large government buildings. What this U-shaped building lacks in height, it make up with bulk as it's home to over 1,600 employees.

Before entering the huge expansive lobby one checks in with security guards sitting inside a glassed-in enclosure (which reeks of cigarettes). None of the four guards speaks English. I hand them one of the postcards which explains what I do and then I'm directed to take a seat. Hanging from the ceiling is a life-size cardboard sculpture of three people holding hands and dancing. A local German newspaper is the only reading material on the coffee tables. It's lunchtime and the traffic in the lobby picks up. I'm expecting the worse case scenario to happen here (meaning-nobody knows anything about my letter) especially when you consider it's a government agency (meaning- bureaucrats) I'm dealing with.

You can imagine my delight when Norbert Schaefer from the press department steps out, greets me and says how only hours earlier he had sent an Email saying he was my contact person. Schaefer mentions my arriving a week earlier than stated and I explain having to leave Cologne & Dusseldorf much earlier than planned due to a huge conventions in town all week.

After a few minutes of wandering about we head for the office of Gert Schukies, Director of Communications, and Schaefer's boss. I'm not thrilled about the prospect of going into Schukies' office. Why? He's currently in his office with the door closed and though I'm standing near the door of his secretary's adjacent office--the stench of tobacco lays heavy in the air. Jeez, that's all I need is to be stuck in an office with the door closed and someone puffing away. In a few minutes we're ushered in the room along with a short, very lean man. I don't catch this man's name but he just completed an around the world bicycle ride with Deutsche Post sponsoring the ride. We spend some time exchanging tales but one exchange really stands out. He mentions having something like a half-dozen support staff along for the ride and I'm asked the size of mine. I answer, "I'm accompanied by three people; me, myself and I".

Though Schukies is a real hospitable guy, he wrecks it all by lighting up one cigarette after another-with the door closed! My eyes are watering like crazy and I can't believe this heavy duty biker stuck in the same room with me doesn't say anything.

It "isn't possible" to see CEO Klaus Zumwinkel's top floor corner office but I do get a gander into the no-frills boardroom with its oval-shaped table (seating 12) and barren walls.

In lieu of a corporate art collection, Deutsche Post has four postal museums in various parts of the country. Smoking is allowed in the building, the company's fitness center includes two lanes of bowling and Cologne Airport is a 20 minute drive away.

By this time next year construction should be more than halfway completed for a 40-story head office tower being built less than a mile away.