Baan Company N.V.

Aw jeez, I'm in Barneveld a small town in central Holland and about to enter the four building head office complex of Baan Company, a business management software firm, and boy am I disappointed. Why? Last year a business magazine ran a story on the brothers who founded the company and included a picture of a spiffy-looking chateau they recently bought to house their operations. I thought the address I had would bring me to the chateau. Instead, I'm at place where a freeway off-ramp steers cars directly into the parking lot of an unexciting-looking complex of buildings.

It's lunchtime when I check in with the receptionist and as I'm standing there I notice a steady stream of people walking through the lobby. I quickly figure out it's due to the cafeteria being located off to the side of the reception area. The reception area contains plenty of places for visitors to sit down as I count over 19 turquoise and black chairs around five circular coffee tables. The receptionist sits behind a counter painted various shades of turquoise.

Called are made and no one seems to know anything about my letter of introduction sent a month earlier to CEO Tom Tinsley. Part of the problem has to due with the fact Tinsley is no longer CEO. Luckily, nice guy Gerrit van Munster, Vice President-Human Resources, has time to answer questions and show me around.
About 400 work here. There's nothing special about the place. The tallest building is five stories but the executives work in an unassuming three-story structure built in 1986. Smoking isn't allowed indoors, there's no corporate art collection, no boardroom and Amsterdam's airport lies an hour's drive away.

Though Barneveld is a very small town, Munster says it's famous all over The Netherlands. Why? It's known as the "chicken village" because of all the chicken farms in the area. Matter of fact, Baan's facility sits on the site of a former chicken farm.

Any similarities between this Dutch software company's head office and those I've visited in Silicon Valley? Hmm, no recreation facilities here-not even a Ping-Pong table, no casual dress days and no employee perks. However, if you head a mile in any direction you're in beautiful farmland country.

Founded in 1978, Baan went public in 1995 and had revenues in 1998 of $735 million. Since June, Mary Coleman is the new CEO. She's been spending most of her time in the Reston, Virginia office. Her office here is on the second floor with an uninspiring view of the parking lot.

Is this computer software firm taking advantage of the Internet? Munster says Baan conducts business on the Internet. Actually it doesn't sell its software systems on the Internet but customers can go to the company's website and purchase add-ons.