Royal Dutch/Shell Group

Having dual head offices located in the same country isn't that unusual but, having dual head offices located in different countries is definitely out of the ordinary. The Dutch and British seem to have a monopoly on this arrangement with global players Reed Elsevier, Unilever and Royal Dutch/Shell being the big names. I've visited the six head offices of the three companies with mixed results. Good receptions were had at Unilever's London and Rotterdam offices. They were consistent at Reed Elsiver with poor receptions at the London and Amsterdam office. Royal Dutch/Shell's receptions were a mixed bag with the London office giving me a good reception (only after the Sunday Times did a story mentioning the trouble I was having getting in to see somebody) and The Hague office giving me the runaround. That's why I'm back again at The Hague.

Distances in The Netherlands aren't vast, with The Hague, where the country's government resides, only a measly 30 miles from Amsterdam, the capital. It's five minutes from downtown The Hague to Shell Group's offices but it could be difficult finding the place. Why? Well, here you have one of the world's biggest companies and yet, there're no signs or plaques off any kind on the outside of the building. We aren't talking about a dinky building either, with over 1,300 people employed here.

I end up meeting with two nice guys; Hugo de Haan and Piet Scharroo, who are in charge of security at the head office. My three favorite people to meet with at a company are the CEO, the CEO's secretary or the head of security. All have access to every place in the building.

The good-looking almost block long building is actually two structures put together. The main entrance brings you into the newest part; which features an eight-story atrium. At the other end is the grand original head office built in 1916 which features a clock tower.

Entering the building through a revolving door visitors are greeted by marble floors and two receptionists wearing red vests and black skirts. The waiting area features six red leather couches along with four wooden chairs with red leather cushions. On a coffee sits a plaque that reads, "No smoking".

There's underground parking for 550 cars, one cafeteria and a weight room with showers. Rotterdam Airport, the nearest airport, is a 30-minute drive away. The company has a fleet of eight corporate aircraft and its art collections is primarily Dutch artists. Any employee perks? Discount on gasoline purchased (about 10 cents a liter).

CEO Maarten van den Bergh occupies a seventh floor corner office. I count a half-dozen plants, two silk flower arrangements, a desktop computer and six family pictures. He isn't up high enough to have much of a view of the surrounding area that includes offices and apartment buildings of similar height.

The boardroom contains two real plants, an oval-shaped table seating 30 with the design of the steel metal bars over the windows containing the Royal Dutch/Shell logo- the shell. Though the boardroom is nice and very formal, I tell Scharroo and Haan that it has no pizzazz. They ask me if I'd like to see the old boardroom. "Sure!", I quickly answer. Upon entering the old boardroom I let out a "wow". Two impressive chandeliers hang from the high ceiling, portraits of past Managing Directors line the walls and the real fireplace gives the room a regal look. However, it's the smell of old cigars embedded in the walls and furnishings that gives the room a feel of power.