Vendex KBB N.V.

About six miles from the city center and several blocks from the city's convention center is where I find the plain building housing Vendex KBB, The Netherland's largest nonfood retailer (1998 revenues of 5.3 billion guilders). The company operates over 2,500 stores in several countries including several big department store chains which makes this location even more odd since many a time the head honchos like to hang their hats above a flagship store. One company chain that might be familiar to Americans is FAO Schwarz, the upscale toy store.

My watch reads 8:45 AM as I check in with the receptionist. Several minutes later I'm meeting with Peter van Bakkum, Director of Public Relations in his office. I've caught Bakkum in his early morning routine; sipping a cup of coffee and perusing various newspapers.

The ugly, three-story structure was built in the 1960's and has been the head office since 1979. About 80 employees work here. There's a lunchroom, no recreational facilities, parking for bicycles and the company's art collection is modern and primarily Dutch artists. It's a central location thanks to the freeway being a half-minute away. Getting to downtown is a quick 15-minute drive and the airport 10 minutes.

Having a look in CEO Jan Michael Hessels' top floor, corner office I make note of the off-white walls and carpet along with one real plant and two modern paintings by Brazilian artists. There's no formal boardroom as the board meets around the square table seating four in Hessels' office.