Red Bull GmbH

Looking at a map I thought it would be a quick 15-mile jaunt from Salzburg to Fuschl am See, the quiet lakeside village which is home to energy drink maker Red Bull. Wrong, this isn't the Dutch flatlands it's Austrian Alps territory. It's a hot day and a long uphill ride on a two-lane road to reach Fuschl am See. A cold drink, any kind of cold drink sounds good to me as I find the unassuming offices of Red Bull.

Red Bull is quite a success story. Working out of his home in Salzburg back in 1987, Dietrich Mateschitz (57 years-old) pretty much created the energy drink category. Last year this single product company had an estimated $1.2 billion in revenues---and controls 70% of the energy drink market. Mateschitz owns 49% of privately held Red Bull, Chaleo Yoovidhya 49% and the remaining 2% in a trust.

How unassuming is this headquarters? Well, this quaint little village probably has no more than a couple hundred residents and I manage to ride right past the two-story head office located on the main road through town. Then again, I was on a nice long downhill coming into town and had seen the building but noticed a big construction project going on next to it and assumed it was government electrical power generator facility being built.

Entering the building I find no reception area, no counter, no chairs, no phones on a table, no nothing to let visitors know where to go or what to do. I peer into one of the rooms and ask if there's a reception area. "This is it", a woman answers. After explaining who I am and what I do I'm led into a large expansive atrium area to wait. This isn't your normal waiting area; it's evidently designed to look like an oasis. The floor is completely filled in with white pebble gravel and slabs of black and white marble are used as stepping-stones to bamboo chairs. Tall palm trees and three dozen or so potted plants and other kinds of trees are placed around the room. At one end of this atrium room there's a long table with 10 red padded chairs around it.

Thomas Ueberhall is corralled to meet with me. His business card contains his name but no title. According to Ueberhall nobody has titles. However, if he did his would be Director of Marketing. Ueberhall hasn't seen my introductory material sent a month earlier to Norbert Kralhammer, President, so he's somewhat suspicious of what I'm doing-suggesting I'm collecting all this data to sell to competitors.

This two-story building used to be home to an artist's colony before Red Bull took it over in the late 1980's. When Ueberhall says 150 people work at the head office I'm taken aback because it's not a very big building. That's when I find out about the two volcanoes. Remember my saying earlier that I initially cycled right past this place because I thought it was a utility or power station facility? Well, the big construction project going on next door featuring two concrete structures looking like nuclear power generators are actually going to be concrete volcanoes AND will be Red Bull's new headquarters. Get it? Volcanoes & exploding energy equals Red Bull. Anyway, in the rear of the construction site are mobile office containers stacked atop each other. These house additional Red Bull workers until the new facility is finished.

There're are no recreational facilities but the picturesque lake (about 10 miles in diameter) lies directly across the road providing a slew of sporting possibilities. Smoking is allowed in the offices, there's no company cafeteria, it's a 20-minute drive to Salzburg Airport, five-minute drive to the nearest freeway and the company has one corporate aircraft, a Citation 2. There's no formal dress code with shorts being acceptable workwear. Parking for bicycles doesn't exist because it isn't an easy commute getting in and out of this mountain lake community.

I can't see the boardroom but do get a peek into Founder Mateschitz's first floor corner office. He has a desktop computer, three real plants, cans of Red Bull and a not very interesting view of the parking lot.

Any employee perks? Vending machines dole out free cans of Red Bull. While waiting to meet with Ueberhall I help myself to a Red Bull. It was great going down but several hours later I came down with stomach cramps. Was it the Red Bull or the three pastries I wolfed down earlier from a nearby bakery?