Austria Tabak

Yeah I know I could have easily crossed Austria Tabakwerke off of my list of companies to visit. Especially since Gallaher Group, the British tobacco concern, recently acquired them and are now only a subsidiary. Even a better reason is the fact I dislike the smell of tobacco. But, when a company has over 4 billion Euros in sales-that's a lot of money to overlook.

In 1784 Emperor Joseph II of Austria granted Austria Tabakwerke sole tobacco rights in Austria. Meaning from 1784 to 1995, Austria Tabakwerke had a complete monopoly on tobacco in Austria. Being a member of the European Union changed all this in 1995.

A couple miles from Vienna's city center is where I find Austria Tabak's impressive four-story headquarters. Built in 1916, it's in a good area. How can I say that? Well, the American embassy is nearby and from my travels around the globe I've found they don't locate in crummy areas. You enter the building via a driveway, which brings one into a courtyard.

I explain how I sent a letter of introduction a month earlier to CEO Heinz Schiendl and am given directions to his secretary's office. She doesn't know anything about the letter and sends me over to see Hubert Greier. I'm in luck as the accommodating Greier, who's the company's Press Spokesman, agrees to meet with me.

About 120 employees work here. There's plenty of free parking, smoking is allowed in offices (duh) and there's a weight room with showers. There's no corporate art collection, no cafeteria but an executive dining room where one gets waited on and, covered parking for commuting cyclists. There's no formal dress code but they do have casual dress on Fridays.

I can't see the boardroom due to a board meeting going on but do check out CEO Schiendl's office. It's a middle office on the first floor with a view out the window of a large tree. Don't see a computer.