The negatives far outweigh the positives as to why I resist making
appointments with companies and instead, just show-up within
a specified period of time. However, as you'll read in this story
making an appointment can sometimes be rewarding.
Before my visit to Converium, the world's eighth largest reinsurer
(revenues of $2.5 billion), I received an e-mail from Michael
Schiendorfer, Media Relations Manager, saying he's my contact
person. Schiendorfer also listed several dates and the times
he would be available to meet with me. I was glad to know who
to ask for but wasn't keen on setting up a time. Why? With two
weeks to visit 50 companies in the Zurich area it would be an
almost impossible task setting up 50 separate appointments.
I show up at the seven-story Zurich lakefront building and ask
the two friendly receptionists to contact Mr. Schiendorfer. Waiting
here isn't a hardship as I have several English publications
to peruse including Business Week, The Economist and the Financial
Times. There's also a colorful Frank Stella sculpture in the
lobby. Done in 1990, it's titled "The Pequod Meets the Samuel
Enderby of London". Near the reception desk stands a computer
and monitor but my attempt to use it proves futile as I'm told
it isn't working. Darn, I wanted to get those baseball scores,
oops, I mean punch up the latest stock quotes.
Schiendorfer shows up in the lobby and asks why I didn't respond
to the dates and times offered in his e-mail. I explain how I
have 50 companies to visit in the area and my years of experiences
have found setting up appointments to be severely flawed. He
doesn't have time today but Schiendorfer says to call him later
at 1PM and he'll let me know then if he can set up a time for
tomorrow. When 1PM rolls around I find a payphone and call the
number given. It doesn't go through. So, later in the afternoon
I drop by Converium again and explain to Schiendorfer how I did
call but it wouldn't connect. In a somewhat skeptical tone he
says to come by at 10AM tomorrow AND, to be on time.
Boy, that dig about being on time really hurts. I'm a fanatic
about being on time. Matter of fact that's one of the reasons
I loathe making appointments. For example, normally I would start
visiting companies at 8 AM but now with this 10 AM appointment
I can't. Why? One reason is that I never know how long a visit
will take. Sometimes it'll be over in 10 minutes and others I'll
spend the whole day at a company. Most times I have to wait in
the lobby until someone is available to meet with me-these waits
can sometimes last several hours. Some visits are very extensive
including getting a tour of a factory, being taken to lunch,
being introduced to various department heads and so on. Then,
there's the possibility of having a breakdown or mishap getting
from one company to another causing me to be late for an appointment.
Earlier this summer I was in Geneva, Switzerland visiting watchmaker
Rolex. I had been told the company was like Fort Knox with few
outsiders allowed in. After my questions had been answered I
was offered a tour of the watchmaking area. Unfortunately I had
to decline. Why? Earlier I had reluctantly made an appointment
with another company for later in the day and not wanting to
cut it close I had to forgo the tour.
So, it's almost 10AM the next day and I'm in Converium's lobby.
The receptionist calls up Schiendorfer and I plop down in one
of the lobby seats. A woman comes over with a camera and says
"he'll be right down". She doesn't identify herself
but I assume she's with Schiendorfer in Media Relations and will
be taking pictures for an in-house employee newsletter. Then
this man walks up, introduces himself and takes a seat next to
me. I assume he's also from Media Relations. Still waiting for
Schiendorfer to appear I make small talk with this man for about
15 seconds when it suddenly hits me, he had introduced himself
as Dirk Lohmann. Glancing down at my clipboard notes I see that's
the name of Converium's CEO! Almost immediately I blurt out,
"oh jeez, I just realized you're the CEO". Lohmann
had heard I'd be here at 10AM and wanted to meet me. He ends
up being my tour guide.
Built in the 1960's the building formerly housed IBM. Converium,
spun out of Zurich Financial Services last year, had the place
renovated and moved in. Now it's home to 300 employees. It's
a great location with Lake Zurich directly across the street,
upscale shopping on the Bahnhofstrasse right around the corner,
the central train station a 10-minute walk and, headquarters
for Zurich Financial, it's former parent, only a few blocks away.
Smoking isn't allowed in offices and though there're are no on-site
recreational facilities-showers are available and so are massages.
The top floor houses the company cafeteria with management and
workers alike eating together plus, great views of Lake Zurich
from the tables. There's a wine cellar, not in the basement though
but on the top floor. There's quite a bit of art scattered throughout
the building with most of it modern and international in scope.
The company's logo is a helix (coil) above the Converium name.
According to company literature, the helix "expresses our
flexibility, agility and openness to connect with our business
CEO Lohmann occupies a sixth floor corner office with a nice
straight out view of Lake Zurich. I note the desktop computer,
one real plant, four tombstones and a colorful ceramic turkey.
Ceramic turkey? Lohmann says it's from one of his kids.
The boardroom sits adjacent to Lohmann's office. The oval-shaped
table seats 14 and I count two real plants.