Diethelm Keller Holding Ltd.

Well, I'm glad I didn't have an appointment at Diethelm Keller because I would have been late for it. Why? I found the seven-story building easy enough but didn't like the idea of locking my bike out front since it's too near the street. I saw an enclosed area in the back of the building containing garbage dumpsters and several bicycles. I opened the door, wheeled in the bike and when I tried to exit---found the door locked. Jeez, it's one of those doors that lets you enter but not exit without a key. I only had to wait 10 minutes for a passerby.

The building directory doesn't you tell what floor the reception area is located (turns out there isn't a formal one) so it's kind of hit or miss as to which of the five floors would take me to Markus Keller, Vice President. Keller had e-mailed me to let me know he's my contact person. It only takes asking two people before connecting with nice guy Keller.

Founded in Zurich, Diethelm Keller is a privately held company that's old (dating back to the 1800's), good-sized (5.5 billion Swiss Francs in revenues) employees quite a few (18,000 employees) and keeps a low profile (the head office building is unmarked).

Until recently Diethelm Keller was known as a trading company with most of it business in Asia. Its five core business segments are chemicals, consumer products & logistics, food ingredients, healthcare and, technology. It would take up too much space listing the brands the company manages but just to give you a sampling: Gloster is the world's largest supplier of outdoor furniture made of plantation teak. Delta is a U.S. manufacturer and marketer of acrylic paints and related supplies for art, craft and decorating activities. Diethelm Aviation Singapore is the world's number two supplier of certified in-flight equipment such as meal charts. The company has interests in kitchen utensils, household appliances, eye-care products, aluminum to the construction industry, parking automation systems and pest control. Whew, that's just a sampling. Plus, it owns STA Travel, the world's largest travel company for students and young people.

It's a barebone's staff at this blah-looking early 1970's-style building. Though the company occupies five floors only 15 work for the holding company. It's not a splashy address but it's a prime location with Lake Zurich and Zurich's city center only a few blocks away. Smoking in offices is optional, there's no formal dress code but ties are required for men. The building lacks a cafeteria but employees enjoy free fruit and coffee.

CEO Fassbind occupies a sixth floor corner office. I count two real plants, one tombstone, a desktop computer and one soccer ball. The boardroom on the top floor features a table seating 10, real cactus and an outdoor deck.

Diethelm Keller Holding's corporate logo is a red and white fan tree. Why? Quoting Chairman Andreas Keller, "The fan tree is not only beautiful, it is strong, sturdy and enjoys a long life. It bends with the wind but does not yield. The branches and leaves form a circle, thus embracing the activities of both the Diethelm and the Edward Keller Group. The colour red reminds us of our Swiss heritage, and the fan tree connects to our Asian roots." Diethelm & Co. Ltd. acquired the FAN TREE trademark in the year 1906.