Kudelski Group

I'm 10 miles from downtown Lausanne standing outside the yellow and white four-story head office building of Kudelski. Fields of a three-foot tall plant with extremely bright yellow flowers surround the building on two sides. From what I understand the plant is similar to sunflowers in that they're both harvested for oil. A field of some other unknown crop (wheat?) grows on the other side of the road from Kudelski. Wow, if the area surrounding Kudelski is now farmland can imagine how even more rural this place was 30 years ago when the building was built?

The lobby area is small with the receptionist ensconced in a glassed-in room. The lobby's size is a result of space being taken to create two small glassed-in meeting rooms-universally known as "fish bowls" because you're visible to everyone passing by. The term "fish bowl" is apparently familiar to those here because someone has taken a Dilbert cartoon and taped it to on the outside of one of the meeting rooms. The cartoon is one where Dilbert goes to a secretary to reserve the "fish bowl" room but gets told it can only be used by attractive people because they don't want to scare off customers. Dilbert than demands a second opinion.

The glass display case in the lobby contains old taping machines and trophies of various awards won. No big deal right? Well, on display are two real Oscar statues-as in what you receive when you win an Academy Award. Why would Kudelski (2001 revenues $290 million, 425 employees) have not one, but two of these? I'm sure it has to do with one of the businesses they're in: developing, producing and selling audio recording equipment along with smart cards and pay television devices.

Catherine Hugon, Corporate Communications Manager, answers questions and gives me a tour of the place. It's nothing fancy and it may have sometime to do with the fact the building was built for research and development. That, Hugon says, explains why the elevator we take up to check out the boardroom on the top floor looks and feels like a freight elevator. The table in the boardroom is six-sided and is of a not very often seen color--blue. A bowl of chocolate covered raisins centers the table with four real plants scattered about the room. CEO Andre Kudelski's middle office is near the boardroom. Kudelski's in a meeting but Hugon takes me to the office next door so I can see the view he sees: 20 miles in the distance, past beautiful farmlands, the snow-capped Jura Mountains rise up.

About 300 people work here, parking isn't a problem with management getting reserved spots. Smoking is allowed, there's no corporate art collection or corporate aircraft and no formal dress code. Cyclists have covered parking and in the summer employees get supplied with free apples (locally grown). Meeting rooms have names such as the Sunrise room, Sunset room, and Jura room (Jura Mountains).