Wow, it's an amazing transformation
at SGS, the world's largest verification, testing and certification
services company. When I visited the head office six years ago
the building was looking real rundown with shabby furnishings,
peeling paint and the woman I met with from corporate communications
was actually whispering to me because she was afraid of getting
into trouble. After starting to answer my questions she called
it off saying the company liked to keep a low profile.
Now, it's a whole other story. The 200-year old historic building
a block from Lake Geneva underwent a complete inside and outside
renovation plus, a spiffy-looking all glass addition has been
attached on to the backside.
I can't believe the major change of the insides with bright colors
on the walls, vases filled with fresh flowers on coffee tables
and the modernistic furnishings. Visitors can sit on 12 black
sofa chairs. A large sign when you enter announces the company's
new logo. There's a phone on a table in the lobby and it contains
employee names and their extension numbers-I see CEO Sergio Marchionne's
listed. Hey, what's going on here? Well, I think it has to do
with CEO Marchionne. He's new, brought change and you can just
feel it in the air.
Founded in 1878, the company employs 32,000 and in 2001 had revenues
of $1.5 billion.
Jean-Luc de Buman, Senior Vice President, answers my questions
and his assistant gives a tour of the place. I like the company
cafeteria, which is located on the top floor of the new five-story,
see-through glass addition. The cool part is the large outdoor
terrace where you can eat, soak up the sun and have a splendid
view of Lake Geneva.
It's a mile to the nearest freeway, there's a flagpole out front,
it's a mile and a half to Geneva Airport, there's covered parking
for commuting cyclists, senior management gets reserved parking
in a parking garage next door and meeting rooms are named after
precious stones such as the Emerald Room, Diamond Room, Jade
Room and Onyx Room.
CEO Marchionne's second floor corner office contains two real
plants, two laptops and a view of a small park out front. The
boardroom contains an elongated table seating 18, no plants and
a fireplace-the later is no longer used but is part of the 200-year
old structure. Matter of fact, we go up to the top floor of the
old building so I can have a look at the huge timbered beams
still spanning the room.