SGS


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.