Valora Holding AG
There's a good chance when you stop at a kiosk to grab a newspaper,
candy or cigarettes in Switzerland you'll be doing business with
Valora Holding. The company operates almost 1,500 kiosks and,
as a wholesaler, supplies 5,000 private kiosks, food shops and
gas stations with newspapers, magazines, food and non-food items.
Valora also has kiosks in Germany, Luxembourg and, provides photo
processing and distribution in seven countries in Europe and
the USA. Revenues in 2001 were $1.75 billion with 9.600 employees.
Headquarters is a blah-looking, eight-story, late 1950's building
about five miles from downtown Bern. It's a mixed-used area with
lots of lower-end apartments and industrial companies.
Surprisingly, there's no bowl of candy on the receptionist's
desk but there's a silver vase with lilies. The small lobby contains
a flat screen television monitor showing company info and there's
quite a few magazines to peruse while you wait. Unfortunately
for me, the magazines (Billanz, Der Spiegel, Facts, Focus) are
all in German.
Stefania Mistell, Head of Corporate Communications, answers questions
and gives me a tour. About 100 people work here but Mistell says
the company is looking to move in the near future. Parking isn't
a problem, smoking is allowed in the offices and the company
cafeteria is located on the top floor. One of the reasons for
being here is its location: two minutes to the nearest freeway
and four minutes to the nearby train stop.
CEO Reto Hartmann's modest sixth floor corner office contains
family pictures and one real plant. The view? Train tracks run
behind the property.
Leaving, I kid Mistell about the funny-looking sculpture in the
lobby. It's an antique horse plow shovel with several unrelated
contraptions attached to it. The plaque reads "Valora Management
School 1, November 2000". I assumed it was suppose to be
a joke as in making fun of all those corny works of art one sees
in museums. Wrong. Mistell says the company does have a management
school and this was a class project. Oops.