Endress + Hauser (International) Holding AG

I'm six miles from downtown Basel in an industrial area of suburban Reinbach. I'm here to visit Endress + Hauser, a family-owned business with revenues in 2003 of 734 million Euros and over 6,000 employees. What does the company do? Endress + Hauser make instrumentation and measurement systems with the capabilities to monitor flow, pressure and temperature.

A large factory facility surrounds the four-story head office building (built in the 1970's). Visitors enter the building via a new reception area. Built in 2003, the spacious and impressive lobby features a spiffy waterfall flowing over glass. Black chairs and sofas compliment the orange carpet in the waiting area. The best part? The "no smoking" signs. In the picture accompanying this story (click on it to enlarge) the entry is to the left of the several colorful stick-like figures (art sculpture). That's my bike next to one of the three flagpoles.

Checking in with the receptionist I explain sending a letter of introduction a month earlier to CEO Klaus Endress. Calls are made and it's followed by bad news, "no one has time for you". "Aw jeez", I mutter, "this is my only chance to visit the company". As I prepare to leave, the receptionist says to hold on while she makes more calls. Bingo! thanks to the receptionist's perseverance I'm soon meeting with Monique Juillerat, Corporate Public Relations. Note: I regret to say I didn't catch the name of this very helpful receptionist.

It turns out Juillerat is the one who ended up with the letter of introduction sent to CEO Endress but, was in a meeting when I arrived. The accommodating Juillerat extends a warm welcome and gives a tour of the place. About 900 people work here. Employee parking is free, there's covered parking for cyclists, smoking is allowed in the workplace and, there's no formal dress code. From the reception area one can look over the railing and see the snazzy new company cafeteria on the lower level. Bright and nicely furnished, employees have the option of eating outside with the view of a grassy courtyard. Though there are no on-site recreational facilities, showers are available. It's two minutes to the nearest freeway, 30 minutes to Basel's airport and 20 minutes to Basel's city center.

I can't see the top floor corner office of CEO Klaus Endress because "he's not here". Georg H. Endress, then only 29 years old, co-founded the company back in 1953 with Ludwig Hauser (then 58). In 1995 Georg Endress handed over the reins of management to his son, Klaus.

Last year (2003) Endress + Hauser celebrated its 50th birthday and watches commemorating this special event were handed out. Lucky me gets presented with one of the cool-looking watches. However, I neglect to tell Juillerat something that's quite ironic. In the past two years I've visited (so far) over 130 Swiss watch companies (and counting). The number one question I'm asked by people is: How many watches have you been given? The answer: 0 as in zero. So, the first and only watch given to me is by a company having no connection at all with the watch industry.

Company website: www.endress.com