Haag-Streit Holding AG

I'm a half-dozen miles from downtown Bern (Switzerland's capital) in the suburb of Koeniz. It's a mixed-use area with one side of the street leading to residential housing with all the trees and greenery that goes with it and on the other side stands a variety of industrial buildings within a block of railroad tracks.

Haag-Streit Holding is the parent company for a slew of concerns manufacturing precision instruments and medical practice equipment. Go see an ophthalmologist and you're more than likely to see the eye doctor using Haag-Streit products.

Built around 1985, the company's name is visible on a large sign near the front of the five-story company-owned structure. There's a "no-smoking" sign when entering the building and the receptionist is aware of my pending visit (she whips out the letter of introduction sent a month earlier to the CEO) and in a few minutes I'm meeting with my contact person; CEO Walter Inaebnit.

Haag-Streit has called the Bern area home since its founding way back in 1858. Roughly 240 people work in the building with the ground floor housing a manufacturing facility. The company does business in more than 90 countries and has more than 900 employees. Smoking isn't allowed in the building, there's no cafeteria but employees get vouchers to use in nearby restaurants and it's 20 minutes to Bern's airport. It's a six minute drive to the nearest freeway, bike commuters enjoy parking in the underground parking garage and there's no formal dress code.

Nothing fancy about Inaebnit's top floor middle office. I note the computer and five real plants. The view out his window? The roof of the ground floor manufacturing facility and several tall downtown Bern buildings are visible in the distance. Near Inaebnit's office is a meeting room that also doubles as a company museum. Lining the perimeter of the room are early, turn-of-the-century models of Haag-Streit products. Afterwards I'm taken for a quick look in the ground floor factory.

I told Inaebnit that for weeks prior to my visit I had been unable to access the company's website. Inaebnit acknowledges they've been having problems. As I write this story I was finally able to get through to www.haag-streit-group.com and realize the site says nothing about the company's revenues or if it's a publicly-held or privately-held firm and dumb me forgot to ask.