Kuehne & Nagel Management AG

With revenues in 2003 of $7.4 billion and over 20,000 employees, Kuehne & Nagel isn't exactly small potatoes. I was suppose to visit the company back in 2002 but didn't make it. Why? I was too tired. Kuehne & Nagel's head office is in Schindellegi, a village high above Lake Zurich. It was 4 PM and I had already ridden 60 miles with 20 more miles to go before reaching Zurich for the night. I was at the lakefront and saw the sign and road leading up to Schindellegi. I looked upward and way, way up on the mountain I could make out a large building. Jeez, I said to myself, it'll take at least a good hour trudging up there with my loaded down bike and I might not make it before 5 PM. Though publicly-traded, it's essentially a family-owned business with Klaus-Michael Kuehne, grandson of the company co-founder, controlling through various companies 79% of the shares. What if I do make it up there only to be given the brush-off? I kept cycling on to Zurich.

So here it is 2004, I'm in Zurich and tomorrow plan on cycling to Kuehne & Nagel. However, the weather forecast calls for heavy rains the whole day. I go to Zurich's train station and find out a train makes a stop in Schindellegi. Switzerland's infrastructure and public transportation system is simply amazing and I'd rate it the best in Europe if not the world. Besides trains just about going everywhere and with hour or half-hour frequencies, they're also bicycle friendly. I can pretty much wheel my bike onto most trains. Try doing that in the USA where you need a reservation, the bike needs to be boxed and you're lucky if there's one train a day going where you want.

Around 8:30 AM my bike and I are deposited at Schindellegi's train station. As you can see in the picture accompanying this story, which was taken from the train platform, the large black-glassed building in the distance is Kuehne & Nagel's head office. Unfortunately what you can't see because it started to rain, is the spectacular view of Lake Zurich and the surrounding terrain.

After checking in with receptionist Janine Ritschard I take a seat in the waiting area. On a wall is a large map of the world with tiny lights that light up everywhere the company has operations–which is something like 100 countries. Several colorful pieces of art also line the walls. In a few minutes I'm meeting with Thomas Kepler, Vice President-Corporate Human Resources Management Development. Though Kepler hadn't seen my advance material sent a month earlier to CEO Klaus Herms I'm given a warm welcome and an excellent reception.

The company's roots go back to 1890 in Bremen, Germany. How did Kuehne & Nagel end up here? It seems members of Kuehne family vacationed here, loved it and thought, why not? The four-story building was built in the 1980's and in 1992 became home to Kuehne & Nagel. About 130 people work here, parking is plentiful, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace though smoking areas are provided and there's no company cafeteria–though cold sandwiches can be purchased in the large break room. There's a formal dress code, covered parking for cyclists and, on-site shower facilities but no recreational facilities. It's a 30-minute drive to downtown Zurich, 45 minutes to Zurich's airport and five minutes to the nearest freeway.

CEO Herms occupies a large corner office with a terrace. I count one plant (real) and a computer. The view out his window? Stepping out onto the terrace he's owns a spectacular view of Lake Zurich.

Company website: www.kuehne-nagel.com