Scott Sports SA

Fribourg (population 40,000) is home to a large university and that means excellent lanes, paths, trails and routes for cycling. It's a 15-minute bike ride from Fribourg's city center to a light industrial park in suburban Givisiez, home to Scott Sports. If you ride a bicycle, snowboard, ski or motocross, then you've probably heard, used or own equipment from Scott Sports.

Located at the end of a cul-del-sac overlooking a passing freeway, much of the front of the blah-looking, two-story, early-1980's concrete slab structure remains hidden because of several tall pine trees. No exterior signs announce the occupants of the building. I know I'm at the right place thanks to several vehicles in the parking lot sporting the company's name. With the busy freeway running past one would think putting up a big sign with your company's name on it would be great advertising and a no-brainer. Then again, by doing that Scott Sports would surely have people mistake it for a retail store location and be constantly dropping in.

Hmm, checking in with the receptionist I detect something's amiss this morning. A large number of people are milling about the building's entrance and several large picnic tables seem to have taken up residence in the reception lobby area. I explain who I am and how I sent a letter of introduction a month earlier to CEO Beat Zaugg. The receptionist says I've picked the worst possible day to show up as distributors from all over the world are here for a presentation of the company's new bike models. The receptionist steps away from her post and returns in a few minutes with Ueli Gerber, Export Manager. I explain what I do to Gerber and he also says I've picked the worst possible day to show up. Gerber says it isn't possible to bother CEO Zaugg about where my letter of introduction ended up as he's busy making preparations for the presentation which is due to begin shortly (it's about 10 minutes before the 9AM start).

Explaining that I won't be able to return is falling on deaf ears so I ask for some background information on the company. Gerber directs a woman to gather some material. As we're standing waiting for her to return a man walks by and says "hey, you're the man visiting companies". Pascal Ducrot, Vice President-Bikes & Wintersports, had seen the letter and news clippings sent to CEO Zaugg. It turns out to be a lucky break for me as the very accommodating Ducrot agrees to answer questions and give a quick tour–even though the meeting is due to start in a few minutes (I'm invited to attend the presentation but decline as I'm on a tight schedule).

About 90 people work here and from what I see and learn it looks like a fun place to go to work. Taking the stairway from the lobby to the second floor one encounters a billiard table at the top of the stairs. The company cafeteria, located on the ground floor next to the front entrance, serves hot and cold food at very reasonable prices (partly company subsidized) along with free soda and coffee. Picnic tables in the lobby aren't the norm as they're taking care of today's overflow crowd. Parking is plentiful, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace, there's no formal dress code and it's an hour and a half to Zurich's airport.

Riding up to the building I did a spin around the perimeter and found no bicycle parking. I ask Ducrot how this is possible. Ducrot walks me to the back part of the building, opens a door and there's a huge room filled with employees' bicycles. Close by are shower facilities.

Any unusual employee perks? Getting Scott sports products at cost is nice. Other perks include free health club membership and occasional free passes to events such as music festivals.

I always ask if I can see the CEO's office. CEO Zaugg occupies a large second floor corner office with lots of windows. We catch Zaugg at his desk poring over notes for the presentation. Zaugg gives me a warm welcome but I know he's busy so I do a quick look around and leave. A bike frame sits on a window ledge and a variety of ski equipment (Scott) is scattered about the room. The view out his window? The greenery of the surrounding hillsides, the freeway and nearby residential area.

It's not until writing this story that I realize I hadn't found out who owns this privately-held firm. In 1978 Fribourg became the company's European headquarters because founder Ed Scott had gone to school here. The head office was relocated here from the USA back in 1998 because the company was sold. Unfortunately I was zipping through my questions so fast that I neglected to find out who the new owners are. Americans? Swiss?