Zehnder Group Management AG

It's a drizzly morning as I make my way to the edge of town in Graenichen. Surrounded by peaceful and colorful farmland, this town of maybe 4,000 inhabitants isn't difficult to navigate since there's only one main road. The head office of Zehnder Group stands alongside this road and next door to one of its factories.

Zehnder Group, with 2003 revenues of 362 million Euros and over 2,500 employees, makes radiators. Not the kind found in cars but those used in heating homes and buildings. Do you have a towel heating rack in the bathroom or seen one in a hotel? That's them also. Founded here in Graenichen back in 1895, this publicly-traded company is still controlled by the Zehnder family.

Elisabeth Oberli, secretary to CEO Hans-Peter Zehnder, extends a warm welcome and tour of the two-story structure built in 1994. Upon entering the building I could tell right away smoking is permitted because the stench of tobacco is heavy in the air. Not a very pleasant experience for non-smoking visitors.

Fifteen people work here, parking is plentiful, there's no formal dress code, no corporate aircraft, no onsite recreational facilities and, cyclists enjoy covered parking. A few minutes walk in a building separate from the factory stands the company cafeteria. Oberli rates the cafeteria food as "excellent" and employees can even sit outside. It's five miles to the nearest freeway and 40 miles to Zurich's airport.

The desk and chairs in CEO Zehnder's second floor middle office are black, the walls white and the carpet rose-colored. I note the computer, fake small tree along with three clown paintings and a picture of a motorcycle. The view out his window? The company factory next door.

Taking the stairs from the first to second floors surprises first time visitors because one doesn't expect to see a polished and gleaming motorcycle on display. What's the story? Back in the early 1920's until the late 1930's the company manufactured its own line of motorcycles, which explains the motorcycle picture in CEO Zehnder's office.

We take a walk next door to the showroom in the factory. Jeez, I didn't know radiators came in so many shapes, sizes and colors. Also on display are two more splendidly restored Zehnder motorcycles.

Company website: www.zehndergroup.com