BDO Global Coordination B.V.

The pecking order of accounting firms is pretty well known, First, you have the "top tier" firms or Big Four (Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu-with $16 billion in revenues, PricewaterhouseCoopers also with $16 billion in revenues, Ernst & Young with $14 billion and KPMG with $13 billion). Then, there's a dramatic gap in revenues between the Big Four and the next group or "second tier" of players headed by BDO International ($3 billion in revenues) and Grant Thornton $2 billion).

It's a few minutes before 8AM when I show up at the five-story building BDO Global Coordination calls home. The building has late 1970's or early1980's written all over it. No flashy signs with company names or logos are visible on the exterior. A block away stands a large regional shopping center (a local tells me it's the biggest in Brussels).

The building directory outside the entrance shows multiple tenants occupying space with several BDO divisions located on different floors. You have to be buzzed into the building so I buzz the buzzer next to the one that reads "BDO Global Coordination Office". No response. I buzz another BDO name and a man's voice comes over the speaker (in French) and I say I'm here to visit BDO. The door opens and I walk in. Hmm, there's no reception desk, no lights on or for that matter anyone around. After a few minutes a side door opens and my unexpected presence startles the woman. I explain who I am and how I mailed a letter of introduction a month earlier to CEO Frans Samyn. I'm in luck as this friendly and cheerful woman turns out to be Samyn's secretary.

BDO International has a total staff of over 25,000 located in 621 offices and 105 countries. Here, the office staff numbers12. I learn these figures talking to Tomek Helbin, International Communications Assistant sitting in one of the conference rooms. BDO has been headquartered here since 1988. Smoking isn't allowed in offices, employee parking is sufficient, there's no onsite recreational facilities or company cafeteria though there is a break room with kitchen. It's five minutes to the nearest freeway, 15 minutes (four miles) to Brussels airport and 30 minutes (five miles) to downtown Brussels. No corporate aircraft and no formal dress code-though ties are required.

Taking a look in CEO Samyn first floor corner office I count three family pictures, two plants (real) and note the laptop computer. What does he see when looking out his window? An unexciting view of the building next door.

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