Bosal International NV

Lummen, population 20,000, lies 25 miles east of Brussels just about where two freeways intersect. It's in a light industrial park next to one of the freeways where I find the headquarters of Bosal International. A sign near the road lets visitors know they've found the place but you can't enter the fenced-in property until the gated entry is opened.

In the reception area I spot a flat screen TV screen on a wall, six blue chairs and a display with19 toys cars in the lobby. Why the toy cars? Bosal's main business is the manufacture of car exhausts systems. Revenues totaled $871 million in 2004 with 5,400 employees. Bosal also manufactures steel tubing, tow bars and rack systems.

I mailed my letter of introduction six weeks ago to CEO Karel Bos but the receptionist says Bos as well as just about everybody else is on vacation. However, I'm in luck out as Manfred Nowak, O.E. Sales Director, agrees to meet with me. The "O.E." on his business card stand for "Original Equipment".

Besides this being the head office there's also a factory in the rear. Built in 1989, a total of 200 people work in the head office/factory. Employee parking is free and plentiful, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace, there's no onsite recreational facilities, no corporate aircraft, no formal dress code and workers who ride bicycles to work enjoy covered parking. There's a break room but no company cafeteria, it's two minutes to the nearest freeway, 10 minutes to downtown Lummen and a 45 minute drive to Brussels airport.

Karel Bos founded Bosal back in 1923, then his son, also named Karel Bos took over. Now, the grandson of the founder, who's also named Karel Bos, is the CEO. Was there a Mr. Bosal? No, it's the combination of the "Bos" family name and "Al" the name of a town in the Netherlands.

CEO Bos occupies a corner office next to the front entrance. Why there? It's standard company procedure. Go to anyone of the company's more than 30 factories around the world and you'll find the factory's boss occupying an office next to the front door. Checking out Bos' office I note several family pictures, one plant (real) and a computer. What's the view out his window? A boring view of the parking lot.

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