Glaverbel SA

Glaverbel is the European branch of Japan-based Asahi Glass Company, the world's biggest maker of glass. I normally don't visit subsidiaries but thought it might have an interesting head office. Glaverbel revenues in 2004 totaled two billion euros and commands a workforce of over 16,000 in Europe.

I'm about five miles from downtown Brussels on a tree-lined street with small office and embassy buildings (Brussels is the capital of Belgium). Home for Glaverbel is a circular five-story building. Built in 1961 by Glaverbel it was sold and now the company is only one of multiple building tenants. It is still a famous and well-known building due to its unusual circular design.

After getting directions from the building receptionist I make my way to Glaverbel's first floor reception area. A brown hardwood floor and walls of spiffy-looking green laminated glass greet visitors. I take a seat while the receptionist finds out who ended up with my letter of introduction mailed to CEO Arthur Ulens a month earlier. Oh boy, I find out smoking is allowed because ash trays are on the coffee tables and there's a side door open and the stench from two smokers smoking permeates the waiting area.

Benoit Ligot, Corporate Communications, is the one answering my questions. About 200 employees work here. The cafeteria is shared with other building tenants, meeting rooms are name after company products, smoking in offices is optional and parking is first come, first serve (except for senior management). It's three miles to the nearest freeway, 15 miles to Brussels airport and there's no corporate aircraft. The circular building contains a large grassy well-maintained courtyard area with trees however, it's for looking only as it's off- limits to everyone. Commuting cyclists enjoy covered parking, there's no formal dress code, no corporate art collection or onsite recreational facilities. CEO Ulrens occupies a top floor office (there are no corner offices since it's a circular building) with a view of the street.

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