Mobistar S.A.

Normally I visit only parent companies and not subsidiaries but thought it might be fun visiting a competitor to Belgacom, the government-owned phone company in Belgium. Mobistar, with 1.1 billion euros in revenues and 1,600 employees is owned by France Telecom, another government controlled phone company.

I show up at a complex of two four or five-story reflective glass buildings thinking it's the head office of Mobistar but, learn it's about a mile away so off I go.

Don't see the company name or logo on the eight-story building clad in glass though there is a small sign near the sidewalk with the Mobistar name on it. It's a mixed-use area with office buildings mixed in with apartment buildings. Entering the building one has to pass a gauntlet of employees puffing away outside the entrance. We're not talking about a few smokers as I count more than 25! The company-owned structure was built in 1996 and has been occupied by Mobistar for the past four or five years

After explaining myself to the friendly receptionist I take a seat in the waiting area and plop down on one of the 15 V-shaped, black chairs. A tall vase of flowers sits on the reception counter. From my seat it's non-stop action watching the constant stream of employees slipping outside for a quick smoke–it's like watching druggies getting their fix.

Olivier Lechien, Head of Corporate Communications, is my contact person and he's a real nice guy. I mention the smokers and Lechien says there's a designated smoking room but most people prefer going outside. Between 800-1,000 people work in the building. Employee parking is free, there's no onsite recreational facilities-though showers are available, no corporate art collection, no formal dress code and covered parking for commuting cyclists. Hot food is served in the company cafeteria, smoking isn't allowed in offices, it's about four miles to downtown Brussels, four miles to Brussels airport and 200 meters to the nearest freeway. Any employee perks? Use of mobile phone (with minutes) is practically free.

CEO Bernard Moscheni occupies a second floor corner office. I count two plants (real), a picture of his daughter and note the computer. What does he see looking out his window? A view of the street.

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