Spector Photo Group nv

It's a flat bike ride past farmland to reach Wetteren, a town of 20,000 inhabitants about 25 miles northwest of Brussels. Head three miles from Wetteren's city center to a light industrial area and you'll find the head office and a factory of Spector Photo Group. Doing business in a half-dozen countries, publicly-traded Spector does film processing, operates photo-related retail stores and mail order. Revenues in 2004 totaled 358 million euros with 4,500 employees.

It's about noon time when I show up and that's not a good thing because here in Europe everyone takes off for lunch at the same time. In the USA staggered lunches are more common as to not leave various departments unattended or unmanned. Jeez, that means having too wait until 2 PM. I still have to visit a company about 10 miles away and then cycle the 35 miles back to Brussels.

The entrance to the reflective glass four-story building is on the backside of the structure. Checking in with receptionist Cathy Plehiers I explain having sent a letter of introduction a month earlier to CEO Tonny Van Doorslaer. As expected, Plehiers says it's lunchtime and nobody's around. However, I'm in luck as the helpful Plehiers makes a few calls and corrals Chris Van Raemdonck, Secretary-General, into meeting with me. It's a good choice as the accommodating Raemdonck extends a warm welcome. Raemdonck's business card contains a photo of him–something I hadn't seen since visiting Eastman Kodak.

Spector has been on this site since its founding back in 1965. Aerial photos show how the original building has been added on to and expanded over the years. About 300 people work here. There are no onsite-recreational facilities, company cafeteria serves hot food, employee parking is free and plentiful, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace, there's no corporate art collection, no formal dress code, it's three miles to the nearest freeway and no covered parking for your bicycle if you cycle to work.

I can't have a look in CEO Van Doorslaer's office because "he's not in" but we go to a nearby room so I can check out the view when he looks out the window. Not bad at all with a river flowing peacefully past the backside of the building and beautiful farmland in the distance.

Company website: www.spectorphotogroup.com