Atlantic Grupa d.d.

Atlantic Grupa imports and distributes consumer goods, produces powdered instant vitamin drinks and the sale of sports and health food. Want to buy Duracell batteries, Johnson & Johnson powders, Wrigley chewing gum or Nestle pet foods in Croatia? Then you have to go through Atlantic. Revenues total 185 million euros with 1,200 employees.

Atlantic occupies one and a half floors of space in the six-story Eurocenter, an office building built in 2005. It's a prime building. How do I know this? IBM has offices here and from my travels around the world I've found IBM only occupies Class A space. Eurocenter also occupies a prime location with Zagreb's train station a block away and Ulica Grada Vukovara, one of the city's premier streets for businesses to be located on, a half-block away.

Walking into the building I'm immediately met by the overwhelming stench of tobacco. To the immediate left is a coffee/smoking bar. It's open seating with about a dozen tables and no walls separating the café from the rest of the lobby. Must be a dozen people puffing away. I pass the reception desk for the building and attempt to make my way to the elevators but, I'm stopped by receptionist, Martina Kosovec. She first wants to see some identification (my passport is produced and she copies down information). Then I explain what I do and how I sent a letter of introduction five weeks earlier to CEO Emil Tedeschi. Kosovec makes a call and I'm told to wait. After 10 minutes Kosovec gets a call saying Atlantic knows nothing about my letter but if I wait 15 minutes or so Davor Kunc, who heads corporate communications, will come down. I agree. However, I tell receptionist Kosovec that I'll wait outside as the stench from all the cigarette smoking is giving me a headache as well as stinking up my body and clothes.

Kunc comes outside and I explain that I'm avoiding the smokers. So, what does Kunc do? He invites me inside to a table in the smoky coffee bar to answer my questions! Just as we sit down in a corner table somewhat away from the smokers a group of six women grab the table next to ours and all of them proceed to pull out cigarettes and light up. This is not good.

About 120 people work here. Senior management enjoys reserved parking, meeting rooms are named after company brands and smoking isn't allowed in offices. There's no parking for employees who commute to work via bicycle, it's a 15 minute walk to Zagreb's city center, a 20 minute drive to the nearest freeway and Zagreb airport and, employees get zero discounts on company products. There's a cafeteria on the top floor that's open to building tenants.

I can't see CEO Tedeschi's corner office on the second floor or the oval-shaped boardroom that seats 15. Why? Kunic says the local media is always trying to write stories about Tedeschi and the company doesn't allow anyone to see such things. Well, that sets me off and tell Kunic that his excuse about not being able to see CEO Tedeschi's office is lame. "Over the past 20 years I've visited almost 4,000 companies around the world and have seen the CEO's offices of many of the world's biggest companies. To be honest with you; your company is rinky-dink in size. I come all the way from California to visit Atlantic and give you exposure and the best you can do is give me a few minutes in a stinky public lobby? I don't even get to see your reception area!"

Here's this company that's sells powdered instant vitamin drinks and sports food yet, rents space in building reeking of tobacco. I'm sorry but in my view there's something out of whack.

Every company visited in Croatia came up with the same excuse; that they never received my letter of introduction. Why is it that the hotels I wrote to in Croatia for accommodations received my letters? Methinks it has more to do with the way business is done in Croatia. I heard Croatia was known for its secrecy and lack of transparency but this is ridiculous.

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