Petrol d.d., Ljubljana

What retailer wouldn't mind enjoying a market share of almost 70%? Established in 1945 and state-owned until partially privatized in 1996, Petrol is Slovenia's dominant gasoline retailer with a 68% share of the domestic market. Petrol operates 348 service stations, with 298 of those in Slovenia and the remaining located in Croatia, Serbia and, Bosnia and Herzegovina. With revenues of 1.7 billion Euros, Petrol occupies the top slot in a listing of Slovenia's biggest companies.

The head office for Petrol is a 16-story building located about a mile from downtown Ljubljana (population 300,000) on one of the city's main thoroughfares. It's not hard to find the place thanks to the big reddish-orange and white sign atop the building sporting the name "Petrol" in large letters --which is lit up at night. Unfortunately, as one gets closer the age of the building becomes apparent. Built in the late 1940's or early 1950's, the building hasn't aged well and the exterior has a rundown look to it.

My contact person is Alenka Vrhovnik Tezak, the company's Chief Financial Officer. How do I know this? My letter of introduction mailed a month earlier to CEO Marko Kryzanowski was passed on to Ms. Tezak, who let me know via e-mail that the letter had been received and that she's my contact person.

I check-in with the two unsmiling security guards manning the reception desk and am soon passing through the security turnstiles up to the seventh floor. It's an enjoyable visit thanks to the personable Ms. Tezak. Matter of fact, it's also a fattening visit. Why? While going through my list of questions with Tezak I'm also eating a delicious piece of pie she's furnished for each of us. It's similar to apple strudel but with a custard-like filling mixed-in and it's very good. I'm also very appreciative of Tezak agreeing to meet today-especially since it's her first day back from vacation.

Total employees at Petrol number 2,800 with 400 of those working in this building. Senior management gets reserved parking spots, smoking isn't allowed in offices and there's no formal dress code. Thanks to the company cafeteria being located on the top floor employees enjoy panoramic views of the area. It's a 15-minute walk to the city center (old town), a 10-walk to the train station and 25 miles to Ljubljana's airport.

I can't see the boardroom or CEO Kryzanowski's 7th floor corner office down the hall from Tezak's due to meetings going on. What's the view out Kryzanowski's window? The city center.

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