Post 200 Roadshow: Corporate Executive Board

Welcome to a new feature we're calling the Post 200 Roadshow. Each week or so we plan to drop in on the region's biggest companies, nonprofits, employers and law and lobby firms to have a look around and chat up their executives. This week, we stop by the Corporate Executive Board, a publicly traded firm that provides research briefs, seminars and decision-making support to companies and nonprofits around the world. You can check out the Post 200 here.

By Terri Rupar

If you could design your own office building, what would it look like?

That was the challenge that faced Corporate Executive Board when it was putting together its, 625,000-square-foot, 24-story building in Rosslyn. About 1,600 to 1,700 employees work at the building on North Lynn Street, just across the river from Georgetown and a quick walk from the Metro.

The building is not 100 percent green, but the granite for the walls in the large, echoing lobby is from Virginia, and lots of recycled materials were used. Jo Ann Ruckel, CEB's managing director for support services, said the company went for durability, functionality and reasonable cost.

When deciding how the building would look inside, CEB had to take into account the needs of its employees and its members. Some of its employees travel a lot, so while they don't need a spacious office in the headquarters, they do need a home base. Further, the company has leased the building for 20 years, so the structure needs to be able to grow and change with CEB. And CEB needs convenient, secure ways to communicate with its members, whether they're in the building or not.

Andrew Blasidell shows us around. This staircase connecting the 22nd through 24th floors is set to open soon. (Photos by Terri Rupar - The Washington Post)

Reporter Tom Heath and I went for a visit. Our two main hosts were Tracey Reina, CEB's director of brand and public relations,* and Andrew Blaisdell of corporate communications, which deals mostly with in-house communications.

Andrew says he did a lot of work helping figure out what the staff wanted in the new building and letting them know what was going on with it, and soothing any possible fears over moving from the District (the company's main building was at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, but it had four others in the District) to Arlington.

Jill Goebel, a senior designer with design and architecture firm Gensler, met us later to explain how her firm tried to accommodate CEB's wishes. Offices are in the core of the building; even chief executive Tom Monahan doesn't have a corner office. The middle of the building, around the elevator, reflects what's key to the company and won't change as long as the firm is there. For example, kitchenettes and phone rooms are in the core of each staff floor.

Further out, around the perimeter, everything can change. Carpet squares can pull up and allow easy access to electrical work. All walls can be moved to make offices bigger or smaller or move them a few feet over. Employees who travel a lot have smaller cubicles, while others have more space. And the pipes in the ceiling aren't all covered up; the minimum material was used for the right feel and acoustics, Goebel said. "We wanted to start eroding all the built barriers," she said. There are six tele- and videoconference rooms in the building to allow secure communication with members - they even have soundproof doors.

The view from the 24th floor

Oh, and there's the view. As far as I could tell, there's not a window (at least from the fourth floor up) that doesn't offer a view of the Potomac River. CEB is, of course, hosting a 4th of July party. And Blaisdell said that some nights, if he's there late, he sees the fireworks from the Nationals' stadium.

The 23rd and 24th floors are largely devoted to CEB's clients, which the company refers to as "members." Reina and Blaisdell said the location is good because executives can zip over from Reagan National Airport. They can stay at the Palomar Hotel next door; a walkway connects the two buildings. There are two classrooms, computer stations in the hallways and a dining area on the 24th floor. No members were there while we were, but Annette Hewlett, the meetings director, said the company has been running two sessions a day for most of the month.

The grill station in CEB's cafeteria.

Melody Jones, CEB's chief human resources officer, told us that one of the biggest complaints when the company was spread out across five buildings in the District was the lack of a good cafeteria. The company has made up for that in its new digs. There's a salad bar, grill, sandwich station and international foods station. Reina said they've had a sushi station before, too. Top executives including Monahan eat there regularly, she said.

CEB is known for hiring people just out of college (CEB calls them "fresh outs") and working them hard. But, Jones said, they know they'll work hard. The average employee age is 29.1; about a year ago, it was just over 28. The company is building its ranks of mid- and senior-level employees as well as continuing to hire the "fresh outs." It focuses on top schools and top performers.

HR head Melody Jones

So how does CEB recruit them? If these fresh outs go to a big consulting firm, they'll get deep expertise in a topic. But, Jones said, if they come to CEB, they'll get to work with top executives much earlier in their career. Jones said the biggest upside of working at CEB is "getting to do really cool work with really bright people."

The view doesn't hurt, either.

*CORRECTION: I had Tracey Reina as director of marketing, but she is actually director of brand and public relations.

By Terri Rupar  |  June 27, 2008; 10:00 AM ET  | Category:  Post 200 Roadshow
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