Just when I thought there were no surprises left in El Cerrito: CEO Tuck
By Betty King Buginas
Iím driving down San Pablo Avenue and I see these guys putting up a sign
that says Lander International on the front of a building at the intersection
of Jefferson Avenue. I pull over, thinking maybe someone is opening a
new business and I'll get a quick photo.
I introduce myself to one of the guys, Richard Tuck, and he explains
heís had a computer business in the building for about 10 years and owned
the building for the past two, and is only replacing the sign because
it was taken down while the building was being repainted. The business,
he says, is one of the fastest growing in the country (#290 in 1998 according
to Inc. 500).
But the real interesting thing, he says, is this fun house in the back.
By the time we get to the parking lot heís telling me about how a circus
winters here with him. A few more steps and I find out thereís a guy in
El Cerrito who puts out a weekly circus publication, and how the guy --
Don Marcks -- made an elaborate model circus with his father.
ďHere, Iíll show you,Ē says Tuck. He leads me through a sort of plywood
maze that I take to mean something is still under construction back here,
and we walk past tables and tables of little circus tents and elephants
and such, and then we come to this room where a bunch of guys are playing
pinball machines. On the wall hangs a wooden figure that came from the
Mr. Toadís Wild Ride at Walt Disney World.
The guys are apparently with the circus -- Circus Chimera -- as are the
two guys who were putting up the sign. The circus, I learn from a guy
in another office, is getting ready to go to Hawaii. The room with the
mini circus and pinball machines isnít new competition for Chuck E. Cheese,
as I might have assumed, but apparently just a place for circus guys to
hang out when they arenít in the big top and to bring groups of underprivileged
people who catch Tuckís attention.
Being the trained journalist I am Iím trying to make some sense of this
all, knowing eventually I will want to try to organize it all into a story.
But the more questions I ask the more confused I get. So I ask again what
exactly his company does and he explains they recruit employees for businesses.
Now weíre getting somewhere, a light goes on, and I say, ďOh, youíre a
headhunter!Ē They are a leader in recruiting people who specialize in
eradicating computer viruses, he says.
Later, though, after we talked some more about the circus magazine and
how Tuck helped bring the circus to the Plaza for a performance, he tosses
in that his firm does consulting as well and what he really does
is go around giving seminars on how the best way to attract employees
to your company is by making it a fun place to work -- by doing things
like having an arcade in the back room.
In another room is employee Chris Lufkin, who acknowledges that Tuck
is a different kind of guy, not easy to explain, though she attempts to
do so. She ended up working for him after meeting him at a party for her
husbandís firm, which does business with Lander International. Then she
tells about the time he took all the employees to Disneyworld and the
time she didnít feel like working because it was her anniversary so she
went in back and took a pinball break. That was of course OK with the
boss, who describes himself as being a 12-year-old on the inside. Oh,
and if you think his office environment is unusual, his home includes
things like hundreds of wizards and a whole village of miniature Victorian
"He is truly a man with a heart of gold and he wears it on his sleeve!
He is someone who promotes having fun daily, which is such a healthy attitude!"
"Richard Tuck cares about people and tries to make a difference
in as many people's lives as possible, if only for a day of their life."
she says. "He continues to teach me something almost daily which
helps me grow both personally and professionally. He spreads joy to anyone
he comes in contact with. "
Just when you think you know everything there is to know about El Cerrito
you find out itís home to one of the fastest growing companies in the
country, with a decidedly unconventional CEO, itís the winter home of
a circus, and home base of a weekly circus magazine.
And thank goodness for hypertext because it would be difficult to even
begin to describe Tuck without it:
500 feature on Tuck
Inc. 500 article that tells some of his philosophy (use Find command and
put in Tuck)
* Lander International
Circus Report: Don Marcks, 525 Oak Street, El Cerrito, CA 94530-3699
Run dates: 1999-12-30 - 2000-02-07