Some years ago, when I was working at General Mills headquarters in Minneapolis, I began a new project and had as a Sourcing Department team member a young man named Nick Ariens. At dinner during our first project business trip, I asked him if he was related to THE Arienses, of mower and snowblower fame, and he admitted he was. (He avoided telling me he’s the son of the CEO, Dan Ariens, though.) I asked him what he was doing with General Mills and he explained that no Ariens family member is allowed to go to work for the company until he’s proven his chops elsewhere. I found that awfully impressive. I just discovered this old article recently that spells this philosophy out in more detail.

I’ve stayed in touch with Nick as he left General Mills to get his MBA in Europe, went and helped run a part of the family business in Australia, and finally came home to Wisconsin, where he’s now Director of Product Management. I also had the pleasure of trading some electronic communications with his dad Dan a few years ago on the very important topic of whiskey. Both are salt of the earth types I’d love to have a beer with (or maybe some of that fantastic Bulleit Rye…)

You don’t hear too much about Ariens in the national news. In a world where big companies seem to talk more about “Corporate Social Responsibility” than about actually running a working business, I find this impressive too. All companies talk about their values; from everything I can find about the Ariens family and employees, they actually live them. And rather than trying to save the world, it seems, they’re much more interested in what they can do to strengthen their own communities. The Fab Lab the company supported at the high school there in their headquarters town of Brillion, Wisconsin, looks “fab” indeed.

Here’s a great video of my pal Nick’s dad Dan talking about all of that. Nice work.