Family and business values are the basic foundation upon which the Ariens Company was built, but it was Dan Ariens who took it to the next level. Ariens grew up in the family business, as did his father, and his grandfather before him.
As a matter of fact, Dan?s great grandfather started an iron works business in 1893; unfortunately, this business was wiped out during the depression. Great grandfather, along with grandfather, started the Ariens Company in 1932, originally making tillers for the agricultural market. That was 73 years ago. Dan is the fourth generation Ariens to work in this privately-held family business.
The Ariens name has been in the business community of Brillion, Wisconsin for more than 112 years. In those years, the basic business values were just as important as today. It was taken for granted-- when you gave someone your word, you lived by it. ?It was better than a signed piece of paper,? remarks Dan. ?That was the way we were brought up; today, we call them ?core values?.?
Dan Ariens will be the first to tell you that he did not conceive the philosophy that guides the Ariens Company. In simple words, hard work, honesty, ethics, and integrity was inbred within the family. He will tell you that he remembers his grandfather, as well as his father, Mike, living by the same principles.
When Dan?s father Mike received his MBA, his first job was as personal assistant to Irwin Miller, president of Cummins Engines. He was on the road to a career in another business. A few years later, Mike?s father, Dan?s grandfather, asked Mike if he would consider coming back to Brillion, Wisconsin to help in the family business. ?Had my father not made that decision, I probably would not be here today,? says Dan.
With a formal education in business, and some experience from the time he spent at Cummins Engines, Mike joined the company. He was instrumental in establishing and writing the standards and systems for the company. Eventually, Mike took over the reins of the company while Dan was growing up and going to school. Following his graduation from high school, he enrolled in St. Thomas University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, graduating in 1981 with a degree in business and finance.
Possibly because of Mike?s experience while working for Cummins, Ariens has a company policy of not hiring family members immediately out of school. If they wish to work in the business, they have to work outside the company for a minimum of two years. So, Dan took a position with a distributing company in Minneapolis.
In 1984, he joined the family business. His first position was in the marketing department of Gravely, a division of Ariens. Over the next 14 years, Dan Ariens held hands-on jobs that touched every phase of the business, from sales and marketing to engineering, to running a manufacturing plant, etc. He realized he was gaining experience and developing the expertise to be able to head up a company. It is an awesome task with many responsibilities. However, the heaviest responsibility is to all the people that work for the company. They have their livelihood at stake.
So when Dan was elected president and chief executive officer of the Ariens Company in 1998, he began to refine what would be the culture of the company. Mike, by the way, moved up to the position of chairman of the board, and is still active with the company.
It seems that since he was a kid, Dan was brought up with these intrinsic values. He didn?t have to study them, he lived them. So it was only natural that when his turn came to head the company, he put down on paper what he had learned all his life. These are what he calls, ?core values.? They are important behaviors: be honest; be fair; keep our commitments; respect the individual; and encourage intellectual curiosity.
He has helped instill these values throughout the company. They have permeated down through their distributors to the landscape contractor. ?We want to do business with people who want to do business with us,? stated Dan. ?In order to do this, we have to gain their trust. We have to be honest with them as well as ourselves, and when we make a commitment, it is imperative that we keep that commitment.?
Those few simple values have grown into a culture, and along the way have helped Ariens grow its business. And grown it has. Today, the Ariens Company vision is;? Passionate People ? Astounded Customers.?
Married to Julie, the Ariens have five children, Nicholas 19, Daniel 17, Stephen 15, Elise 13, and Claire 9. Because of his heavy travel schedule, when he?s at home, Dan and Julie love to do things together as a family. They love to ski, so they take ski weekends. They have a week-end retreat by the lake, and love all the boating activities.
Periodically, Dan will take one of his children on a business trip with him, especially to a trade show. Last year, he brought his second son, Daniel, to the GIE show and then for the beautification awards later that evening. ?I want to give them a choice to develop their own passions. It?s good to expose young people to the business world at an early age. It gives them an opportunity to explore for themselves what business is all about.? Could one of them be the fifth generation of the dynasty called Ariens?
A devout family and spiritual man, a good leader, Dan Ariens is the personification of the best of the best.09/05