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Chicago Tribune highlights recent graduate's career path

By Kari VanDerVeen
August 24, 2012

As Colin Piepho '12 wrapped up his senior year at St. Olaf College, he knew he had to choose between two companies he loved: General Mills, where he had interned and been offered a full-time job, or his family's 60-year-old moving and storage business.

His decision — and the ensuing career path it put him on — were featured this summer in a Chicago Tribune article titled "Joining the family business takes planning, hard work." The piece points out that recent college graduates who join their family's business are most successful if they've had other work experiences and think carefully about how they can add value to the company. 

The Chicago Tribune notes that Piepho joined his family's business having done both:

For Colin Piepho, director of corporate strategy at Piepho Moving & Storage, the decision to join the company that his grandfather started in 1952 was hardly a no-brainer. He studied economics with a minor in finance in college knowing that he wanted to pursue a business career.

Since he'd been working in the Minnesota-based family business since age 12 cleaning the warehouse, Piepho thought it would be beneficial to get some outside experience. His junior year, he landed a financial analyst internship with General Mills, which eventually led to a full-time job opportunity that Piepho turned down to stick with the family business.

"Working at General Mills was great, and it made the decision that much harder," Piepho says. "They're known for great management and employee services. We did a plant tour down in Cedar Rapids, and I remember walking into the warehouse and thinking that one day I wanted to have a warehouse this big, and I wanted it to be mine."

"Long-term, I wanted to make choices about where the company would go and work for myself in the family business," he says.

And Piepho knows that he couldn't have made that decision with such certainty had he not had such a valuable internship experience at General Mills. The company gave him a hands-on learning experience, with projects that included analyzing ways to improve its Box Tops program and building a financial tool to evaluate television advertising.

"I was able to work with very talented and intelligent people who cared about their work and their co-workers," Piepho says. "I knew I could not find a better corporate opportunity."

Ultimately, though, his heart remained in his family's business.

"Over the course of my summer at General Mills, I realized I missed the role I had in determining the direction and strategy of my family's business," he says. "By entering my family's business, I am able to enter into roles that allow me to determine the company's strategy much earlier in my career than in a larger corporation."

Chicago Tribune excerpt above from an article by Kristyn Schiavone originally published on July 28, 2012.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or vanderve@stolaf.edu.