Skip to main content

Leading an industry by following golden rule

Wisconsin-based distributor Nelson-Jameson seeks to maintain values while growing national partnerships

share arrow printer bookmark flag

May 13, 2024

MARSHFIELD – For more than 75 years, Nelson-Jameson, Inc. has supplied products to American food, dairy and beverage processors.

Mike Rindy, president of Nelson-Jameson, said the average consumer likely doesn’t know about Nelson-Jameson – but said he’s perfectly happy serving from behind the scenes.

“We don’t make cheese, we don’t make food and we don’t do food processing – but without us, it doesn’t happen,” Rindy said. “So, while we might not get the spotlight all the time, we are part of the distribution and play a big role in the dairy and food processing industry.”

Nelson-Jameson’s corporate office is located at 3200 S. Central Ave. in Marshfield, along with one of its distribution centers. 

The company also has distribution centers in Jerome, Idaho; Turlock, California; and Amarillo, Texas.

From these locations, Rindy said, Nelson-Jameson can distribute more than 80,000 products – “everything from hairnets and boots to ingredients and lab supplies.”

Rindy said the scope and speed of the industry present ongoing challenges.  

However, what does come easy for Nelson-Jameson, he said, is the company’s commitment to operating with compassion and abiding by “the golden rule.”

“A ‘golden rule company’ is how we refer to ourselves,” Rindy said. “It’s about making the right decisions for the right reasons. I think that’s important in businesses these days because you can be influenced by the trend of the day or the loudest voices. But when you make decisions based on what’s right for your people and your customers – based on how you would want to be treated yourself – it becomes a powerful credo for the company.” 

Cultivating success

Rindy was named president of Nelson-Jameson in 2020 and focuses much of his efforts on the company’s future – “not hoping at the end of the year we’ve had a successful year, but guaranteeing it” – while supporting and collaborating with those who navigate the company’s present needs.

“If I go from office to office asking those ‘what if’ questions, I can create a lot of noise and chaos in a short period,” he said. “As a president, we can make a lot of noise, whether that’s good or bad, or we can have a calming demeanor when things happen – and things do happen in business – that empowers others to make the decisions they need to make.” 

Rindy said his approach to managing the present and future is informed by Nelson-Jameson’s past, as well as his own career.

Growing up in rural Southeastern Wisconsin, Rindy said he worked on a neighbor’s dairy farm as a teenager before working at a small cheese factory.

“The dairy industry does not seem to give you up,” he said. “You don’t choose it – it chooses you… I don’t know if it’s the culture or the people, but I’ve been in it my whole life.”

Rindy said these early experiences taught him to understand the processes and how to empathize and communicate with those in the industry.

Eventually he pivoted to the sanitation side of food processing, which afforded him decades of experience in managing accounts and optimizing dairy processing plants. 

“Now (at Nelson-Jameson), it’s an opportunity to look at these same customers I’ve had and known for the last 30 years and help them differently, so it’s been rewarding,” he said. “It’s been an easy transition for me to come to Nelson-Jameson because of that.”

Presently, Rindy said the majority of customers Nelson-Jameson serves are in the dairy industry. 

The company’s distribution centers, he said, are strategically located according to national cow density maps.

“Where the cows are is where you’ll find the cheese and food processors – and that’s where you’ll find Nelson-Jameson,” he said. “Just out of happenstance of where our company started and what the initial business model was, we’re strong into cheese and cheese processing.”

Rindy said while the company is always looking to expand its capabilities and diversify its products and services, its values will never change. 

At each of the company’s distribution centers and throughout its operations, he said the golden rule is and always will be preeminent – “you can feel it.”

“It’s about being able to put your head on the pillow at night and say, ‘I did my best, I tried my best, I shared my best with the community, our employees and our customers,’ – that’s my interpretation of it,” Rindy said. “It’s not based on immediate financial impact or result. You’re making decisions based on what’s right.” 

Building relationships

Rindy said staying connected to Nelson-Jameson’s historical values has been as important as keeping up with rapid changes.

“The food industry is one of the industries that’s seen the most evolution over the last 30 to 40 years,” he said. “It’s been fun to be a part of, to watch and to contribute to, but I think that’s probably the most challenging thing in a competitive food space. You’ve got to continue to evolve and innovate.”

For Nelson-Jameson, Rindy said – particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic – this evolution has involved doubling down on retaining and recruiting employees. 

“Staffing has been tough,” he said. “Our people are one of our greatest assets and one of our biggest expenses as well, so you have to get that right.”

Rindy said the company has always sought to emphasize employees’ strengths, be considered an “employeer of choice” and placing employees in positions to succeed. 

He said the company is also cognizant of reevaluating wages and benefits and has introduced a total rewards program. 

Care at the forefront

Rindy said Nelson-Jameson also encourages its employees to give back through its philanthropic arm, the Nelson-Jameson Foundation.

The foundation awards grants and scholarships and offers internships to local communities.

By living out the company’s values in such a way, he said Nelson-Jameson can endear itself to both present and prospective employees.

“I think (the company’s philanthropy) has helped the communities thrive – which then has helped Nelson-Jameson survive,” he said.

As the company’s strategies and markets have progressed, Rindy said what’s even more gratifying is witnessing the progress of the people who work at Nelson-Jameson.

“What I enjoy is watching people grow,” he said. “(What’s) rewarding for me is to inspire people to do more than they thought they could and to accomplish more personally and professionally.”

This level of care, he said, stems from the company’s family-oriented nature. 

The Nelson-Jameson leadership team, Rindy said, is currently made up of the fourth generation of Nelsons.

“They treat everyone like family,” he said. “They make it easy to come into the organization and be treated with respect.”

Rindy said genuine, mutual enthusiasm is a source of encouragement throughout the company, which in turn helps foster the expertise necessary to assist customers ordering from Nelson-Jameson’s array of products. 

“What sets us apart from our competitors is the intimate knowledge of the application of the products we have,” he said. “We know our customers intimately, we know their needs intimately and we apply the resources to build that partnership with them… We’re not looking at it like a transactional sale – we’re looking at a relationship.”

The trust between Nelson-Jameson and its customers, Rindy said, runs deep.

“There are a lot of times when a customer will say to us, ‘if your truck doesn’t show up tomorrow, we shut down,’” he said. “We have a lot of customers who look for that Nelson-Jameson truck every week. They see it as a true value – they know at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the ‘NJ’ truck is going to be backing into their dock.” 


Rindy said seeing Nelson-Jameson featured on the “We Supply America” show, as well as him being named one of Family Business Magazine’s CEOs to Watch in 2023, were “very rewarding” recognitions.

“You look at your company and your contributions differently when you see them in print and when you see them on film,” he said. “It’s humbling and uncomfortable because when you go to work every day, that’s not your goal. Your goal is to be better than you were yesterday and to inspire people.”

Rindy said Nelson-Jameson is above all “people-centric” and ceaselessly obeys the golden rule.

“Somehow, the Nelson family has been able to do that for more than 76, 77 years now,” he said, “And they’ll continue strong into the future with that mindset.”

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending