Hansen Amusement Foods Brings Time-tested Practices to Big Boss Monday
“Economics can be pretty theoretical,” Ryan Garvin noted in introducing Doug Hansen to his class. Nearly every Monday Mr. Garvin ushers a local business leader to the front of his classroom. This past week things were a bit different due to a school delay on Monday.
Tuesday morning students sat in their first period economic class with a paper laid out before them. Doug Hansen nervously laughed as Mr. Garvin explained the purpose of Big Boss Monday, “Will they be tested on what I’m talking about?” Throughout the presentation the students practiced actively listening. They write down concepts and phrases that presenters share, building a concrete perspective of being a business person in todays economy. “Write three things you learned, two things you’d like to learn more about, and one question you have. So, let me pray, and then Mr. Hansen will speak for us.”
“A month ago I gave my testimony in church about my faith journey,” Doug Hansen started, gripping the podium. “In many regards this is a testimony about my business journey, and they’re not so terribly different.” Doug went on to share how he has taken note of integrating his faith and his business, using the analogy of being an ambassador for Christ.
Doug shared how he never saw himself as a business leader. He spoke to a love for teaching. He shared how he taught 5th and 7th grade for nearly a decade after being the only one in his family to attend college. It was at a crusade in Fergus Falls that he gave his life to Jesus Christ. This new-found faith pushed him to pursue a faith-based education where he could grow his relationship with Jesus.
In college he met his future wife, whose family was in a traveling food business. In marrying in to the family Doug found a business mentor in his father-in-law. He used his summer breaks from school to sell ice cream at local county fairs, starting in 1977. Doug’s father-in-law paid based on commission, which motivated him to sell more ice cream.
Doug worked for seven years before taking over his father-in-law’s business as he retired. This would mean Doug would need to lay down his teaching job, putting his college degree on the wall to enter a business field he didn’t formally study.
Doug describes his approach to business as an opportunist, noting that he has trained himself to see what people want and to work to provide it. This practice habit has led to a successful and long career as a food concessionaire. “I’ve been in business now for 43 years. As a tid-bit, the Minnesota State Fair is two-weeks long. I do a lot of other events there and spend about six weeks there out of the year. If you start to do the math, I don’t have a residence in St. Paul, but I’ve lived over 15 years of my life on the Minnesota State Fair Grounds. It’s interesting. My parents are not impressed,” Doug noted, to the laughter of the classroom diligently taking in his story while making notes on his perspective in business.
“I did not have a business background. How do you take a teacher with no background in business to a world where 50% of businesses fail?” Doug went on to describe how his father-in-law taught him to see the big picture. Through his early mentorship Doug saw his father-in-law directly guide Doug’s vision to focus on the main goals of the business. “If you’re ever in business and a customer shakes their head ‘no’, it is nearly impossible to get them to change their mind. You can give it to them for free, they’ll want nothing to do with it. It is so important to see the big picture, that you tune in to smaller details of the business, you never want to have customer who is shaking their head no.” The lesson translated to many papers in front of the students, where they also noted Doug’s perspective of being an opportunist and providing for the wants and needs of people in his business strategy.
Doug also detailed some life lessons and costly mistakes. He spoke of a failed business venture in 1984 where his new business lost $35,000 in a three day summer event. He was still teaching at the time, with a salary of $12,000 per year. He told the students he learned early that he was greedy and needed to address his greed as he worked in his business. It was a costly life lesson, but the story unveiled some important things about his strained approach to business. “I am an observer, I watch other people, and I can learn if you make a mistake, too.”
“I look at my adult life like a football game,” Doug started as he began to conclude his presentation. “The first quarter is launching out. I was looking out, ‘how can I do this’…The second quarter for me was growth…The third quarter is just to maintain the plan…Then we get into the fourth quarter. I am in the fourth quarter of my life. How am I going to get out of this. So, I have a plan.”
Doug then pulled out a paper where he detailed his fourth quarter plan. He outlined his plan to minimize the anxiety of the business on his wife. Speaking to the possibility of his passing away soon, Doug spoke to his strategy of off-loading equipment. He then spoke to the goal of providing the opportunity for his wife to visit their grandkids whenever she would like. He closed his fourth quarter plan with his final goal, to create the least amount of work for his children when he dies.
The outline of goals, seeing the big picture and then tending to the details of the plan, resonated throughout Doug’s presentation. His integration of faith into his business echoed the Biblically-based perspective of economics students are receiving at Hillcrest.