Business Ownership in Difficult Times: Jennifer Hansen (’00)

Business ownership is rough right now, but despite the many uncertainties, Jennifer Hansen (EMBA ’00), President and Owner of The Anderson Group and its main subsidiary Anderson Packaging, feels she’s in a pretty good position to ride out the storm.

“We’re very fortunate because we entered this time in a good financial position,” she notes. “I have a very conservative business philosophy and discipline, and that will serve us well.”

Anderson Packaging provides the after-market and emerging markets with motorcycle-related kitting and packaging solutions. With about 50 employees, the company occupies 75,000 square feet in two locations. One location focuses on packaging and assembly services for U.S. motorcycle dealers. “We supply and assemble components into kits for anything a rider needs to go to a dealer for,” she explained, such as an oil change. The other is a Complete Knock Down operation that serves the needs of emerging markets in Thailand, Brazil, and India by providing kit chassis and powertrain components, packaged and ready for assembly.

Right now, however, business is on hold, with suppliers and customers closed or operating only on a limited basis. While she has a skeleton crew working a scaled-down schedule, she’s had to furlough 33 employees and release 13 temporary workers. “It’s very tough,” she said. “My employees are very close to me, but it’s a very fine line between keeping them safe and ensuring the business doesn’t go under.”

Each day, she says, she’s focusing on trying to stay ahead of things with very little information. “I am so tired of the phrase ‘the situation is fluid,’ but it is fluid, and we just have to stay on top of it.”

Fortunately, she doesn’t feel alone in the fight.

“You know how they say that you find out who your friends are when times are tough?” she asked. “Well, this whole situation has allowed me to see very clearly how dedicated my team is – my employees, bankers, insurance agents, 401K partners, state government offices, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Waukesha County Business Alliance – they’ve all been there for me. I feel so fortunate to be in Wisconsin with all of these resources for business owners.”

Hansen’s 25 years in the distribution/service industry began right after college, when she told her dad that she’d join his business for a year before going back to graduate school to become a counselor.

That business was Anderson Seal, which her dad started in 1990. She joined him for her intended “gap year” in 1994 in a sales position. And her dad was right: she was a natural. As the business grew, she expanded the staff, led the company through ISO-9000 certification, and was running the entire operation by 2000. Around that time, she also saw opportunity for growth in the aftermarket side of the business and expanded the company’s focus on packaging parts and accessories.

In 2003, she purchased Anderson Seal from her father at fair market value and began running the seal and packaging businesses as separate companies in 2005. By 2012, she created the holding company The Anderson Group for strategy and succession purposes, with two separate entities – Anderson Seal and Anderson Packaging. She sold the seal business to Trelleborg Sealing Solutions in 2016 and remained with the company three years as General Manager.

Her focus now is preparing Anderson Packaging for future continued success in spite of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent economic impacts.

She also enjoys utilizing her experience to advise other business owners, and has launched a company, Just Jennifer Consulting, to work with other businesses in the state.

“This crisis has shown me as a business owner the value of having a team to support you in the good times and bad, and I know I can do that for others.”