Emerging Leader: Adam Hansen of AK Material Handling Systems

Leading by Example: For Adam Hansen, Leadership is Much More than Giving Orders from the Sidelines

By Nicole Needles

From working baseball game day promotions for a minor league baseball team in Minnesota to being a part of the sales team at AK Material Handling Systems, Adam Hansen knows the importance of leading by example. Being hands-on is one of the most important leadership lessons he’s learned so far in his career.

Hansen graduated from Bemidji State University with a bachelor’s degree in sports management and a minor in business administration and mass communication. He began as an intern for the St. Paul Saints and assisted in their game-day promotions department. After a year, he transitioned to the season ticket department. Only a year after that, he started work at AK Material Handling systems, where he began in the warehouse. He quickly transitioned to the company’s Inside Sales Team, where he was more involved with purchasing.

After 11 years, he is still with the company and has become part of the purchasing and Inside Sales teams. Developing his leadership skills is not a part of his job description but something he takes upon himself to learn and work on daily.

Hansen attended the MHEDA Emerging Leaders Conference in July of 2022 as a part of this effort. “One of the biggest takeaways from the Emerging Leaders Conference was being able to meet and connect with others within the industry,” he said. “It was great to get other ideas from other parts of the industry and get a different perspective on some of the challenges they face and how they handle those challenges.”

Speaking of handling challenges, technology and other innovations have become more complicated to expedite processes or enhance the customer experience. With more young professionals entering the industry, Hansen says that their willingness to jump in and work with more advanced technology and systems is something to be admired.

“With manufacturers coming out with new designs and automated systems, young professionals are eager to learn and help implement these new systems,” he said. “This helps the customer, in the end, be more streamlined in their production and shipping.”

With a mentor or coach by your side, jumping right in at a new job or diving headfirst into developing more leadership skills can be much less daunting. This person for Hansen is Josh Smith, the owner of AK Material Handling Systems. “He was the one who hired me when I first started and has helped guide me in my career to where I am today. The excitement and dedication he shows in his work and within the company make me want to strive always to do better and follow in his footsteps,” Hansen said.

His hands-on approach in the workplace since his internship days comes from the best leadership advice ever given to him: to be a leader, you need to be in front leading your team and setting the example. Don’t stay in the background and give orders, and expect results.

Luckily, Hansen loves the aspect of his job that lets him face tasks head-on each day. Since AK Material Handling Systems is a small business, its employees get to “wear many different hats.” “Some days, I am mainly focused on quoting; other days could be various projects and purchasing,” he said. “I also enjoy the people I work with here at AK and also within the industry. Those relationships make it very enjoyable to come to work every day.”