Meet Sandy Hansen-Wolff
Industry: Agricultural supply
Success with Vistage
- Inherited an insolvent company in an unfamiliar industry and made it profitable
- Innovated a customer service model that has since been widely adopted
- Honed a new skill set that is leading to a new career
“The reason I went to Vistage was that I always feel that to get to the next level of success in my mindset and in my business, I need to put myself in those groups where those people are already there. I think just being in that level of group conversation with the challenges and different aspects of what these people have to decide on every day raised the bar overall and helped me right away.”– Sandy Hansen-Wolff, Owner & President, AGVenture Feed & Seed
A few days after her husband’s funeral, Sandy Hansen-Wolff discovered that the agriculture company he had owned, AgVenture Feed & Seed, was insolvent. Sandy was in debt and out of her depth, having inherited a failing business in a male-dominated industry in which she had no experience.
A friend suggested Sandy have lunch with the president of a large agricultural business in her area. She laughed at the idea, thinking he was too large a player to want to speak with her. Not only did GNP CEO Michael Helgeson meet Sandy for lunch, he invited her to attend the Vistage group that he chaired in Minneapolis.
Through Vistage, Sandy learned to question traditional practices. She introduced a high-quality customer service model that was unique in the industry and an approach of partnering with the competition on the production side of the business that was unheard of at the time.
Her approach reduced AgVenture’s costs and created an opportunity for scalability. By having the courage to build a larger vision, asking questions and listening for the answers, Sandy was able to forge a path of success from a personal tragedy.
“I brought back so many ideas every month to consider. It really expedited my learning about how to be a successful business owner,” she says. “When you get into a confidential peer group, you hear about the successes, and that’s always good. The even better learning is the challenge that is given to each member to share the things that are not working so well. The case-study-type round tables result in brilliant solutions that you might not go back and implement in the moment, but it gives you this dynamic toolbox from which to draw.”
Fifteen years later, AgVenture is thriving. With resolve and ingenuity, Sandy learned to ask the right questions and listen for the answers, turning AgVenture from a fledgling company into a profitable one.
Sandy’s success and the support she has received at Vistage is giving her the confidence to look toward the next chapter in her career, which includes motivational speaking and career coaching.
“The reason I went to Vistage was that I always feel that to get to the next level of success in my mindset and in my business, I need to put myself in those groups where those people are already there,” she says. “I think just being in that level of group conversation with the challenges and different aspects of what these people have to decide on every day raised the bar overall and helped me right away.”