Richard (Rich) Hansen | Logger
“Be yourself and be real. Don’t pretend that you’re something you’re not—just work hard and be what you want to be. If you want to be that guy falling those trees, make sure that you’re the hardest-working guy on the hillside and you pretty much get to guarantee that you’ll get to do whatever you want to do.”
It’s all in the family for Richard (Rich) Hansen, a co-owner of Hansen Logging Co., Inc., of Harvard, Idaho. Hansen Logging was started in 1956 by Garfield and Judy Hansen, Rich’s grandparents. In 1969, Rich’s father Rick Hansen began working there full-time and is still at Hansen Logging today as the other co-owner.
You may not be familiar with the name Will Nelson, the famous illustrator behind this year’s beautiful Arbor Day tee shirts and education posters, but it is almost a sure bet that you know his artwork.
For the past 50 years, Nelson’s amazing watercolors of fruit, automobiles, airplanes and other items have been turned into ads, product labels and billboards for companies such as Dole, Sunkist, Boeing, Chevron, S&W, and more. They’ve appeared nationally and internationally, in magazines such as Life, Playboy and many others.
Today, you can’t go into a grocery store without seeing Nelson’s detailed artwork on juice boxes, jelly containers, olive cans and potato chip bags. It is hard to believe they are hand painted illustrations rather than photographs, because they look good enough to eat.
“When the kids were little we’d go grocery shopping and when we’d go up the aisles they’d say, “Mommy, look, there’s daddy’s work!” his wife Elaine remembers with a laugh.
A native of Twin Falls, Idaho, Nelson left the state at 17 to attend college at the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasedena, California. After graduation he landed in Chicago where he worked for Stephens, Biondi, DiCiccio (SBD), a premier illustration studio with clients such as Morton Salt, Kroger Stores and other food accounts. His work was so well-thought of that soon he was tapped to create illustrations for big automakers such as Pontiac and Ford.
Rich realized in his early teens that being in the woods was a path that he wanted to pursue. Now 42, he states: “I worked in the shop ever summer from the time I was 13, after school, during the summer, and sometimes on the weekends. I had some really awesome teachers and mentors with my grandfather, my grandmother (who is still alive) and my dad. Grandpa handled the shop and the bookkeeping things, including contract negotiations and price negotiations with the mills. Grandma kept payroll, and Dad handled the day-to-day operations on the ground. I knew that the more I could pick up from them, the better that I could be later on in life.”
“That attitude has worked out fairly well for me,” he says with a chuckle.
Rich attended Potlatch High School, and then attended the University of Idaho to study Business Management. In the spring of 1991, he began operating an excavator and overseeing the road building side of Hansen Logging. In 2002 he left the operating side of the business and moved into a management role for the company as a whole.
A regular work day for Rich means that he is up early in the morning in order to be at the Hansen Logging shop by 5:30 a.m. After making sure everything is in order at the shop, he’ll then make the rounds and check on job sites. He also stops by mill offices to take care of contractual negotiations with the mills, and he often doesn’t arrive home until 6 p.m.
“A regular work day is 12-14 hours long, depending,” Rich says. “We do our own snowplowing, so we tend to spend more time in the woods in the winter, because we have to be there before the truck drivers get to the job site in the morning. After we get the plowing done, then we still have to run through our whole regular work day after that.”
“During spring break-up, we focus on equipment maintenance and parts orders and purchasing,” he continues. “In the springtime, we aren’t as involved with logging because of the ground conditions.”
For Hansen Logging, this means that there may only be 5 or 6 people at the shop, as opposed to the 35+ people who are normally working there and in the woods in the summer.
Hansen Logging has performed road-building in past years, but today they concentrate on logging and generally only build roads for their logging operations. Hansen Logging has the capacity to perform long line-skidding, with TSY-50 Thunderbirds, Link Belt line skidding, feller bunching, conventional skidding and shovel logging. Their expertise is mainly with line skidding, but Hansen Logging has an extensive background in every aspect of logging and road building. Hansen Logging performs work for Potlatch Corporation, Bennett Lumber, IDL, and USFS, as well as with numerous private individuals. Their capacity total in a season is between 35-40 MMBF.
Rich advises young people who are aspiring to work in the woods to listen carefully to the people working around them. “Growing up, I tried to gather knowledge from everybody—from the Caterpillar diesel mechanics in our shop, to the foresters out on the ground, to the road building supervisor we had who taught me a great lot about managing job sites and people,” Rich suggests. “Everybody has something they can teach you.”
He continues: “Work hard. Be a team player. Don’t assume that anyone will remember you when you are going around looking for a job, and don’t assume that you know the way people want you to work just because you have done similar work before.” Rich emphasizes that there is a learning curve on learning to work with anybody, and it’s your responsibility to figure out how people work. He cautions, though: “Be yourself and be real. Don’t pretend that you’re something you’re not—just work hard and be what you want to be. If you want to be that guy falling those trees, make sure that you’re the hardest-working guy on the hillside and you pretty much get to guarantee that you’ll get to do whatever you want to do.”
To be a good employee at a place like Hansen Logging, you have to be able to operate independently, but you also need to be able to think of the good of your team or the needs of the next guy that comes along. Rich gives an example: “If a faller just wants to fall as many trees as he can with no thought as to how he is doing it, it might slow down the line crew. If the line crew only worries about what they are doing, that slows things down for the pullaway and the processor. If the processor does not help the loader operator to the best of his ability, then things slow down for the loader and the trucks. Other people down the line need to be able to do their job to the best of their ability as well.”
Technology is a big part of working in the woods in the 21st century. Rich laughs that he is “constantly on the phone, emailing and texting. I have over 1100 contacts who I am dealing with all the time. I have a laptop with me 24-7. All of my contract negotiations are stored in an Excel spreadsheet that I built myself. My log hauling ticket tracker, job trackers, and employee payroll are all done through an Access database that I created myself. I can track all load and tonnage data off the database archive. I also have a really good bookkeeper who keeps me in line. I do a lot of work online—research, parts acquisitions, etc. I’m a Mac user, and I went to an iPhone after I got rid of my flip phone. I have an iPad in my pickup truck all the time. It has been so nice to switch to a Mac and have all of my technology be able to talk to each other—it just saves so much time. If it was left to my dad, we’d still be working off of paper ledger sheets!”
When he’s not in the woods, Rich enjoys spending time with his wife of 17 years, Kode, and their daughters Kenzi (10) and Kaney (3). “We travel around to rodeos and barrel races, and the girls ride their horses,” Rich relates. “I’d like to be able to do more fishing—Dad and I like to fish. Also, I was elected to the North Latah County Highway District in 2004, and I’m now Chairman of the Board. I am also a board member of the Intermountain Logging Conference.”
“The best part of my job,” Rich summarizes, “is my employees. My people are the best part of my job. I couldn’t do what I do without good people, and I have the best people—bar none. I have the best guys you could ask for. They work hard and they work smart. I don’t have to deal with anyone slacking off, complaining, or whining about other people not working. My people manage themselves, and I manage the rest. I really cannot emphasize enough what they mean to me. I wouldn’t trade my people for anybody. They are truly top-notch. We know each others’ kids’ names. We are like a big extended family, and we are all working together for the same goal. It’s great. I wouldn’t trade it.”