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Mike Hanson, Payroll Data Services

IB Wisconsin's Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet the state's professionals. This week features Mike Hanson, president of Payroll Data Services.

Business Address: 1020 James Drive, Hartland, WI 53029
Phone: 262-563-5182
Email: michaelh@payrolldata.com
Website: payrolldata.com
Birthplace: Milwaukee
Spouse/Partner’s Name: Pat (Patricia)
Education: A.A. business data processing, MATC; B.A. management and communications, Concordia University

Mike, how long have you been employed by Payroll Data Services, and how would you describe your role?
I’ve been here now about 20 months. I had spent 36 years with one of the Big Three payroll companies, got burned out, retired, and then was fortunate to be hired on here. I am always looking for that “better mousetrap.” How can we do something better, or different? What processes can we put in place? What manual processes can we automate? Can technology help us here? I also love to spend time talking with our folks about what they do, as it helps me learn more about them and the company.

Who has influenced your career the most, and in what way?
Definitely my wife. She has been incredibly supportive throughout my career and has been a great sounding board for my ideas, issues, problems – you name it. She’s a very smart lady and doesn’t hesitate to tell me when she thinks I’m wrong about something. And she’s usually right.

You’ve had a lot of longevity in this field. What was a personal high point in your career?
Definitely coming to PDS. I was so burned out in my previous job; coming here was a breath of fresh air, and it totally revitalized me. I love the people, the culture, our products and services, and the client base – we have terrific people and customers.

There are highs and there are lows in a career. Have a low point you’d be willing to share?
In my previous life I once gave a presentation to a group of people from a company that was looking to buy from us. I wrote all over the whiteboard, using different colors to reinforce my talking points, and so on. When the prospect left, I went into the men’s room. Glancing at the mirror, I realized that I had been touching my face throughout the meeting, and I had lovely colors all over it – yellow, green, red, and blue adorned my features. Needless to say, we never heard from them again.

But you persevered and here you are, and now you influence many people. Outside of your staff, who would you most like to be a mentor to, or have the most influence on?
My two sons, and eventually my grandchildren. I want to be there for them for advice if they want it and help them avoid mistakes I’ve made, as well as offer suggestions when asked.

What advice would you offer to young people looking to get into the job market during this slow recovery period?
Network as much as possible. The more people you have looking for jobs for you, the better your chances of catching on with someone.

You’re in a pretty specialized field; what were your general career aspirations starting out, in high school or thereabouts?
I wanted to be a computer programmer, so I went to MATC and got my degree in programming. However, fate works in mysterious ways, and though the degree got me in the door with a data processing company, the paths my career took never led in that direction.

Was your first job in data processing?
I worked at my high school for seven years as a janitor throughout high school and into college to pay my tuition. I think my first check was like $40, and all but $11 went toward my tuition. The good news – to this day, I can wax a floor with the best of them.

And now you run a company and leave the waxing to others. … How did you prepare for business management during your formative, young years?
I was always trying to sell something, from the stereotypical lemonade stand, to selling Bibles and calendars door to door in grade school, to a short-lived private detective agency that I and a couple of my friends set up. The idea was to help kids find lost pets, toys, etc. We actually found a little girl’s lost cat.

Have you always lived in Wisconsin?
I was born in Milwaukee and raised in West Allis. I bleed green and gold.

What do you do “beyond the office” and beyond Wisconsin sports that brings you happiness or relaxation?
I have been a workout enthusiast since I was 15 and have a workout room in my basement. I love to read science fiction, historical fiction, and the occasional mystery. I recently finished reading Stieg Larson’s trilogy and enjoyed it a lot. And I love spoiling my grandchildren whenever possible.

Have a favorite travel destination?
Outside of going to visit our sons, or seeing our grandkids, my wife and I love to spend time in our backyard. It’s taken us 20-some years, but we have created a nice environment with a pool, hot tub, and a gazebo nestled between two flowerbeds. During warm months, we love spending time in our backyard, whether doing yard work or just relaxing in the gazebo, enjoying the flowers and the critters that come to visit.

Let’s move from critters to characters: Is there any character – living or dead – who comes to mind that you’d most appreciate being likened to?
I’m half Swedish, so I have always had an affinity for Vikings. My basement rec room has museum replica Norse weapons and decorations. I even wrote a Viking novel that I’m trying to get published. So I guess if I had to choose a character, it would probably be Leif Ericson.

Along those same lines, we like to close this posting with a list of three words that you would select to best describe you. And those words would be?
Optimistic, friendly, caring.

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