Q&A with Elissa Hansen, Northspan President & CEO

Elissa Hansen leads Northspan with more than 20 years of experience in business, community, organizational, and economic development across Minnesota and Wisconsin. She invests her time creatively advancing others’ capabilities. In Elissa’s role at Northspan, she engages with and elevates every client by facilitating tough conversations and moving organizations forward with action-oriented strategic methods. She works to create a setting for meaningful communications that respect diverse perspectives, create joint resolve, and inspire individual and group action.

What’s your number one tip for business leaders? 

The future is uncertain, so have a plan in place. One out of three business owners have no transition plan whatsoever. We’ve seen successful businesses flounder in the event of an unexpected transition, so we developed our preferred value acceleration method as a recipe for maximizing the value of your business and ensuring you are personally and financially prepared. If you want to get a head start, you can take our BizEquity BIZQUIZ and begin your valuation with this free self-assessment

What can business owners do to help ensure a successful strategic planning process? 

One of the main goals of strategic planning is to get everyone on the same page and excited about possibilities for the future and a shared vision. It’s critical to make sure that everyone who should be at the table is there. And have a plan for following up! We’ve all heard about strategic plans that took a lot of time and resources to develop, only to sit on a shelf collecting dust for the next three years. So we have follow-up workshops and quarterly planning meetings built into our preferred strategic planning method to ensure accountability and success in the long-term.

Northspan powers a number of regional programs, can you speak to those? 

Northland Connection is an online home for economic development data and analysis, including a database of commercial real estate. It’s on the frontlines of the regional housing shortage. Similarly, NORTHFORCE tackles the workforce shortage, providing community-based talent retainment and attraction. And the Welcoming Community program seeks to bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds to help build mutual intercultural understanding. These three programs mutually inform each other as we work across sectors to lift up the region as a whole. When the water level rises, all boats rise together.

Outside of Northspan, what keeps you busy? 

I serve as a board member for APEX, Duluth Airport Authority, and the Kitchi Gammi Club. I’m also a recovering city councilor! Grew up in Nisswa, Minnesota, and now live in Duluth with my husband and eight-month-old son. Also love to spend time hiking the Superior Hiking Trail with my pup, Einstein.  

You can read more in Lake & Co’s Trailblazers issue and connect with Elissa at ehansen@northspan.org