Business Solutions DNA

By: Michael Hanson at Star Micronics

Growing up, I had the coolest toys. While all my friends were playing with Hot Wheels, Spirograph, or Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots, my toys had names like Underwood, Royal, and NCR. I had all the cool toys because, in the 1950s, my grandfather founded Arrowhead Office Machines. In this small family company, my dad and uncles sold and serviced business products in Duluth, Minnesota. Grandpa Hanson was the entrepreneur, Uncle Dick ran the business, Uncle Ron was the salesman, and my dad, Jerry, was the service technician.

As a kid with the coolest toys, I remember being mesmerized by the Underwood typewriter. The carriage would move along until I’d hit the return lever to send it flying home, or I’d watch the keys snap up to strike the ribbon and paper, then settle back just as quickly. Even more impressive was how all those gears, wheels, and cams in that old NCR mechanical cash register could somehow solve a math problem and display the new total every time I hit the Total key.

All those cool old toys must have injected business solutions into my DNA because some 20 years later, I accepted a sales engineer position at Star Micronics. When I joined Star in the early ‘90s, it was like joining my grandfather’s family business. Long-time product manager, Bernie Larson, was like Grandpa, teaching me how the DP8340 rhythmically printed as the printhead zipped along the carriage and why the simple battle-tested design of the SP342 made it the must-have printer for every kitchen. It was like I was right back at the shop with Dad and Grandpa and that old typewriter and cash register.

Like all salespeople, Uncle Ron was a phenomenal storyteller. He always had such eye-opening stories to tell after his big city visits for the ICRDA show, learning about new business solution products and enjoying those fancy dinners and lavish parties. And while he was doing that,
Grandpa and Dad would amaze me with fantastic things like microprocessors, binary numbers, serial communication, and barcode scanning. To this day, I am confident my father was one of the first people to have the old Commodore PET computer in the late ‘70s.

After joining Star, I was more than happy to prepare demos and set up for ICRDA events, as it felt like being part of Grandpa’s family business again. Unfortunately, by the late ‘90s, the talk about ICRDA was not so good. I remember hearing that the association was dead, and that Independent Cash Register Dealers were a dying breed. Then, things really hit home when Grandpa and Grandma Hanson decided to sell Arrowhead Office Machines to begin their well-deserved retirement. Uncle Dick, Uncle Ron, and Dad stayed on for several years with the new company, Duluth Cash Register, but it was the end of an era so
dear to me.

One thing is certain: the only constant in our industry is change, and change was in motion at ICRDA. As the association merged with SDA, it overcame many challenges, eventually reborn as the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). Holding true to the founding roots of shepherding independent dealers like Arrowhead Office Machines, the RSPA had a bigger vision to unite dealers, distributors, and vendors to create a true industry association that put point-of-sale (POS) and retail technology at the forefront.

After taking a leadership position at Star Micronics in the mid-2000s, it was clear that the RSPA was our association and had earned our investment in its sponsorships, resources, and leaders. The RSPA was the place to be to help partners see greater opportunities, forge new markets, and flex their technology experience to bring solutions back home, just like Uncle Ron did so many years earlier.

Today, Star continues our solution spirit with a wide range of products, services, and the next generation of cloud peripherals. I am still blessed to have the coolest toys, but now I get to share them with my global Star family, far beyond our printer roots, all the way to the cloud and back.

Thanks for the business solutions DNA, Grandpa Hanson, and thank you to the RSPA for bringing the best of retail technology and beyond to the people who appreciate it the most.