When Brian Hansen got Hodgkins disease five years ago, the information technology sales icon battled the disease and beat it, continuing to support his family and meet the demands of his customers even when he was sick.
"The amazing thing with Brian's battle with Hodgkins is that he didn't let it affect his life," said Bob Venero, CEO of Future Tech, the Holbrook, N.Y., solution provider where Hansen worked for the last decade. "He drove himself and fought just as hard to be successful for his family, customers and Future Tech. He didn't miss a beat. It was inspiring to watch him go through that."
Venero is one of thousands of people mourning the passing of Hansen, a 30-year IT sales icon who by his own account delivered more than $2 billion in sales during his career. The 59-year-old father of three, who was vice president of strategic accounts at Future Tech, was not taken by cancer, but died unexpectedly on March 18 from complications from pneumonia.
"Brian's battle with cancer taught me no matter how bad things are, no matter what life throws at you, if you throw yourself back at it hard, you can overcome it and be successful," said Venero. "When Brian got lemons, he made lemonade, Margaritas and then he threw a party."
Hansen's office at Future Tech was filled with pictures of his wife, Doreen, and his three children, Jennifer; Jacqueline, who is getting married in two months; and Eric, a high-school student and hockey player whom Hansen traveled throughout the country with for national tournaments. "As a family man, he always balanced business and family, never losing sight of what was really important," said Venero. "Business made Brian and Brian made business and in the end one of the last things he was thinking about was his family, business and his customers."
Even in a hospital bed battling pneumonia, Hansen was asking for a cellphone to call his inside Future Tech sales assistant who had worked with him for two decades, Christina Chwalek. "He wanted to check and make sure everything was going well," said Venero.
Hansen, who began his career as a business reporter in the late 1970s and then moved into IT sales with companies such as Moore Business Systems and Manchester Equipment, worked on some of the biggest accounts in New York area, including helping to create the first PC-based scoring system for Major League Baseball. He also helped coordinate the New York Mets, New York Yankees and New York Islanders networks and worked major accounts such as Jet Blue Airways, Reuters and the United Parcel Service.
One of Hansen's biggest deals at Future Tech was a blockbuster deal for 1,000 sites in the U.S. that he was working on closing as he was on a cruise in the Caribbean. "He worked that deal from the cruise," recalled Venero. "It was amazing."
What made Hansen special as a IT sales rep, said Venero, was his constant focus on the value of the relationship. "He was a true relationship person, always looking out for his customer no matter what," said Venero.
Venero brought Hansen to Future Tech after inquiring with top vendors on who was the best IT sales rep in the business bar none. Hansen's name came up time and time again, and Venero set up a dinner to meet him at Momma Lombardi's in Holbrook. Two weeks later, Hansen was a Future Tech employee.
"Brian and I had very similar philosophies about customer relationships and the importance of being part of a team and family," said Venero. "He and I both knew it was a great fit. That was absolutely the case. It was an easy decision for him."
Hansen had all the hallmarks of a great salesman, including an infectious sense of humor and an uncanny ability to build relationships with anyone and everyone from a mailroom employee to the toughest CIO, said Venero.
"He had a smile that would light up a room," said Venero. "He was one of the most likeable guys you would ever want to meet no matter what was going on. We will never forget his laugh. You could be down in the dumps or angry and upset and Brian would come by and make you laugh. That is the piece that we have got to hold on to and remember even with the hole in our hearts."
Venero said he would often get calls at midnight or emails at 3 a.m. from Hansen with an idea on how to win a deal or make the business better. "That's a testimony to the fact that success never sleeps," he said. "You can never replace a guy like Brian. He always put the customer first to the detriment of himself. He was always there to lend a helping hand to his customers and the Future Tech family."
Future Tech is planning a number of memorials, including dedicating its annual golf outing and state of the union to Hansen and his family. What's more, Venero said, he is personally taking over Hansen's accounts with all commissions going to Hansen's family for a minimum of one year.
"Brian's was a life well led, but a life cut too short," said Venero. "Brian was not an employee. He was a friend and a partner. We shared a lot of good times and some bad times. From my perspective, it is a personal loss like losing a blood brother. There is no gauge on how much he will be missed at the highest possible level by all who knew him. He will not be forgotten in any way, shape or form."
Below is Hansen's obituary listing from Newsday.
"Beloved husband of Doreen. Loving father of Jennifer Cipollino, Jacqueline (Michael Morotta), and Eric. Cherished grandfather of Victoria and Joseph. Adored brother of Robert (Kathleen), and William (Arbey). Devoted son of Ann Hansen and her late husband Edgar. Family will receive friends Friday, 2-5pm and 7-9pm, at Charles J. O'Shea Funeral Home: 2515 N. Jerusalem Rd. (Exit 25N SS PKWY) East Meadow, NY. Mass of Christian Burial will be held Saturday, 9:30am, at St. Frances de Chantal R.C. Church, Wantagh, NY. Interment to follow at Holy Rood Cemetery. In lieu of flowers please make donations in his memory to Abby of Regina Laudis: 273 Flanders Rd Bethlehem, CT 06751 (203) 266-7727."
PUBLISHED MARCH 20, 2014