By Joe Barron
When Bud Hansen III was learning the family business, his father gave him a piece of advice that has guided him for decades.
“Don’t fall in love with things,” Bud Hansen Jr. said. “Fall in love with people.”
Hansen Properties Inc., the company Bud Jr. founded in 1968 and that his son runs today, certainly owns an impressive array of things, chief among them the Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center and the Blue Bell Country Club, but it also employs a staff of more than 400.
“The people that work for us are really the heart and soul of what we do,” the younger Hansen said recently in a phone interview.
The Philadelphia Inquirer recognized the size and success of Hansen Properties last month with one of its annual Family-Owned Business Awards. The company was named a 2018 Multi-generational Family-Owned Business of the Year: Large. Hansen accepted the award Aug. 23 at a luncheon aboard the ship-restaurant Moshulu in Philadelphia.
“I was definitely surprised when we got the notification,” he said. “It’s definitely not something I take lightly. The Inquirer is one of the biggest brands in Philly media, and to be honored by them was great.”
Hansen Properties began modestly, with a single, small building at 926 Pennsylvania Ave. in Fort Washington. Hansen called the site and eye-opener for his father, who saw his future in real estate after cleaning it up and selling it.
“He was looking for great assets and great locations,” Hansen said. “That was basically his motto.”
Indulging his passion for golf, the elder Hansen developed the Talamore Country Club in Montgomeryville and Commonwealth National Country in Horsham, whose course was designed by golfing legend Arnold Palmer.
Then, in 2001, Hansen acquired a portion of the 1,500-acre Normandy Farm in Blue Bell, where today, the hotel and conference center, along with the 240-acre country club, form the heart of the family business.
The younger Hansen, who worked alongside his father for 25 years, said he never felt pressured to follow in his dad’s footsteps. When Bud Jr. died, in 2016, stepping into the role of president seemed like a wholly natural move.
“It’s very personal to me that this is something my father created and I get to carry on,” Hansen said. “My dad and I, we were best friends, and that was something that grew over time.”
Another bit of Bud Jr.’s philosophy his son took to heart is that one should never be afraid to try new things. In that spirit, Hansen Properties is pursuing a number of projects outside Normandy Farm. Currently, the company is looking to develop an 11-acre section of the Lloyd estate in Cheltenham Township. If all goes according to plan, a 216-unit apartment building will soon be standing there.
“The goal is moving forward,” Hansen said. “The apartment business would be a nice way for us to diversify even further.”
Looking to the future, Hansen said he hoped one or more of his own children would keep Hansen Properties in the family. He has a son in college, and quadruplets – a boy and three girls – in high school, and each of them have worked for him at one time or another.
He doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender, either. It is quite possible that someday, one of his daughters will accept an Inquirer award as president of the company.
“We have a lot of women who work in my executive team, and we never shortchange anyone,” Hansen said. “I would be happy if any of them wanted to be part of the next generation.”