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CSUEB alumnus’ success in steel helps CSUEB student build their own future

Image of CSUEB alumnus Mark Hennings '84, business administration, now CEO of Harris Supply Solutions

Mark Hennings '84, business administration (Photo: Mark Hennings)

  • October 9, 2013 5:50am

Mark Hennings '84, business administration, built his career on a solid foundation…specifically steel, concrete and rebar.  Now the chief executive of a multi-million industrial supplier, he is helping other Pioneers build their dreams.

Hired by Georgia-Pacific as a building sales rep after his graduation from Cal State East Bay, Hennings said it wasn’t lumber and insulation that interested him but the company vehicle. “I won’t tell you all the things I did with that car,” he jokes. 

With a friend’s prompting, he left the East Bay to work as National Product Manager-Steel Products for Weyerhaeuser in Seattle.  Little did he realize then that his spur of the moment decision to move would lead to a 15 year stint that developed and strengthened his entrepreneurial talents. “I had only been in my position at Weyerhaeuser three months when my boss unexpectedly left,” he said. “Despite my lack of international experience, the company encouraged me to ‘give it a try’”.

Hennings did more than try. He eventually grew Weyerhaeuser’s $27 MM steel product category into a stand-alone $250 MM steel and concrete business division.  “It was like running my own company,” he resaid. “I learned that it was okay to make a mistake but just don’t make it twice.”

In 2005, his hard work was rewarded when he was offered the CEO position at Harris Supply Solutions, now part of Nucor Corporation. Harris is now the largest supplier of rebar and steel remesh in the United States.

What’s his advice to current Pioneers who may be eyeing the C-suite one day?

“You can take classes on how to read financial statements or write a business strategy, but you really need to have good interpersonal skills,” advised Hennings. “Your company is only as good as your employees. Know how to communicate. Treat people with respect.”
That personal touch has always been important. What Henning still remembers about his early years at CSUEB are the small class sizes and the accessibility of faculty. 

“I remember when I was taking the same class as a friend who was attending U.C. Berkeley,” he said. “We had the same book but my class had only 20 or 23 students in it while he was in a class with 200.  My CSUH professor would stay after class to answer questions while his at Cal took off right after lecturing leaving the teaching assistant (TA) to deal with students.”

That one-on-one relationship with his professors made a difference in what he was able to learn and retain, he said. A learning that he nurtures as part of Harris’ corporate culture.

Third generation Bay Area native Hennings may now call Seattle home but he’s dedicated to helping Cal State East Bay students achieve their goals by establishing a scholarship endowment at his alma mater. “There appears to be more barriers to succeed today than when I attended college,” explained Henning. “It’s important that I give back and help people who want to help themselves succeed.”

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