Wood Industry Market Leader: Mark Bernhard, Bernhard Woodwork
January 15, 2009 | 2:50 pm CST
Mark Bernhard, President, Bernhard Woodwork Ltd.
Mark Bernhard, president, Bernhard Woodwork Ltd.

 Mark Bernhard must have sawdust in his blood. His father, Pius Bernhard, founded Bernhard Woodwork, and although Mark spent a couple of years outside the industry after college, he came back to woodworking in 1991 and has been at it full-time since.

Bernhard says the wood products industry is “a business unlike so many others. You actually create something, as opposed to just pushing paper around. This is what makes it so rewarding.”

Bernhard’s company creates high-end architectural woodwork, as well as store fixtures, which Bernhard says are not easy markets to compete in, particularly when trying to maintain quality in a market that is very cost conscious.

In addition to learning from his father, Bernhard has been fortunate to have had a thorough education in the wood products industry from many people. Bernhard places a lot of value on the relationships that he has developed in his career.

“There were several folks who actively took me under their wings and exposed me to many different facets of the business,” he explains. “Your people in the business are the core of what makes you successful.

“Involvement with your peers is also critical. Associations, such as the Architectural Woodwork Institute and the Association for Retail Environments, are incredible resources for networking and benchmarking. I have made many friendships through these and other organizations,” Bernhard adds.

Bernhard has used these relationships to learn from others and grow the business into the success that it is today.

“You need to constantly challenge yourself and expose yourself to a variety of different methodologies, including those from other industries,” he explains. “You can learn so many things from others if you keep an open mind, both outside your business but especially internally from your own people.”

Like most other companies, Bernhard is focused on growth in the future. “We need to streamline production further and leverage technology to compete more effectively, while maintaining the quality we are known for,” he says.

Mark Bernhard: Quick Glimpse

• Education: B.S., Boston College; M.B.A., Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

• Years at the company: 18

• Years in the industry: Lifetime!

• Word that best describes you: Candid

• The person you have tried to emulate in business and why: My father, Pius Bernhard. He came penniless from Germany and built up a wonderful business and was well respected in the business. He risked it all, again and again. When I asked him how he could stomach all these risks, he always said, “I never risked anything. If you start with nothing, you have nothing to lose.”

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