Newest board member brings 30+ year record of growth and leadership to Central States


Christopher Harrison

Chris is an accomplished Chief Human Resources Office (CHRO), operating executive, and business advisor with a 30-year track record in high growth and value creation environments for leading blue-chip brands and small to mid-sized companies across the globe. His experience spans multiple industries including manufacturing, distribution, automotive, construction, retail, and services. Chris is recognized as an inspirational leader and promoter of winning cultures through the creation and sponsorship of authentic and highly effective employee engagement programs and diversity and inclusion strategies.

In short, his diverse background in business, innovation and people will lend itself well to our growing company.

I sat down with the Connecticut resident to get to know him and what he plans to bring to Central States.

DB: I am absolutely fascinated by people’s journeys and why they have taken this path or that. So, why you and why this Board? 

CH: I first met Jim Sliker (Central States CEO) through a reference check discussion and was able to get to know him before the board role was even an opportunity. The conversation was very natural for both of us, and I took the opportunity to inquire about the company strategy, culture, values, and the emphasis CSMI places on hiring and retaining the right people. I was very impressed with Jim’s leadership style and his vision for the future. Life can be serendipitous at times and once I learned about the board role several months later, I was eager to apply. Fortunately, one thing led to another following that initial one-to-one conversation with Jim. I am now proudly serving on the Board for Central States and couldn’t be more thrilled.

DB: What was the process like once you put your hat in the ring and why did this Board opportunity in particular gain your interest? 

CH: The board selection process was as comprehensive as any I had previously been a part of. There was a professional assessment, a written questionnaire, a comprehensive screening & interview process, and then an in-depth session with me and the full board together. The process overall was highly professional and extremely well done. In terms of my interest, I can easily say culture and chemistry were at the top of the list. I also prefer companies that provide products or services that help people and our world in one way or another. CSMI does this across multiple industries covering a wide variety of diverse customers. Lastly, I have always been motivated to take on new challenges. Serving on a private board with an ESOP structure was very intriguing for me and it is clearly a key differentiator for CSMI.

DB: So, it’s interesting, as a company we turned 35 years old this year, which means we are still in our infancy in many ways, but the growth that we have experienced has been vast and quick. Talk about your experience and vision for a company that has grown as quickly as ours has.  

CH:  I am a fortunate person, in many ways blessed to have been part of companies that were committed to profitable growth throughout my career. Two in particular come to mind and are relevant to the question. In 1996, I joined The Stanley Works when it was a $2 billion revenue company. Ten years later, revenue reached $4.3 billion. The company ultimately grew to $10 billion by 2011 following the acquisition of Black and Decker. I was fortunate to have been part of that transformative journey and contribute to the success in some highly impactful roles across human resources, marketing, product development, acquisition integration and general management. More recently, I spent seven highly fulfilling years in the C-suite with another growth focused company, Beacon Building Products. When I joined annual revenue was just over $2 billion and the company was well poised for additional organic and acquisitive growth. The subsequent years entailed organic and greenfield growth, 20 acquisitions, strategic divestitures, numerous transformational initiatives, and a global pandemic! The company achieved over three-times growth in revenue, virtually quadrupled the market cap and more than tripled its headcount and locations. These two industry-changing experiences have been invaluable for me both professionally and personally. I am honored to have this opportunity to take part in yet another amazing growth journey!

DB: That kind of growth that quickly, stretches everybody from the production floor and up. What are two important things or goals that a company must have to make growth in warp drive a long-term success?  

CH: First, you’ve got to work tirelessly to have the right people, in the right roles at the right time at all levels. This means, identify and nurture those on the team who are going to lead you where you want to go. Understand your “gamechanger” roles and elevate them. Cherish them. Make a commitment to development and learning, and back it up. Last but certainly not least, invest the time to engage and inspire each team member to take part and “own” the mission. Easier said than done, but there are no shortcuts, and the job never ends!

Second would be to study and understand the current state operating model and business processes, and courageously face the fact they will need to be modified or even changed to accommodate the various stages of growth. The companies that do this well lean into this concept and will even take some risks to prepare for doing business on a larger scale. Leading growth companies also selectively and effectively invest time and resources before it’s too late. They remain open to new ways of working and embrace the development of continuously improving cultures. In the end, companies don’t just “become” larger and more profitable; they have to earn it.

DB: Last thing for you. The job market has changed dramatically in recent years. Putting on your Human Capital hat, what are the biggest challenges in hiring for companies moving forward?

CH: I see many organizations wrestling with the articulation and the actualization of their employer value proposition. It is critical to ensure a company “walks the talk” when it comes to attracting, developing, engaging, and retaining people. Authenticity is a must. We can be certain applicants and employees are closely watching for alignment of the employer value proposition to the stated company purpose and mission. The effective and credible connection here is a competitive advantage for companies that get it right.

Another major issue facing employers is the “future of work” and how to best balance the various wants and needs of the evolving workforce with ever changing business requirements and desired results. Things are moving at lightning speed, so the need to react and adapt swiftly is as important now as ever for employers aspiring to differentiate and become “the place to be” in the marketplace.

Learn more about the team at Central States Manufacturing.

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