Celanese Chairman and CEO Mark Rohr literally has his hands on Celanese products every day, even before he arrives at the office in the morning. Of course, so does everyone else.
Cellphone components and door handles are just a few of the technology products and specialty materials the $6.8 billion company creates. It’s a good thing connecting with Celanese is easy, because Rohr doesn’t spend much time at its Irving headquarters. With more than 70 percent of sales outside of the United States, the company has production facilities in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Rohr spends about 200 days a year meeting with customers and employees around the globe. At the time of this phone interview, Rohr was on the southern coast of China, looking at a potential site for an ethanol production plant in the city of Zhuhai.
“It’s hard today if you’re a multinational company not to have business directly or indirectly related to China,” he says.
Rohr joined Celanese in April 2012. Prior to that, he served on the company’s board of directors and was executive chairman of Albemarle Corp., where, under his leadership, the company generated record earnings and twice was named to Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s “Best Corporate Citizen” list.
Title: Chairman and CEO
First job: When I was 13, I served chili cheese dogs at Ed’s Drive-In in Pascagoula on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Worst job: My father once had me plant 600 acres of pine trees by hand. I planted. He supervised. It was a pretty bad job. I think it’s illegal to do that today.
Best part of your job: The chance to travel and meet so many enthusiastic young people who are part of Celanese, while solving problems around the world.
Management style: Personal, open, and casual, with as much face-to-face interaction as possible
Biggest pet peeve: When the fear of failure becomes so prevalent, it keeps people from taking the steps they need to be successful.
Strengths: Working closely with customers around the world, making sure our company is solving the problems that they need to address.
Weaknesses: I’m not very patient.
Biggest challenge: So much of the innovation and discovery from around the world has pushed away from the U.S. and Europe, and at the same time, the speed of business required today is rapidly increasing. When the cycle time from start to production of a new product is four months, you’re perpetually in the reinvent and redevelop stage.
What’s next for Celanese: We developed a new process to produce ethanol using local hydrocarbon resources that can be very cost-effective.
What have you learned from your travels: There is a lot of anxiety now about the global economy and the world slowing down, and there is an element of truth to that. But when you get out and really interact with global businesses, there’s so much progress for clean fuel and clean air and good medicines that it’s hard for me to see that the world is going to be slow for very long.
Family: I’m married to a wonderful woman, Rachel, and have been for a good while. We have two grown daughters who are 24 and 23.
Weekends: Spending time on my road bike, and Rachel and I like to sail and have a boat that we take to White Rock Lake.
Reading material: Right now I’m reading Boomerang by Michael Lewis. It’s about bubbles in the history of the world that have led to debt and financial calamities.
TV: Gunsmoke is my favorite.
Best advice: “Wear beige and keep your mouth shut.” From my mom before my first interview.