We all love winners. Their ability to conquer their challenges inspires us. Vicariously we relate their triumph with our desire to succeed in life. Louis Chenevert’s legacy as the former CEO of United Technologies Corporation (UTC) is inspirational for that reason.
When Quebec native Louis Chenevert graduated from HEC Montreal in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in production management, he was ready for the world. He soon landed a position as a production manager at General Motors (GM). Louis Chenevert remained at GM for 14 years. Then in 1993, he had an opportunity to go to work for Pratt & Whitney in Canada, and he latched on to it. There he excelled, and after six years, in 1999, he was made the president of the company.
Pratt & Whitney is a subsidiary of UTC. Thus Mr. Chenevert was catapulted to stardom in the business world. His focused leadership led him straight to the very top of UTC. In 2006 he was named CEO and President of UTC. Ultimately he became chairman of UTC’s board of directors in 2011.
In a way, Louis Chenevert made it look easy, and in a way, it may have been for him. Louis Chenevert is a man who has proven that it is profitable and productive to be a strategic thinker who “thinks outside the box.” By encouraging innovation within his company, and working with a well-structured plan which created synergies within the corporation, UTC has become a seemingly unstoppable industrial giant.
Mr. Chenevert had the vision to create manufacturing jobs in Connecticut. The company invested a billion dollars in manufacturing plants while competitors were building overseas to save money on labor. Chenevert figured that cheaper workers would be responsible for defective products. Instead, he devised a strategy which would allow his skilled employees to exercise their talents across the UTC product line. For example, he could reduce the need for layoffs during slow periods in the aerodynamics business while things are perhaps roaring in the Otis elevator subsidiary, which booms with construction.
To make this strategy work, Mr. Chenevert cleverly concentrated UTC’s businesses in Connecticut. This strategy worked like a charm. The effect of having so many talented people working together has also yielded dividends in the form of innovations such as the GTF engine.
Leadership is about moving forward. Louis Chenevert succeeded at the helm of UTC because he was able to come up with a vision which focused on the future needs of his company and its people. That is a blueprint for success.