Louis Chenevert’s towering 6’5” stature is an apt reflection of his accomplishments, which include 14 years of his early career spent as St. Therese Production General Manager at
General Motors and his time as CEO and Chairman at the helm of United Technologies
Corporation (UTC). Born French-Canadian, Louis R. Chênevert attained a bachelor’s degree in production management from the Université de Montréal, École des Hautes études commerciales (HEC).
Chênevert’s Journey to UTC
Louis Chenevert worked for more than a decade at General Motors before joining the Pratt & Whitney business unit of larger United Technologies Corporation. After having worked at Pratt & Whitney Canada for six years, Chenevert was elected president of the entire Pratt & Whitney division in 1999. He served in this position for seven years before being elected president and CEO at UTC.
Under his belt are impressive achievements he achieved as the leader of the conglomerate, worth close to $100 billion. Many corporate executives have yet to achieve throughout their entire career what Chênevert managed to in a single year. Among his primary points of focus early on was the acquisition of Goodrich. After more than one year spent in negotiations with the leadership at Goodrich, they finally settled on an acquisition deal worth $18.4 billion.
Promoting Advancement of Technology and Growth of Individuals
Stewardship for UTC–and certainly for Chênevert–entails committing to investing not only in the most advanced technology, but also in people. From the moment he signed on as the leader of UTC, Chênevert made it his personal mission to use his knowledge and experience to make huge improvements in the company and leave it far better than he found it. Needless to say, this should be the driving principle of any person in an organization, be they the CEO or summer intern. Often, he emphasized the fact that investment in the right tech will take a company far, and investment in the right people will take it even further.
One of UTC’s most powerful illustrations of its commitment to investing in its people and nurturing their development is the company’s Employee Scholar Program, which covers the cost for employees interested in pursuing further education in their respective fields. Since 1996, well over 40,000 UTC employees across the globe have attained degrees thanks to the program. In the United States alone, UTC has over the years invested over $1 billion in the educational pursuits of its people, and the benefits to the workers personally and to the corporation on a larger scale are self-evident.
An admirable quality of Chênevert’s leadership style while he was CEO at UTC was his forward-thinking ability to pick out projects with the highest potential of furthering the company’s vision and inspiring people to work at making those projects a success. This principle was among the guiding philosophies of Chênevert when he was CEO at United Technologies Corporation, and it was clearly passed on to the Gregory Hayes, the current CEO. Both Chênevert and Hayes have been seen to express great admiration for companies that ensure they are future-proof by allocating a sizable portion of their budget to acquiring equipment that is on the cutting edge of technological innovations. It is a testament to the company leaders’ commitment to their role as steward of not only the company’s resources but also its vision and mission. Of utmost importance to the success of modern-day companies is investment in up-and-coming technology. The global business environment has become extremely cutthroat to the point that any move that would offer a global corporation the slightest competitive advantage is worth taking seriously. Modern day success is entirely dependent on modern technology.
In addition to the acquisition of Goodrich, when Rolls-Royce and General Electric declined an offer to manufacturer a “second alternate engine” for the US Air Force, UTC’s Pratt & Whitney unit won the lobby, effectively becoming the sole supplier of the F-35 engine for the US government, largely thanks to Chenevert.
UTC’s Sikorsky unit is the largest manufacturer of helicopters in the US. The corporation dominates the market for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration. Moreover, some of the most advanced jet engines in the world are assembled by UTC. More specifically, the Aerospace System unit of UTC specializes in the production of a variety of equipment, including landing gear, sensors, flight controls, brakes and actuators. Not to mention the marvel that is the Geared Turbofan (GTF) engine. All this has for a long time been anchored on the visionary leadership of Chênevert.
The GTF engine, developed by Pratt & Whitney, was the result of more than two decades and $10 million invested by the business unit of UTC. A number of star products built and developed by UTC do not end up bearing the company’s logo. Nevertheless, Chênevert and impassioned members of the company-wide team responsible for these products take pride in every single one of them.
Forbes reported that, since 1993 when he officially became a part of the Pratt & Whitney engine business, Chênevert has been at the forefront of championing improvements that have led to the consistent growth of the market share of the parent company, UTC. It was in 2006 when Chênevert was appointed as CEO of the corporation. Despite the devastating subprime recession that plagued the US at the time, Chênevert succeeded in navigating the corporation through the treacherous economic landscape and making sure it successfully met its objective. This was at a time when American industrial giants such as Bethlehem Steel, RCA, and Zenith and Philco fell into oblivion. With Chênevert at the helm, UTC survived the worst.
Chênevert’s Departure from UTC
Chênevert departure from United Technologies Corporation came on December 8th, 2014, when he resigned his position as CEO and Chairman of the Company. Edward Kangas, lead independent director at the time, took over the post. Chênevert was later appointed Exclusive Advisor at the Merchant Banking Division of Goldman Sachs. Among his primary roles was seeking out growth opportunities the aerospace industry.
Thanks to the foundation he laid at UTC, the corporation continues to dominate the market and enjoys competitive advantages that emanated from strategies implemented during
his tenure. Chenevert’s legacy continues to drive UTC. In line the vision that he embodied, United Technologies Corporation, along with its subsidiaries, today foster a robust and competitive business environment.