Chevrolet Corvette Assembly Plant Manager Interview - Personality Profile: Wil Cooksey

Team VETTE Talks With The Corvette Assembly Plant Manager

Bob Wallace Dec 1, 2000 0 Comment(s)

You've have to have employee enthusiasm. Whether it's running an airline, a cruise ship, or a bank, if you don't have employee enthusiasm, you're not going to do a very good job. We've worked hard at creating it, plus our wonderful customers, they help us, too, because they bring so much enthusiasm to us when they come visit or write those letters. It gives the people here a lot of energy to carry on. There's not a lot of boredom here, it's a lot of fun. A lot of our people came to Corvette 'cause they wanted to work at a place where people have a lot of enthusiasm for the product they're building. I've got a long list of people who want to come to Corvette.

VETTE: How much of that is because of the product, and how much is because of what you've done?

WC: That's a good question. They'll tell you they've heard about the work environment, about the relationship between management and the union, and how good it is. See, you have to have good relationships between management and the union leadership in a facility to set the pace. We've got a great working relationship at this factory. We walk and talk together, we try to make certain we set the right examples, make ourselves available to talk to the people. I'm out there on the floor, talking with the people just about every day I'm around. They really appreciate that. I tell them that if you see me coming through there and you got a question, a concern, stop me, say something. There's not a lot of work environments where the plant manager will stop, will take time out of his schedule and answer questions. I'll stop any time one of the employees asks me to. If I'm on the way to a meeting, and I got a few minutes to make that meeting, and an employee says, "Hey, Wil, you got a minute? I'll stop, even if I'm a little late for that meeting, and I'll tell 'em. "Hey, I'm trying to get to a meeting, but what's up, how you doin'? Anything I can do to help you?" And they'll say, "How about comin' back by here when you come back from the meeting?" I'll stop anytime they ask me to stop. That's the kind of environment I'd like to work in if I was out there putting parts on the cars. If I was out there and wanted to talk to the plant manager, I'd hope that he'd make himself available to be there

And the plant manager needs that kind of input from the people-at least I do! You need to know what they're thinking about, are we doing the right thing? That's what makes this place unique and different. You're not going to go to a lot of plants and find that the management group is making themselves available, the way we make ourselves available here at Corvette. I take a lot of pride in supporting a good work environment, in improving and supporting communications-that's what you gotta do. We're all one big team. We're not a plant manager and some person putting on the parts, we're the Corvette team! We all have fun.

I've had some people come up to see me in the office and say, "This is the first time we've ever been in the plant manager's office. It was off limits, previously." I say, "Hey, come up anytime you want. You got something you want to talk about, feel free to do so." You know, that's the kind of atmosphere you want to work in. We're all one big family, here.

VETTE: You've mentioned your wife, Elizabeth. Tell us about the rest of your family.

WC: I've got a son, David. He graduated from the University of Kansas. He likes Corvettes, too, by the way. I've got a daughter here, Crissy, who's at Western Kentucky University. She's going to be a schoolteacher. I have one grandkid, Catrina. She's terrific, four-years-old, going on 40.

VETTE: Wil, we've already gone over the time you'd set aside for this. Any last comments?

WC: I really enjoy it, I like what I do! I'm looking to stay here until I retire. I don't think anything else General Motors has is better. Maybe they'll find something, but I don't know about it, yet. (laughs)

VETTE: Thanks for spending this time with us, Wil.


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