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When Lloyd Trotter, 61, began his career at General Electric as a tool and die-cast maker in the 1970s, he never thought he’d end up an executive for the manufacturing giant. Recently Trotter was named vice chairman of GE and president and CEO of GE Industrial, a $36 billion business unit that employs more than 100,000. The appointment makes him GE’s first African American vice chairman. In this position he succeeds John G. Rice.
The significance of Trotter’s post should feel familiar to him — he was the first African American at GE to be named vice president and officer, and also junior vice president.
Trotter, one of BE’s Top 75 Blacks in Corporate America, has come a long way in the past 36 years at the company. “I grew up in Cleveland’s inner city. It took me nine years in night school to get my degree, and I started as a tool and die-cast maker in a blue-collar town. So this is not where I imagined myself at all,” he says.
He credits most of his success to GE’s internal training programs and corporate culture. “We spend well over $1 billion training employees and helping people grow into these types of positions. I’m a product of that,” Trotter says. “In fact, we rarely look to the outside to fill our positions. We’re a 126-year-old company, and we’ve never had a CEO that didn’t come from within.”
Trotter’s division, expected to grow 15% for 2006, has eight business units: Plastics, Advanced Materials, Consumer and Industrial, Security, Sensing, Fanuc, Inspection Technologies, and Equipment Services. Despite the diversity in product lines, Trotter says his focus will be the same for all eight units.
“Manufacturing businesses have to be externally focused on customers. It’s all about delighting them. You can cut costs, sure, but if your customers don’t feel it in a good way, then you shouldn’t have done it,” he says. “To grow your business with a customer focus, while also improving your operations — that’s the whole philosophy I’ve used for 36 years in this company.”