Robert Cortis, 46
Area fixed operations director, Hendrick Automotive Group
Military branch: Marines
Robbie Cortis’ father and grandfather were Marines. Naturally for Cortis, also joining the Marines “was something I always knew I wanted to do,” he said.
As he got older, “I felt it was what I needed to do,” Cortis said.
He enlisted in 1994 as part of the infantry and served four years.
That time in the military imbued him with discipline and leadership qualities. The most impactful, Cortis said, was the idea of servant leadership.
“I learned quickly it’s not about me,” he said. “It was about my team. Get well acquainted with them — they have your back. And you have theirs.”
It’s a philosophy he has applied during his 17-year auto career with Hendrick Automotive Group. He started out washing cars, moved up to service adviser, did a stint as service manager and now oversees seven fixed ops locations for the group in the Carolinas and Kansas City, Mo.
Along the way, the customer was always top of mind.
“It’s always been about the people; it’s never been about me,” he said.
That same thinking has led him to volunteer with programs that aid fellow veterans. He helps feed homeless veterans in Charleston, S.C., and twice has won the Patriot Award from the National Guard for supporting the families of guard members who are deployed.
For about the past dozen years, Cortis has informally hosted disabled vets at his 87-acre farm in South Carolina. He takes them hunting and fishing and gives them access to the land to explore. The reason why is simple for Cortis.
“Because the Marine Corps had such a big impact on my life,” he said. “Vets reentering society have it tough. They’re used to so much structure. It’s hard to describe.”
Being able to get outdoors gives them an outlet, Cortis said.
He added: “I tell them, ‘I know it can be tough, but let’s go fish.’ ”
— Dan Shine