Sean Fortier, 42
General manager, Lexus of Woodland Hills
Military branch: Air Force
Rank: Senior airman
The lessons Sean Fortier learned as the child of a U.S. Navy veteran, and absorbed again when he joined the U.S. Air Force, stayed with him through his venture out of the military and into the auto industry.
His father’s military career spanned 20 years and included time in Vietnam. Thus began a family tradition of sorts: Fortier and two of his brothers went on to join the Air Force.
From 1997 to 2001, Fortier served in the branch as a firefighter. He was stationed in Korea and Italy and traveled the continental U.S. before fully transitioning out in August 2001, mere weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks.
In July 2001, while on terminal leave but still technically in the military, Fortier took a job at a Dallas-area Nissan dealership. He applied the lessons drilled into him from the Air Force — teamwork, no excuses, accountability — and his career took off.
Twenty years later, he is the general manager of Lexus of Woodland Hills, a California dealership. And in the four years he’s been with the store, he’s made it his goal to hire, train and mentor fellow veterans.
“Their skill set really translates via their discipline, their mentality, their willingness to do the things that are uncomfortable,” Fortier told Automotive News.
Education degrees certainly play a part in his hiring decisions, but Fortier said he gives great consideration to military background.
“If people that have great work ethics come in here and grind it out, and they hustle ... it really translates well to this business,” Fortier said.
A large number of the veterans he has hired have succeeded in the industry.
“One to two are actually running stores at this point,” Fortier said. “So people that were technicians [went] all the way up through upper-level executive management to running their own stores.”
Fortier was named to the Automotive News 40 Under 40 list in 2015, after he led every department at his then-dealership to double-digit or triple-digit percentage growth.
— C.J. Moore