LUTON - Short people make things happen. That's the message from Cynthia Trudell, president of IBC Vehicles in Luton, UK. Her stature - she's about 150cm tall - provides an unexpected presence at any boardroom meeting.
'I've often wondered whether being a small woman has helped. I rather think it has,' says Trudell. 'Being an unusual figure in an executive position makes people deal with each other to find a focus.'
The Canadian-born executive loves Europe. When she was offered the top job at IBC three years ago she could not turn it down.
The plant, a General Motors-Isuzu joint venture, makes the Frontera sport-utility. Much of the refinement of the latest version is due to Trudell's initiative. She put 130 of her non-engineering staff in the driving seats of pre-production prototypes to discover those little irritations that can drive customers crazy.
In line with the Frontera customer profile, 50 of the 130 staff were female. The testers were drawn from assembly lines and office desks. They were taken to the Millbrook proving ground in the UK for a day's evaluation and then filled in a questionnaire. Several noise sources were identified, and engineers re-routed wiring and closed holes as a result.
The cost of the exercise in employee hours was about $25,000.
Trudell's job at IBC means working closely with other business cultures.
Besides its Isuzu and GM counterparts, IBC will also be the production site for a GM commercial van being developed with Renault.
'IBC is most interesting because of the relationships involved,' she says. 'Part of my task is to get disparate groups to recognize where we want to be.
'The company proves different partners can work together. What is important is getting people to recognize what is necessary to bring cultures and languages together.'
Off-duty, Trudell maintains an energetic approach. She regularly walks a 5km circuit around her countryside home, situated west of London.
She likes to stick close to home. 'I am a very lucky woman,' she says. 'Without my family I would have no personal life.'
Trudell has ancestors three generations back - the Owens family - who were Welsh. She intends to spend time exploring her background.
'It's my this-year project. I want to find out where the Owens' roots are, and it would be fun to meet distant cousins.
'I truly appreciate European history and its culture, past and present,' she says. 'When I had the opportunity to come to Europe professionally I jumped at the chance. I have never regretted it.'