Metro Detroit's Most Powerful Women in Business


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In the seven years Nancy M. Schlichting has served as president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System, the hospital network has grown its net income, market share, and revenue. Add to her achievements more than $100 million in improvements at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, the new Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield, and a potential research and technology park in Detroit.

Schlichting credits her success to a formative upbringing. Her father was a nuclear engineer who holds eight patents, while her mother was an English teacher. During her childhood, Schlichting and her three siblings spent time attending classes in Europe, and they were exposed to a healthy dose of music, art, and theater activities. In high school, she participated on the debate team. The latter pursuit, she says, helped her to think logically, organize ideas, communicate clearly, and see “the big picture.”

Admitting to being “overly organized,” Schlichting deftly juggles her career and a personal life that includes her stepchildren, father, and extended family. She emphasizes the importance of maintaining a “personal life” with everyone she works with. “Don’t miss the things that are important in your life, because you don’t get another chance. That’s how I’ve tried to live my life,” she says. But, she adds, “I don’t sleep as much as I’d like, and my golf game has really suffered.” — Paul W. Smith

There are those who believe you make your own luck by intuitively knowing which opportunities that come along in life to take. That certainly applies to Diana Tremblay, General Motors’ vice president of manufacturing and labor relations.

In 1977, when Tremblay reported for duty at GM’s Defiance Casting Plant in Ohio, the auto industry had only reluctantly opened its doors to women; most were nudged into “soft” assignments like human resources or public relations. Back then, being a woman in what was seen as a man’s world meant you were held to a higher standard. But, Tremblay says, “When you proved you were capable, doors opened.” It’s something she has proven repeatedly during her 33 years at GM, where she has held a variety of manufacturing and engineering assignments.

One of her toughest assignments was serving as GM’s labor relations chief in 2007. In that position, she led the team that negotiated a breakthrough contract with the United Auto Workers — a deal that not only delivered major improvements in productivity, but also helped resolve long-standing issues on health care. Last year, Tremblay led the GM team back to the bargaining table for more concessions during the automaker’s bankruptcy.

In December, GM added manufacturing to Tremblay’s title, putting her in charge of the company’s vast factory empire. It’s a good assignment for someone who admits she likes to make things — but it’s also a critical challenge, because only by getting cost and quality under control can the long-troubled automaker hope for a turnaround. With the luck she’s already made for herself, Tremblay is in good position to succeed. — Paul A. Eisenstein

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