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“What may have started as a job has thrived into a supportive, rewarding profession.”
“I enjoy participating in someone’s journey, discovering their talents and potential and encouraging personal growth,” nominee Kocourek said. “I am touched to play such a significant role in building the careers of my team members. What may have started as a job has thrived into a supportive, rewarding profession.”
A 1980 graduate of Lincoln High School in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Kocourek earned a management degree at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, in 1983. He understood at an early age the value of hard work. “My parents operated a restaurant in which I was expected to work and, like many good Wisconsin citizens, we also had a small farm, where I learned the invaluable lessons that only throwing bales of hay can provide,” he said.
His first job in the automotive industry was as a detail technician for Pietroske Inc. of Manitowoc at age 16. He worked at the dealership for nine years, reaching the position of service manager, before moving to Wausau in 1988 and taking a job with Jim Carter Chevrolet. “Jim Carter was formerly a Green Bay Packer, and he ran a business just as he played on the field – full out and hard,” Kocourek said. “He taught me more about the business than I could have learned anywhere else. He was and remains to this day my greatest mentor.” Kocourek was named a partner in 1991 and in 1999, became full owner. Today, he owns six dealerships and a body shop in Wausau and employs 265 individuals.
Kocourek believes that “improving the lives of our neighbors is both a responsibility and privilege.” To that end, he is an enthusiastic supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northcentral Wisconsin, an experience that has forever changed his life. That is where 27 years ago he met 6- year-old, Charlie Sann. “Over the years, I have watched Charlie grow up, go to college and develop a successful career within my business, as well as start a family,” he said. Today, Charlie is the sales manager at Kocourek Chevrolet.
To help other children’s charities, Kocourek founded the Kocourek Kids Foundation in 2008. “A percentage of the profits earned each month from the dealerships is contributed to the foundation and, personally, I match any donation from team members and outside sources,” he said. “Since its commencement, there has been more than $250,000 donated to this fund.” The foundation supports the local Boy Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys & Girls Club, as well as The Neighbors’ Place in Wausau, which offers a “hand up” to people in need in Marathon County.
“My daughter, Paige, and I have wonderful memories of filling shuttle vans with food and delivering it to The Neighbors’ Place,” Kocourek said. “We spent time together and she then learned the importance of helping others.”
An avid pilot, Kocourek volunteers for Angel Flight, an organization that provides free transportation to individuals in crisis. He has also donated his leadership to the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin, serving on its board for six years.
“The Wausau community has supported me and it is a right, privilege and responsibility to be able to return the gesture,” he said.
Kocourek was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by William Sepic, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Automobile & Truck Dealers Association. He has one daughter.