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When life is the ultimate wild card

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Experience shows that you can triumph over the biggest setbacks.

Donna Davis and Albert Sadler met in 1971, while she was a college undergraduate and he worked for Chrysler in Detroit.

For her first business venture, Donna organized a group of singers who performed as backup vocalists on 16 gold- and platinum-selling albums for stars such as James Brown and Aretha Franklin. Al left his job to manage the group.

Years later, after the two married, Donna launched an accessories business, selling handmade jewelry and belts. She filled orders for big retailers but didn’t have a clue how much money she was making. That’s because Al stepped in again to help run the business.

Without a job title, he managed the books, tracked inventory, built a Web site and did whatever Donna needed.

Then, in 2000, as Al chatted with Donna, who was dressing for a meeting, he died of a heart attack.

Donna found herself alone for the first time in almost 30 years, still knowing little about her business.

Friends suggested that Donna hire experts to fill Al’s roles. Instead, she decided to learn everything herself. With only her children to help, Donna kept the business alive.

Today, Donna’s business is thriving. She moved the shop to a prime spot in downtown Detroit last year, and she’s looking for investors to open stores in Las Vegas and Florida.

Bottom line: Fearlessness and desire to honor her husband’s memory drove this leader from the creative to the operational side.

—Adapted from “Profiles in Courage,” Caroline V. Clarke, Kenneth Meeks, Black Enterprise.

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