Lynn Luther graduated in 1997, ready to begin a nursing career. Instead, she found herself nursing her late husband’s ailing business—and discovering a resilience in herself she didn’t know she had.
After her husband, Andrew, died of cancer in 1998, Luther was faced with raising six children alone while fending off one of her husband’s former business partners, who was suing for ownership of the company, Schulte Metal Finishing. In addition, the bank pulled their line of credit, and the credit card company cancelled Andrew’s account. Then their biggest client pulled out.
Andrew had urged her to focus on her nursing career. But she looked at the people who’d been with the company for years and just couldn’t let go. So, with the help of family friends and several company employees, Luther drastically cut costs, found new clients and increased revenue. She cut her own salary and redirected the company’s focus from large plumbing clients to more niche markets. Among her clients now are Harley-Davidson, Whirlpool and Cadillac. Cutting the staff in half was the hardest part, she says, but cutting the abundance of waste was easy. There was plenty. And through it all, she learned to navigate the male-dominated corporate world.
“Whenever you pick out a casket for someone you love, it changes your entire life and your outlook on it,” says the 49-year-old Luther.
“I’m from a big Catholic family of seven brothers. I’m bound and determined to overcome obstacles. It just makes you a little tougher and gives you a sense of humor you carry into everything.”