BE Modern Man: FedEx Executive Donald W. Comer - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

BE Modern Man is an integrative program that honors the essence, image, and accomplishments of today’s man of color. With features of today’s leaders, executives, creatives, students, politicians, entrepreneurs, professionals, and agents of change—these men share the common thread of creating a new normal while setting the bar in tech, art, philanthropy, business, and beyond. The BE Modern Man is making a positive impact, his way, and has a story to tell.

BE MODERN MAN DONALD W. COMER  

Name: Donald Comer

Age: 58

Profession: Staff Vice-President FedEx

One Word that Describes you: Authentic

Social Media handles: Instagram: @donaldcomer Twitter: @thedonaldGQ Facebook: Donald Comer

What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?

It means that I am living my fundamental purpose, which is to achieve goals that can make a difference in the lives of others. It is an honor to be recognized by a legendary organization such as Black Enterprise that has for decades committed itself to recognizing those making positive strides in the black community. I am humbled to be listed among a group of positive men who represent the greatness in our community during a time when the focus sometime feels unduly unbalanced toward the negative.

What are some examples of how you have turned struggle into success?

Like many in our community, I am a first-generation college graduate. With the love and support of my parents and limited resources, I was able to find my path and put forth the confidence needed to successfully rise to a position of leadership in a Fortune 50 company. Along my journey, two major health issues marked my struggle to success. At age 16, I had a traumatic injury which left me with a severe limp until age 43 when I received a total hip replacement. At age 49, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor while on business in Hong Kong requiring brain surgery. My determination and desire to succeed led me in both instances to “lean into discomfort” and weather the storm to distinguish myself in my personal and professional life.

What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others? 

Authenticity is important to me. I value knowing that those with whom I build relationships with are consistent and have a steadfast value system. I also appreciate an altruistic spirit, a knowledge that the world doesn’t revolve around the individual. I feel a personal obligation to positively impact the lives of those around me and to extend whatever privilege that I have earned to those who are striving to earn the same.

What are some immediate projects you are working on?

My charter in my current role is to solve complex business problems, identify credible options for innovation and drive operational change that supports near-term and strategic business goals for FedEx. Many of the projects that I am involved in have transformational impacts on a company that revolutionized the transportation industry. One project of note that I can share is FedEx’s decision to reserve 20 Tesla Semi trucks. The fully-electric trucks, which are scheduled to begin production in 2019, will be operated by FedEx Freight, in its less-than-truckload unit. I also have accountability within the FedEx enterprise to fully exploit and leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning as potent means to extending the brand and delivering a consistently outstanding customer experience.

What is the best advice you ever received?

My grandfather was an “old school” Southern preacher in the Christian Methodist Episcopal church. I was the second grandchild and growing up I always believed that this meant I was second behind my older sibling to his love. I always felt loved, but believed there was a notable difference. One Sunday morning after I was an adult and well in my career I visited my grandfather’s church and he recognized me as being in attendance. In his remarks, I remember him saying “I never had to worry about Don. I knew he’d be OK.” That put everything in perspective. The advice I took away from that was that you don’t love your kids or manage your staff all the same. You meet them at the point of their need. You love and guide them based on how they need to be loved and guided.   

What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?

Life is about the “give back.” The greatest men in history have all been about positively impacting not just their personal lives, but those around them. The giveback should be fueled by an unselfish concern for the welfare of another. There is a lot of conversation these days about mentorship, but I believe mentorship falls short of what is needed to help others succeed. The secret sauce is sponsorship. A willingness to place your own personal equity at risk to help someone else succeed. Don’t just be a mentor, be a sponsor and pay it forward.

What is your “Extraordinary Impact”? 

I am totally invested in creating a future for people of color that continues to recognize and appreciate the contributions we have made and continue to make. I chair the national board of directors for the National Black MBA Association, the preeminent organization for creating career opportunities for blacks in business. I am a trustee for two HBCUs, Lemoyne Owen College and Stillman College. I have ongoing working relationships with Lane College and Rust College. I fully leverage my resources (time, talent, and influence) to make a difference.  I have a number of mentoring relationships and am investing my personal equity as a sponsor for a number of bright and promising students.

t’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.

Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the 2nd Annual Black Men XCEL, Aug. 29–Sept. 2, 2018, at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

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