Frederick W Smith is the entrepreneur who wrote a school paper, received a C grade because the professor did not think the idea was feasible, and then, turned around and implemented his ideas, creating a global sensation, and making himself a billionaire in the process. That company was Federal Express, which to no-one's surprise, has made it to the World's Most Admired Companies list consecutively for years. While Smith is considered an extraordinary businessman, he is active in charitable events and causes, many of which benefit from the resources of FedEx. He quickly and ungrudging offers planes, employees, and other desperately-needed resources to countries whose peoples have been wracked by homelessness and hunger due to natural disasters. As a result of his precious gifts, he has been awarded different honors from various organizations.
Born in 1944, Frederick Wallace Smith, had an avid interest in airplanes and flying, so as a teenager set out to obtain his amateur pilot's license. In 1966 he graduated from Yale University with an economics degree, then immediately enrolled in the Marine Corps. His four-year term was well spent because it permitted him the opportunity to examine a working logistics system, along with the procedures involved in procurement and delivery. Needless to say, this would enhance the business plan that he had written for school in which he describes a global overnight delivery service.
In 1971, Smith took the monies left to him by his passing father, and started his courier company Federal Express. He recognized a need in the marketplace to provide superior service to the government postal department. Customers were becoming disgruntled, and businesses wanted their packages to reach end-users much faster than possible with the current method. When he started the company, it was built upon one premise, and that was to get the package there intact overnight. Early company slogans, which the public quickly memorized, said it all. "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight" and "It's not Just a Package, It's Your Business". Regardless, their advertising clearly stated what they did, and what they represented. Additionally, they managed to provide this customized service at a reasonable price, which made the company instant competition for the post office.
Through the years, FedEx has faced stiff competition through an improved postal service, other courier companies, and modern day technology such as fax machines and email. But, they have prevailed due in part to the fact that they owned their own fleet of airplanes, meaning that they were not subject to problems with commercial carriers. As well, Smith quickly and readily reacted to trends in the marketplace. For example, items that could not be faxed or emailed became their focus and main business priority. He saw no sense in competing in a market that provided little or no tangible rewards. Smith also understood that courier customers were price sensitive. Substantial business could be lost if the wrong price point was chosen, so he concentrated on knowing the right price for the company's individual services.
Smith also reacted to the economy when things were rough by reducing his own salary, as well as those of many executives and top managers. He did not stop there, and cut advertising costs, as well, ending a long-term relationship with the Super Bowl. His willingness to do what was necessary to protect the business has made him a favorite among critics and analysts. In addition, his common sense techniques have enabled FedEx to become a thirty-eight billion dollar conglomerate, operating in at least two-hundred-and-twenty countries, with six-hundred-and-ninety-seven airplanes, and eighty-thousand land vehicles. Amazingly, the transportation company processes over eight-and-a-half billion pieces of freight on a daily basis.
Frederick W Smith fought the urge to back down in the face of negativity. Just because someone told him that his idea would not fly, he did not listen. He forged ahead and created a company that is now the largest transportation business in the world. And, not only did he do what others said was foolish, he managed to sustain considerable growth when the idea seemingly became obsolete.
- Steve Jobs (Apple)
- Bill Gates (Microsoft)
- Jack Welch (GE)
- Ken Fisher (Fisher Investments)
- David J O'Reilly (Chevron)
- Frederick W Smith (FedEx)
- Steve Ballmer (Microsoft)
- Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg FMC)
- Michael Dell (Dell)
- Jerry Buss (LA Lakers)
- Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway)
- Donald Trump (Trump Organization)
- John Ferraro (Ernst & Young)