Industry Spotlight – Fred Smith

fred smith | fedexHave you ever wondered what it takes to turn a business plan into a global success? I turn to Fred Smith, founder, president and CEO of FedEx.

It is well understood that FedEx is a leading name in logistics. I attribute its phenomenal growth over the past four decades to what Smith values as some of the most important fundamentals in building a business. Those are constant innovation, development of crucial business strategies and ensuring mutual respect between management and employees. These are fundamentals that I consider to the building blocks of any successful organization, including the one in which I work.

It was as an undergraduate at Yale University where Smith first proposed his business plan for FedEx in the form of a term paper, outlining his strategy to develop an overnight delivery service in a computer age. Ironically, he received a grade of C and was told it would not work. His professor clearly did not see the greater potential of the intangibles. 

Smith did not let this deter his plans for his future. Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics, he joined the United States Marine Corps in 1966. It was here where he studied military logistics, observing procurement and delivery procedures. Additionally, his relationship with Lieutenant Colonel William V. Cowan would eventually assist Smith in FedEx’s Middle East expansion. 

Smith founded FedEx in 1971 with an initial investment of 4 million dollars. Over the next forty years, he would turn his dream into a global transportation powerhouse, commanding over 30 billion dollars a year in revenue, employing 280,000 people worldwide, serving over 200 countries and dispatching more than 8 million shipments a day. 

Perhaps most important to Smith is his relationship with his employees and how he views them as an integral part of FedEx’s success. Ensuring loyalty to the business by fostering strong relationships amongst personnel at all levels is something he considers critical to a successful business and something that all businesses should hope to achieve. These are the intangibles his Yale professor seemed to have missed. People are the single greatest asset in any organization. With one as successful as FedEx, it is clear that Fred Smith has always subscribed to that philosophy. That is what it takes to turn a business plan into a global success.

– Jon Cuello, Partner Invoicing