Frederick Smith

Frederick Smith
Frederick Smith
  • From:

    FedEx Corporation | Memphis, Tennessee

  • Year:


  • Subject:


  • Award:

    Bower Award for Business Leadership

  • Citation:

    For founding FedEx Corporation and establishing a modern network of information technology and transportation systems that satisfy global demand for timely and guaranteed package delivery. In addition, under Smith's leadership, FedEx is widely recognized as an exemplary corporate citizen.

As ubiquitous as FedEx is today, delivering packages to some 220 countries, at amazingly quick speeds, it's hard to remember that the idea of guaranteed overnight delivery was unthinkable when Fred Smith first conceived of it. Anticipating the digital revolution and using the teamwork skills he learned in the marines, Smith took a fantastical concept and turned it into a Fortune 500 company.

Born in Marks, Mississippi in 1944, Frederick Smith traveled north to attend Yale University. There he famously wrote an economics term paper in 1965, suggesting that in the coming computerized age, viable dependency on computers could only occur if they were 100% reliable, and therefore, businesses would need a 100% reliable delivery service to keep that computer base running. Smith has said that it wasn't a full-blown business plan, but the germ of an idea had certainly begun to form.

During two tours of duty in Vietnam, he realized the necessity of good delivery procedures. In 1971, after he'd left the Marines, he raised $80 million to launch Federal Express. Using an all new delivery model, he relied on both trucks and airplanes. He created a delivery hub through which all packages were routed, and insisted that his employees understand that deliveries must arrive on time 100% of the time. Add to this the realization that a company can only survive if it changes with the market (an idea that led to early implementation by FedEx of computerized access to tracking records for its customers) and Smith's conviction that fair treatment of and harmonious relations between employees leads to job loyalty, and FedEx became the market leader. It has grown to some 669 aircraft, over 75,000 vehicles and more than 280,000 employees who handle 6.5 million shipments each business day.

Under Smith's leadership, FedEx Corporation has consistently been named one of Fortune's "World's Most Admired Companies." Perhaps one of the greatest testaments to Smith's skill as a leader is FedEx's presence in Fortune's Hall of Fame as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" since 1998.

Smith's previous awards include the "2006 Person of the Year" by the French-American Chamber of Commerce, and Chief Executive's 2004 "CEO of the Year." He has also won three military honors: the Silver Star, Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Information as of April 2008