Fred Smith: FedEx Founder And Entrepreneur
The American public rightly holds American heroes in high regard, and there are very few individuals that should be considered in the same elevated terms for their entrepreneurial skills in addition to their bravery. Fred Smith is a very unique individual that deserves plaudits for his service as well as his business acumen, or more specifically his company’s ability to get a package from one side of the country to the other in 24 hours. Federal Express, or FedEx as it is now known, was the first overnight service in the world and now operates in many countries worldwide. As such, Fred Smith is just as decorated in business as he was in the Armed Forces.
The Young Military Entrepreneur
Frederick Wallace Smith was born in Marks, Mississippi on August 11, 1944. His family was relatively well off as a result of his father’s entrepreneurial skills. Fred Smith Senior founded the Dixie Greyhound Bus Lines as well as the Toddle House restaurant chain. This may be where Smith gets a lot of his business talent from, even though he never really got know his father because he died when the entrepreneur was just 4 years old.
Although Smith did well at school, his first love was flying when he was growing up. He loved the freedom of soaring through the air and this was probably the one element of his life that determined his entry to the military. However, before enlisting, the budding entrepreneur attended Yale University to major in economics. Before he graduated in 1966, Smith wrote a paper for one of his economics classes that was to shape his future and the future of mail delivery. He actually formulated a business plan for an overnight package delivery service. However, for the next three years the entrepreneur was to hardly think about it.
The Military Years
Smith joined the US Marine Corps in 1966, literally as soon as he graduated. He did not take to the skies during his service, but he did control aviation from the ground. This actually gave him the knowledge of logistics that he needed to be able to be successful in the business world in the 1970s. Smith worked closely with military logistics systems throughout his service, including during two tours of Vietnam. He was discharged in 1969 having achieved the rank of Captain and being awarded two Purple Hearts, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star. However, he also accumulated a wealth of knowledge that would help him to put his future entrepreneurial plans into action. A delivery system that was based on the military systems was well on its way.
The FedEx Years
Fred Smith was left a $4 million inheritance when his father died and he set about putting it to good use in 1970 when he financed his first big business acquisition – Ark Aviation Sales. He immediately started to trade used jets and managed to accumulate a small fortune in less than a year. As a result of his major success in this field and his business acumen, the entrepreneur had raised the money required to finally launch FedEx in 1973. The initial service was only offered to 25 cities in the United States, but the demand for an overnight service soon ensured that the entrepreneur’s revolutionary business expanded domestically and then went global. Today the service operates throughout the world.
Like any good entrepreneur, Fred Smith has expanded his ventures to include places on the Board of Directors of various organizations (the Mayo Foundation and the US Air Transport Association for example). He also part owns Alcon Films and Dream Image Productions in the entertainment industry and co-owns the NFL’s Washington Redskins. He has yet to take a break from business and continues to be just as successful as he has been in every other venture he has undertaken in his life. His father would certainly be proud.
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