Chairman & CEO, FedEx Corporation
In 1971 Fred Smith, a young Marine veteran just two years removed from combat duty in Vietnam, set up a company that guaranteed overnight delivery of goods between several U.S. cities. The firm, then known as Federal Express, began operations in March 1973. The first night's haul was seven packages. His network consisted of 11 cities.
Things have changed and not just the name.
When people ask what principles have guided me since I started the FedEx Corporation 35 years ago, my answer often startles them: It's the leadership tenets that I learned in the U.S. Marine Corps during my service in Vietnam.
That may not be the response you'd expect to hear in a Harvard Business School course. Like most other successful companies, FedEx places great stock in its fundamental business strategy; in the fact that we've filled a large—and previously unmet—need; in the key marketing decisions we've made; and in the innovative operational concepts we've developed.