Frederick W. Smith - The Entrepreneur who Created an Industry

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Case Details:

Case Code : LDEN023
Case Length : 15 Pages
Period : 2003
Pub Date : 2003
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : FedEx Corp.
Industry : Logistics
Countries : USA

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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"In an environment where there is a shared vision of excellence, where people can be the best they can be on a daily basis, where they know what is expected of them, understand that reward is linked to performance, and believe they can make a difference because they will be heard, they will make a difference. They will go beyond our expectations and great things will start to happen."1

- Frederick W. Smith, Chairman and CEO, Federal Express Corp.


Frederick W Smith (Smith), the Chairman, President, and CEO of FedEx Corporation (FedEx)2 was presented the Peter F Drucker Strategic Leadership Award for the year 1997. The award, established in 1995, was in recognition of an individual's innovative and result-oriented leadership, who with the help of his team executed a vision with consistency, candor, and focus (Refer Exhibit I). Impressed by Smith's leadership and entrepreneurial skills, Drucker commented, "Exceptional leaders know how to ask the right questions. They start out by asking, 'What needs to be done?' Then they ask, 'What can I do to make a difference?''' Fred Smith has truly demonstrated the ability to ask the right questions and to find the right answers.

Leadership and Entrepreneurship Case Studies | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Case Studies

He thinks "outside the box" and sees possibilities where others see obstacles. Under his leadership, FedEx management has developed rigorous processes with extremely low defect rates; employees are highly motivated and are empowered through information, technology, and thorough training; and information technology has transformed the company into a cyberspace leader as well as a logistics trailblazer."3

Analysts credit Smith's leadership as the reason for the transformation of FedEx from a once loss making company to a global logistics industry leader with revenues of $22.5 bn (Refer Exhibit II).

The company had more than 2,16,500 strong workforce and a business presence in over 210 countries in 2003. He conceived the idea of an overnight package delivery system and the 'hub and spoke' concept that led to the creation of the express industry. Appreciating Smith's visionary leadership, Edward Wolfe, a financial analyst with the Bear Stearns,4 said "Fred not only created the company, he created the express industry.

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1]  As quoted in the article, "Every month should be quality month," by Lian Tanja, in Bank Marketing, October 1993 edition.

2]  FedEx is one of the world's largest express transportation companies, providing information and logistics solutions services.

3]  As quoted in the article, "Presenting the winner of the 1997 Peter F. Drucker Strategic Leadership Award: FedEx's Frederick W. Smith," by John Geci, in Strategy & Leadership, September/October 1997.

4]  Is the leading global investment banking, securities trading and brokerage firm.


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