Fred Smith first conceived the idea of an overnight delivery service while he was a student at Yale University in the early 1960s. The world, however, would have a wait until the next decade for the company known as FedEx to come into being.
The Marks, Mississippi native enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He was honorably discharged and returned home a decorated war veteran, having earned a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts. By 1971, Smith used several million dollars in venture capital and his own inheritance to establish Federal Express.
During the past 40 years, Smith has expanded and refined the FedEx brand, setting new industry standards by transforming the corporation to address vast customer needs in a rapidly changing technology-centered environment. Today, the FedEx Corporation is a $39 billion global transportation, business services and logistics conglomerate, serving more than 220 countries and territories with operations that include 688 aircraft and more than 90,000 vehicles. Nearly 300,000 team members worldwide handle more than 8.5 million shipments each business day.
Smith’s leadership, ethical business practices, and commitment to total quality service have garnered widespread acclaim, including the highly coveted Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Fortune magazine has recognized FedEx in its industry rankings for “World’s Most Admired Companies,” “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and its “Blue Ribbon Companies” list. Smith himself was named to Forbes’ list of “America’s Favorite Bosses” and Barron’s “World’s Best CEOs,” as well as Chief Executive magazine’s 2004 “CEO of the Year.” In addition to many other distinctions, he is the recipient of the Global Leadership Award from the U.S.-India Business Council, the George C. Marshall Foundation Award, and the Circle Honor Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.
Currently, Smith is a board member for the Council on Foreign Relations, co-chairman of the Energy Security Leadership Council, and chairman of the French-American Business Council. He is an ardent supporter of regulatory reform, free trade, vehicle energy-efficiency standards, and a national energy policy.
From the beginning, Smith believed FedEx would be America’s next big entrepreneurial success story. He never gave up, and he never gave in, even when the fledging company was on the brink of extinction. As one journalist so aptly phrased it, Smith is the epitome of “what can be done with ideas, energy, venture capital, and some extra guts.”
As a founding member of the Electrification Coalition, which supports the development of electric vehicles, Fred Smith has been phasing in an electric fleet of vehicles while simultaneously reducing the fuel efficiency of the traditional fleet through the use of biofuel and natural gas. In 2008, he made a commitment to improve overall fuel efficiency of the FedEx Express vehicle fleet by 20 percent by 2020. FedEx has already surpassed the goal with a more than 22 percent cumulative improvement and is now committed to a 30 percent improvement by 2020.