Frederick W. Smith, Chairman, President and CEO, FedEx Corporation

interviewed by Alan Murray

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Session recap

Grounded? Never. FedEx is flying high

FedEx Corporation, one of the greatest American start-ups, was born in an era of transportation deregulation. The company grew up in the early days of more sophisticated logistics systems. Today, it is a $42 billion, most-admired global company.

In the 40 years since founding the logistics behemoth, Chairman, President and CEO Frederick W. Smith has learned the value of history and self-education in helping leaders change their business approaches at different stages of a company’s evolution.

Smith’s leadership style is made easy by “The Purple Promise,” dedicated to making every FedEx experience outstanding. He reinforces this philosophy continually by facilitating corporate training programs and setting expectations.

Smith gives his employees the tools to do their jobs right, and his management holds meetings to make sure FedEx employees know that what they do is important. This helps employees place a personal value on each item shipped, whether it be an emergency surgical kit en route to a hospital or a bride-to-be’s engagement ring. With such emphasis, Smith meets customer needs and gives employees a great sense of purpose.

On the technology front, one innovation he is particularly pleased about, for both the FedEx bottom line and the US economy, is fracking (short for hydraulic fracturing). The increased use of this technique in the US is allowing the company to import less petroleum and other fuel.

Smith believes fracking has helped to significantly reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil and has had a positive impact on US jobs.

Frederick SmithspacerFrederick W. Smith is Chairman, President and CEO of FedEx Corporation, a $42 billion global transportation, business services and logistics company. Smith is responsible for providing strategic direction for all FedEx Corporation operating companies, including FedEx Services, FedEx Express, FedEx Ground and FedEx Freight. Since founding FedEx in 1971, he has been an active proponent of regulatory reform, free trade and ”open skies agreements” for aviation around the world. Most recently, he has advocated for vehicle energy-efficiency standards and a national energy policy. Smith is a trustee for the United States Council for International Business, a board member for the Council on Foreign Relations, Co-Chairman of the Energy Security Leadership Council and the current Co-Chairman of the French-American Business Council. Smith is also a member of the Aviation Hall of Fame, and he served as Co-Chairman of the U.S. World War II Memorial Project, was named among the world’s best CEOs by Barron’s magazine and was Chief Executive magazine’s 2004 CEO of the Year. Smith attended Yale University, where he earned a BA in 1966. After, he served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1966 to 1970.

 

Alan MurrayspacerAlan Murray is Deputy Managing Editor and Executive Editor, Online, for The Wall Street Journal. He has editorial responsibility for the Journal's websites, including WSJ.com and MarketWatch, and its books, conferences and television operations. Prior to his current position, Mr. Murray was Assistant Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of the paper's “Business“ column. Previously, he served as CNBC's Washington, DC, Bureau Chief and was co-host of Capital Report with Alan Murray and Gloria Borger. Before his three years at CNBC, he spent a decade as the Washington Bureau Chief for The Wall Street Journal. The bureau won three Pulitzer Prizes and many other awards during his tenure. Also an award-winning, best-selling book author, Mr. Murray most recently wrote The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management and Revolt in the Boardroom, The New Rules of Power in Corporate America and Showdown at Gucci Gulch. Mr. Murray received a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of North Carolina and a master's degree in economics from the London School of Economics, and in 2005, he completed the Stanford Executive Program. He lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, with his wife, Dr. Lori Murray, and their two children.