10 Things You Didn’t Know About Fred Smith

When it comes to influential business leaders, Fred Smith is a name that often comes up. As the founder and CEO of FedEx, Smith revolutionized the package delivery industry and built an empire that now handles millions of shipments every day. While many may know about his role in shaping FedEx, there are some lesser-known facts about Fred Smith that are worth exploring. In this article, we will uncover 10 things you didn’t know about Fred Smith.

1. Olympic Dreams

Long before founding FedEx, Fred Smith had dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete. He was a promising student-athlete in high school and competed in track and field events. However, a severe car accident during his senior year left him with serious injuries that prevented him from pursuing a career in sports at an elite level.

2. Battle in the Skies

During the Vietnam War, Fred Smith served as a Marine Corps officer and flew over 200 combat missions as a pilot. His experience in the military taught him valuable lessons about logistics and management, which later played a significant role in shaping the operations of FedEx.

3. The Birth of FedEx

FedEx, originally known as Federal Express, was born out of Fred Smith’s college term paper. While attending Yale University, Smith’s idea for an overnight delivery service gained a mediocre grade from his economics professor but remained a vision that he knew could transform the shipping industry.

4. The $5,000 Gamble

When FedEx struggled to stay afloat in its early years, Fred Smith decided to take a risky move. He took the company’s remaining $5,000 and flew to Las Vegas to play blackjack. He won $27,000, enough money to cover the company’s fuel bill for a week. This gamble kept FedEx alive long enough to secure further funding.

5. Pioneer of Digital Transmission

In the early 1970s, Fred Smith recognized the importance of digital transmission for enhancing FedEx’s operations. He had a computer system developed that could track packages and provide real-time data, making FedEx one of the first companies to adopt electronic tracking in the industry.

6. Advocacy for Deregulation

Fred Smith was a strong advocate for airline deregulation, which eventually led to the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. This act removed government control over fares, routes, and market entry for commercial airlines. Smith’s support for deregulation allowed FedEx to expand its own airline and streamline its operations.

7. The Purple Promise

Under Fred Smith’s leadership, FedEx adopted the motto “The Purple Promise,” which signifies the commitment to providing exceptional service to customers. This promise led to a strong emphasis on rigorous employee training and a culture focused on delivering the best customer experience.

8. Honored with Numerous Awards

Throughout his career, Fred Smith has received numerous accolades for his contributions to business and entrepreneurship. Some notable awards include the Living Legend in Aviation by the Kitty Hawk Foundation and CEO of the Year by Chief Executive Magazine.

9. A True Philanthropist

Fred Smith is known for his philanthropy and has donated significant sums to various causes. He has contributed to organizations focused on education, healthcare, and disaster relief. Smith’s commitment to giving back is a reflection of his belief in making a positive impact on society.

10. Aviation Hall of Fame

In 2005, Fred Smith was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame for his extraordinary contributions to the aviation industry. This recognition solidified his position as a pioneer who not only transformed package delivery but also made significant strides in aviation logistics.

As we delve into the life and achievements of Fred Smith, it becomes evident that his impact reaches far beyond founding FedEx. From his Olympic dreams to his role in shaping aviation logistics, his journey is one filled with determination, innovation, and a commitment to excellence.

For more information on Fred Smith and his contributions:

FedEx Corporate Information

National Aviation Hall of Fame – Fred Smith