How long does it take to create an overnight success? For Fred Smith, the first FedEx overnight package actually took eleven years to deliver…
In 1962, Fred wrote a paper for his economics class on the idea of an overnight delivery service. His professor gave him a ‘C’, saying “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.”
Not ready to give up on the idea, when Fred was sent to Vietnam as a Marine, he studied the Air Force’s logistics systems. As soon as he returned, in 1970, he bought an aircraft maintenance company, Ark Aviation Sales, and started trading in used jets.
By 1973, he had copied the military’s logistics operation with a small fleet of 14 Falcon 20 jets, and eleven years after his initial idea was rejected by his professor, he shipped his first parcel.
Despite raising venture capital funds to get the business off the ground, Fred lost all $29 million of it within the first two years of business. Desperate to pay the bills, with his last $5,000 in the bank, Fred flew to Las Vegas and bet his remaining money on Blackjack. He won $27,000, which paid the fuel bill due and kept FedEx in business.
As his partner, Roger Frock remembers the Monday after: “I asked Fred where the funds had come from, and he responded, ‘The meeting with the General Dynamics board was a bust and I knew we needed money for Monday, so I took a plane to Las Vegas and won $27,000.’ I said, ‘You mean you took our last $5,000— how could you do that?’ He shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘What difference does it make? Without the funds for the fuel companies, we couldn’t have flown anyway.’
FedEx went from one cash crisis on to another, but Fred persevered – through two recessions, the Asian crisis, the Dotcom crash and the Global Financial Crisis. Today, 40 years later, Fred has built a $2 billion fortune as CEO of a company that now ships over a billion packages a year.
From overnight successes to overnight deliveries, everything takes longer before anything happens faster. Remember every day is just another step closer to your own overnight success.
Just ask Fred.
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