How A Military Forward Air Controller Built One Of America's Best Companies

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You don't become a billionaire and titan of industry by going with the flow. Those who dream big often have to do it alone. It's not that the world is against them, it's the fact that their visions are so grand the world can't wrap its collective head around what they're doing until it's accomplished.


Take the founder of FedEx.

Frederick W. Smith, president of Federal Express, in a photo from September 25, 1976. (Commercial Appeal files)FedEx

Fred Smith is the founder and CEO of FedEx. Smith's first foray into what would become FedEx, air to ground transport, was as an undergrad at Yale. He wrote an underwhelmingly received paper on overnight parcel delivery in the computer age, an out-of-the-blue concept at the time.

After his graduation in 1966, he commissioned in the United States Marine Corps and served two tours in Vietnam, one as an infantry officer and one as a forward air controller. It was in Vietnam that he personally witnessed the power of the military's logistics operations -- utilizing air to transport personnel and equipment on a massive scale. And when he left Vietnam, he took these lessons with him.

Frederick W Smith in the MarinesDept. Of Defense

In 1970, a year after his honorable discharge, including a Silver Star, Bronze Star and two Purple Heart medals, Smith purchased the controlling interest in Ark Aviation Sales and a year later had founded Federal Express, which started service to 25 cities with a small fleet of jets.

As of 2017, FedEx has an annual revenue of $60 billion dollars. It was the company that introduced the world to overnight delivery, and Fred Smith was the one who made it happen.

Frederick W Smith founder of FedExFedEx

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