The FredEx conundrum
FedEx’s visionary founder is an old-style disrupter in danger of being disrupted
For outsiders, FedEx is synonymous with the business it pioneered: the overnight delivery of packages. For insiders, it might just as well be called FredEx. It is virtually indistinguishable from its founder, Fred Smith, who has been boss since 1971. The 75- year-old, who came up with his idea for air freighting packages at Yale University, is the stuff of folklore. Some of it is apocryphal, such as the story that he got a C at Yale for a paper outlining his idea (he can’t recall the grade). But one tale is, if anything, too good to check. In its early days, as the firm flirted with bankruptcy, he saved it with a lucky wager at a blackjack table in Las Vegas.
站在局外人的角度来看，联邦快递是其首创业务的同义词：快递隔天送达 。而对于内部人士来说，不妨称其为弗雷德快递 。该公司的创始人弗雷德•史密斯自1971年以来一直担任该公司的老板 。这位75岁的老人在耶鲁大学提出了空运包裹的想法，这个故事广为流传 。其中一些是杜撰的，比如他在耶鲁大学得C的一篇论文，这篇论文概述了他的想法(他记不起分数了) 。但有一个故事（若存在的话）太好了以至于不知真假 。早期，当公司濒临破产时，他在拉斯维加斯的21点赌桌下了一个幸运的赌注，挽救了公司 。
Mr Smith is an entrepreneur of the old school. The ex-marine dispatched his first 14 planes in 1973—on the first day they carried 186 packages. FedEx is now the biggest cargo airline in the world, with 681 aircraft and an average volume of 15m packages a day. He has played politics as he plays cards, be that securing deregulation of the air-cargo industry in the 1970s, winning protection from American unions or schmoozing congressmen at the FedEx Field, home to the Washington Redskins. Among American firms, FedEx has long been one of the most recognisable, admired and popular to work for. In January the board in effect gave Mr Smith tenure for life, by waiving the firm’s retirement age of 75 for executives. “Like a Supreme Court judge,” chuckles one admirer.
史密斯先生是一位老派的企业家 。1973年，这位前海军陆战队员派出了第一批14架飞机，第一天就运送了186个包裹 。如今，联邦快递是全球最大的货运航空公司，拥有681架飞机，平均每天运送1500万件包裹 。他一边玩牌，一边玩弄政治，比如在上世纪70年代确保放松对航空货运行业的管制，赢得美国工会的保护，或者在联邦快递的地盘上（华盛顿红皮球队的主场）与国会议员拉关系 。在美国公司中，联邦快递一直是最受认可、最受尊敬、最受欢迎的公司之一 。今年1月，董事会通过免除公司高管75岁的退休年龄，实际上给予了史密斯终身职位 。“就像最高法院的法官，”一位仰慕者笑道 。