Frederick Smith wasn’t exactly in love with academics. He attended Yale in 1962 and was a solid “C” student. When one of his courses assigned a paper, he wrote one at the last minute. He later admitted that it likely also got him a “C”.
His paper was about the transportation of goods. At the time, freight companies were using planes to deliver heavy packages. In his paper, Smith argued that it could be efficient to use planes for smaller items too.
Armed with a grade-C paper and a dream (plus $4 million in inheritance and some $80 million in loans and investment 😉), Smith bought 8 planes and started a shipping company—FedEx—in 1971.
Two years later, FedEx was nearing bankruptcy. New funding was rejected and fuel costs were rising. Pilots had to occasionally use their personal credit cards to fuel the planes. With just $5k left, the planes weren’t going to fly much longer. So, Smith decided to massively cut expenses to go to Las Vegas and gamble with the remaining $5k 😱.
One week later, Smith went back home with $27k, which was just enough to keep the planes in the air for another week!
Smith immediately leveraged this breath of fresh air. He went on to pitch investors again, this time with higher motivation and a hell of a story. He managed to raise $11 million, which later led to stabilizing the company.
Today, 45 years later, FedEx is a thriving company delivering 1.2 billion packages in over 220 countries.
AN UNCONVENTIONAL TRUTH
Smith’s decision to gamble with the remaining money might sound random or reckless. But this is exactly the type of unconventional thinking that can make a difference in tough times. Unconventional thinking is exactly what makes a difference between good and mind-blowing. You’ve guessed it, this is not something taught in school, as it might in fact earn you a solid “C” 😉.
© Story by Tarek Issa.