Dean Judy Olian and Frederick W. Smith

April 08, 2010

By Justin Tang

LOS ANGELES -- Hours before Frederick W. Smith, founder, chairman and CEO of FedEx, was presented with the 2010 John Wooden Global Leadership Award by UCLA Anderson, he joined Dean Judy Olian for a conversation in Korn Hall as part of the Dean's Distinguished Speaker Series.

Dean Judy Olian opened with a declaration -- "Fred Smith epitomizes the leadership that Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success teaches." She noted that the company is one of the most admired and trusted companies in the world and one consistently rated as one of the best corporations to work for. Further, she stated that the company's dedication to people and service is right in line with Coach Wooden's philosophies.

With numerous Anderson students in attendance, Dean Judy Olian asked Smith for advice on how today's MBA students can attract capital investors for new business ideas, a fitting question for a man who raised $80 million to launch what was originally known as Federal Express Corporation. "We raised $80 million in capital because we had a compelling business idea with three independent studies that supported our model. If you have a compelling business idea that can be mathematically verified, you can get the money you need to start a business," Smith responded, adding that it was the then-burgeoning venture capital industry that made financing FedEx possible.

In fact, Smith suggested that the United States' diverse system of higher education (which he contrasted to more homogenized systems of higher education in Europe and other developing nations) and still-thriving venture capital industry that sets this country apart while fostering an environment for entrepreneurship. "There's plenty of money out there," Smith emphasized.

The session coincided with FedEx' Southern California introduction of electric delivery trucks. The first of what will eventually be four such trucks arrived in Los Angeles the day before; the quartet to serve as a test of the feasibility of using electric trucks for package delivery in a major city.

Smith said that the environmental advantages of "green vehicles" was an "added benefit" - but not the primary motive for the eventual transition. The reduction of energy costs and the associated reduction on foreign fuel sources are paramount as reasons.

Smith also offered the assembled students some words of wisdom, rooted in his long experience as a top CEO.

"You must learn from your setbacks," Smith said. "And understand that (failure) is part of the human condition. Make sure you do what you like and do what you're good at, if you don't, you won't be happy.

"Failure can bring some of the best lessons in life."

About UCLA Anderson School of Management
UCLA Anderson School of Management, established in 1935, is regarded among the leading business schools in the world. UCLA Anderson faculty members are renowned for their teaching excellence and research in advancing management thinking. Each year, UCLA Anderson provides management education to more than 1,800 students enrolled in MBA, Fully-Employed MBA, Executive MBA, UCLA-NUS Global Executive MBA, Master of Financial Engineering, and doctoral programs, and to more than 2,000 professional managers through executive education programs. Combining highly selective admissions, varied and innovative learning programs, and a world-wide network of 36,000 alumni, UCLA Anderson develops and prepares global leaders.

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