Get the Packages
This was my second experience with the power of vision. It was so crystal clear, but it was far more immediate than the "Determined people create their conditions. They are not the victims of them," which was and still is the UPS vision.
The power was the incredible motivation to do whatever was necessary on the part of hundreds of employees each with their own interpretation of what it would take to GET THE PACKAGES.
Packages meant growth, customers who bought our story, venture capitalists listening, financing, and so forth. Everything would happen with packages. Nothing would happen without them. Thousands of people would eventually have that same vision while we struggled, without money, for years to survive and finally to succeed and thrive.
Pilots would land their planes and go make sales calls. Other pilots would run pickup and delivery stations all focused on GET THE PACKAGES. Couriers (drivers) would build relationships with shipping clerks and go through our competitors' packages, pull off their airbills, and put ours on. We called them package thieves (a good term, although we didn't direct them to do it).
Looking back, I don't believe Federal Express would have become the industry leader that it is had we gotten the 300 packages. Without the sense of failure and the core learning that comes from failure, we would not have had the focus, nor would we have developed the service culture that still permeates the company today, nearly 30 years later.
We decided that first week that the 10 cities from Jacksonville, FL, to St. Louis, MO, didn't give shippers enough coverage. We identified 15 additional cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago, and other major cities in the east.
We put a team together with the mission to get 15 cities opened in 15 business days. The team would fly into a city with specific roles. One person took care of the Piper Cub and found a motel for everyone, another found a place for the cargo jet to unload and be serviced, another found a place for the trucks and couriers, and the fourth would go to a bar during happy hour.
This last person was responsible for hiring. At the peak of happy hour activity, he'd stand on a chair, tap on a glass, and make the announcement that he was representing a new company in town and was hiring tonight. People would come to the table, fill out an application, and be hired on the spot. As Tom Peters says, "Hire fast; fire fast." And that's what we did.
The GET THE PACKAGES vision permeated at every level of the organization. People interpreted this vision each in their own way, and this gave us the strength that eventually made us unbeatable in the marketplace.