Yesterday (6.7.2017) in Nashville at the 36|86 Technology Conference attended by early stage Southeast companies and investors, FedEx founder and chairman Fred Smith, was interviewed in a fireside chat format by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. When asked by one of the entrepreneurs if he had some specific advice for the hopeful startup creators, Smith shared these five observations.

1 | Be objective about what you are trying to do.

“You must have a competitive advantage, and you must be able to sustain it,” Smith said. He told the audience that when he was starting FedEx (“when we didn’t have the budget to do it”), he commissioned three different companies to do the same research study in order to get an objective assessment of his theories about the marketplace they were planning to serve.

2 | You must have great people.

And those great people must be treated fairly and share in the rewards of the company’s performance.

3 | Business is just math, it’s not life.

He urged the entrepreneurs to realize that while being successful at business is good, but that family and other things away from work are more important.

4 | Work hard, but be true to your values.

And care about your health.

5 | Have a sense of humor

Smith punctuated the entire conversation with self-deprecating observations that charmed the audience while driving home his insights.

Interview photo | 3686 Conference
FedEx jet | Alan Radecki via CC 3.0

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