Startup Stories: FedEx, Amazon and Martha Stewart Living
Legendary entrepreneurs suffer challenges like the rest of us. Here’s how Fred Smith, Jeff Bezos and Martha Stewart got around them.
Successful entrepreneurs stand a breed apart.
Whether pursuing a singular passion or a burning desire to create, the best entrepreneurs are always probing for improvement, embracing change and learning from failure as much as from success. The lions of entrepreneurship misstep like the rest of us, but they also wield a stubborn confidence and an amazing ability to adapt, survive and thrive in the face of common fears. Consider these less than auspicious beginnings:
• A Yale economics professor told a young Fred Smith his term paper, based on an idea for a company that would guarantee overnight delivery to major U.S. cities, was foolish, and gave Smith a subpar grade for his work.
• Critics and advisers told Jeff Bezos the range of products his cutting-edge startup Amazon.com website offered was too broad and not economically viable.
• Naysayers crowed that no one would sit in front of the television to watch Martha Stewart, a fussy perfectionist, on the ABCs of style. One thing Smith, Bezos and Stewart shared was that they looked beyond potentially paralyzing fears to focus on driving their businesses forward.
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Fred Smith knows how to deliver—and evolve. While many textbook entrepreneurs possess management skills best suited only for the startup stage of a business, Smith’s ability to adapt and integrate his company mission through more than 35 fast-paced, competitive and turbulent years provides valuable insight for today’s entrepreneurs.
An amateur pilot, Smith enlisted in the Marine Corps upon graduation from Yale and served two tours in Vietnam, earning two Purple Hearts. He often cites the leadership and teamwork training he received from the Marines as integral to his success.