Fred Smith On Why Connections Matter
The future often arrives in the form of a choice: Either make a bold commitment to evolve, or be swept away by the forces of change. Slammed by the Great Recession, a Wisconsin shoemaker put its best foot forward and reinvented itself as a gutsy retailer with a global vision.
After shipping only 900 pairs of shoes a day in 2009, last year Allen Edmonds upped that to more than 3,500 packages in one day. The company, whose shoes have been worn by four U.S. presidents, has turned Made in America into a global fashion statement that projects authenticity and quality. The brand is especially popular in China, the home of three new retail stores.
How did Allen Edmonds do it? By heeding a simple call to action: Connect. The company connected with men’s fashion trends. It connected with quality sources of leather around the world. And thanks in part to e-commerce, it connected with global demand. The result has been a sharp rise in revenue, job growth and civic pride in the town of Port Washington, Wisconsin.
At FedEx, we believe that when people make connections, the power of technology, transportation, information, and ideas compound and multiply. Innovation soars and energizes the marketplace. Entrepreneurs and big business alike create jobs that lift their communities. It’s especially important in parts of the world where people are hungry for access to the education, goods, services and jobs that lead to a better life.
Here’s some food for thought: FedEx connects 99 percent of global GDP. More than 7 billion people access the internet worldwide. There are more mobile devices than people on the planet. Yet only 1 percent of what could be connected in the world actually is, according to Padmasree Warrior, Cisco Systems technology chief.
Her point is simple but profound: We’re just beginning to create an internet of everything, one that connects not just devices, but cars, traffic lights, appliances and even what we wear. She believes those connections, which could grow to 50 billion by 2020, can solve some of the world’s most persistent problems.
The Access 25 demonstrates how this deepening intersection between digital and physical connections is already affecting our businesses and lives:
Online shopping is growing faster globally than in the U.S. E-commerce sales are expected to top $1 trillion in 2016, 1 percent of global GDP. E-commerce is not only changing our buying habits, but our sourcing and distribution strategies. Just ask the founders of Bremont, a U.K. luxury watchmaker, whose business is riding a 50 percent growth curve.
Transportation choices are shifting to accommodate business needs. The growth of global trade has slowed for many reasons, including high fuel costs and policy decisions by major world governments that impede commerce. But businesses are finding less costly ways to manage their supply chains. Slow and steady has become the mantra of many traffic managers opting for ocean transport for heavy international shipments, thanks to better schedule reliability and enhanced information capabilities for sea transport.
The provenance of goods is increasingly important to consumers. Brands have always mattered to consumers. Now companies from Patagonia to Apple are becoming more open about their supply chains. Consumers are using the power of the web to understand how and where their favorite products get made.
Near-shoring is shifting the balance of manufacturing. The price of fuel and labor is enticing more businesses to move manufacturing back to their own region, if not their own country. In North America, the shale boom is lowering energy costs, making it more efficient for major brands to manufacture in the U.S. The Boston Consulting Group reported that by 2020, U.S. exports could increase by billions of dollars.
Better information is giving us the power to solve problems and change lives. Data gives us the ability to make better decisions in real time. This includes everything from more efficiently managing your inventory and supply chain to consulting a fitness tracker to improve your own well-being.
Take a few minutes to enjoy this issue of Access. As author and organizational management thought leader Margaret J. Wheatley says: “Innovation is fostered by information gathered from new connections; from insights gained by journeys into other disciplines or places; from active, collegial networks and fluid, open boundaries.”
How connected are you?