Most Setbacks are really setting you up for a comeback

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Written by

Deolu Akinyemi

There are so many refreshing stories of companies in America, that our gap of having content about African businesses is a big business opportunity. I am really thinking of spending some time compiling the story of a few Nigerian businesses – real ones, into a book.

For today’s lessons, however, I’ll like us to glean from the interesting story of an overnight delivery idea.

The story of how FedEx (Federal Express) was started is a testament to the power of personal conviction, determination, and taking an innovative idea to the market. The company’s founder, Fred Smith, had a vision that defied conventional wisdom and revolutionized the package delivery industry.

(That vision that you have that won’t go, commit energy and time to it)

Upon presenting his idea to his professor, Smith received a grade of C on his paper. The professor argued that the concept was impractical and unfeasible. Despite this academic setback, Smith remained undeterred. He believed that the concept had potential and that the challenges could be overcome with the right strategy and execution.

(Don’t let anybody’s view allow you to dump your idea without testing it, setbacks are for comebacks)

After graduating from Yale, Smith enlisted in the Marine Corps and served two tours in Vietnam. During his time in the military, his belief in the concept of an overnight delivery service remained steadfast. In 1970, he used his military inheritance and other investments to launch Federal Express, later known as FedEx.

(Everything good in this life will still require a leap of faith)

The early days of FedEx were filled with challenges. The company faced financial difficulties, operational hiccups, and skepticism from potential investors. At one point, the company’s funds were so depleted that it was on the verge of bankruptcy.

(Challenges are normal, every pot that will cook good soup will get fire at the base)

In 1973, FedEx faced a crisis known as “Black Friday.” The company’s funds were critically low, and it couldn’t cover its fuel expenses and payroll. Smith made a daring move and flew to Las Vegas with the company’s remaining $5,000 to play blackjack. He managed to win $27,000, which was just enough to keep FedEx afloat for a few more days. This allowed the company to secure further funding and continue its operations.

(Katakata wuruwuru no day finish, ehen… make you try to enjoy. You leave one trouble enter, and other, keep going until the coast is clear)

In 1977, FedEx won a legal battle that allowed the company to operate its delivery service without being hampered by regulatory challenges. This was a turning point for FedEx, enabling it to expand its operations and demonstrate the effectiveness of its overnight delivery model.

(There will be little wins, and then big wins)

Fred Smith’s conviction and determination paid off. FedEx fundamentally transformed the package delivery industry by offering guaranteed overnight delivery services. The company introduced the concept of a hub-and-spoke distribution system, which streamlined operations and ensured quick deliveries.

(When you succeed, you unknowingly give permission to many others to do the same. Your story and product become leverage for many others too.)

In this life, you will take risks, you will have challenges, you will sometimes fall, sometimes fail, but if you keep at whatever it is you are doing, ultimately you will not only succeed, you will be a hub for many people’s success.

Adeolu Akinyemi

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