112 – FedEx helicopter story absolutely positively flies

If you give your employees guiding principles rather than rules, they will do amazing things. Listen to hear special guest Doug Keeley’s favourite business story of all time.

Delivery driver in truck

This week on Anecdotally Speaking, we have a special guest! Doug Keeley joins Shawn and Mark on the podcast.

Doug is an Anecdote Partner and the CEO and Chief Storyteller at Stories Rule! He shares how he got into storytelling, met the Anecdote team, and his all-time favourite business story.

Mark mentions Dave Carroll’s 2009 YouTube sensation, United Breaks Guitars, which Shawn wrote about in this blog post.

If you would like to connect with Doug, you can find his LinkedIn profile here.

For your storybank

Tags: customer service, customers, principles before rules, storytelling, values, values in action

This story starts at 08:43

In the mid-1980s, Doug was working in a communications agency in Toronto. Standing in his office one morning, he read an intriguing newspaper headline.

A young package delivery company, Federal Express, had recently promised their customers that they would deliver their packages ‘absolutely, positively’ on time. The headline read, “Federal Express driver rents helicopter to deliver a package.” The article explained that, during a recent snowstorm, a Federal Express driver had been trying to deliver a package. Roads had closed, and the driver knew he wouldn’t make it in time in his delivery truck.

Federal Express had promised its customers that it would deliver their packages ‘absolutely, positively’ on time. Without calling his head office, he made a decision. He hired a helicopter, flew it to the destination, and personally delivered the package on time.

There was a comment in the newspaper which read, “These people will be out of business by Christmas.” Fred Smith, CEO at Federal Express, later rebuked the comment. He reiterated the company’s promise to deliver packages ‘absolutely, positively’ on time. And he observed that the company’s delivery drivers were smart enough not to hire helicopters every time there’s a snowstorm.

Federal Express made the driver who had hired the helicopter a hero. His actions kickstarted storytelling in one of the world’s best storytelling companies and occurred at the start of Federal Express’ transition to FedEx.

After hearing the story, Doug, his company, and his clients all decided they wanted FedEx to deliver their packages and gave the company their business.

About  Anecdote International

Anecdote International is a global training and consulting company, specialising in utilising storytelling to bring humanity back to the workforce. Anecdote is now unique in having a global network of over 60 partners in 28 countries, with their learning programs translated into 11 languages, and customers who incorporate these programs into their leadership and sales enablement activities.

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