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Beg forgiveness

business strategy7On June 18, 1971, Fred Smith founded Federal Express with a $4 million inheritance. Today he is worth about $3.7 billion. If you are interested in understanding the culture of the company and having a light read, then check out some great stories about past and present staff.

There’s a famous story about a FedEx courier who was delivering emergency medical equipment. He came to a flooded river — so he hired a helicopter. He didn’t get fired and he’s still with Fedex today.

Retail is all about risk. You must take calculated risks to succeed. And yet many retailers do not foster this culture. To the contrary, staff are often afraid to take risks because there are adverse consequences if things go wrong. And if you take risks no matter how calculated, some will work and some won’t. In fact if they all work, then you are not taking risks!

It is important to encourage risk taking. If the majority of risks taken go pear shaped, that staff member has bad judgement. Sure, they’ll eventually get fired. But if you have someone who is never making a mistake, they’ll also get fired. You don’t want risk averse plodders in retail.

People have to be prepared to grasp the nettle and seize the initiative. They have to be prepared to beg forgiveness rather than ask permission. And you have to be prepared to offer that forgiveness and recognise the good risk takers.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702

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