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"What Can Brown Do For You?"
July | 2013


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Courageous Leadership

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Courageous Leadership

"What Can Brown Do For You?"

James E. Casey was a humble man. He never attributed the success of his company, which today is 48th on the Fortune 100 list and has revenues of close to $50 billion, to be of his making alone but one that required the collaboration and effort of his team members.

It was 1907 when the 19-year-old Casey, who had been working as a messenger decided that he could start his own delivery company. Back then people would communicate with others by using a public phone to call a messenger service that would then deliver the message to the intended recipient. Case started his company, the American Messenger Company with a simple motto..."Best service and lowest rates" and his delivery team did their level best to get those messages out on their bicycles.

As phones became more ubiquitous, Casey and his partners shifted their business model to begin accepting package deliveries for department stores. And with that approach, business boomed. It was not long before the company began an aggressive expansion program down the west coast in the 1920s. They renamed their company United Parcel Services and improved their delivery methods to include big brown box trucks. Casey wanted the trucks to be yellow but one of his partners pointed out that Pullman Rail Cars were brown by design and that helped keep them looking cleaner. Casey agreed and today, UPS's Brown stands out on the road and by your front door.

Jim Casey knew that to have a successful company, he had to build great business practices and Casey innovated many of the ideas that are common in today's package shipping industry. Casey developed the idea of rates for different delivery areas and divided the communities into different delivery zones where drivers could become more familiar with the neighbors and could improve their efficiency in delivery. Conveyer belt sorting machinery also helped UPS become more efficient in their delivery methods. After WW II, Casey saw his next great opportunity for growth beyond the delivery of local packages and that idea was to become a "common carrier" that could transport items across state lines. That idea put UPS in direct competition with the US Postal Service and a series of legal battles had to be fought before UPS won the right to deliver across the country.

Jim Casey's deepest held belief is that an organization is made up of team members who together make the company successful. He was one of the first business people to offer his employees profit sharing and the company was privately held for many years before going public in 1999 with just 10% of its share available to the public. He believed that his idea of employee-owners made a significant and lasting difference in the culture and success of the company.

Jim Casey believed that success was based on the idea that careful analysis could help the company be more efficient and so no aspect of UPS's services went unstudied. He was an early adopter of time and motion studies especially for his drivers and the results led to guidelines about how drivers should hold the car keys (with your pinkie finger so as not to fumble them with packages) and then later on how to put on the seatbelt (left hand while simultaneously inserting the key in the ignition). While scientific in intent, this approach also led managers to push employees to comply with these standards which over the years led to labor issues with the Teamsters who represented UPS's hourly workers. However management saw that efficiency studies only go so far and that building great employee relations required more than a good quantitative analysis.

He was a lifelong bachelor who eschewed the trappings of his position. He lived in simple surroundings and donated his wealth to a foundation he and his siblings started in their mother's name and The Annie E. Casey Foundation which has grown over the past 65 years to be one of the largest private foundations in the country primarily serves the needs of vulnerable children and their families in local communities and is a great supporter of public radio.

Jim Casey believed that success was based on "the sum of many little things done well". Building his business step by step, looking for opportunities to grow and expand while insuring that the service to customers was done right and at the best price was the hallmark of his and UPS's success. In our fast paced world, I sometimes think that I can get to the next level by just wishing myself there instead of recognizing that time and hard work is required to achieve that objective. Consider your successes and how you achieved those victories by insuring that all the steps are followed and executed well. Put that approach in play in your current ventures and get ready for more success!

 

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TED Talks

We sit more than we sleep and it is leading to many of the health and probably our ability to be creative in our work. Business Owner Nilofer Merchant suggests that perhaps we should try a new way to conduct business...the walking meeting. Hear how her ideas can help you create "out of the box thinking by getting out of the box".

 

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