Beale, Barbecue, A Big Ole Bed, And Midnight At The FedEx Super Hub

One of the great things about being a blogger is the networking opportunities. Oh sure, I’ve yet to be invited to Disney (hint hint) but who needs Mickey and It’s A Small World After All when you have Elvis and rockabilly and blues on Beale just a short car ride from your own driveway?

A few weeks ago a PR representative from FedEx invited me and the fabulous Amy from Milk Breath and Margaritas to tour the FedEx Super Hub in Memphis. I love Memphis and I was excited to have a little mama field trip with Amy who had never been to the land of Elvis and ribs and the blues. We hit the road mid-morning (I admit I was a little late getting our rental car and panicked momentarily when they didn’t have a car but we got a free upgrade at Enterprise to a Nissan Xterra which I totally loved driving since I’m an SUV mama) and headed to the beautiful historic Peabody hotel. As many times as I’ve been to Memphis I’ve never stayed at The Peabody, although my best friend and I hit the Peabody spa last summer. It is truly a gorgeous hotel and a must see when in Memphis.

I didn’t know much about FedEx as a company but of course it’s a very visible company and we receive a lot of FedEx deliveries at home and at work. I left thoroughly impressed with their entire operation, which is NO small entity. Amy and I met with our wonderful host and tour guide Matt Ceniceros, the resident social media geek at FedEx, who is genuinely interested in developing a rapport with the mommy blog community. FedEx Chairman, President, and CEO Fred Smith and several executives at FedEx, such as Sheila Harrell, Vice President for Customer Service Operations, who was an absolute joy to meet, are now blogging. Harrell, who has an 11-year-old daughter, said the positive reaction she’s received from some of the posts she’s written about her own quest to find work/life balance has been amazing.

After some free time on Beale Street, the highlight of our trip was a late night tour of the FedEx Express Super Hub with special media passes. Basically FedEx takes over the Memphis International Airport every night in a well-orchestrated display of productivity ingenuity. Everything has a backup plan and the backup plans have backup plans. It’s quite amazing for a company that launched in 1973 with just 14 small aircraft that now has the second largest commercial air fleet in the U.S. and has more than 290,000 employees worldwide.

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Me with FedEx VP Sheila Harrell and fellow Nashville mommy blogger Amy from Milkbreath And Margaritas.

Here are some fascinating facts about the FedEx Super Hub:

  • More than 15,000 employees work at “the hub”
  • The facilities are located across 500 acres at the Memphis International Airport
  • Operating hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
  • More than 5,000 flights pass through the Memphis Super Hub monthly with an average of 1.5 million packages sorted through the facility daily
  • More than 300 miles of conveyor belts create a state-of-the-art automated package-sorting system capable of processing 500,000 packages an hour (!)

I have to admit that since touring FedEx I notice every white FedEx delivery vehicle on the road…and I see them constantly! Amy and I were able to view the entire impressive operation from an observation tower and were given a tour by van and also by foot. The planes are landing constantly and everything is timed precisely down to the second. FedEx takes their packages VERY seriously. It’s truly a science.

We got back to the Peabody shortly after 2 a.m. as the Super Hub media tours start after 11 p.m. and I crashed in my king-size bed. Isn’t it a beauty? Yes I took a picture of my bed. I was that excited about burrowing into the plush high thread count midst of it with as many pillows as I could muster.

peabody-hotel-bed

Thankfully Matt spared us from any early morning meetings. About 10:15 we headed out to tour the packaging design and development area at FedEx. It was completely fascinating to hear and see how boxes are engineered, designed, and tested to ship everything from furniture to Mother’s Day flowers. We even met the engineer responsible for the seabound FedEx packages in the Tom Hanks film Cast Away. The packages had to be specially designed to withstand being tossed around at “sea” and being waterlogged on the set for days.

Before we headed home to Nashville we enjoyed a delightful lunch with FedEx executive and fellow working mom Sheila Harrell in her office with a beautiful view of the FedEx headquarters’ campus. Sheila was truly down to earth. She began her career with FedEx 30 years ago (FedEx launched in 1973) and is one of FedEx’s most popular bloggers, along with Chairman, President, and CEO Fred Smith. Sheila spoke with Amy and I about blogging and other issues relevant to being a working mom and it was clear to me that no matter if you are a behind-the-scenes at work  mom like me or a high-powered C-suite executive, all working moms deal with the same day-to-day issues of balancing motherhood and career.

It’s easy to see why FedEx is one of the world’s most admired companies. The culture is amazing. Harrell spoke passionately about customer service. FedEx boasts the fastest response rate in the industry with less than a 2-second call pickup response time, and with 283,000 calls a day that is no small feat. At the heart of the culture is the belief that the customer is always first and something FedEx calls The Purple Promise. It may sound hokey, but after touring FedEx I believe it’s true.

Thanks FedEx and to Matt for the invitation to get a behind the scenes look at your company!

Do you have any questions for Matt about FedEx or any ideas about how FedEx could work with the mommy blog community?

p.s. FedEx is now the official shipping provider of Rendezvous ribs ya’ll! Get ya some fine slab of rib goodness shipped straight to your doorstep. You won’t regret it (but you don’t want to wear white while eating the ribs.)

7 comments

  1. EG says:

    FedEx also has Denny Hamlin, hometown hero in Richmond, Virginia! I really don’t have any questions for them, but as a process dork in my job I’m pretty fascinated by their logistics.

  2. Sheila Harrell says:

    It was such a joy to get to spend time with you and Amy. Networking with other Mom’s on a mission to be the best they can be at work and at home is agift. Sharing tips and ideas about the balance was fun and informative for me. I was also so impressed with your desire to make our world a better place both from a buisness perspective and also from raising people who can carry on the mission. You and Amy are really awesome women who take the time to help others like me first see that we are not alone and secondly give us honest information that is useful. I am so glad you too enjoyed our time together. Keep up the good work! It does make a difference!!! Sheila

  3. Debunot says:

    I had to get something fed-exed to me on a business trip recently. I felt so super important. Yes, I realize that makes me totally lame!

  4. Liz@thisfullhouse says:

    Wow, it’s nice to see behind-the-scenes views of companies like FEDEX. Never even knew that FEDEX had a blog. Good to know. Heading over now. Oh, and thanks for sharing the pic of bed in your hotel room. Only a mom blogger would know the significance of such a gesture, right?

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