Credit: PHOTO BY TNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Most everyone over age 35 remembers the classic ad campaign:
“When it absolutely, positively has to be there
Unveiled in 1978, that iconic phrase would come to symbolize the
philosophy of FedEx.
A similar approach has served as the driving force of sorts behind
Mark Reed and Memphis Pool, a family-run pool construction, service
and retail operation.
“That’s what impresses me,” says Reed, president
of the Memphis-based firm, a Pool & Spa News Top
“FedEx can say absolutely, positively overnight. What if we
could say that absolutely, 100 percent guaranteed, you call us and
we’re going to be there the next day, and we’re going
to fix what’s broken.”
For Reed, achieving maximum efficiency is a matter of instituting
clearly defined procedures for every facet of the business. And
it’s a never-ending project, as evidenced by an on-the-job
training manual that Reed helped craft about 5 years ago.
The bound guidebook, which is updated regularly, addresses the
responsibilities of each job in the company, from construction
crews to sales positions.
It’s helped management trim duplication, he says, and isolate
problems when there’s a breakdown.
What’s more, Memphis Pool utilizes flat-rate pricing on
service repair calls. So it’s critical that time is maximized
and procedures are streamlined. After all, maintenance trucks are a
kind of rolling inventory, he notes.
“It forces you to analyze every facet of your business
— how you run it and where your inefficiencies are,”
“It can be painful, but it’s worth the
The parallels between the two businesses — as well as the
lessons Reed takes — don’t end there, however.
In 1986, FedEx introduced the shipping industry’s first
handheld bar-code scanner, the “SuperTracker,” which
allowed for worldwide parcel tracking. Eight years later, FedEx.com
allowed customers to follow the progress of their packages online,
another industry first.
It was hailed as a breakthrough in customer service, and the
concept has been duplicated countless times over by a variety of
companies — including Reed’s.
For some time, Reed has provided his pool clients with near-daily
updates on the progress of construction. This frequent
communication helps eliminate questions about the project’s
status, what phase is upcoming, and what can be expected.
Though Reed acknowledges Memphis Pool will never approach FedEx in
sheer volume, it’s their attention to detail, efficiency and
innovation that provide inspiration.
“For them, it’s all about customer service on the
outside, and internally, it’s all about putting the processes
in place to enhance that customer experience,” Reed says.
“What impresses me is that FedEx doesn’t set itself up
to fail — they think it through, they run it, they practice
it, so when they roll it out, it’s perfected for the most
And that effort hasn’t gone unnoticed beyond Memphis. This
year, Fortune named FedEx No. 8 among the “World’s Most
Admired Companies.” And in 2010, the publication called it
one of the “100 Best Places to Work For.”