FedEx CEO kicks off first event of annual Pilliod Lecture Series

Colleen Watson

Jack Pickard, FedEx Custom Critical president and CEO, kicked off this year’s Pilliod Lecture Series yesterday by discussing “Innovation: The Corporate Fountain of Youth.”

“It really let you know how important innovation is to a company,” freshman finance major Ben Adams said.

Students, local business people and faculty gathered to hear Pickard’s address on modern business solutions.

“The number one criterion that students will have to adapt to is creativity and innovation to be a successful manager,” said Goodyear Executive Professor Gregory Hackett.

“(Pickard is) a seasoned executive in a pretty tough industry,” Hackett said. “Why struggle with innovation when you can hear it from someone who actually pulls it off?”

Pickard has been with FedEx since 1986. In 2001, he was appointed president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical. Pickard “was instrumental in redefining the company’s driving force in order to meet customers’ critical-shipment needs,” according to literature from the lecture.

“You have to be curious about the business you’re in,” Pickard said. “I try to do something once a month, like attending a lecture or reading a business book, to broaden my knowledge about business and human relationships.”

Pickard began his speech with information about FedEx and the history of the Custom Critical department. One of the department’s early innovations was creating a trucking company with an air freight image, he said.

“Innovation really breaks down into four broad areas for companies, and those are process, product or services, customer service and strategy,” Pickard said.

While his speech covered a number of other issues in innovation, Pickard wanted students to take away one main idea.

“Most importantly, I want (students) to know that change in business is constant and the best innovative ideas come from within the corporation, from the employees,” he said. “Whenever you get into a leadership position, create an environment where new ideas can be fostered.”

Freshman finance major Kaylee Wisenburg said she thought highly of Pickard.

“He knows what he’s doing and has proven he deserves to be the CEO of FedEx Custom Critical,” she said.

Pickard was the first lecturer in this year’s Pilliod Lecture Series, which is supported largely by Goodyear. The series is named after former Goodyear CEO Charles J. Pilliod, who helped create the Goodyear Executive Professorship at Kent State.

“(The Pilliod Lecture Series) allows us to bring in leading-edge thinkers from businesses that are tackling ugly issues, and then we get a chance to steal their learning curves,” Hackett said.

Contact College of Business Administration reporter Colleen Watson at [email protected].