5 of 5
BACKNEXT
Fred Smith, FedEx
The realistic optimist: People are not buying a lot of stuff today, but come the fourth quarter, I think maybe you'll see the economy start heading in the right direction. I would be surprised if it doesn't improve over the next year or so, almost regardless of what they do in Washington.

Finding an economic engine: We think the stimulus misses the mark. Business capital investment is really the locomotive that pulls the train. We've been advocating for a long time for industrial companies to be able to expense capital equipment and software when it's put into service. That's so important, because if you track business capital investment and job creation or job loss, it's 100% correlated.

Our defensive play: We built FedEx with a lot of flexibility to meet cyclical financial situations. Management compensation is heavily related to company performance. And when it comes to our capital equipment, we purposely have a number of airplanes that are fully depreciated. They're sort of our reserve fleet. When times are good, you pull those planes out and fly them, and when times are bad, you park them in the desert. It's free spare capacity.

On taking bailout funds: If you take government money and you get yourself in the public arena, then the Congress, quite frankly, has a right to put whatever restrictions on you that they desire. That's really the cost of the deal.

More galleries
Last updated March 02 2009: 7:50 AM ET
Full list: 363 Most Admired There is no higher praise than the respect of one's colleagues and competitors. See how 363 top companies rate in 9 key areas. More
Most admired in your state California is home to the most corporations on this year's list. See the top-rated firms near you (including interactive maps). More
5 CEOs' view from the top Being a great leader during an economic downturn isn't easy. More