A Ream Of Culture Clashes At FedEx Kinko’s

I’ve made many copies of my book at Kinko’s and sent plenty of them via FedEx. So a merger of the two seemed fine to me. So how’s it all going? The New York Times takes a closer look.

“We’ve got three cultures at play here,” said Brian D. Philips, Fedex Kinko’s chief operating officer.
But most see cultures at war. “At Kinko’s, there’s a thin veneer of professional folks riding herd on a vast platoon of semitrained people,” said James E. Schrager, clinical professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. “That’s just not the FedEx way.” A result, said Robert Boyden Lamb, a management professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University, is that “these cultures do not gel, they do not hook together at key points.”
Even [FedEx Kinko’s CEO Kenneth] Mr. May, who has been with FedEx for 24 years and has run FedEx Kinko’s for two, acknowledges the vast gulf. “Kinko’s was a way station where you stayed a few years, but you build a career at FedEx,” he said. “The Kinko’s people are hip, they’re fun, but they needed oversight.”
Kinko’s workers, many of whom still tell tales of the annual picnics [the original founder of Kinko’s, Paul] Mr. Orfalea gave for co-workers (he hated the word “employee”), describe an entirely different situation.
Kinko’s coddled its workers, they say, who in turn coddled customers. “I had cornrows and green hair, and no one seemed to mind,” recalled Sharon A. Robinson, once a worker at a Kinko’s in Laramie, Wyo., and now a product specialist.

It’s an interesting clash of cultures. Kinko’s has always been a bit unpredictable: the quality of the service has always depended on who’s behind the counter, what time of day you go in, and how many clueless grandmothers looking for enlargements are in line in front of you. But FedEx’s mission has always been more singleminded of purpose.
Do mergers like these strenghten brands or weaken them?



About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.