Starbucks - The People Connecting Business

I heard Harold Schultz, the man who took Starbucks to where it is today, on Charlie Rose the other night. Did you see him? If not, you can watch the interview at

I was struck by how “un-corporate” he was. His answers were personal in tone, direct in manner and when he was not sure he said so with great ease. Refreshing and a bit of an adjustment for Charlie and, I would guess, his viewers.

Mr. Schultz was quick to note that Starbucks is in “the human service business” and is about “romancing the beverage.” They exist, and their success is dependent upon, giving people what they desire. It is the “c” word, no, not coffee, but contact. This connection is achieved by sitting with friends or colleagues or chatting with the order taker or barista each morning before heading for the office and then maybe other times during the day. For many people Starbuck’s employees, or for that matter the train conductor, parking attendant or mail carrier have become the important, stabilizing, force in their work lives offering a sense of community and continuity. In their global expansion the company found the same basic needs and usage worldwide. At 40 million visits per day that’s a lot of connectivity power.

Schultz also noted the majority of new drinks come directly from customer’s custom requests at the store level. It is believed there are currently 87,000 combinations. Workers listen, report back and another product is created. Great products have been the result of mistakes. There was a failed attempt with a cold coffee drink. That misstep lead to the highly successful frappuccino. They own 95% of the worldwide market in that single item. Had they scrapped the idea or become a bit gun shy a substantial money maker would have been lost. When is the last time an error of yours became a moneymaker?

This leader’s business mission is values driven. His beliefs come from very personal experiences. Early in his life his father was disabled on the job. The family did not have health insurance. The event threw the family into poverty and had a life-altering impact on Howard. Schultz’s adult response was “I wanted to build the kind of company my father never had a chance to work for, where he was respected”. This is why Starbucks offers health insurance to all employees who work 20+ hours (and the reason so many people work for them). Health insurance costs the company more than coffee (the recent price increase was to further cover employee health insurance not wholesale costs or profits). Health insurance is non-negotiable budget item as far as the owner is concerned. The company policy is often cited as an example of how benefits can drive business and influence government policy.

Schultz visits about five stores per week. “I am looking to catch people doing something right, not to get in their face or reprimand them. They know that.” He sees his brick and mortar facilities as being the place where technology will serve the people in their community and enhance the Starbuck’s experience. They are well on their way to WIFI in all locations and he imagines broadcasting films and Starbuck created documentaries (a passion of his) within the stores to individual’s laptops.

So what were my takeaways?

For me it was be real. And if something feels really right to you it probably has some validity and marketability.

Not a bad idea to invest in a legal, addictive substance. Talk about buzz!

We are the sons and daughters of our parents. Their experiences influence how we think and behavior. Fortunately, the choice is ours whether to imitate, alter or reject their message.

People work for more than money and customers don’t just buy a product.

It’s lonely out their. We are social animals in cubicles communicating on machines.

You can be a poor boy, raised in the projects of Brooklyn, be a third-rate football player, work for Xerox, then join a coffee company and move to Seattle, travel on a business to Italy and become enchanted with the coffee bars, learn your employers don’t share your dream, take a risk and buy the company with investors for $3.8 million (though you don’t have a cent), make a zillion dollars, buy a professional basketball team, and dramatically impact the global culture…all before you’re 50.

Here’s your challenge for the week

  1. Take a look at your business. What aspect of “human service” could/should be improved, changed or scraped?
  2. How have the values of those who raised you translated into your professional dealings with others? Are you proud of your behavior?
  3. What products or services are your customers telling you they want and need that you are not hearing or are not contemplating?
  4. What do you need to do, right now, to make sure you have the level of connection you require? Do you have too much, too little, or the wrong type?

Jane Cranston is an executive coach, career coach and “The Job Search Expert” based in New York City. She shares with success driven executives and professionals techniques, skills and goal setting strategies that advance their careers, increase people management skills and assists them in career change or job search. Receive Jane’s free "Competitive Edge Report" and the free audio download “Creating a Career Strategy” by visiting

About the Author

Jane Cranston - Executive Coach NY (New York)Executive and career coach, “The Job Search Expert,” Jane Cranston understands the challenges and opportunities in the workplace. She integrates years of experience as an accomplished senior executive with global brand name companies, with the lessons learned from opening three successful businesses, and then applies her education and coach training. This sophisticated mix affords her clients her unique perspective, business sensibility, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Jane is the founder and Managing Director of ExecutiveCoachNY, an executive and career coaching business based in New York City with clients nationwide. She coaches success-driven executives and managers to develop a career strategy that accelerates advancement, increases compensation, enhances people-management skills as well as gets the competitive edge in all business activities.

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Jane Cranston is frequently seen on CNN’s “Your Money” and quoted in nationally syndicated newspapers, magazines, as well as Internet article sites and virtual programs. She authors the free, twice monthly, “Competitive Edge Report.” Learn more on her website


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