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Inspiration from Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks can lend business leaders a great deal of insight as to how a business can run more effectively and efficiently.


Howard Schultz, inspiring other business leaders

Business leaders do and should take note of Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks – you know, that little Fortune 500 company you might have heard of. Schultz helped to make Starbucks the first American company to provide the highest quality healthcare to all full-time and part-time workers (for workers working as little as twenty hours a week), and he says the inspiration for this business model came from “seeing [his] father broken from the thirty terrible blue-collar jobs he had over his life, where an uneducated person just did not have a shot.”

And “that event is directly linked to the culture and the values of Starbucks. I wanted to build the kind of company my father never had a chance to work for, where you would be valued and respected, no matter where you came from, the color of your skin, or your level of education. Offering health care was a transforming event in the equity of the Starbucks brand that created unbelievable trust with our people. We wanted to build a company that linked shareholder value to the cultural values we create with our people.”

The model of valuing employees

If for no other reason than this philosophy alone, business leaders should take notice. You should cherish your employees. Treat them the best way you can and your business will thrive because happy employees stay with you. But, there’s more to Schultz than his past, he is an innovator when it comes to franchises. Here are some of his thoughts about how he runs his business and what makes Starbucks so popular:

  1. “While we are a coffee company at heart, Starbucks provides much more than the best cup of coffee—we offer a community gathering place where people come together to connect and discover new things. We are always looking for innovative ways to surprise and delight our customers.”
  2. “Providing our customers with innovative and unique ways to discover and acquire all genres of great music is another way we are enhancing the Starbucks Experience.”
  3. “Over the past year we viewed countless films and spoke with numerous studios in pursuit of finding the perfect film. Just as we have demonstrated with music we believe that Starbucks can ultimately change the rules of the game for film marketing and distribution.”
  4. “Europe has always represented a major strategic opportunity to achieve our goal of creating and building an enduring global brand.”
  5. “We have just begun to realize how large the global growth prospects are, and we anticipate many years of significant development in existing and new markets, … Ultimately we believe we can surpass 20,000 stores worldwide.”
  6. “Giving back to the community has always been a huge focus for Starbucks and each year we strive to create new ways to become more involved in the neighborhoods where we do business. With the launch of the California Giving Program, Starbucks has the opportunity to partner with some of the most amazing non-profit organizations in all of California that work to build stronger communities by nurturing kids and inspiring grownups.”
  7. “Grow with discipline. Balance intuition with rigor. Innovate around the core. Don’t embrace the status quo. Find new ways to see. Never expect a silver bullet. Get your hands dirty. Listen with empathy and overcommunicate with transparency. Tell your story, refusing to let others define you. Use authentic experiences to inspire. Stick to your values, they are your foundation. Hold people accountable, but give them the tools to succeed. Make the tough choices; it’s how you execute that counts. Be decisive in times of crisis. Be nimble. Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes. Be responsible for what you see, hear, and do. Believe.”
  8. “Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”
  9. “One of the fundamental aspects of leadership, I realized more and more, is the ability to instill confidence in others when you yourself are feeling insecure.”
  10. “For more than three decades, coffee has captured my imagination because it is a beverage about individuals as well as community. A Rwandan farmer. Eighty roast masters at six Starbucks plants on two continents. Thousands of baristas in 54 countries. Like a symphony, coffee’s power rests in the hands of a few individuals who orchestrate its appeal. So much can go wrong during the journey from soil to cup that when everything goes right, it is nothing short of brilliant! After all, coffee doesn’t lie. It can’t. Every sip is proof of the artistry — technical as well as human — that went into its creation.”

Schultz has faced some controversy while leading Starbucks, but he has always faced it with grace, humility, and honesty; all admirable qualities in a leader. If you are looking to take something away from Schultz’s business model, it should be that philanthropy, caring, and commitment to making things right is a good place to start, and that you should not be afraid to take risks – even when other people think it is impossible, you can make it possible. Schultz has done this numerous times, with great success.

Or, as he says himself, “dream more than others think practical. Expect more than others think possible. Care more than others think wise.”

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Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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