Thanking Starbucks & Howard

Yesterday I had an amazing lunch where I bumped into Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. I made a point to talk to him for a bit because of how well he treated me when I was a younger partner barista. As a professional today I respect and admire him more in recognizing how he sees company culture and individuals.

In 2008 Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as CEO because of the decline in quality and the coffee experience at stores. Unknowingly I served Mr. Schultz as a naïve barista in preceding years. I was also a bad barista who couldn’t put together his order of a: double tall, split-shot, two-thirds full, one sweet n’ low, one equal, light foam, non-fat latté.

In a big way Howard’s experience of me when he would drop by was representative of the system decline he noticed as a customer. He saw a shift in company culture, training regimen, and store practices. A few causes for this were misguided direction, strategy mismatch, and leadership flux.

I feel he made change to SBUX course because of:

  1. Sticking to the Vision
  2. Correcting Culture
  3. Training Improvement
  4. Root Cause Process Analysis

I’d been wanting to catch Howard in public for years especially after doing case studies of Starbucks turnaround in biz school. Most important I wanted to thank him as a person for being kind and gracious to myself, regular partners, and people. I’m glad I finally got to repay him with some words while we both enjoyed the new Roastery.

So, thanks Howard.  Thanks for seeing problems as top-down issues. Thanks for seeking root causes. Thanks for SuperSonics tickets you gave me ages ago. Thanks for never chewing me out. Thanks for your leadership example.

*Addendum* NO, I do not blame Schultz for selling the SuperSonics. To my Seattle people, we have many other billionaires who can bring the NBA back. YES, Starbucks #RaceTogether is a good social campaign of global concern. I do not know of any other northwest corporations that are as brave in seeking to bring justice and righteousness to the fore. 


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