Career and Business lessons

How the founder made Starbucks a success, without even a passion for coffee

I’ve been thinking about this title a lot, lately. It sounds so counter intuitive to be the founder of such a big coffee concern in almost half of the world, while at the same time coffee isn’t his biggest passion. I have to say that I came to conclude that it is not counter intuitive by any means, and according to Howard Schultz the man himself he really turned his passion into reality. But what is his passion if it’s not coffee? Let me explain you what’s happening.

Something new

Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks announced in november 2016 that he would step down as Starbucks chief.

By that time he would hand over 25,000 stores in 75 countries. That’s massive when you realize that we only have 195 countries in the world.

It means that Starbucks by that time was present in almost 39% of all the countries around the globe!

Needless to say, Schultz has reinvented the coffee culture in the U.S. by introducing Italian-style cappuccinos and lattes to that market. His mark is clear and loud.

But lately I came to hear something about him that I didn’t know yet.

Hidden passion

I haven’t introduced you yet to writer and public speaker Carmine Gallo. He advices businesses and leaders all around the globe on how to tell engaging stories and grow businesses. He really is an expert on that and that’s why I like to read his blog every once in a while.

For his own blog he interviewed Howard Schultz and the one thing that surprised Gallo a lot was that Schultz rarely mentioned the word coffee during the conversation and that he had to bring that up himself.

On Gallo’s blog you can read Schultz say:

“We’re not in the coffee business. It is what we sell as a product, but it’s not what we stand for”
Howard Schultz on Carmine Gallo’s Blog.

What Schultz says over there is something that is very important to understand. Gallo explains:

“Starbucks is NOT in the coffee business, which is why it’s successful. You see, Schultz loves coffee, but he’s passionate about the people, the baristas who make the Starbucks experience what it is. Schultz’s vision was much bigger than to make a better cup of coffee. His moonshot was to create an experience; a third place between work and home. He wanted to build a company that treats people with dignity and respect. Those happy employees would, in turn, provide a level of customer service that would be seen as a gold standard in the industry.”
Carmine Gallo on his blog.

Business lessons

So what can we learn from Schultz´ way of doing business?

Identify the type of need

Bringing better coffee to peoples life can be one mission statement. It’s a statement that’s focused on the need for better coffee.

Drawing a vision around that need will influence the brand. It’s reflected in its culture and helps define of what the business can become.

But creating a unique “Starbucks-experience” where customer service, dignity and respect is central, can be another one.

So Schultz’ real passion has been how Starbucks is going to set a golden standard of customer service in the coffee industry. Because of that Starbucks-experience, you’ll see a certain customer contact, they introduced as one of the first the take-away service and gave customers access to WiFi.

The Starbucks brand is laser-focused on creating an experience. Basically they changed the mindset of coffee customers worldwide: from a coffee shop being a place to buy a cup of coffee to a place to experience a good cup of coffee.

With that, they has enriched many lives by making the journey from home to work a little bit more enjoyable.

In this way, the company is setting its own culture, that is in line with its core mission and vision.

Focus on benefits

The biggest mistake that some starting business owners or freelancers make is that they focus too much on the features of the product itself.

When you ask them what they sell or why I should buy the product, they come with an extended list of descriptions that cover your product, service or skill.

Business is about value. Not necessarily about descriptions. And that value is created when you offer a person or a company a product, service or skill that will enrich their situation.

Therefore, an important business lesson is to come up with the benefits that your product, service or skill is going to add to enrich certain aspects of someones life.

Sometimes you find things that you can do better on the product or service itself. And sometimes you find things that you can do better in the way people experience a certain product or service.

If that something is a minute out of the day where people can flee out of their busy work life and feel respected and be comfortable, there you go Starbucks!

Or if that something is that people want to drink better coffee than they used to, then you can start to build a brand culture where it’s all about the quality of the coffee.

Both are in the business of creating value by fulfilling the different needs of their audiences. They create products, services and experiences where these working coffee-lovers can take advantage of.

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So it all depends on what you want to bring to the world, and the value you bring to enrich peoples lives.

When products and services are being brought to them, people like to know what’s in there for them, and how they can benefit from what you are offering.

Therefore, the options of doing that are pretty much endless.

If you’re passionate about coffee and you have a vision on how you want people to meet better coffee, you can start with building that brand culture.

But you’re mission statement can also be similar to that of Howard Schultz. He saw a need of people that had to be met. A need for a place where you can experience a good cup of coffee, while you’re on your way to work. Even that can make a big difference.

So leaders like Howard Schultz are not afraid to share their passion for brand experiences.

Passion is everything.

I believe that leaders, managers and entrepreneurs can not inspire or do their work without it.

Dig deep to identify your core value, the area where you want to make a ‘dent in the universe,’ as Steve Jobs once said.

And ask yourself a question that Howard Schultz says is the key to success: What business am I really in? 

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