Brooklyn, New York
Chairman of the board, Starbucks Corporation
Howard Schultz took a small coffee shop chain and infused it with an Italian flair for fun and relaxation to create a unique American cultural phenomenon. There may be dozens of imitators, yet none has matched the popularity of Starbucks. The success of Starbucks is due mostly to Schultz, who is praised by analysts and competitors alike. In 1995, Tricia Reebs, an analyst for Dain Bosworth, discussed the Starbucks owner with Jeanne Sather of Business Journal-Portland, "He's a very, very strong idea person. He has a vision of what he wants to create, and he has the follow-through. It's something in his character—passion, belief, confidence."
Schultz, however, is the best person to discuss his own business philosophy. In an interview with Entrepreneur magazine in May 1998, he modestly explained: "You need the self-esteem to hire people who are smarter than you and give them the autonomy to manage their own areas. Surround yourself with great people and get out of the way."
"There are a lot of similarities between rearing a family, where the parents imprint values on their children, and starting a new business, where the founder sets the ground rules very early. If you do it right and maintain those values, growth will be managed so you don't lose the soul of the company."
Howard Schultz was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1953. With little money, both parents worked long hours to support the family. To escape being "poor" young Howard turned to sports and played football, baseball, and basketball. He did so well in high school that he was awarded an athletic scholarship to Northern Michigan University.
When he left New York to go to college, Shultz's father was a broken man. He had never gotten ahead in any of his low-paying jobs and was rarely shown any respect by his employers. "I watched my dad's self-esteem fracture," Schultz commented to Sather in 1995. Because of his family's financial troubles, Schultz made the most of his college days, both athletically and academically. He received a bachelor's degree in business and marketing in 1975, proud to be the first member of his family to attend college.
Schultz returned to New York after graduation and worked for the Xerox Corporation before joining a Swedish housewares company called Hammerplast. On a business trip to Seattle, Washington, in 1981 Schultz walked into a Starbucks and fell in love with the flavorful coffee. He met with one of the owners, Gerry Baldwin, to sell Hammerplast coffeemakers and expressed an interest in working there. By the following year, Schultz was hired as marketing director for the Seattle business.
When he started at Starbucks, the company had about a dozen locations and sold coffee beans and related products, not coffee by the cup. Yet after a trip to Milan, Italy, in 1983, Schultz became convinced that espresso or coffee "bars"—which served the steaming beverages by the cup and offered customers chairs to sit and chat awhile—were the wave of the future. "I believed the relationship I saw between people and coffee in Italy was transferable to America in a big way," Schultz explained to Jennifer Reese of Forbes magazine in December 1996.
The owners of Starbucks disagreed, however, so Schultz decided to venture out on his own. Rounding up money from investors (including the Starbucks partners who were willing to invest), he opened the first II Giornale coffee bar in 1984. The small, friendly cafe was a hit with Seattle's sophisticated coffee drinkers who, thanks to Schultz, could get Starbucks coffee by the cup and a bag of beans from the real Starbucks down the street.
As Schultz planned additional Il Giornale coffee bars, he heard that one of the Starbucks partners intended to leave the business. Schultz offered to buy out all the partners and did so in 1987. He then merged II Giornale and Starbucks to form the Starbucks Corporation. From the start, Schultz wanted to make Starbucks a nationally recognized brand, to take the premium coffee from the West Coast to the East Coast and everywhere in between. He succeeded, and Starbucks coffee bars blossomed almost overnight, creating devoted customers with every new opening. Expansion was important, but quality and consistency, as well as the company's workers, were the keys to his success.
One lesson Schultz learned from his childhood was to never forgot how his father was treated by his employers. Schultz went in the opposite direction, treating all Starbucks employees as important members of a team. "I believe very strongly that the success of our company," Schultz told Business Journal-Portland, "has been achieved because of the relationship with our people." Not only are Starbucks workers (called "partners") given a thorough training program, but both full-and part-timers receive generous health benefits and after five years can buy shares in the company. The shares are called "Bean Stock."
Howard Schultz took the name for this book, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Build a Company One Cup at a Time from one of his many business guidelines: "If people relate to the company they work for, if they will form an emotional tie to it and buy into its dreams, they will pour their hearts into making it better."
By the 1990s, Starbucks was an international phenomenon, with locations and sales jumping upwards from year to year. By 1992, there were 165 Starbucks locations and just two years later, by 1994, there were 425. Sales mushroomed from $100 million in 1993 to $465 million in 1995, while new products such as bottled Frappuccino and Starbucks ice cream began appearing on grocery store shelves.
As Starbucks introduced new items for coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers (such as tea blends, steamed milk, and hot chocolate), Schultz, too, went in a new direction. He wrote a book with business writer Dori Jones called Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. Published in 1997 by Hyperion, the book told the story of Starbucks and the various business principles and life philosophies Schultz believes shaped the company's climb from small coffee retailer to corporate giant. All proceeds from the book, which sold well, were given to the Starbucks Foundation, formed by Schultz in 1997, to support literacy.
Schultz began to slow down in the later 1990s and in 2000 turned over his duties as president and chief executive to Orin Smith, while keeping his job as chairman and "chief global strategist." With less responsibility and more time, Schultz was able to dabble in other business ventures like an Italian restaurant chain and health-food grocery stores. He was also able to spend more time with his wife, Sheri, and two children. They live in the Seattle area, and Schultz is very protective of the family's privacy.
Howard Schultz is more than the man behind a coffee-buying revolution—he also changed the vocabulary of millions of people who had never even heard of a "cappuccino" before Starbucks burst on the scene. Now cappuccino, caffe mocha, caffe latte, and a variety of hip coffee terms are a part of our everyday language. Despite the immense success of Starbucks and the wealth it generated for Schultz and others, he said back in 1995 to Business Journal-Portland, "This has never been about money, never. It's about our passion for coffee."
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