Image by: Sarah Gilbert
By Michael Sterling
Labeled the 354th richest person in America with a networth of $1.5 billion, Howard Schultz knows how to grow a business. With an intuitive mindset and a keen awareness of what his customers want, Schultz is a thriving example of how great leadership takes more than just book smarts.
In fact, according to Schultz, Starbucks would never have gotten to where it is today had it not been for common sense and empathy for the consumer. After purchasing the company’s retail unit in 1987 for $3.8 million, he managed to grow it into the largest coffeehouse company in the world. How did he do it? Hear it in his own words.
Invest In The Infrastructure
A good leader knows that it takes an army to make a company run efficiently. One of Schultz’ greatest strengths is his ability to see the “bigger picture.” Instead of jumping the gun and investing on unimportant things to expand bigger and faster, he chooses to invest his money on the foundation of it’s services.
“You have to invest in the infrastructure in order to keep the trains on time and anticipate the growth of the company,” Shultz said in an interview with Inc.com, “You have to invest in the growth curve, and that means you have to hire people with the skill base and experience beyond the size of the business.”
This proved to be a major challenge for Schultz in 2007 when a memo he had sent to the company was leaked to the public. The memo entitled “The Commoditization of Starbucks” expressed Schultz’ view of the landscape and competitive environments within the company.
“We weren’t investing in the backside, supply chain, technology, or manufacturing,” Schultz said to Inc.com, “We were just accelerating the growth of the company. Stock prices were at a record high, but I didn’t feel the customer was at the center of the work.”
Being Chairman of the Board at the time, the memo ultimately acted as the catalyst for a redirection of strategy within the company. When he became CEO in 2008, new investments on infrastructure kept Starbucks afloat during the Financial Crisis.
Know Your Team’s Talents & Give Them A Platform
“I think all [entrepreneurs] believe we can do everything and think we know better,” Schultz said to Inc.com, “The truth is we can do everything, but we don’t know best all the time.”
If you ever read Shultz’ latest book Onward, you would know that his climb to the top took more than talent. It was his passion for real estate which drove him to expand the company as rapidly as he did, showing that if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, your company will ultimately reflect that. But what about the areas you’re not so good at?
“When we started rebuilding the team, we needed competency way beyond the size of Starbucks,” Schultz continues, “The issue at hand is you can’t attract and retain [your staff] if you don’t give them the resources and the allocation.
One of the most innovative things Starbucks has managed to do is create a proper working environment for its employees. Schultz’ leadership incorporates lean practices, attacks retail labors, and manages productivity in a way that all of their 200,000 employees approve of. This will ultimately create a better experience for the consumer.
Stay In Touch With Technology
One of the greatest things Schultz has accomplished is creating easy access for consumer technology. Since the incorporation of mobile payments, Starbucks has become the #1 company in the world for mobile transactions. According to Schultz, your mind must always be in the techno game.
“Where is technology moving? How is the consumer embracing it? What can we do as an enterprise to be highly relevant to the seismic change in consumer behavior?” Schultz explains to Inc.com, “Everyone must understand the discipline of digital and social media. Social Media is here to stay and every company must have that discipline in place.
By adding free wifi in all their locations, they offered an incentive for their customers, which built tremendous loyalty. And now since Google is replacing their AT&T services by guaranteeing speeds 10 times faster, they’re sure to attract a lot more customers than ever before.
Keep The Faith
One of Schultz’ motto is that the success of a company is a reflection of its leadership, and the future of one’s success relies on how much you believe it’s possible. In a motivational speech reported by TheLeapTV, Schultz explains that belief is the biggest driving fuel for growth.
“We live in a country where the entrepreneur spirit is alive and well,” he says, “If you dream big, surround yourself with great people, leave your ego at the door, share your success with others and have a little luck, you can do anything.”
“Don’t allow anyone to tell you it’s not possible. It is possible. Don’t be those people 20 years from now, walking to a 9 to 5 job, angry and bitter because you let your dreams leave because you didn’t believe hard enough.”