Lessons From Howard Schultz

A couple of months ago, I received a call to fly to Seattle for a last-minute event. Howard Schultz, the famed Starbucks CEO, was hosting a retirement party and wanted me to be the featured entertainment.

Although I visit Starbucks almost daily, I knew little about the man who revolutionized the coffee industry. So, as I do for all of my clients, I spent some time researching Schultz’ background and reading his book Pour Your Heart Into It. There were a few great takeaways on leadership that I think we should all keep in mind:

It’s Not All About Profit

For many successful companies, profits follow a motivated workforce. Starbucks has always opted to balance social responsibility with high profits and volume. By providing employee health care and other great benefits, Howard Schultz created a team of evangelical baristas for the company. This leads to less turnover, happier customers, and better relationships. All of which increase Starbucks’ bottom line. As an entertainer, I can be hired by anybody once. But to get repeat bookings and word of mouth, it’s important to deliver an executive entertainment EXPERIENCE that will unify the room. Working on increasing customer and vendor satisfaction can often yield better results than simply focusing on the money.

What’s Your Real Job?

Too often, our job title means something different than what we really do. About a decade ago, my mentor told me that I was looking at my career all wrong. I wasn’t in the business of being a mentalist, or a magician, or fooling people, or even making them laugh. Those are all methods that I use to accomplish my goal, but it isn’t really the core of my business. You see, entertainers are REALLY in the business of changing the way that people feel. We are brought in to touch the audience and to make them think, and we do that by engaging them and making them laugh with awe and wonder.

With Starbucks, Howard Schultz realized that it wasn’t all about good coffee. It was about creating a neighborhood environment and a location for people to gather daily. It was about warmth. It was about richness and depth. It was about capturing what he LOVED about coffee and creating a business that would pass that joy to others.

Lead By Example

Nobody was a bigger advocate for the Starbucks brand than Schultz himself. From a 2014 Inc. Magazine interview:

“Starbucks is not in business for Howard Schultz. Howard Schultz is in business for Starbucks. The company will evolve and survive long after me, because it’s built for that. But I’m not going anywhere anytime soon… I love this company so much. My emotional state in relation to the company is beyond normalcy. It’s a fanatical feeling.”

Creating incredible cultures at work and home are often a matter of leading by example. If you can be the most excited, you will excite those around you. And by creating something even bigger than yourself, you can share a goal and mission with your employees, or as Schultz called them, your partners.

Kevin Viner
Kevin Viner

I'm a professional mentalist who travels the world performing. Beyond my profession, my interests include writing music, guitar, aviation, martial arts, and mathematics.

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