Howard Schultz will go down in history as one of the great business leaders.
There. I said it.
Schultz, who through great vision and leadership built, and then saved Starbucks, is a once-in-a-lifetime leader.
We all know the story of Starbucks--a company that transformed coffee from a caffeine habit, to a social habit by selling a $5 community experience in a cup. We also know the story of how Schultz swooped back into the company when he saw it failing (he called it a "virus" which had infiltrated his business); then rekindled the company's core principles; and resurrected a business which could easily have fallen victim to the Great Recession.
It is these core principles, and the necessity of keeping "people" at the forefront, that Schultz recently spoke of at the Wolrd Business Forum this week.
"The only way to exceed expectations of your customers, is to exceed the expectations of your people" Schultz said.
Exceeding people's expectations for Schultz has involved being honest, and transparent, and "reminding and re-kindling the faith and confidence in who we are as people." With 200,000 "people," and 17,000 stores serving 7 million customers a week, in 57 countries--demonstrating, and infiltrating the lives of its people with the core values must be a full-time job.
Schultz believes that the Starbucks brand must embody the values of being authentic and genuine--demonstrated by its people ding the right things, that help people.
An example is a recent decision by the company to take the profits of its stores in the lower-income areas of New York City's Harlem, and South Central Los Angeles' Crenshaw District and give them back to the community by funding after school and other education efforts, often ignored. Starbucks will also be greating a fund to deliver micro-loans to small businesses. As Schultz says, if banks aren't lending to small business, someone has to step in.
"I'm not naive enough to believe that businesses will make decisions strictly on doing good, but there are many things on the margins that can be done, that can create dual benefits for a company." he said.
"It is not good enough for white collar executives to win at the expense of others." he said, cementing his role, in my mind, as one of the great business leaders of our time.