3 Key Lessons From A Business Renegade

September 29, 2011  |  

by Selam Aster

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz owns one of the greatest success stories in American business, and that is of how Starbucks infused coffee culture into American life. In Carmine Gallo’s latest column for Forbes, he recalls the key lessons he learned from Schultz, who managed to not only make Starbucks a household name but sustain its success in a time of deep recession. While other companies are folding, Starbucks is growing is projecting an increase of 70,000 employees over the next year.

Schultz is known for having brokered success through his renegade mentality which went against popular opinion on how to run his business. Of course, we all know Schultz made the right decisions. Here are three key lessons from the visionary and renegade, as told by Forbes columnist Carmine Gallo.

1. Know what business you’re in

Gallo recalls a two hour interview with Schultz, in which coffee wasn’t mentioned even once. When prodded, Schultz said that Starbucks makes coffee but it was in the business of human connection. Indeed, that’s the idea that the coffee company has been touting since it burst onto the scene. You can often hear Schultz describing Starbucks as the third place between work and home. “It’s not about the product, it’s about what the product means to the lives of your customers that really matters,” said Gallo.

2. Make an emotional connection with your customers

In 2008, Schultz had taken back the helm as CEO of Starbucks during a period of a business slump. Part of his strategy to get Starbucks back on track was to re-invogarate the experience for consumers. For one, Gallo mentioned that “the way they shipped and stored coffee grounds, the stores had lost the rich coffee aroma that enticed customers as they walked through the door.  During Starbucks’ rapid growth, Schultz noted that the stores had lost its romance. Efficiency gave way to a less rich experience for customers and, in order to restore the brand, Starbucks had to make more expensive decisions, forgoing efficiency for long-term growth.

3. Tell A Brand Story

“Schultz believes that every store should tell a story about coffee and what they believe as an organization,” said Gallo. For Starbucks, the brand is communicated by the coffee, the art on the wall, the cups’ designs, so on and so forth. Consistency is key to strongly communicating what your company stands for and the quality of your brand.

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