17 Quotes From Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz On How He Became Successful

Howard Schultz

Photo: AP

Not content with having conquered coffee, Howard Schultz recently announced that the company’s making a strong push at dominating tea. It’s been met with some scepticism, but so has a lot of what Schultz has done. He’s known for taking some unconventional strategic paths, including shutting down every store to train people, bringing 10,000 employees down to New Orleans to volunteer and talk about the company’s future, and having a massive meeting with employees and their parents in China. 

Here are some of his best quotes on how he dominated the coffee industry, brought Starbucks back from the brink, and built one of the world’s most recognisable brands. 

On trusting yourself

On hiring people smarter than yourself

On what it takes to be an entrepreneur

On how to inspire employees

'Our mission statement about treating people with respect and dignity is not just words but a creed we live by every day. You can't expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don't exceed the employees' expectations of management. That's the contract.'

Source: Talk At UCLA Anderson

On the limits of luck

'I believe life is a series of near misses. A lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It's seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It's seeing what other people don't see and pursuing that vision.'

Source: Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built A Company One Cup At A Time

On watching stock prices

'While Wall Street has taught me a lot, its most enduring lesson is an understanding of just how artificial a stock price is. It's all too easy to regard it as the true value of your company, and even the value of yourself.'

Source: Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built A Company One Cup At A Time

On making hard choices

On the limits of digital media

On why only the bold survive

On the power of an emotional brand

'The success of Starbucks demonstrates the fact we have built an emotional connection with our customers. I think we have a competitive advantage over classic brands in that every day we get to touch and interact with our customers directly. Our product is not sitting on a supermarket shelf like a can of Coca-Cola. Our people have done a wonderful job of knowing your drink, your name, your kids' names and what you do for a living.'

Source: Talk At UCLA Anderson

On why companies need to go global

'If the stewards of any consumer brand believe that they can create local relevance while sitting in a white tower somewhere in the U.S. -- and dictating the ways in which consumers will react all over the world -- they are on a collision course with time.'

Source: bcg.perspectives

On how to dominate in China

'Every consumer brand in the world is looking at China as the answer to its prayers. There will be lots of winners, and there will be many, many more losers who don't get it right. We will get it right. We have to be thoughtful, highly disciplined, and extremely respectful of local Chinese customs, food preferences, and consumer behaviour. In order to do that, we have to see the world through a Chinese lens.'

Source: HBR

On taking responsibility for failure

'There had to be a time when we stood up in front of the entire company as leaders and made almost a confession--that the leadership had failed the 180,000 Starbucks people and their families. And even though I wasn't the CEO, I had been around as chairman; I should have known more. I am responsible. We had to admit to ourselves and to the people of this company that we owned the mistakes that were made. Once we did, it was a powerful turning point. It's like when you have a secret and get it out: The burden is off your shoulders.'

Source: HBR

On how to break bad news

'I tried to explain that these decisions were made on the basis of preserving the whole, and that I understood there would be damage. I also explained that we felt incredible compassion for the people who had to leave. You have to be honest and authentic and not hide. I think the leader today has to demonstrate both transparency and vulnerability, and with that comes truthfulness and humility and obviously the ability to instill confidence in people, and not through some top-down hierarchical approach.'

Source: HBR

On how to use social media

'Information can't be from the company to the consumer; it has to be a level playing field where consumers feel that they are opting in and that there is a sharing of information. Cracking the code involves understanding how to create an opportunity for people to feel pride, a sense of discovery, that they want to share this with someone they care about.'

Source: HBR

On why Starbucks provides health insurance

'We have tried to build a different kind of company that would balance profitability and benevolence. The manifestation of that goal -- and probably the highlight of my career -- has been the creation of two unique benefits for our people: comprehensive health insurance long before the current administration mandated it and equity in the form of stock options.

My father never got a chance to work for a company that respected him. He was an uneducated war veteran. In the back of my mind, I have been trying to build the kind of company that my father never got a chance to work for.'

Source: bcg.perspectives

On the pitfalls of rapid growth

'When you look at growth as a strategy, it becomes somewhat seductive, addictive. But growth should not be -- and is not -- a strategy; it's a tactic. The primary lesson I've learned over the years is that growth and success can cover up a lot of mistakes. We're going to make more mistakes. But we've learned a great lesson. And as we return the company to growth, it'll be disciplined, profitable growth for the right reasons--a different kind of growth.'

Source: McKinsey Quarterly

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