12 Business Lessons From Starbucks CEO

In 1971, a coffeehouse opened in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market. Named after Captain Ahab’s first mate in Moby-Dick, this little coffeehouse has become the?largest coffeehouse in the world.

With more than 21,000 stores in 65 countries, Starbucks is one of the fastest-growing companies in America. The company skyrocketed from 425 stores in 1994 to 19,767 by 2013. And?there’s no reason to believe it has any plans of slowing down. So?how exactly did the brand experience such phenomenal growth?

Here are 12 of the most important lessons we can learn from Starbucks and its fearless leader,?Howard Schultz.

1. Have a Mission

Starbucks has one simple mission: To inspire and nurture the human spirit–one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

That mission statement has served the company for more than four decades, because Starbucks is more than just a coffeehouse. It’s become an escape for anyone needing a break from the daily grind. It’s become a centralized meeting location for friends to catch up and business people to have meetings.

Starbucks wanted to provide people–no matter their age, profession, or location–with a unique experience: the coffeehouse as a place to relax, work, and socialize.

2. Ask Your Customers Questions

If you’ve ever been to a Starbucks that’s not your regular location, you may have noticed that employees will sometimes ask what you’re looking for. This is a simple and effective technique when it comes to customer service–and one that marketers should utilize.

When you know what your customers are looking for, you can assist them with making a final decision.

3. Know Your Customers and Employees

Speaking of knowing your customers, if you’re a regular at Starbucks, then you are aware that your favorite barista knows your name and order. This little personal touch is important, because giving customers a memorable, personal experience is one of the most important triggers that can be used to make them?happy.

Also, know your employees. You never know what they can bring to the table. The signature Frappuccino, for example, was invented by a Starbucks line employee named Dina Campion.

4. Be Innovative

Starbucks does its best to remain true to its roots, but the company is also extremely innovative. For example, realizing that customers wanted to spend more time at its locations, Starbucks began offering free Wi-Fi in 2010. Realizing that customers wanted its products at home, Starbucks has embraced instant coffee with the Via instant-coffee brand and single-serve brewing systems with its Verismo machines. The company even allows customers to pay for products with an iPhone app and was one of the first companies to go mobile.

So keep in mind that while it’s important to stay true to your roots, it’s also important to be adaptable and welcome change.

5. Take Responsibility

Has your order ever been wrong at Starbucks? If so, what happened? You received your correct order without any question. Employees are trained to deliver the best experience possible for their customers–every time. That means taking responsibility for any slip-ups.

We all make mistakes. What makes the difference, however, is owning up to those mistakes and addressing them in a professional and timely manner.

6. Go Against the Grain

You’ve probably noticed there’s a Starbucks on just about every corner. Starbucks has done this intentionally, through clustering. Instead of focusing on traffic patterns, the location of competition, or even demographics, Starbucks blankets entire areas. While there were fears that this would lead to self-cannibalization, this unorthodox move has helped the company dominate the market by blocking out the competition.

Sometimes you just have to go against the grain and do something that other companies aren’t doing. It may be risky, but it can be beneficial for your company.


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