Walk into any Starbucks store, and you’re greeted not just by coffee aroma, but by courteous baristas that produce an array of specialty drinks with precise efficiency — all while creating a friendly neighborhood atmosphere. That doesn’t just happen. Starbucks’ partners receive The Green Apron Book, which sets the guiding principles and expectations that are literally brewed into the way people work together, make decisions, confront problems, care about each other, persevere and create opportunities for the future.
Capturing That Culture
In It’s Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles From a Life at Starbucks, Howard Behar serves up the principles from The Green Apron Book which he helped develop during his 18 years of senior executive leadership with Starbucks. He takes you behind the scenes of key inflection points in Starbucks’ journey that honed a culture that emphasizes people over profits.
At its most basic level, It’s Not About the Coffee drips with the authenticity that it’s all about the people — a philosophy that has proven successful for Starbucks and that Behar claims will make your personal and professional journey more fulfilling. To ensure the connection, Behar ends each chapter with introspective questions, appropriately labeled “Extra Shots,” that are designed to help you align your response to his message.
“If you grow people, the people grow the business,” he asserts. “That’s the No. 1 priority. If your people are better human beings, they’ll be better partners of the company. If you think of your customers as people, you’ll make a connection with them, and they’ll come back over and over again to enjoy coffee and the experience.”
Creating that kind of commitment is easier said than done. To bridge the gap between knowing what’s right and doing what’s right, Behar offers a robust blend of 10 leadership tenets that are as colorful as they are memorable. For instance, “wear one hat,” “do it because it’s right, not because it’s right for your resume,” “the person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom” and “when you’re in a hole, quit digging.”
These strategies have helped keep Starbucks grounded on the people side of the business. He insists that employees be called “partners” because that is “how we want each other to feel and how we want to treat each other.” Behar argues that it’s too easy to get caught up in the activities such as marketing, quality control, R&D, sales strategies and acquisitions rather than in the people whose passion, drive and purpose are essential to accomplishing those objectives. “When we know why we’re here as individuals and leaders, when our people know why they’re here, a sense of purpose carries us forward, and we can do what needs to be done. People want to work on big ideas that matter to them and make a difference,” he writes. “When they do, they find gold.”
That’s not to say everything Starbucks touches turns to gold. A case in point is Mazagran, the bottled sparkling coffee beverage, and Chantico, the rich, thick chocolate drink. In both cases, customers balked and Starbucks had to go back to the drawing board. But by celebrating such failures, Behar writes, the company created a more trusting and creative environment in which people learn to take risks without fear of repercussions.
“At Starbucks, I’ve always said we’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee,” he says. “We’re passionate about the people who make the coffee, the people we serve, the people we partner with and the communities we’re part of.”