Howard Schultz, chairman, president and chief executive officer for Starbucks, addressed several thousand attendees at the keynote session “Transforming Companies for the Future: Balancing Profit with a Social Conscience” on May 19. He said when he visited his first Starbucks in 1981, there were only four stores. He joined the company in 1982 as director of retail operations and marketing and gradually worked his way up. Now there are more than 19,000 locations in more than 60 countries, which are run with a social conscience — a view that led him early on to offer employee healthcare coverage and company stock options.
“Success is best when it’s shared,” he said.
Schultz said that with the current lack of apt leadership in Washington, it’s up to the industry to take whatever responsibility it can to do the right thing for employees and communities.
After he left his CEO position in 2002, “a disease” changed the way the coffee chain was managed.
“Success was measured and rewarded the wrong way, by comp store sales,” he said. “In the 2007 financial crisis, the bloom was off the rose. Our comps went negative.”
He returned as CEO and immediately gathered all the managers in one location to align values and expectations.
“A brand is built by experience and the people,” he said.
The experience had fallen because the coffee was widely made incorrectly. He closed all the stores for retraining.
“It was truthful. We were bad. But we would return to our heritage and exceed expectations.”
He follows the path of innovation, not line extensions.
“Have curiosity. See around the corners,” Schultz said. “You can’t embrace the status quo as an operational procedure.”
Also at the convention, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain spoke to a crowded ballroom of attendees giving his thoughts on food and chefs colored by his travel experiences.
A lineup of other celebrated chefs conducted cooking demos, including Cat Cora, the first female Iron Chef, first female inducted into the American Academy of Chefs’ Culinary Hall of Fame, cookbook author and founder of Chefs for Humanity.