Private Company 1987-92
Starbucks as a Private Company: 198792
The following Monday morning, Schultz returned to the Starbucks offices at the roasting plant, greeted all the familiar faces and accepted their congratulations, then called the staff together for a meeting on the roasting-plant floor. He began:
All my life I have wanted to be part of a company and a group of people who share a common vision . . . Im here today because I love this company. I love what it represents . . . I know youre concerned . . . I promise you I will not let you down. I promise you I will not leave anyone behind . . . In five years, I want you to look back at this day and say "I was there when it started. I helped build this company into something great."9
Schultz told the group that his vision was for Starbucks to become a national company with values and guiding principles that employees could be proud of. He indicated that he wanted to include people in the decision-making process and that he would be open and honest with them.
Schultz said he believed it was essential, not just an intriguing option, for a company to respect its people, to inspire them, and to share the fruits of its success with those who contributed to its long-term value. His aspiration was for Starbucks to become the most respected brand name in coffee and for the company to be admired for its corporate responsibility. In the next few days and weeks, however, Schultz came to see that the unity and morale at Starbucks had deteriorated badly in the 20 months he had been at Il Giornale. Some employees were cynical and felt unappreciated. There was a feeling that prior management had abandoned them and a wariness about what the new regime would bring. Schultz determined that he would have to make it a priority to build a new relationship of mutual respect between employees and management.
The new Starbucks had a total of nine stores. The business plan Schultz had presented investors called for the new company to open 125 stores in the next five years15 the first year, 20 the second, 25 the third, 30 the fourth, and 35 the fifth. Revenues were projected to reach $60 million in 1992. But the company lacked experienced management. Schultz had never led a growth effort of such magnitude and was just learning what the job of CEO was all about, having been the president of a small company for barely two years. Dave Olsen had run a single café for 11 years and was just learning to manage a multistore operation. Ron Lawrence, the companys controller, had worked as a controller for several organizations. Other Starbucks employees had only the experience of managing or being a part of a six-store organization. When Starbucks key roaster and coffee buyer resigned, Schultz put Dave Olsen in charge of buying and roasting coffee. Lawrence Maltz, who had 20 years of experience in business and eight years of experience as president of a profitable public beverage company, was hired as executive vice president and charged with heading operations, finance, and human resources.
In the next several months, a number of changes were instituted. To symbolize the merging of the two companies and the two cultures, a new logo was created that melded the Starbucks and Il Giornale logos. The Starbucks stores were equipped with espresso machines and remodeled to look more Italian than Old World nautical. The traditional Starbucks brown was replaced by Il Giornale green. The result was a new type of storea cross between a retail coffee-bean store and an espresso bar/caféthat became Starbucks signature format in the 1990s.
By December 1987, employees at Starbucks had begun buying into the changes Schultz was making and trust had begun to build between management and employees. New stores were on the verge of opening in Vancouver and Chicago. One Starbucks store employee, Daryl Moore, who had voted against unionization in 1985, began to question his fellow employees about the need for a union. Over the next few weeks, Moore began a move to decertify the union. He carried a decertification letter around to Starbucks stores and secured the signatures of employees who no longer wished to be represented by the union. After getting a majority of store employees to sign the letter, he presented it to the National Labor Relations Board and the union representing store employees was decertified. Later, in 1992, the union representing Starbucks roasting plant and warehouse employees was also decertified.
Expansion into Markets Outside the Pacific Northwest
Starbucks entry into Chicago proved far more troublesome than management anticipated. The first Chicago store opened October 27, 1987, the same day the stock market crashed. Three more stores were opened in Chicago over the next six months, but customer counts were substantially below expectationsChicagoans didnt take to dark-roasted coffee as fast as Schultz had anticipated. At the first downtown store, for example, which opened onto the street rather than into the lobby of the building where it was located, customers were hesitant to go out in the wind and cold to get a cup of coffee in the winter months. Store margins were squeezed for a number of reasons: It was expensive to supply fresh coffee to the Chicago stores out of the Seattle warehouse, and both rents and wage rates were higher in Chicago than in Seattle. Gradually, customer counts improved, but Starbucks lost money on its Chicago stores until 1990, when prices were raised to reflect higher rents and labor costs, more experienced store managers were hired, and a critical mass of customers caught on to the taste of Starbucks products.
Portland, Oregon, was the next market entered, and Portland coffee drinkers took to Starbucks products quickly. By 1991, the Chicago stores had become profitable and the company was ready for its next big market entry. Management decided on California because of its host of neighborhood centers and the receptiveness of Californians to innovative, high-quality food. Los Angeles was chosen as the first California market to enter, principally because of its status as a trendsetter and its cultural ties to the rest of the country. L.A. consumers embraced Starbucks quicklythe Los Angeles Times named Starbucks as the best coffee in America before the first L.A. store opened. The entry into San Francisco proved more troublesome because of an ordinance there against converting stores to restaurant-related uses in certain prime urban neighborhoods; Starbucks could sell beverages and pastries to customers at stand-up counters but could not offer seating in stores that had formerly been used for general retailing. However, the city council was soon convinced by café owners and real estate brokers to change the code. Still, Starbucks faced strong competition from Peets and local espresso bars in the San Francisco market.
When Starbucks store expansion targets proved easier to meet than Schultz had originally anticipated, he upped the numbers to keep challenging the organization. Starting from a base of 11 stores, Starbucks opened 15 new stores in fiscal 1988, 20 in 1989, 30 in 1990, 32 in 1991, and 53 in 1992producing a total of 161 stores. The opening of 150 new stores in five years significantly exceeded the 1987 business plans objective of 125.
From the outset, the strategy was to open only company-owned stores; franchising was avoided so as to keep the company in full control of the quality of its products and the character and location of its stores. But company ownership of all stores required Starbucks to raise new venture capital, principally by selling shares to new or existing investors, to cover the cost of expansion. In 1988 the company raised $3.9 million; in 1990, venture capitalists provided an additional $13.5 million; and in 1991 another round of venture capital financing generated $15 million. Starbucks was able to raise the needed funds despite posting losses of $330,000 in 1987, $764,000 in 1988, and $1.2 million in 1989. While the losses were troubling to Starbucks board of directors and investors, Schultzs business plan had forecast losses during the early years of expansion. At a particularly tense board meeting where directors sharply questioned him about the lack of profitability, Schultz said:
Look, were going to keep losing money until we can do three things. We have to attract a management team well beyond our expansion needs. We have to build a world-class roasting facility. And we need a computer information system sophisticated enough to keep track of sales in hundreds and hundreds of stores.10
Schultz argued for patience as the company invested in the infrastructure to support continued growth well into the 1990s. He contended that hiring experienced executives ahead of the growth curve, building facilities far beyond current needs, and installing support systems laid a strong foundation for rapid, profitable growth on down the road. His arguments carried the day with the board and with investors, especially since revenues were growing approximately 80 percent annually and customer traffic at the stores was meeting or exceeding expectations. Starbucks became profitable in 1990 and profits had increased every year thereafter.
Getting into the Mail-Order Business
The original Starbucks had begun a small mail order operation in the 1970s to serve travelers who had visited a Seattle store or former store customers who had moved away from Seattle. Sales were solicited by mailing out a simple brochure. In 1988, Starbucks developed its first catalog and began expanding its mail-order base to targeted demographic groups. In 1990 a toll-free telephone number was set up. Sales grew steadily as the companys name and reputation began to build. The companys market research indicated that its average mail-order customer was a well-educated, relatively affluent, well-traveled connoisseur interested in the arts and cultural events, and usually a loyal buyer of the companys products. As time went on, the cities and neighborhoods in which the companys mail-order customers were located became one of the beacons used to decide where to open new stores.
Schultzs Strategy to Make Starbucks a Great Place to Work
Howard Schultz strongly believed that Starbucks success was heavily dependent on customers having a very positive experience in its stores. This meant having store employees who were knowledgeable about the companys products, who paid attention to detail, who eagerly communicated the companys passion for coffee, and who had the skills and personality to deliver consistently pleasing customer service. Many of the baristas were in their 20s and worked part-time, going to college or pursuing other career activities on the side. The challenge to Starbucks, in Schultzs view, was how to attract, motivate, and reward store employees in a manner that would make Starbucks a company that people would want to work for and that would result in higher levels of performance. Moreover, Schultz wanted to cement the trust that had been building between management and the companys workforce.
One of the requests that employees had made to the prior owners of Starbucks was to extend health care benefits to part-time workers. Their request had been turned down, but Schultz believed that expanding health care coverage to include part-timers was the right thing to do. His father had recently died of cancer, and he knew from having grown up in a family that struggled to make ends meet how difficult it was to cope with rising medical costs. In 1988 Schultz went to the board of directors with his plan to expand the companys health care coverage to include part-timers who worked at least 20 hours per week. He saw the proposal not as a generous gesture but as a core strategy to win employee loyalty and commitment to the companys mission. Board members resisted because the company was unprofitable and the added costs of the extended coverage would only worsen the companys bottom line. But Schultz argued passionately, pointing out that if the new benefit reduced turnover, which he believed was likely, then it would reduce the costs of hiring and trainingwhich equaled about $3,000 per new hire. He further pointed out that it cost $1,500 a year to provide an employee with full benefits. Part-timers, he argued, were vital to Starbucks, constituting two-thirds of the companys workforce. Many were baristas who knew the favorite drinks of regular customers; if the barista left, that connection with the customer was broken. Moreover, many part-time employees were called upon to open the stores early, sometimes at 5:30 or 6 am; others had to work until closing9 pm or later. Providing these employees with health care benefits, he argued, would signal that the company honored their value and contribution.
The board came round and approved Schultzs plan. Starting in late 1988, part-timers working 20 or more hours were offered the same health coverage as full-time employees. Starbucks paid 75 percent of an employees health insurance premium and, over the years, extended its coverage to include preventive care, crisis counseling, dental care, eye care, mental health care, and treatment for chemical dependency. Coverage was also offered for unmarried partners in a committed relationship. Since most Starbucks employees are young and comparatively healthy, the company has been able to provide broader coverage while keeping monthly payments relatively low.
The value of Starbucks health care program struck home when one of the companys store managers and a former barista walked into Schultzs office and told him he had AIDS. Schultz said later:
I had known [Jim] was gay but had no idea he was sick. His disease had entered a new phase, he explained, and he wouldnt be able to work any longer. We sat together and cried, for I could not find meaningful words to console him. I couldnt compose myself. I hugged him.
At that point, Starbucks had no provision for employees with AIDS. We had a policy decision. Because of Jim, we decided to offer health-care coverage to all employees who have terminal illnesses, paying medical costs in full from the time they are not able to work until they are covered by government programs, usually twenty-nine months.
After his visit to me, I spoke with Jim often and visited him at the hospice. Within a year he was gone. I received a letter from his family afterward, telling me how much they appreciated our benefit plan.11
In 1994 Howard Schultz was invited to the White House for a one-on-one meeting with President Clinton to brief him on the Starbucks health care program.
By 1991 the companys profitability had improved to the point where Schultz could pursue another employee program he believed would have a positive long-term effect on the success of Starbucksa stock option plan for all employees.12 Schultz wanted to turn all Starbucks employees into partners, give them a chance to share in the success of the company, and make clear the connection between their contributions and the companys market value. Even though Starbucks was still a private company, the plan that emerged called for granting every employee companywide stock options in proportion to base pay. In May 1991, the plan, dubbed Bean Stock, was presented to the board. Though board members were concerned that increasing the number of shares might unduly dilute the value of the shares of investors who had put up hard cash, the plan received unanimous approval. The first grant was made in October 1991, just after the end of the companys fiscal year in September; each partner was granted stock options worth 12 percent of base pay; the value of these first shares was pegged at $6 per share. Each October since then, Starbucks has granted employees options equal to 14 percent of base pay, awarded at the stock price at the start of the fiscal year (October 1). Employees, if they wish, can cash in one-fifth of the shares granted each succeeding year, paying the initial years price and receiving the current years price. It took five years for the shares to fully vest. Each of the shares granted in 1991 was worth $132 in October 1996; thus, an employee making $20,000 in 1991 could have cashed in the options granted in 1991 for more than $50,000 in October 1996. In 1991 when the Bean Stock program was presented to employees, Starbucks dropped the term employee and began referring to all its people as partners because everyone, including part-timers working at least 20 hours per week, was eligible for stock options after six months. At the end of fiscal year 1997, there were 8.7 million shares in outstanding options at an average exercisable price of $19.72 (which compared very favorably to the current stock price of $43.50).
In 1995, Starbucks implemented an employee stock purchase plan. Eligible employees could contribute up to 10 percent of their base earnings to quarterly purchases of the companys common stock at 85 percent of the going stock price. The total number of shares that could be issued under the plan was 4 million. After the plans creation, nearly 200,000 shares were issued; just over 2,500 of the 14,600 eligible employees participated. Exhibit 3 shows the performance of Starbucks stock since 1992.
Starbucks was able to attract motivated people with above-average skills and good work habits not only because of its fringe benefit program but also because of its pay scale. Store employees were paid $6 to $8 per hour, well above the minimum wage.
Starbucks believed that its efforts to make the company an attractive, caring place to work were responsible for its relatively low turnover rates. Whereas most national retailers and fast-food chains had turnover rates for store employees ranging from 150 to 400 percent a year, the turnover rates for Starbucks baristas ran about 65 percent. Starbucks turnover for store managers was about 25 percent compared to about 50 percent for other chain retailers. There was evidence that Schultzs approaches, values, and principles were affecting company performance in the intended manner. One Starbucks store manager commented, "Morale is very high in my store among the staff. Ive worked for a lot of companies, but Ive never seen this level of respect. Its a company thats very true to its workers, and it shows. Our customers always comment that were happy and having fun. In fact, a lot of people ask if they can work here."13
Exhibit 4 contains a summary of Starbucks fringe benefit program. In 1996, the projected cost of benefits was $2,200 for each of the companys 19,900 employees.
Starbucks Mission Statement
In early 1990, the senior executive team at Starbucks went to an off-site retreat to debate the companys values and beliefs and draft a mission statement. Schultz wanted the mission statement to convey a strong sense of organizational purpose and to articulate the companys fundamental beliefs and guiding principles. The draft was submitted to all employees for review. Changes were made based on employees comments. The resulting mission statement appears in Exhibit 5.
To make sure the company lived up to the elements of the mission statement, a "Mission Review" system was formed. Employees were urged to report their concerns to the companys Mission Review team if they thought particular management decisions were not supportive of the companys mission statement. Comment cards were given to each newly hired employee and were kept available in common areas with other employee forms. Employees had the option of signing the comment cards or not. Hundreds of cards were submitted to the Mission Review team each year. The company promised that a relevant manager would respond to all signed cards within two weeks. Howard Schultz reviewed all the comments, signed and unsigned, every month.
As the company continued to grow, resulting in a large and geographically scattered workforce, Starbucks assembled a team of people from different regions to go over employee concerns, seek solutions, and provide a report at the companys Open Forums. At these Open Forums, held quarterly in every geographic region where the company did business, senior managers met with all interested employees to present updates on Starbucks performance, answer questions, and give employees an opportunity to air grievances.
Values and Principles
During these early building years, Howard Schultz and other Starbucks
senior executives worked to instill some key values and guiding principles
into the Starbucks culture. The keystone value in the effort "to
build a company with soul" was that the company would never stop
pursuing the perfect cup of coffee. Schultz remained steadfastly opposed
to franchising, so that the company could control the quality of its products
and build a culture common to all stores. He was adamant about not selling
artificially flavored coffee beans"We will not pollute our
high-quality beans with chemicals"; if a customer wanted hazelnut-flavored
coffee, Starbucks would provide it by adding hazelnut syrup to the drink
rather than by adding hazelnut flavoring to the beans during roasting.
Running flavored beans through the grinders would leave chemical residues
that would alter the flavor of beans ground afterward; plus, the chemical
smell given off by artificially flavored beans would be absorbed by other
beans in the store. Furthermore, Schultz didnt want the company
to pursue supermarket sales because pouring Starbucks beans into
clear plastic bins, where they could get stale, would compromise the companys
distinctive product: fresh, dark-roasted, full-
Starbucks management was also emphatic about the importance of pleasing customers. Employees were trained to go out of their way, taking heroic measures if necessary, to make sure customers were fully satisfiedthe theme was "just say yes" to customer requests. Employees were also encouraged to speak their minds without fear of retribution from upper managementsenior executives wanted employees to be vocal about what Starbucks was doing right, what it was doing wrong, and what changes were needed. Management wanted employees to contribute to the process of making Starbucks a better company.
A values and principles crisis arose at Starbucks in 1989 when customers started requesting nonfat milk in cappuccinos and lattès. Howard Schultz, who read all customer comment cards, and Dave Olsen, head of coffee quality, conducted taste tests of lattès and cappuccinos made with nonfat and skim milk and concluded they were not as good as those made with whole milk. Howard Behar, recently hired as head of retail store operations, indicated that managements opinions didnt matter; what mattered was giving customers what they wanted. Schultz responded, "We will never offer nonfat milk. Its not who we are." Behar stuck to his guns, maintaining that use of nonfat milk should at least be testedotherwise, all the statements management had made about the importance of really and truly pleasing customers were a sham. A fierce internal debate ensued. One dogmatic defender of the quality and taste of Starbucks coffee products buttonholed Behar outside his office and told him that using nonfat milk amounted to "bastardizing" the companys products. Numerous store managers maintained that offering two kinds of milk was operationally impractical. Schultz found himself torn between the companys commitment to quality and its goal of pleasing customers. One day after visiting one of the stores in a residential neighborhood and watching a customer leave and go to a competitors store because Starbucks did not make lattès with nonfat milk, Schultz authorized Behar to begin testing.14 Within six months all 30 stores were offering drinks made with nonfat milk. In 1997, about half the lattès and cappuccinos Starbucks sold were made with nonfat milk.
Schultzs approach to offering employees good compensation and a comprehensive benefits package was driven by his belief that sharing the companys success with the people who made it happen helped everyone think and act like an owner, build positive long-term relationships with customers, and do things efficiently. He had a vivid recollection of his fathers employment experiencebouncing from one low-paying job to another, working for employers who offered few or no benefits and who conducted their business with no respect for the contributions of the workforceand he vowed that he would never let Starbucks employees suffer a similar fate, saying:
My father worked hard all his life and he had little to show for it. He was a beaten man. This is not the American dream. The worker on our plant floor is contributing great value to the company; if he or she has low self-worth, that will have an effect on the company.15
The companys employee benefits program was predicated on the belief that better benefits attract good people and keep them longer. Schultzs rationale was that if you treat your employees well, they will treat your customers well.
Private Company 1987-92
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