Starbucks Success: Uncommon Grounds

When you visit one of Hawaii’s 67 Starbucks, it’s about much more than coffee

Susan Sunderland
Friday - March 23, 2007
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Kerry Busheikin at the Ward Starbucks with supervisor Renee Gran and barista Peter Fujieki
Kerry Busheikin at the Ward Starbucks with
supervisor Renee Gran and barista Peter

I am writing this story while enjoying an ultimate pastime ... hanging out at Starbucks. There aren’t many public venues where one can have this kind of business-pleasure escapade in total safety and comfort. But coffee cafes have changed that.

While jazz music plays overhead, I sip a tall mocha Frappuccino, surf the Internet, check e-mail messages, organize my thoughts and people-watch in grand style. Because at Starbucks, you can.

At other tables, people are socializing, having business discussions, or are engrossed in reading material. Because at Starbucks, you can.

You don’t stand in line at Starbucks just to buy a cup of coffee.You stop for the experience surrounding the cup of coffee. It’s what makes Starbucks a rare brew.

“It’s all about making customers feel welcome and being genuine,” says Kerry Busheikin, newly named regional director for Starbucks Coffee Hawaii. Like the euphoria of that first cup of coffee in the morning, it’s something that happens at 12,400 stores in more than 30 countries every day. In Hawaii, the Starbucks experience happens at 66 - soon to be 67 -stores on four islands.

How has Starbucks cornered the market and built a cult based on coffee? And is there a way to infuse a flavor of Hawaii into a powerful international brand?

The Seattle-based company is among the most admired in the world, according to Fortune magazine. Busheikin, a 13-year veteran of the corporation, personifies Starbucks’ values and shares with us the philosophy of building a mega business empire on the soul of a small company. She is unabashed about giving out Starbucks’ secret to success. In fact, it’s printed on the back of her business card.

There in six-point type is the Starbucks Mission Statement:

“To establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles as we grow. The following six guiding principles will help us measure the appropriateness of our decisions:

* Provide a great work environment and treat each other with respect and dignity.

* Embrace diversity as an essential component in the way we do business.

* Apply the highest standards of excellence in the purchasing, roasting and fresh delivery of our coffee.

* Develop enthusiastically satisfied customers all of the time.

* Contribute positively to our communities and our environment.

* Recognize that profitability is essential to our future success.”

If a situation doesn’t fit any of those guiding principles, Starbucks simply won’t do it.

From its beginning in 1971, Busheikin says, Starbucks had a very basic premise. It seeks appreciation for a better tasting cup of coffee. It believes that the subtle, rich, exotic flavors of coffee served in a cozy, relaxing environment lead to the kind of rewarding everyday moments that are missing from the American retail landscape.

The vision of Starbucks originates from chairman-CEO Howard Schultz. In 1983 while traveling, he found a vibrant coffee culture in Italy. The Italians understood the personal relationship that people have with coffee and its social aspect. Serving espresso drinks the Italian way would be the differentiating factor for Starbucks.

Today a $6.4 billion juggernaut, Starbucks is a respected and financially successful enterprise that doesn’t spend a hill of beans on advertising. In-store experience is Starbucks’ primary marketing tool.

“We’re a relationship-driven company,“Busheikin says.“We get close to people quickly, starting with our partners (employees) and

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