ENTREPRENEUR. What steps will you take to avoid falling into an overly aggressive expansion that leads to complications like before?
Howard Schultz. We have learned great lessons over the past few years and we will not make the same mistakes again. I think the most important lesson is that growth and success can hide failure. And once we’ve acquired that, we’re stronger than ever, so we’ve brought new memory, new muscle, and new discipline to the company. We are now approaching expansion with much tighter financial discipline.
EMP. Was the main problem that the company could not absorb the growth?
H.Sch. no It happened that growth became the strategy and the goal. And that’s a wrong approach. Growth must be seen as the result of hard work, while the company’s goal must be the experience we create for our consumers.
EMP. He comments that crises offer opportunities for companies. How does this phenomenon translate in the case of Starbucks?
H.Sch. Not all companies have successfully survived the economic crisis and accordingly there are very good companies and brands that are unfortunately going through difficult times. It’s a very likely opportunity for Starbucks, and not just in the United States.
EMP. Can these opportunities then translate into acquiring businesses at a better price?
H.Sch. I wouldn’t look at it from that perspective. Rather, the question we want to answer is whether there are any complementary assets to Starbucks in the market. And how, if they became part of our organization, we could create value for them and their customers.
EMP. The book ends with this statement: “Starbucks’ best days are yet to come.” In what areas do you think you can still improve?
H.Sch. This is a process that never ends. You must always push the project to seek perfection, even though you know that absolute perfection will obviously never be reached. What I learned a long time ago is that you can’t build a business and exceed your customers’ expectations unless the leaders of that business are committed to exceeding the expectations of their own employees.