The Man Who Runs Starbucks

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The other day, I stopped in at a local Starbucks for an ice coffee and a bottle of water. Behind the counter, an elderly man with a white beard greeted me warmly and served me with dispatch. He was clearly proud to be in that store, wearing a crisp green apron, earning a living and doing a job with pride and dignity.

Everyone would like this man and from what I could glean about him, they would have every reason to do so. As I left the store, I thought to myself that if I were a child again, I might think that he was indeed Mr. Starbucks– the guy who runs the place.

But the fact is, that distinction belongs to Howard Schultz, that rare breed of business genius who knows how to build an extraordinary enterprise and, in turn to provide employment, opportunity and dignity for nearly 200,000 people around the world.

But in America today, Schultz is not nearly as likeable as the man with the white beard (even though the latter collects a paycheck and the former creates them.

How can that be? Why is that? Because Schultz has qualities millions now want to villify in a nation that used to pride itself, near universally, on being the land of opportunity. The man who really runs Starbucks is, to many:

  • Too wealthy
  • Too driven
  • Has more than his “fair share”
  • A tax dodger of sorts who, no matter how much he pays, doesn’t pay enough
  • For his very success, Schultz is considered, by many, to be somehow evil. One who gamed the system. A one percenter. The enemy!

What is really at play here in the case of two Starbucks men, is that as human beings we are NOT created equal. Some have a head start that carries them for life. They are smarter, more talented, infused with far high levels of ambition and blessed with a grand vision and the wherewithal to bring it to life.

That they could do so in America and be celebrated for their success and the rewards that brought to others is what made us the envy of the world.

But now the Schultz’s of our land are culprits, the white beards their victims and this is the culture our kids have to live with.

It’s more than a tale of two men. It is a story of two profoundly different views, philosophies and times.

Mark Stevens


MSCO | The Art and Science of Growing Businesses

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