Julien Florkin Business Strategy Technology

7 Unforgettable Chapters From Howard Schultz’s Impact on the Coffee World

Howard Schultz
Discover how Howard Schultz brewed a revolution, transforming Starbucks and our coffee culture.
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I. Introduction

Ready to embark on a remarkable journey? Let’s explore the life and achievements of one Howard Schultz, a visionary who transformed a humble coffee bean store into a global giant, the ‘Starbucks‘ we all know and love. Picture this: a man who has changed the very way we perceive coffee, someone who turned our everyday caffeine fix into a unique experience. From the comforting aroma of freshly ground beans to the community-focused atmosphere, Schultz has gifted us more than just a coffeehouse – he’s crafted an integral part of our daily lives.

From his humble beginnings in Brooklyn to becoming the CEO of a global powerhouse, Schultz’s story is a powerful brew of resilience, strategic thinking, and a ceaseless passion for quality. So whether you’re an ambitious entrepreneur, an aspiring leader, a curious coffee enthusiast, or someone simply fascinated by success stories, this exploration of Schultz’s journey offers insights aplenty.

This isn’t just an account of a man’s extraordinary vision for coffee served in a green twin-tailed mermaid cup. It’s a testament to how one individual can change the game, inspiring others while reshaping entire industries.

Howard Schultz
One individual can reshape entire industries.

So, cozy up in your favorite corner with a cup of your preferred brew, as we delve into the tale of Howard Schultz, the man behind the Starbucks phenomenon. Buckle up – it’s an intriguing, caffeinated ride you wouldn’t want to miss!

II. Early Life and Career

The story of Howard Schultz isn’t one of privilege or luck; instead, it’s a tale of resilience and determination that starts in Brooklyn, New York. Born in 1953, Howard spent his formative years in Canarsie’s Bayview Housing projects, a rough-and-tumble neighborhood where life was anything but easy. His family wasn’t well-off, and Schultz often speaks of the profound impact this modest upbringing had on his later life and career.

Schultz’s childhood wasn’t a walk in the park. His father, a truck driver, struggled with low-paying jobs, and the family lived paycheck to paycheck. However, these challenging times fostered a unique perspective within Schultz. He witnessed the struggles of America’s working class, fueling his dream to build a different kind of company—one that valued and respected its employees.

Schultz was a go-getter from the start, always looking for opportunities to improve his situation. To help support his family, he held various jobs, from bartending to selling garments, but it was his knack for sales that would lead him to an encounter with destiny.

In the late 1970s, Schultz landed a marketing job at a Swedish kitchenware manufacturer, Hammerplast. A keen observer, he noticed that a small coffee shop chain in Seattle was ordering more coffee drip filters than many of his large clients. Intrigued, Schultz decided to pay this company, Starbucks, a visit. The connection was instant. He was drawn to the company’s passion for coffee and saw enormous potential for growth.

Howard Schultz
Schultz joined Starbucks in 1892.

Schultz joined Starbucks as Director of Retail Operations and Marketing in 1982. During a business trip to Italy, he was inspired by the thriving coffee culture of espresso bars that served not just coffee, but a sense of community. However, his proposal to turn Starbucks into a similar type of café was turned down by the original owners, leading Schultz to branch out on his own.

He opened his own coffee shop, Il Giornale, in 1985, which was wildly successful. When the opportunity arose to buy Starbucks in 1987, Schultz seized it, merging it with Il Giornale. From that point forward, there was no looking back, and Starbucks began its extraordinary journey to becoming a global brand. But at the heart of it all, was a man from Brooklyn, who dared to dream and bring about a coffee revolution.

III. The Starbucks Story: Schultz’s Vision and Strategy

If we peek into the early days of Starbucks, we’ll find it as a humble coffee bean retailer in Seattle, with no signs of the global influence it holds today. But when Howard Schultz joined the company, he saw something that others didn’t. He saw potential, a future that could be brewed into existence with the right blend of vision and strategy.

Schultz’s eureka moment arrived during a trip to Italy. As he walked along the cobbled streets of Milan, he noticed the pervasive coffee culture. There were espresso bars on practically every corner, acting as social hubs where people chatted, read newspapers, and enjoyed their coffee. Schultz was struck by the strong sense of community and connection these coffeehouses nurtured.

Inspired, he returned to Seattle with a dream to transform Starbucks into a similar espresso bar that served not just coffee but a sense of belonging too. However, the original owners of Starbucks were not on board with this plan, causing Schultz to venture out on his own.

Schultz didn’t let this setback deter him. He opened his own coffee shop, Il Giornale, which married quality coffee with an Italian-inspired café experience. The venture was a roaring success, vindicating Schultz’s vision.

In a twist of fate, the original owners of Starbucks decided to sell the business in 1987. Schultz seized this golden opportunity, buying the company and merging it with Il Giornale. Under his stewardship, Starbucks embarked on a journey of transformation. Schultz started by rebranding his Il Giornale outlets as Starbucks and then began to rapidly expand.

From day one, Schultz was focused on growth but not at the expense of quality or the customer experience. He understood the importance of creating a third space between home and work, a welcoming environment for people to relax, work, or socialize, all over a cup of coffee.

Howard Schultz
You should never sacrifice customer experience.

Under Schultz’s leadership, Starbucks experienced unprecedented growth and expansion. By 1992, Starbucks had 165 stores and went public, its shares being traded on the stock market. In the following years, Starbucks ventured overseas, opening stores in Japan and Singapore, marking the start of its global presence.

Howard Schultz’s vision for Starbucks was more than just opening coffeehouses. It was about crafting an experience, building community, and connecting people. His strategy emphasized growth, but never at the expense of the company’s soul – the quality of the coffee and the experience. And it’s this vision that has turned Starbucks into the global icon it is today.

IV. Leadership Style and Business Philosophy

At the heart of Starbucks’ global success is Howard Schultz’s distinctive leadership style and business philosophy. He is a leader who believes in people over profit and nurturing a culture of respect and dignity at the workplace. These beliefs stem from his humble beginnings and the hardships his family faced while he was growing up.

Schultz’s leadership style has always been people-centric. He believes that success is a result of treating people with kindness and respect. This belief is deeply embedded in Starbucks’ corporate culture, and it’s what sets the company apart in the industry.

Schultz always maintained that employees are the true ambassadors of the brand. To foster this belief, he decided to call Starbucks employees ‘partners,’ reinforcing a sense of shared responsibility and mutual respect. Schultz also revolutionized the industry by offering comprehensive health coverage and stock options to all employees, including part-time workers. Such benefits were practically unheard of within the service industry, but Schultz insisted on providing them, reflecting his strong commitment to his employees’ well-being.

Under Schultz’s leadership, Starbucks has also championed various social initiatives, reinforcing its position as a socially responsible company. From ethical sourcing of coffee to reducing the environmental impact of its stores, Starbucks has always aimed to make a positive impact on the world.

Schultz’s business philosophy revolves around building a company with a soul. He once said, “Starbucks has a role and a meaningful relationship with people that is not only about the coffee.” This philosophy has guided the company’s approach to customer service, creating a warm and welcoming environment in every Starbucks store.

Howard Schultz
Build a business with a soul.

For Schultz, the Starbucks experience is about more than just selling coffee. It’s about creating a sense of community, a ‘third place’ between work and home, where customers can relax and connect with others. This focus on customer experience is another key element of Schultz’s business philosophy and a crucial factor in Starbucks’ global success.

In essence, Howard Schultz’s leadership style and business philosophy are about nurturing human connections. Whether it’s employees, customers, or the communities Starbucks operates in, Schultz believes in treating everyone with respect and dignity. And it’s this people-centric approach that has made Starbucks not just a global brand, but a beloved institution.

V. Schultz’s Influence on the Coffee Industry

Howard Schultz’s impact on the coffee industry is nothing short of transformative. Before Schultz, the average American’s relationship with coffee was largely functional – a simple caffeine pick-me-up, often instant, and not necessarily high-quality. But Schultz saw the potential for something more. He envisioned a future where coffee wasn’t just a drink but an experience, a ritual, and a part of daily life.

Schultz’s inspiration stemmed from his travels to Italy, where he experienced the country’s vibrant café culture. He was fascinated by the rich rituals and traditions associated with coffee and the sense of community these cafes fostered. Schultz wanted to replicate this experience in America, and he did just that, turning Starbucks into a ‘third place’ – a spot between home and work where people could gather, relax, and enjoy high-quality coffee.

This shift toward experiential coffee consumption is perhaps Schultz’s most significant contribution to the coffee industry. Today, thanks to Schultz, we don’t just drink coffee – we live it. The idea of grabbing a coffee has become synonymous with catch-ups, business meetings, study sessions, and even first dates.

Beyond transforming how we consume coffee, Schultz also played a pivotal role in improving coffee quality standards. Under his stewardship, Starbucks committed to sourcing only the finest, ethically produced coffee beans. This decision sent ripples across the coffee industry, leading to increased demand for high-quality, sustainably sourced coffee.

Howard Schultz
How to replicate an Italian experience in America?

Schultz also revolutionized the industry by introducing a variety of coffee beverages. Before Starbucks, terms like ‘Caramel Macchiato,’ ‘Frappuccino,’ or ‘Flat White’ were alien to most coffee drinkers. Schultz brought these espresso-based beverages to the mainstream, significantly expanding the American coffee palate.

In essence, Howard Schultz’s influence on the coffee industry has been profound and lasting. He changed the way we think about, consume, and enjoy coffee. His vision turned coffee from a commodity into a symbol of connection, community, and quality. And for that, every coffee lover owes him a debt of gratitude.

VI. Schultz’s Legacy and Impact on Future Leaders

Howard Schultz’s story – from humble beginnings to the helm of a global coffee empire – is inspiring in and of itself. But his impact extends far beyond his personal success. Schultz’s legacy is not only in the globally recognized brand he built but also in the leadership principles he embodied and promoted, influencing a new generation of leaders in the process.

One of the most critical aspects of Schultz’s legacy is his unwavering commitment to his employees, whom he refers to as ‘partners.’ This wasn’t just a title; it was a mindset. Schultz believed that success comes from treating people with respect and dignity. His revolutionary decision to offer comprehensive benefits, including health insurance and stock options to all employees, even part-timers, was a testament to this belief. This approach demonstrated that a company could be both profitable and people-centered, laying a blueprint for future leaders to follow.

Schultz also pioneered the idea of a business as a ‘third place’ between home and work, a concept that has significantly influenced modern retail and service businesses. This emphasis on the customer experience and the creation of welcoming, community-focused spaces has become a standard practice in many industries today, thanks in large part to Schultz’s vision.

Moreover, Schultz’s commitment to social responsibility has paved the way for future leaders. He demonstrated that businesses could be successful while making positive contributions to society, whether through ethical sourcing practices, environmental initiatives, or community outreach programs.

Howard Schultz
Committed to social responsibility.

Schultz also stands as a role model for leaders who seek to build brands that connect with customers on a deep, emotional level. Starbucks isn’t just a place to buy coffee; it’s a part of people’s lives, a testament to Schultz’s understanding of the importance of emotional branding.

In essence, Howard Schultz’s legacy isn’t just about transforming Starbucks into a global powerhouse. It’s about a new kind of business leadership – one that values employees, prioritizes customer experience, and operates with social responsibility. This legacy continues to inspire and shape the strategies of future leaders, making Schultz a true legend in the world of business.

VII. Conclusion

In the grand scheme of global business and entrepreneurship, Howard Schultz will always stand out as a pioneer, a visionary who saw potential in the ordinary and spun it into something extraordinary. He took the simple act of coffee-drinking, mixed it with a dose of Italian inspiration, a dash of business savvy, and a large helping of people-focused philosophy, to create a global phenomenon that is Starbucks.

From his humble beginnings in Brooklyn, Schultz showed us that success isn’t always about where you start, but where you’re determined to go. His unyielding commitment to his vision, coupled with an unwavering belief in people, led to the creation of an iconic brand that serves as a ‘third place’ for millions worldwide.

In a world where the bottom line often takes precedence, Schultz dared to lead differently. He made Starbucks about people – the employees, the customers, and the communities it operates in. And in doing so, he proved that a company could be both profitable and socially responsible, a blueprint that continues to inspire and guide future leaders.

But perhaps the most significant part of Schultz’s legacy is the shift he brought about in our coffee culture. Thanks to him, coffee is no longer just a drink; it’s an experience, a ritual, a catalyst for connection. Schultz transformed our relationship with coffee, turning it from a morning pick-me-up to an integral part of our daily lives.

Howard Schultz
Not just a coffee, a new perspective on what business should be!

So, as we take that next sip of our favorite Starbucks brew, let’s take a moment to appreciate the man behind it all. Howard Schultz didn’t just serve us coffee; he gave us a new perspective on what a business could and should be. His story is a reminder that success isn’t merely about profit margins, but about passion, people, and the courage to challenge the status quo.

From the bustling streets of Brooklyn to the helm of a global coffee empire, Howard Schultz’s journey is a powerful testament to the magic that happens when vision, passion, and a deep respect for people come together. Here’s to Howard Schultz – a visionary leader, an inspiring entrepreneur, and, above all, a true coffee lover.


Key ConceptsDescription
Early Life and CareerExplores Schultz’s humble beginnings in Brooklyn and his early career decisions that led him to Starbucks.
The Starbucks Story: Schultz’s Vision and StrategyDetails Schultz’s vision for Starbucks, inspired by Italian coffee culture, and his strategy to transform Starbucks into a global brand.
Leadership Style and Business PhilosophyDiscusses Schultz’s people-centric leadership style and his philosophy of building a company with a soul, focusing on employee welfare and customer experience.
Schultz’s Influence on the Coffee IndustryCovers how Schultz revolutionized the coffee industry by shifting coffee from a simple beverage to an experiential offering.
Schultz’s Legacy and Impact on Future LeadersReflects on Schultz’s lasting impact on business leadership, emphasizing his approach to balancing profitability with social responsibility and human connection.


Who is Howard Schultz?

Howard Schultz is the former CEO and chairman of Starbucks, known for transforming the company into a global coffeehouse chain.

What is Howard Schultz’s background?

Howard Schultz was born in 1953 in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in a low-income family. He started his career in sales before joining Starbucks.

What was Howard Schultz’s role in Starbucks?

Howard Schultz served as the CEO and chairman of Starbucks, leading its expansion from a local coffee retailer to a global chain.

What is unique about Howard Schultz’s leadership style?

Howard Schultz believed in putting people first, offering unprecedented benefits to employees, and creating a sense of community within Starbucks stores.

How did Howard Schultz influence the coffee industry?

Howard Schultz transformed coffee from a commodity into an experience, introduced high-quality standards, and popularized espresso-based beverages.

What is Howard Schultz’s business philosophy?

Howard Schultz believed in building a company with a soul, focusing on employee welfare, customer experience, and social responsibility.

What is the ‘third place’ concept introduced by Howard Schultz?

The ‘third place’ is a concept where Starbucks acts as a comfortable gathering spot between home and work.

What social initiatives has Starbucks undertaken under Schultz?

Under Howard Schultz, Starbucks has championed ethical sourcing, environmental initiatives, and community outreach programs.

What legacy has Schultz left for future leaders?

Howard Schultz’s legacy is a blueprint for building a profitable, people-centered business that also contributes positively to society.

What impact has Schultz had on our daily coffee-drinking habits?

Howard Schultz transformed coffee-drinking from a simple act to an integral part of daily life, fostering connection and community.

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