Can I Get a Decaf Skinny Love Please? – Starbucks and Business

Many of my “alterative” friends are critical of Starbucks, perhaps they have good reason to but I’ve never heard one except that they are popular. Here guest blogger Chris Kane discusses his take on them:


A letter To Howard Schultz to response to his new book entitled ‘Onward’

Dear Mr Shultz,

Discovering beauty, goodness and truth with a Star Bucks coffee and Cinnamon Swirl.

“We take the ordinary-a shoe, a knife-and give it new life, believing what we create has the potential to touch others lives because it touched ours.” Howard Schultz

The Starbucks coffee bar is no ordinary shoe, knife or coffee bar…it truly has the spirit of being the extra ordinary in a somewhat dull and ordinary concrete jungle that goes to making Sandyford Starbucks Industrial state in Ireland so special.

I visit the place daily for a coffee and cinnamon Swirl…and my family often meet me there including my wife, three sons, mother in law, daughter in law, grandson and sister in law.

Importance of form

Mine is a Star Bucks coffee and Cinnamon role and I never change my order nor do I deviate. I work on what George Leonard describes as the ‘plateau’ the regular ordinary everyday habitual consistent energy that goes into pursuing the same goal each time I visit. And each time I visit I am guaranteed that ever present combination of coffee and a swirl as regular and as consistent as night and day…’a brewed coffee our customers could count on day after day’ [Schultz]

Just one customer…in just one store…with just one cup of coffee…a little bit about myself.

I am indeed just one more customer…but I have won awards for excellence in public services. I have contributed to nurturing that something ‘extra’ that something special after working in the public services over a period of 35 years. Not dishing out coffee and not with the same need for profitability but instead with the vision of service a service that delivers something really special in the lives of chronically sick or disabled children and adults and those that work with them. So, I know a little about service!

That special ordinariness that is at the root of service

Shultz as the CEO and Founder of Starbucks writes in his book ‘Onward’ how Starbucks fought for its life without losing its soul… but in order to do this it had to ‘get dirty and get in the mud’. It had to come down a scale, look at the business from bottoms up, from upside down from the perspective of customers, staff and stakeholders. He writes about changing ‘mindsets’ and how our minds get set on the wrong thing…and how the wrong thing has serious consequences for business.

Not just coffee excellence but service excellence

Everything we do we do in context, in a particular situation at a particular time and place. It is then not just the quality of the coffee but the quality of the service…and after all we can only drink the coffee after it has been made and served to us. But do we always give enough emphasis to the mindset not just of the organization but more importantly of those that serve in it? Do we have any real insight or motivation to capture that mind…the mind of the server?

The mind of a server is a special mind!

Because the mind of the server is actually a very significant aspect of the work…and whatever goes on in the life of the server and in their mindsets affects all other things…including the quality of the coffee. And an understanding of mind-set and it’s close neighbour Who We Are is a vital aspect of business culture and business excellence.

So, where is Your mind today…what is Your mindset? Are You so grounded down by the demands and challenges of the everyday that You just don’t reach the heights that Starbucks would like You to reach? Are You so ground down by earning a living at a Starbucks coffee bar that You miss the Big picture…the big ideal the business vision?

Is Your mind on the map?

Is Your mind actually on the Map, do You ever give it a MOT? Did You actually Turn Up for work or are You just going through the motions? How did You leave home today? Were there any special circumstances that affected how You arrived at work? What was your mood like? Did You even feel ready for work today? Were You physically well, morally well or spiritually well? And what did You turn up too? A work environment that is open, creative, relaxed, focussed…or one of command and control, suspicious, fear etc.

This according to the spirit of Schultz is the essence of true business…the porthole from which the business is both perceived and delivered? If You are the business then Your state of mind is also. Shultz talks about the way he walked, the way he talked, how he used his body, whether he smiled and so on to enhance the business and to set the marker and tone for success…he become the change he wanted to see !

Transformational minds

Shultz describes his journey as transformational…in which everything about him was important.  Because it’s not just about how we physically turn up for work…but how we in essence metaphysically turn up, aesthetically turn up, spiritually, psychologically, morally, cognitively…because all of these things go to making ‘all of us’ and we are made of it all and the more we come together the more we can shine as fully functioning integrated citizens.

The more fully integrated and embodied we become the more we have to give and the more we are able to serve. And just like the ‘shoe’ or the ‘knife’ the words ‘service’ suddenly takes on a new perspective…because service becomes extraordinary…service as gift…service as art , service as beauty, service as truth, service as goodness and most importantly …service as Love.

It’s a lovely cup of coffee!

And what a real gift to the world that throughout all the business plans, corporate training, interviews, functions and roles Starbucks Vision is to enthuse staff to perform the essence of beauty, goodness and truth played out daily through all their staff relationships with customers…truly making Starbucks a magical service with a ‘magical we’ drinking magical cups of coffee! As Howard Schultz reminds us… “Starbucks has always been about so much more than coffee”

“Big pictures, big maps help open the mind, and thus the heart.” Ken Wilber

And from rolling in the mud to soaring through the skies merging the professional with the personal, the strategic with the human, emotion with discipline, global with local, profit with beauty all rhythmically tied up together and bundled into some majestic whole. What a Vision for management and the real joy of this vision is how much it seems to have been grounded like some exotic coffee bean in the very DNA not just of Starbucks but more essentially in terms of Who We Are!


About Chris Kane

Chris is the Founder of the Who Am I Foundation whose aim is to promote an Inquiry into the true nature of who we are…because knowing who we are leads to happiness and wellbeing. My company the Who Am I Foundation is dedicated to promoting an Inquiry into who and what we are in daily life. The Foundation aims to encourage in others an interest in the subject of an Inquiry into: Who they are, where they are, what they stand for! I would love to hear from anyone who shares this vision: Christopher Kane May 2011 –