I accept the position of ceo of Starbucks with the deepest of humility. I am thankful to chair Mellody Hobson and the Board of Directors for entrusting me with this responsibility.
Starbucks is an incredible company and its best days are ahead of it. We have a critical role to play in bringing human connection to a world that’s quite disconnected. And in that quest, the best days for you, my partners, are ahead of you.
That’s the official part of this note.
The rest is entirely personal.
I met Howard Schultz a year ago in New York City. From that moment, he has been a sensei who has introduced me to the company and to its ways — and the importance of coffee. Throughout my six month immersion journey, Howard has been generous in his advice and guidance, all steeped in ensuring I understood the history of Starbucks and its cherished culture. At one point, someone asked why my immersion was to take six months. I replied that the question was asked with a Western lens. If the question was asked with an Eastern lens, it would be: “Why did the immersion take only six months?”
Howard believes strongly that the partners in this company come first. While there is always more we can do, and will do, the investments set in place by Howard over the last year have set the table for a new future for the company. He knows — because he came up with it — that in order to exceed the customer expectations, we must first exceed partner expectations. For that, Howard deserves nothing but all the praise and the gratitude.
I know this to be incontrovertibly true, even if some in the world may choose to assert a different view. For Howard, every decision, every idea, and every innovation has to be viewed through the lens of our partners and how it will shape their experience. Take our newest innovation, Oleato — a creation that came from Howard’s mind. While we may all take great pride in the excitement from our customers, Howard’s biggest joy was seeing that partners were energized by the idea, eagerly queuing up to try the product at the Seattle Support Center.
I was at Pike Place last week very early in the morning. It was before the store opened. And then we opened it. There was silence. I walked the store, touching the wood on the shelves. I saw the hook that stood near the entrance that was meant for Caroline, a customer who came there to connect with employees. I saw the shelves — exactly as they were when the store first opened many years ago. The espresso machines slowly turned on. The market began bustling. And soon, lines of customers formed. Customers that craved what Starbucks has to offer.
Think of this. Our business is a human connection business. It’s a human connection business over coffee. It took genius to take Starbucks from 11 stores to 36,000. It took genius to make us the first company that gave out Bean Stock. It took genius to lead on healthcare and benefits — including our transgender healthcare. It took genius to be the first company in China to provide benefits no other company had. It took genius to coin the phrase “performance through the lens of humanity”.
It took genius.
And it took 40 years of work. Of inspiration. Of struggles. Of doing the right thing even when no one thought it to be the case. And it took the genius of the individual coupled with the symphony of thousands of partners to create the magic of Starbucks. And that is the foundation of the limitless future that I know we will enjoy as a brand. A brand that our partners make special, every day.
And as Howard leaves, let me repeat what I said in our town hall. He will always be our founder. We will always honor him.
Quite simply, and with love: Thank You Howard.