Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


The Effect of a Leader, Starbucks style

Last weekend, my family and I spent the weekend in Seattle for my son's birthday, and one of the main things he wanted to do was have coffee in the first Starbucks (we are "coffee people" - a combination of our Cajun heritage and Pacific Northwest residency, I think).

The first Starbucks is located in Pike's Place Market along the Seattle waterfront, and the store was opened in 1971. When we walked in, I was struck by the fact that it really doesn't "feel" like the Starbucks I know and love. Sure, there are similarities, but this "version 1.0" of Starbucks has a different ambience. For example, there are no comfy couches (not really any place to sit, for that matter), and it's a lot darker (both in lighting and décor). The similarities? The menu is the same, and all that Starbucks gear you can buy (mugs, coffee makers, etc.)

What was intriguing to me is was how much the "zen" of Starbucks has changed since 1971, and how much it hasn't.

What's the same?

  • The friendliness of the baristas, the terminology, and the excellent coffee are just like any Starbucks I've visited just about anywhere in the world.

What's different?

  • Starbucks v1.0 doesn't feel like the "lifestyle store" you commonly associate with the Starbucks name. It's not as warm, welcoming, or inviting and doesn't feel like quite so much like someplace you'd go to hang out with your friends.

And yet -- this is the place it all started.

What can we learn from this?

In addition to the Venti Sugar-free Vanilla Latte I bought, here is what I took away from the experience:

  • Focus - stay true to your core

    • I love that Starbucks has kept true to their roots of coffee, tea, and spices as the center of their business. No matter how they change, it's still about the coffee, tea, and spices.

  • Re-invent

    • There is a binder in the first Starbucks that shows some of the changes over the last 35 years (yes - Starbucks has been around for 35 years!) and they've not been shy about re-inventing themselves.

  • Innovate

    • Starbucks clearly has the passion to continue innovating around a tiny set of ingredients. Who'd have thought there would be so many ways to dress up a cup of coffee?

  • Evolve

    • Starbucks took the core attraction of its business and has continued to evolve and extend itself to connect emotions and intrinsic value with its core products.

  • Involve

    • From coffee products for the home, to music, and now movies and crossword puzzles, Starbucks is increasingly reaching beyond its walls and creating a sense of community.

Lessons for life, business, and global domination. All from a cup of coffee.