Filed under: Comment
How about that for a post title eh?
Who the hell do I think I am, the Daily Mail?
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Starbucks.
And they once gave me a little birthday party.
But recently I came across a news story that made me like them a whole lot more.
No … they’re not going to start selling diet coke [ice, no lemon] in their stores.
No … they aren’t going to offer an in-consumption experience that features a none-stop stream of Queen songs.
No … they’re not going to play a video of Nottingham Forest’s glorious European Cup victories on an endless loop.
Basically, what it was, was founder Howard Schultz telling a shareholder to fuck off … albeit in semi-polite terms.
What happened was at their AGM, a shareholder – Tom Strobhar – said he was unhappy that Schultz has used the company to support gay marriage and claimed it had impacted their share price.
In fact his actual words were:
“In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings – shall we say politely – were a bit disappointing”.
That’s fighting talk.
Now to be fair, while Strobhar is openly against same-sex marriage – being a major player in the ‘Corporate Morality Action Center’ – he arguably had a point, because once Schultz had made his announcement about Starbucks endorsing the same-sex marriage bill in Washington, conservatives and opponents to gay marriage openly stated they would boycott the brand.
Given we live in a World where companies do all they can to avoid or appease any possible negative publicity – even if created by extreme minority groups – Schultz response was rather daring.
Instead of apologizing and bending over to appease the outspoken shareholder, Howard Schultz said this:
“This is is not an economic decision, the lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company and we want to embrace diversity.”
At this, the audience cheered and applauded wildly.
When things calmed down, Schultz continued …
“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, you can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”
Utterly, utterly brilliant.
This has single-handedly made me actually like Starbucks a whole lot more.
Whereas so many companies pander to anyone who challenges their actions or decisions, Schultz had the strength of character that I wish was present in their grande latte’s.
In that moment, he made Starbucks have a point of view. He made it a brand that lives by sacrifice and stubbornness. A brand people will start to associate with as much for their values, as their products.
And while you could say that he has broken the law by openly admitting he is doing something for his employees rather than shareholders [which is technically illegal when you’re the CEO of a listed company] he can argue that not only did he achieve a return of 38% which is much, much higher than current market levels, but by representing the diversity of their employees, he is ensuring their loyalty and commitment which can have a massive impact on improving the bottom line,
More companies should take note.
Anyway while you watch Schultz try and pull off his best Al Pacino impression [which is maybe why I like it so much], I’m going to buy me a Venti somethingorother. Ta-ra.
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