Wednesday, September 13, 2006

sirens blaring, or, my interview with rick boleto of starbucks coffee, part two

here is the second part of my email interview i had recently with rick boleto, district manager for starbucks coffee company in philadelphia, pennsylvania. rick does a good job tackling a few of the more pressing questions thrown at starbucks people--sometimes diplomatically avoiding them--with precision and typical starbucks style. seriously, when i think of the face of starbucks and what it means to excel in a world class operation such as big green, rick really embodies that spirit with his drive for excellence in every area of his responsibility, and there are a lot. and in the spirit of fun and surprises, rick decides to answer the wild card question with a question...for me! we begin this second part with what i believe to be the most important question facing starbucks today and in the future. enjoy.

10. to what extent has starbucks unbridled success in non-coffee related branding (i.e., cd's, sandwiches, etc.) helped/hindered its image and/or ability to be known as a coffee company?

We want to create a unique experience for our guests. Music, books, and other forms of entertainment add to this experience. Our guests have asked for us to have more food items for their convenience, again, to enhance the experience, so we have responded. With all our decisions measured against our guiding principles* [ed: see below], I know we will continue to add items to our overall product line to make the customers' experiences fuller and more enjoyable. At the base of that experience is and will always be a great coffee company with an outstanding cup of coffee.

11. starbucks is seemingly everywhere already. when will they be done growing?

This question is outside my scope.

12. if you could have any one job in starbucks, what would it be and why?

I have really enjoyed my role on the CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] team. I have enjoyed being able to respond to some of the questions people have about our impact on the coffee industry. I would enjoy pursuing this arena further.

13. what is one thing about howard schultz the world should know that it may not?

I think this question would be better suited for Howard.

14. starbucks currently has operations in over thirty countries. what has helped starbucks translate across international and cultural boundaries?

Partnering with local successful businesses in those new markets has helped, beyond that, I think our brand and a lot of hard work.

15. press, drip or espresso?


16. what's your morning coffee ritual?

Set the timer the night before and hope I don 't wake up before it is done.

17. what's your favorite starbucks coffee ever?

My favorite ever - I guess a Black Apron Exclusive we recently had Ethiopia Shirkina Sun-Dried Sidamo

18. talk about black apron exclusives. why are they such a big deal?

BAE are a big deal because we reward the farmer a premium for the coffee. The premium is a $15,000 cash award the farmer must use for a social improvement project or put back into the farm, either agricultural improvements or improvements to a mill. The coffees are exceptional and often the amount available is too small for us to make a LTO [Limited Time Offering].

19. Wild Card question (write your own)?

Aaron, you were an extremely successful partner with Starbucks, what did you learn while working here that is helping you with your own venture?

i would say the biggest thing i internalized from my time with starbucks was that success is not an entitlement. you have to work hard to get it. you have to work hard to keep it. hanging a starbucks sign up by the road will get them in the door. we saw that on a massively unexpected scale at my store. whether they return (and return and return) is up to what you do once they get inside the door. with my own company it's kind of the opposite, but i work hard just the same. nobody's banging down my door here in the early days of brown. but once they try my coffee they want to come back because of what i did with it, how i treated them as a customer, how i conducted my business.

*STARBUCKS MISSION STATEMENT AND GUIDING PRINCIPLES (from memory, so if i miss a word here or there...)

To establish Starbucks as the premiere purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles as we grow.

[these are the six guiding principles to measure decision appropriateness]

Provide a great work environment and treat each other with respect and dignity.

Embrace diversity as an essential component of the way we do business.

Apply the highest standards to the purchasing, roasting and fresh delivery of our coffee.

Develop enthusiastically satisfied customers all the time.

Contribute positively to our communities and our environment.

Recognize that profitibility is essential to our future success.


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