Every highly recognized brand, like Starbucks has a story behind their values and expertise. In this particular Forbes article “Howard Behar: What You Can Learn About Branding from Starbucks”, Dan Schawbel interviews the former president of Starbucks Coffee Company North America and Starbucks Coffee International, Howard Behar. They discuss how the culture of Starbucks has changed since he was leading it, his business growth and branding philosophy, how to best support your talent, and what questions he asks candidates during the interview.
As I sit here in Starbucks to better decipher Behar’s answers, it’s apparent that the brand is as strong as their coffee. Behar mentioned in the interview that he “…probably wouldn’t be hired at Starbucks today and certainly not for the position he had.” Over the years, Starbucks has become more formal and systematic from store to store. “It still has it’s soul,” says Behar, and caring about people is why the public just can’t get enough of the brand. Sure, mostly everyone recognizes the classic white cup with the brown sleeve and the green straw that sticks out of the Frappuccino cup, but that’s only a few small aspects of what makes up the Starbucks brand. When Behar discusses his principles of business growth and brand development, he states that the number one principle is being authentic. The word “brand” implies that you can be whatever you want to be, but it’s more important to stay true to your values and to be honest.
According to Behar, "In order to run a business successfully the most important principles are authenticity, truthfulness, and clarity with your values."
When Behar was asked to name some current leaders he finds successful, he began by mentioning John Mackey of Whole Foods. Reason being, is because of his competiveness; but most importantly because he is not at all greedy. The way I look at it, he values his people way more than he values the billions of dollars he could be putting in his bank account. After naming a few other current successful leaders, he finds that good people and good merchants are what’s missing in the world.
The end of Schawbel’s interview with Behar, struck me the most. The question asked was, “How do you best support your talent to make a winning brand?” Behar answered by saying that he would rather hire desire over talent any day of the week. While there are fields like the medical and scientific field that require both qualities in a person; to make a winning brand you need powerful, passionate and motivated people. Behar looks for someone with tremendous desire for their work but also someone who can get the job done.
In order for Behar to hire a person with those qualities, he very seldom asks a person about their skillsets. Instead, he finds that asking questions pertaining to their siblings and friends, like what they like and dislike about you; is how he finds out about the person you are and your values.