The CEO of your favorite place to get a white chocolate mocha (or is that just us) has gone from admirable coffeehouse entrepreneur to impassioned orator.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, furthered the conversation on America’s stance with diversity and racism and held another open forum with hundreds of Starbucks employees at the California African American Museum this week.
First initiated weeks ago in Seattle, Schultz’s goal of widening the talk of race in America has evolved into a series for the company. The businessman, traveling from Oakland, St. Louis and New York, is on a quest to get his employees to honestly share how they view and treat different cultures and ethnicity in their everyday lives. Wow!
Starbucks openly hires (at 40 percent) people of various backgrounds and Schultz was inspired to hold these massive talks from the aftermath of Ferguson last fall. Despite his success as a White male in America, the racial elements of Michael Brown’s death touched him deeply and caused him to reflect on his own manners of dealing with race.
“Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have unconscious biases,” as he told USA Today. “We had to do something. No ignoring it or being a bystander.”
He shared with USA that as a child, he remembers the images on TV of the civil rights movement and hearing Robert F. Kennedy speak after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
There is also a business component to the forum. Schultz noticed that based on “the national mood” of the country, Starbucks’ sales would rise or fall. In New York, during the #BLACKLIVESMATTERS protests, sales were “tanking.”
He insists that the forums aren’t organized to keep business afloat, but to check in with his employees because if they are happy and the topics they care most about aren’t neglected, business in return is a more fruitful experience for everyone.
But don’t write off Schultz for someone just only looking out for his brand. Just last October, he introduced a partnership with Starbucks and non-profits in New York and L.A. to help fund educational programs and he also has a foundation geared towards helping veterans.
Schultz’s effort is admirable–and smart–because of course everybody wins when people are generally happy, but at the very least, feel understood. He’s hopeful that our CEOs and managers will follow his lead.
“In every city we’ve had these meetings, there has been a tremendous amount of learning. There’s been a true level of compassion about what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.”