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Howard Schultz For Hire
by Dan Skeen

Job searchers and career changers take heart: Howard Schultz feels your pain. It took the man who led Starbucks from three stores to 3,000 more than a year to get his first job with the company.

Howard Schultz ( biography)
Title: Chairman of the Board, Chief Global Strategist
Company: Starbucks
Product: specialty coffee
Headquarters: Seattle, Wash.
2000 earnings: $95 million
Education: B.S., Northern Michigan University
Grab some java and settle in for our Starbucks discussion
Great Entrepreneurs

The coffee colossus that has redefined Main Street was just a three-shop outfit in Seattle when it caught his eye in 1979. Then with Swedish housewares maker Hamamarplast, Schultz noticed that Starbucks was ordering more of their coffee makers than any department store. He decided to pay a visit on his next West Coast trip.

It turned into something What Color Is Your Parachute? author Richard Bolles might call 'the ultimate informational interview.'

"It was just wonderful meeting people from a great young company ... and I walked away from that meeting saying, 'God, what a great company, what a great city, I'd love to be part of that,' " recalls Schultz.

Soon after he called Starbucks co-founder Jerry Baldwin to ask about job opportunities. He and the other owners liked Schultz, but were nervous about bringing a high-energy New Yorker with brash business intentions into a company built on slow-roasting.

"I was this East Coast person and I had so much drive and energy, I think I might have scared them at first," Schultz says.

Schultz wouldn't quit. He spent a year meeting and talking with the owners. He was clearly more excited about their company than they were about him, but slowly he was getting a foot in the door.

"I think that sometimes the difference between success and failure, winning and losing, is a very fine line between those people who will continue to move forward," Schultz says. "I have a history of people closing doors and me saying, 'No, it's still open.' "

By 1982, Schultz had convinced the Starbucks brass to let him present his ideas on expanding the company. If they bought his plan, they bought him as their head of marketing. His pitch went well and he flew back to New York hopeful. But the next day Baldwin called and told him his plan was too risky and not in line with the owners' vision.

Despondent, Schultz's next move represents one of the prevailing traits of great entrepreneurs. Where others would have quit, he gave the closed door another kick. He called Baldwin and made an impassioned case for them to reconsider. He used everything he had learned in the past year to understand their reluctance and address them with their perspective in mind.

"I tried to appeal to their sensibility about the company ... hire people who have skills and experiences and perhaps competencies that are different than your own, and don't be afraid to change that mix, as long as there's a common goal and everyone leaves their ego at the door."

He also had learned that, while the opportunities were very tangible to him, he needed to reduce the hopped-up talk about globalization.

"Well, they had three stores in Seattle, Wash. I was talking about changing the world. I mean, I could see that that would scare them a little bit. And over time, I said, 'OK, let's take one step at a time, and let's build something that really can be great. And, let's take it at your own pace."

Within a day the job was his.

Related Stories
• Nobelist's Job Fantasies
• My Job, My Life
• On the Job-Hunt

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Howard Schultz explains what excited him about Starbucks

Related Stories
• Nobelist's Job Fantasies
• My Job, My Life
• On the Job-Hunt

Web Links
• Great Entrepreneurs
• Starbucks

Related Books
• Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
• What Color Is Your Parachute? 2001

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