Howard Behar is the former president of Starbucks Coffee Company North America and Starbucks Coffee International. He joined Starbucks in 1989 when the company had just begun to venture outside the Northwest region. Initially serving as Vice President of Sales and Operations, he grew the retail business from 28 stores to more than 400 stores by the time he was named president of Starbucks Coffee International in 1995. Under Behar’s leadership, Starbucks opened its first location in Tokyo in 1996. Following this historic opening, over the next three years he introduced the Starbucks brand across Asia and the United Kingdom. After a two-year hiatus, he returned to Starbucks as President of Starbucks North America until his retirement in January 2003. He was a director of the Company from 1996 to 2008.
In his new book It’s Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks, Behar starts with the idea that if you regard employees and customers as human beings, everything else will take care of itself. If you engage your staff as partners (not assets or labor costs), they will achieve results beyond what is thought possible. And if you think of your customers and communities as “the people you serve” (not sources of revenue), you’ll make a deep connection with them, and they’ll come back over and over. This people-centered approach has been integral to Starbucks from the start, and remains so today. Behar shares inside stories of turning points in the company’s history, as it fought to hang on to this culture while growing exponentially. He discusses the importance of knowing who you are, building trust, facing challenges, listening for the truth, taking responsibility, saying yes, and daring to dream.
A frequent speaker on the topics of organizational and personal leadership, Mr. Behar serves on several profit and nonprofit boards, including Anna’s Linens, The Gap, Inc., Jewish Family Service of Seattle, and the Washington State Budget and PolicyCenter, and he is sponsoring a joint educational initiative with the University of Washington School of Social Work and the Business School.