Howard Behar

In 1989 we were expanding, and ceo Howard Schultz needed someone to open and run the new stores. A second Howard joined our ranks – and forever changed the way we do business.

As Schultz put it, “Howard Behar hit Starbucks like a tornado.” Over 21 years with the company in a variety of roles, his retail expertise helped us grow from 28 stores in North America to more than 15,000 stores across five continents.

But Howard’s most important contribution is something harder to measure. Brutally honest, even early in his tenure, he didn’t mince words: He felt we needed to focus more on people and less on product. That meant serving coffee the way customers wanted it, even if their idea of the perfect cup differed from ours. It meant listening to partners at every level, even when the truth hurt. In pushing us to look at ourselves differently, Howard defined an idea now core to who we are: “We aren’t in the coffee business serving people, we are in the people business serving coffee.”

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