In 1987, Howard Shultz purchased the Starbucks name and assets and presided as the new CEO. Three years later, he approached Smith, who was then working at Danzas (a freight shipping company) to enlist him as the company's CFO. Smith was able to see the vision and future potential of Starbucks. It was then, that Smith began driving Starbucks through its delicate years of raising capital, becoming a public company, and developing goals for future growth.
"Before you can have an emotional connection with your customers, you have to have an emotional connection with your people."
The success of Starbucks is partly due to Smith's strong emphasis on relationships between management and lower ranked employees (also called partners). Similar to Jet Blue's CEO David Neeleman, Smith believes that a good relationship between management and employees will translate into a good relationship between the employees and the customers.
In the past, both CEOs have been known to practice a 'hands-on' approach by stepping onto the 'front lines' of the business. Every quarter, Smith spends at least a couple of days behind the counter as part of their 'Adopt a Store' program for the senior executives. Smith believes that this is not only an excellent way for executives to interact with employees and customers first hand, but also a good opportunity to keep executives "connected with the spirit of the company."
Smith also has a good sense of how the company needs to address the issue of expansion internationally. One of the most important things that Smith stressed when Starbucks was in the initial stages of going overseas was to not assume that the market or consumers in other countries are similar to Americans. The operating concepts used in the U.S. rarely work overseas. Smith realizes that operating...