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Lesson #5: Know When to Get Help
Key to Schultz’s impressive success was his ability to recognize his own strengths and weaknesses and his readiness to recruit partners that could compensate. From even his early days when he was starting up Il Giornale, Schultz was able to bring in key partners to fill in the gaps.
One of the first was Dave Olsen, “the ideal person [who] came to me, just when I needed him most,” recalls Schultz. Olsen ran Café Allegro in the University District of Seattle and had a strong knowledge of coffee, something at which Schultz was still relatively unfamiliar. “Dave wasn’t in it for the money,” says Schultz. “He joined our team because he believed.” Instead of continuing on as a competitor, Olsen chose to help get Schultz’s business started for what Schultz recalled as “a paltry salary of $12,000 a year.”
Another partner who played a significant role in Starbucks’ early days was Howard Behar, who emphasized to Schultz the necessity of an enthusiastic and hard-working workforce. It was Behar who proposed such programs as hand signed birthday cards and starting-date anniversary cards for all Starbucks employees, as well as recognition programs encouraging workers to nominate colleagues for exceptional work performance.
It was Orrin Smith, another key senior executive at Starbucks who helped Schultz understand the importance of execution. “It’s hard to execute entrepreneurially,” says Schultz. “Orrin Smith has to keep reminding me of that…Many business visionaries have failed as leaders because they could not execute. Processes and systems, discipline and efficiency are needed to create a foundation before creative ideas can be implemented and entrepreneurial vision can be realized.”
Schultz is not too proud to admit that building these processes is not one of his strong suits. “It’s beyond my interests and abilities,” he says. “What I did to compensate, what every visionary entrepreneur needs to do, is find an executive who can build the infrastructure the company needs without sacrificing the need for innovation. But it has to be someone who understands the value of unconventional wisdom.”
In the early days of starting his company, Schultz admits to being afraid of some relationships he would have to enter into, for instance with venture capitalists. But, these fears he soon found to be unfounded. Instead of the interference he thought he would encounter, he instead found trusted advisors who offered him useful long-term horizons.
“Once you've figured out what you want to do, find someone who has done it before,” says Schultz. “With the right mentor, don't be afraid to expose your vulnerabilities. Admit you don't know what you don't know. When you acknowledge your weaknesses and ask for advice, you'll be surprised at how much others will help.”
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