Howard Behar: Former Starbucks President Reveals How Starbucks Grew to 15,000 Stores | E272

Howard Behar: Former Starbucks President Reveals How Starbucks Grew to 15,000 Stores | E272

Howard Behar: Former Starbucks President Reveals How Starbucks Grew to 15,000 Stores | E272

Howard Behar was the North American president of Starbucks for more than two decades. During his tenure, the franchise grew from 28 stores to more than 15,000 across five continents, making the company into a worldwide phenomenon. In today’s episode, Howard and Hala will discuss how he became the “ultimate servant leader” and why you should always put people first in business.

Howard Behar is a speaker, advisor, mentor, and bestselling author. For 21 years Behar led Starbucks’s domestic business as President of North America, and was the founding President of Starbucks International, opening the first store outside of North America in Japan. He served on the Starbucks Board of Directors for twelve years before retiring. He is also the author of It’s Not About the Coffee and The Magic Cup.


In this episode, Hala and Howard will discuss:

– How Howard got his foot in the door at Starbucks

– Why Howard doesn’t like the word customer

– Putting people first

– Why you should always say yes

– Howard’s leadership philosophies

– Why a leader should wear one hat

– How to not get stuck in inaction

– And other topics…


Howard Behar’s career in business spans over 50 years, all in consumer-oriented businesses, most recently as a speaker, advisor, mentor, and bestselling author. His wisdom, generosity, and level of integrity have had a profound impact on thousands of people who have been touched by his example, books, and speaking.


Behar is known for such memorable lessons as “The Person Who Sweeps the Floor Should Choose the Broom” and “Only the Truth Sounds Like the Truth.” For 21 years Behar led Starbucks’s domestic business as President of North America, and was the founding President of Starbucks International, opening the first store outside of North America in Japan. He served on the Starbucks Board of Directors for twelve years before retiring.


 Resources Mentioned:

Howard’s Website:

Howard’s Book, It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks:

Howard’s book, The Magic Cup: A Business Parable About a Leader, a Team, and the Power of Putting People and Values First:


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[00:00:00] Hala Taha: What's up, young improfiters. Welcome back to the show. We have a true legend of the business world on the podcast today. Howard Behar was the North American president of Starbucks for more than two decades. During his tenure, the franchise grew from 28 stores to more than 15, 000 stores across five continents, making Starbucks a worldwide phenomenon.

Since its founding, Starbucks sought to put people and values first. But the company had to fight to hang on to its culture, core values, and passions while it grew so exponentially. Howard Behar was on the front lines of this effort and today he's going to talk to us about that experience and what it really means to put people first in your business.

Now I do not align with Starbucks, I do not support Starbucks, I'm a Palestinian American and everybody is boycotting Starbucks right now, as am I. But I do feel like there's so many gems in this episode. I did not want to prevent my listeners from learning this crucial information about how to scale a business.

So while I don't support Starbucks, I do support learning about how to scale businesses like Starbucks, which is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Howard, welcome Podcast.

Hala. Great to 

be here. I am super excited for this conversation. You've got a vast and rich career in business that I can't wait to ask you all about. But before we get into that, I did want to start at your beginning, your childhood specifically, when you were a boy in Seattle, sweeping floors at your family's Local grocery store.

Can you talk to us about that early experience and how that shaped who you would become as 

[00:02:56] Howard Behar: an adult? My parents were both immigrants. They both came to Seattle in the early 1900s. My dad was actually born in 1895 and he came as an immigrant to Seattle, worked at the Pike Place Market, which is a farmer's market.

In Seattle and saved his nickels and dimes, learned English and opened up a very small mom and pop grocery store and that's where I grew up and I watched him get up every morning at four o'clock, go down to produce row, pick up his produce and his fruit and bring it back to the store, clean it all up and then open the store about eight o'clock.

So he was a hard worker and, you know, you observe those kinds of things when you're young, you see it and. You hear about it, you talk to him about it. I used to say, dad, why do you have to get up so early? And he said, son, if I don't get up early, I don't get the choices to the vegetables and the fruits.

So I want to be one of the first people there to get it. So I watched him do that. And I watched him work very hard. He'd come home at night about six o'clock, eat his dinner and about 10 seconds flat. I mean, you could, nobody could beat my dad at finishing dinner. And then he would go sit in his chair and I'd go sit on his lap for a little bit when I was young and he'd fall asleep.

And that's pretty much like it was every night, except for Saturday night, because he wasn't open on Sundays. In those days, he wasn't open in evenings and wasn't open on Sundays. So I learned a lot from him because mom and pop grocery stores in those days had charge accounts for their customers. You know, their customers weren't.

Just customers there, their friends and their neighbors, and I watched my dad. Deal with them as if they were, I mean, there were people that he really cared about and they cared about him. And I learned a lot of valuable lessons watching him do that. Probably one of the single most valuable lessons I learned from my dad was one day I was about maybe nine or 10 years old.

And my dad asked me, he was bringing up a customer at the front desk and. And he said, Howard, go get me some, I can't remember if it was bananas or strawberries now, but anyway, to go get fruit. And I brought it up and my dad put it in the customer's bag and the customer walked out of the store. And, you know, I was used to hearing the little bang when my dad pulled the crank on the cash register and it would say that he'd rung it up on the cash register while I never heard the bang.

And so. I said to him, dad, you forgot to ring those up. And he said, son, not everything we do in life. Do we need to get paid for, you know, I happen to know that these people are struggling right now and they like fruit and it's just my way helping them out. And I didn't realize the impact that that statement would have on me till much later in life.

But it did. And I never forgot it. And I always remembered, we don't need to get paid for everything we do. No, we don't need to be recognized for everything we do in life. And, you know, we do it because we want to do it. And we want to help somebody else who want to serve somebody. And that's how I saw my dad operate.

I watched him do that until I was about 12 years old when he finally retired. 

[00:05:52] Hala Taha: That is such a beautiful story. I mean, I always talk about the law of reciprocity on this podcast, and even if you don't get it back directly, you always win when you give to other people and serve other people. You'll always get that back in some way.

The universe always rewards 

[00:06:08] Howard Behar: you. The most important reward is when you look at the mirror at night and you say, how did I do today? Did I live up to who I said I am as a human being? And that's enough. 

[00:06:19] Hala Taha: I love that. So as a young man, you ended up going to community college, but you didn't finish. And instead you started working for your brother and your brother in law, I believe, at their furniture store.

I was also a college dropout. I ended up going back to school years later, getting my MBA, but I just wanted to quickly double check. Did you ever go back and get your degree? Never. 

[00:06:39] Howard Behar: I was making more money than any of my friends were that had college degrees and I was not a great student. I would say I was lazy, and so I just decided to work, and so my MBA was working.

I took a lot of classes, believe me, some were very painful, but that's where I got my MBA. 

[00:07:01] Hala Taha: Yeah, nothing beats real world experiences. So can you talk to us about some of the advantages, like you just said, that you were making more than your friends. What were the advantages of you not getting a formal education, you think?

[00:07:12] Howard Behar: Well, I don't want to sit here and. Say that I wouldn't do that. If I were doing it all over again, I had to push myself harder. Both of my kids have master's degrees. My wife has a PhD and she got it after we were married. So I'm for an education. I think I missed out on a lot. I missed out on learning how to learn effectively, you know, and I had to do it the hard way.

I don't recommend it. Although there's a lot of people. Bill Gates, a whole bunch of people that never completed their college degrees, but I learned by doing. was what I was always best at. I observed, just like I observed my father doing what he did, I learned by the people that I reported to. I learned from my brother, my brother in law.

And then when I went to work for some larger companies, I learned by what they were doing. And along the way, I had great mentors. People that cared about me and people that would coach me and made me a number one, a better human being and number two, a better professional. 

[00:08:14] Hala Taha: So eventually you ended up throwing yourself into the furniture business in your twenties and thirties and you got a ton of experience in that industry.

Can you talk to us about some of your big learning lessons that you took from that industry experience in relation to leadership as well as customer and employee relationships? We 

[00:08:32] Howard Behar: are in leadership positions. We also are in managership positions. So I learned how to manage, I learned how to buy furniture to sell in the stores.

I learned how to do advertising. I learned how to hire people, fire people. I learned how to manage inventories. I learned how to manage cashflow. I learned all the things that's necessary for a small business to survive. See, everybody thinks that profits are. The key to survival in a small business. It's not the issue.

It's cashflow. That's the issue. If you don't have positive cashflow, you aren't going to be around very long. And so I learned all about those little things that you need to know and running a business. And I got to see everything and do everything. And then when I finally left my family's businesses, I went to work for a company called grand tree furniture rental.

And at that company, the guy that hired me became the single most important mentor in my life. He was the one that introduced me to. Robert Greenleaf's work on servant leadership. The essence of servant leadership are three things. One, you help your people grow as human beings. Number two, you help them grow as professionals.

And number three. You help them achieve their own goals in life. And when you do that, well, then they want to help you. And he was the one that taught me all about that, about how to serve people. And then serving others was a single most important thing I could do in my life. And I absorbed all of that as well as I had increasing responsibilities.

It was the first time I ever became an officer of a company and it was a public company and you have different responsibilities in that you have stock price to worry about. You have lots of things to be concerned with. And I built a business of a hundred furniture stores around the country, and I was able to do that because of all the prior experience I'd had.

I understood what it took to make this furniture store profitable. 

[00:10:18] Hala Taha: I love that. I think mentors are so important. And something that I keep thinking about as you're talking is the transferable skills that you gained from working in the furniture industry. Then you took it to Starbucks. the coffee industry and retail industry, right?

But even though it was a completely different product, furniture versus coffee, I'm sure there were so many things that you learned in the furniture industry that you were then able to transfer to Starbucks and even come at it from a different perspective because you had all of this other industry experience.

I feel like that kind of experience is so underrated and kind of switching from industry to industry and how you're able to see. More high level are clearly when you have other outside experiences. It's 

true that the essence of every business or every profession is people, is serving people. I don't care what you do, whether you're a podcaster, whether you're a barista in Starbucks, a doctor, a lawyer, a fire chief, an architect, doesn't make any difference what you do.

It's always about serving other human beings. So furniture business to coffee business was the same thing. Probably. The coffee business, I think, was even more focused on building relationships and serving people than even furniture was, because we had customers, our customers coming in, you know, many of them 18 times a month, and we knew our customers by name and many times their drinks, and so it really was about service For me, retail is retail, and service is service. If you do that well, then you're going to build. A base of people that want to come back and see you again. And so I fit perfectly into the coffee business. It was like I put on that coffee glove, the Starbucks glove, and it just fit perfectly. You couldn't even see the glove.

You know, I was prepared for it and I understood multi unit leadership. I understood multi unit management and I understood how to create a people culture. 

I love that. And I want to spend a little bit of time on the evolution of your leadership. You have a quote in your first book that is, it was only after failing at business that I loved that I got the chance to put the leadership principles I had learned to work in an organization.

So talk to us about the ways that you failed early on as a leader and then how you learned from that and became a better leader by the time you were at Starbucks. 

[00:12:36] Howard Behar: Between the furniture business and Starbucks, I worked for a land development company, and I was the vice president of operations for about a hundred recreational land development projects around the country.

And that company got in trouble, and I made the pitch to be president of that company, because I thought I could turn it around. But I failed at it. We ended up having to sell it. And I failed at it because we ran out of cash and we had a business model that wasn't sustainable. And we ended up selling it to another company that was in a similar business.

But one of the lessons I learned when I first took over as president of that company, all of a sudden I realized, Oh, we're in bigger trouble than I thought we were. Even though I was part of the management team, I didn't realize how bad a shape we were really in. It was the first time I ever, ever had to do anything with laying off people.

You know, I really, it was nothing I'd ever experienced before. So I get on the job and I get my management team together, my leadership team together. And I said, we've got to take some actions or we're not going to survive. We all sat in a planning session for a couple of days and we decided the actions we're going to take, what departments had to get rid of people, what departments could hold onto their people and what we were going to have to do.

And we devised a plan. It was a Friday evening and my administrative assistant or the head of human resources went to the copier. And this is before we all had computers, by the way, we had IBM Selectric typewriters. And so she made the copies. But she left the original on the copier. Yikes. That night by about eight o'clock at night, my phone was ringing off the hook by somebody who saw it and then started telegraphing through the company, what was going on.

And it wasn't that we were going to tell people, but we weren't going to tell them right away. And so now. I didn't have a choice. So I called my team together on Saturday morning and I said, what should we do? And I went around the room and called on everybody. And most of the people said, well, just say that it's just something we're thinking about that we're not committed to.

But my administrative assistant tapped me on the shoulder. Her name was Lori Christomus. And I remember to this day, she said, Howard, only the truth sounds like the truth. Only the truth sounds like the truth. And I just looked at, I said, Lori, you're right. So I called a meeting that next Monday morning. It was about 1500 people.

We all got in this big room that we had at the company. And I said, okay, here's what's going on. And I'm sorry, I didn't tell you sooner, but here's what we got to do. And here's why the company's in trouble. And we're going to have to have some layoffs. I promise you by Friday of this week, everybody will know where they stand.

So I thought I'm going to have the shortest tenure of any person in the presidency of a public company. But fortunately, one person stood up and he said, Howard, I just want to thank you for being honest with us, no matter what happens, even if I'm one of the people that's going to get laid off, I'll support you in this.

And one by one, everybody in the audience stood up and all committed to helping to do it. It was probably the single most valuable leadership lesson I learned in my life. Trust your people. They will give you the right input. They will do the right thing. And they did, they all supported us. And you know, what's so interesting about that, even though we failed, we had to sell the company and we had to lay off a bunch of people still today.

I'm in contact with many of the people that worked in that company and they all remember that meeting. And the honesty that we carried forward with them, the lessons that they learned from that and the commitments they made after they left that particular company to do the right thing and their people.

I never forgot that lesson. And I made a commitment from that day forward that only the truth sounds like the truth. Laurie's quote. And always that I have a quote on my office wall. Only the truth sounds like the truth. And I have followed that ever since, even when I had screwed up and it was my fault and I had to own it, only the truth sound like the truth.

Oh my gosh. 

[00:16:40] Hala Taha: I love that quote so much. Only the truth sounds like the truth. It's such a great lesson. Okay. So let's move on to your time at Starbucks. So I actually went to Seattle a few months back and every morning me and my boyfriend would walk to famous. Pike's Place Market, where they launched the first Starbucks in, I think, 1971.

And there'd be this long line of people waiting, and they've made it like somewhat of a tourist attraction. And so I did a little bit of research, and I found out that by 1987, there were 17 Starbucks locations. Uh, I think you were already on the team by then, or about to be. By 1990, there was 84 locations, and by 2020, they have over 32.

thousand locations. So this business basically went viral and seemed to exponentially explode every single year. So, my first question to you is, why do you think Starbucks was so magical? Why do you think it caught on like wildfire in the 80s, 90s, 2000s? 

[00:17:39] Howard Behar: I think it's a lot of things. I remember the day when Consumer Reports, on the front page of Consumer Reports, they said Charbucks, describing Starbucks, because we are a dark roasted Northern European coffee.

Our Folgers. But we stayed with our knitting. You know, we said, this is who we are. And so I think that really helped us. We were who we are. We stayed with it. But the single most important thing long before the coffee was our recognition that we were not in a coffee business serving people, but we are in the people business serving coffee.

And that meant everything had to focus around the people in the organization and those human beings we call our customers. And we stayed with that. We were relentless about it, about how we treated the people that worked in the company and how we treated those human beings we call our customers. We didn't say, here's our coffee.

You know, if somebody wanted a latte made with extra hot and a little more foam, they got it that way. Nobody was doing that. Everybody, if you went in and ordered a latte, you got a latte the way they wanted to make it. We made it the way the customers wanted it made. I think it was all of those things, but it was our people that really made it happen.

Their commitment to serving each other first and then serving those human beings, we again, we call customers. I don't like the word customer in case you haven't figured that out yet. When you say customer, you say they got a dollar bill pasted to their forehead. And if you just manipulate them, you'll get that dollar bill.

They're human beings. And we're here to serve them, whether they have a dollar bill in their pocket or not. And so, you know, it was always, you could come into Starbucks and sit and not even order a cup of coffee. Yeah, 

[00:19:19] Hala Taha: and even the way that they ask for your name and call it your name, everything is so personable.

Yeah. Right. So tell us about how you met Howard Schultz and how you ended up getting your foot in the door at Starbucks. The 

[00:19:32] Howard Behar: company that got in trouble, after that I said, I'm not going to go to work for anybody again. I'm going to go back into my family's core and I'm going to buy a business. I looked at the furniture business.

I just said, no, I didn't want to do that and got interested in specialty foods and I looked at three or four different companies and finally. I found one. Well, along that journey, I was introduced to Howard because he was looking for a VP of operations for Starbucks. When I met Howard, they had 17 stores.

When I finally joined, there were 28 stores, but we had a breakfast one morning and he said, well, here's what I'm looking for. And here are the things I need. First thing, he wanted someone with a college degree. I didn't have that. Second thing, he wanted somebody with food service background. I didn't have that.

Finally, I got down to number 10. Can you breathe? That was the only thing I qualified for on his list. So we shook hands and we parted companies. I really didn't want to work for anybody else again. My fellow that. And so when I finally found a business to buy, I was getting money from my brother in law and my brother in law happened to know a guy that was one of Howard's first investors that had franchising experience because this business was going to be a franchise.

And so he said, let's go visit him. His name was Jack Rogers. And we went in to see Jack, and I pitched my heart out of why I should buy this business and why my brother in law should loan me the money. And Jack just looked at me and said, What do you want to do that for? We need a guy like you right here at Starbucks.

And I said, Jack, I've been here before. I don't fit what Howard wants. And Jack said, You know, we still haven't filled that position. And you would fit perfectly. I want you to not only talk to Howard again, I want you to talk to some other people again. And so I did that, and I met with Howard again, and Howard and I sat down.

I said to Howard, I said, Howard, Before either one of us makes a decision, can I work in the company for a week? I want to do it for free. You don't pay me anything. You don't, nothing. Here's what I'd like to do. I'd like to work in the stores for two or three days. I would like to work in the roasting plant for a few days.

I'd like to work in the trucks for a few days. And so I did that. And after that week, I thought to myself, this is a perfect spot for me. This was a people centric business. I figured it out right away that it wasn't about coffee. Coffee was important as a lot of our creativity came out in coffee, but it wasn't what I thought was going to drive this business.

And so fortunately Howard extended an invitation for me to join, but the guy that introduced me to Howard was a friend of mine, one of the co founders of Costco, a guy named Jeff Brotman. He was a really close friend and he was on the Starbucks board and he thought I should meet Howard. And so I turned right instead of turning left, instead of buying my business, I went to work for Starbucks, but it was like my own business.

As much as it was Howard's, it was mine. And I treated it as such, I wasn't a job for me. I never saw it as a job. It just wasn't. It was a life. That's why the title of my book, it's not about the coffee from a life at Starbucks, not from a career at Starbucks. 

[00:22:36] Hala Taha: Yeah. You sound so passionate. Like you really, really enjoyed your time at that company.

And in just one week you realized, Hey, this is the place for me. I align with these company values. So let me stick on that for a second. What was it about the way that Starbucks distributed its values or ingrained its company values in all the different departments? It's such a huge operation, but you said you were on the trucks, you were in the stores, and it seemed like everybody embodied these values.

How did they cascade their values and communicate them across 

[00:23:06] Howard Behar: the org? It wasn't so much at that point in time that I understood, first of all, we hadn't written down any of our values at that point in time, but what it was, was the people, I'm a people guy and I'm working with the people in the roasting plant, I'm packaging coffee, two and a half pound bags of Costco coffee by hand, I'm standing up all day long, pulling a crank, putting the coffee and I was working with these people and they were just wonderful and they treated me so well.

Yeah. They didn't know who I was, you know, there was nobody saying, Hey, I didn't tell him I was thinking about coming to work there. I was just there. They thought I was just working on the roasting plant. And then I went to the store and the guy named Tim Kern, who was a store manager that I went to work in and how he treated me and, and the customers.

And I waited in customers. I packaged coffee and I rang it up on the register and how they felt and how they talked about Starbucks. And then. I went on delivery trucks and I deliver, we delivered coffee, not into our own stores, but to restaurants we were selling to. Everybody that I met was enthusiastic about Starbucks and how they treated me.

That's how we absorb values. It's not what people say, it's what they do that counts. And I felt that this was a close knit team that cared about each other and cared about what they were doing. And so that's what attracted me. It was much later on when we had about 200 stores that we finally decided we better write this stuff down.

And we did. And I was part of that process. 

[00:24:43] Hala Taha: So as you were saying, it was a small team at that point. Did you have any idea in terms of the explosiveness and the potential that Starbucks was 

[00:24:51] Howard Behar: going to have? No, if I would have, I'd have kept all my stock. But never. I was trying to escape corporate life. I wanted to work for a small company that was really close to its customers, close to its people.

I never, ever thought Howard Schultz didn't either. I mean, he had much grander dreams than I ever had, you know, but there are three of us had responsibility for the company. Guy named Warren Smith, Howard Schultz, and myself, they called us H2O, two Howards and an Orrin, but Howard was the dreamer, you know, Howard was driven.

Howard wanted to be a star. And that was not a driving force with me. I wanted relationships. I wanted to build relationships and Orrin and I were more similar in that way. But I came from a lower middle class family. Orrin came from much poor family and Howard came from an extremely poor family. And so we had strong personal values about how we wanted to grow the company.

And we wanted, didn't want to grow the company on the backs of our people. We wanted to grow it with our people. And that's how we focused. Let's talk about 

[00:25:56] Hala Taha: the business model of Starbucks. I would love to understand what were the primary ways that Starbucks saw profit, because I know these stores are in heavy rent area.

Coffee is not that big of a margin. I guess Starbucks coffee is a big margin, but like where's all the money in this business? This is an entrepreneurship show. 

[00:26:14] Howard Behar: All the money is in repeat business. That's where it really is. And if you're doing a good enough job and serving them well and they like your product, they come back.

And that's the coffee business. You know, they don't come back if they don't like who you are. Once in a while people get a bad cup of coffee and they get mad or something like that, but we'd always hopefully make them a new one. But if we didn't serve them well, they didn't come back. And so profits in the business are repeat customers.

And then, you know, beverage businesses are higher margin businesses than other businesses, but in the scheme of things, the labor cost is a lot higher. I wouldn't say we're more profitable than other, maybe other restaurant chains. I mean, we did better. Our, our return on investment, which may be much faster because our investments were much lower than building a restaurant.

That really made a difference. The cost of building a store was much lower and the margins helped us with being profitable. And so we were pretty focused. I didn't realize how big this was going to be until I was in Vancouver, British Columbia one day and we had a store that was our best store in Vancouver was doing about a million dollars a year and I was worried that we were going to get kicked out of that store because there was a demolition clause in the lease meant that the landlord could kick us out anytime with 90 days notice.

And so I was worried about losing that corner. So I said to our real estate person, I said, see that corner across the street. See if you can get that. And I thought it'd take us a year. First of all, it was a heritage building. You don't know how painful it is to build a store in a heritage building. They won't let you do anything, particularly to the outside of the government's control, almost everything you do.

Well, lo and behold, six months later, she came back and said, I've got it. Now I'm sweating. What do I do? Do I take the lease? Because we still had the lease on the other one. And I said, let's take it. If it doesn't work, close. The older store, sub lease it. Well, lo and behold, the day we opened the second store in that corner, we doubled the volume on that intersection.

Wow. We opened a third store on the same intersection, and we tripled the volume. That's when I knew we were totally underserving. And so that was the biggest, I think, the biggest thing. Customers coming back, the number of people that drink coffee. We weren't selling ice cream cones, which you don't eat every day, but if you drink coffee, you drink it every day.

And so that model really worked. And then we started open stores close together. 

[00:28:49] Hala Taha: So it's like building this habit and then the stores that do well, realizing that there's more demand if you just put another store, right? Or that's so, that's brilliant. Yeah, that's brilliant. So the other thing that I thought of is the fact that all your costs must be really accounted for meticulously.

I was thinking about how airlines If they add an extra olive, it could cost them millions of dollars in their dinner salad on an airline or something, right? So I'm assuming it's very similar with Starbucks where you've got to like meticulously account for all your costs like that. Well, 

[00:29:19] Howard Behar: you do, but I believe that the maximization of profits is not the way it's optimization.

If we would have said to our customers, well, we'd like to make a lot to your way, but it costs more. We can't do that. Or you'd like an extra shot of, or whatever it happens to be. On the other hand, we do control our costs and we charge for the things that we provide, but you can get caught up in that. You can get too cost conscious and not enough service conscious.

And I think it's a mistake. And I think a lot of people make that mistake. If people feel your nickel and diming them, they don't like it. And I don't like it. And what I want is great service and somebody that cares about me. And having said that again, you manage all of those things, but it's not the key to the business.

[00:30:08] Hala Taha: This is such a great lesson. I own a social media agency and a podcast network and all the time I'll have my executives on my team. They'll try to be like so stingy about certain things and I'm like, just do it. Keep them happy. You know, keep people happy. That's the most important part. 

[00:30:24] Howard Behar: Yeah, at the end of the day, if we make a bad drink, replace it.

Don't worry about it. I mean, I think Starbucks can get too caught up in that today, because they get caught up in that olive. the olive seems like it's a big number, right? let's say it's 5 million in one of the big airlines or whatever it happens to be, but it's not per customer. It's a penny, even if it was a nickel.

You nickel and dime that person and they don't get the extra all of it. How do they feel about you and themselves? And yeah, you get caught up in it. You get in the answer is no versus the answer is yes. Yeah. And the 

[00:30:59] Hala Taha: most expensive thing to do is to acquire a customer. So you lose a customer, you've lost all those, like you were saying, habitual sales and repeat business, which is really how you grow and scale any business.

[00:31:10] Howard Behar: You know, you go and you get a martini and you say, I'd like to have two olives and they come back with three. How do you feel? You feel fantastic, don't you? And you tell your friends, Hey, I got three olives in that. They're so great there. 

[00:31:25] Hala Taha: Yeah. I love that. But you know what? I did read that Starbucks didn't always have this mentality, that there was actually some friction where you guys weren't listening to your customers at first and it was one of your biggest challenges.

Can you talk to us about that? 

[00:31:37] Howard Behar: Yeah. We were in the coffee business, not in the people business when I first came. And so everything was about the coffee and I get these three letters from three customers. It kind of all happened in about the same 10 day period of time. And the letters basically said this, you guys think, you know, more about coffee than anybody else in the world, but you know, something, I don't need to come to you to get a cup of coffee hot and I don't need you to be arrogant with me and talk down to me.

And that's what we were doing. And so I asked the three customers if they would come and talk to our people. So I invite them all in. I paid their way to Seattle and I had all the store managers, all the leadership team at this meeting. And I was kind of like an open forum. And I said, tell us, each of you tell us what you think about Starbucks.

It was pretty painful to listen to. We were. Well, we were trying to get that dollar out of their pocket instead of serving them. We weren't doing the things that made them want to come back. And then we opened it up and the managers got to ask questions and all of a sudden there was a big aha, that aha moment that happens in life, that we're here to serve them.

And I wrote a letter to everybody after that meeting. I said, you remember Nancy Reagan had just say no to drugs. You may be not old enough. I know say no 

[00:32:59] Hala Taha: to drugs. 

[00:33:00] Howard Behar: I wrote a letter, just say yes to your customers. And I said, when they ask for something, just say yes. When they want a little extra, just say yes.

When you need to replace a drink, just say yes. And I still have that letter today that I wrote. That was almost 35 years ago. And it is just say yes. It's so easy to do. Now I'm not advocating that somebody says, give me a hundred dollars out of your cash register. Just say yes. I'm not, but 99 and nine 10th percent of the people.

Don't want anything that's beyond our ability to give to them. So don't try to save nickels and dimes or pennies, nickels and dimes. Take care of the people that you're serving. 

[00:33:42] Hala Taha: Totally. And I think listening to your customers, to the people who buy your products, to your point, if you don't want to call them customers, it's so important because they'll tell you how to innovate.

They'll tell you what they want next. And then you have this built in demand. And I think back then for you guys, this was a new idea. But now you've got this creator first economy where it's like influencers and creators who already have an audience first. Then they go build companies and they're able to ask their following, what do you want from me?

What do you want from my company? And they're able to build basically reverse engineer the way that brands 

[00:34:16] Howard Behar: are built. You know something, typically here's what happens, an entrepreneur decides they want to go into a business, service business, product business. And they're all about that service or that product.

And then they hire the first person. And they still are all about the service or the product. What they don't understand, they are now in the people business. And the minute they sell something to. This person will call customers, the human being will call customers. Now they're in the human service business, right?

And they don't realize it. And they, they're trying to get people to just do what they want them to do instead of listening to their customers. Everything that good that happened at Starbucks came because number one, because our people, our baristas and our store managers were listening. And they were willing to share it with me and with other leadership teams.

And the input they got was from their customers and they were listening. Frappuccino. It came from customers first, and then a manager who said, I think we should have something like this. The company pushed back, didn't want to do it. Leadership in the company says we're in the coffee business. We're not going to sell something like that.

But this person kept pushing and finally we kind of broke the rules and we put it in. It became a 4 billion business. All because of one person in the company that listened to her people and pushed it. 

[00:35:34] Hala Taha: Yeah. You got to figure out ways to listen to your customers. The worst thing I see entrepreneurs do is put out products.

Because they feel like it, not because they were asked to do it or there's any sort of problem that they're solving, right? So I learned that you were the primary leader when it came to taking Starbucks International. That was like one of the biggest things that you were tasked with. What were some of the hurdles and challenges involved with 

[00:35:57] Howard Behar: that?

Well, the first hurdle was getting the board of directors to agree to do it and getting Howard to say, okay, the time is right. We had 400 stores or 500 stores by that time. And I had responsibility for that. And I wanted to get out from underneath Howard again. I wanted my space and my freedom because I'm an entrepreneur at heart.

I need space. I need freedom. You can coach me all you want. But give me room to operate. So I went to the board and I said, I think we should do it. And they said, okay, put together a business plan. We'll take a look. Well, I didn't have an MBA. I had never really put together a comprehensive business plan, but I had somebody on my team that had an MBA and we went to Bain consulting and it was probably the cheapest project Bain ever did.

You know, Bain doesn't do anything for 50, 000, you know, but they did it for me for 50, 000, we put together a business plan. And I came back to the board and I presented the business plan and the plan called for us to open in Japan and the UK simultaneously. And the board looked at it and said, you know, I think that's too much risk.

So pick your spot. And I picked Japan and then they approved it. And so we went and we did everything through joint venture partners in our international expansion. And so I went to Japan for a couple of weeks. And started talking to pieces of bankers and attorneys and trying to identify people that I thought would be good partners.

And by that time we were getting lots of letters of people that wanted either a franchise, typically is what they wanted. Or they wanted to be our partner someplace. So one of the letters I got was from a company called Sotheby's. I went to visit him and I fell in love with him because it's people first.

If you don't get the right people, they're going to destroy your business. It's the same in hiring people into your company. Well, we are going to have a relationship that was a 50, 50 joint venture. Well, we better like them and they better like us and we better have some common values. even though they were Japanese, we still had common values, how they treated the people that worked in their company.

They had restaurant businesses and women's clothing business. So we made a decision to go with Sazabi, one of the better decisions I've ever made in expanding international. And now there's 2000 stores in Japan. And at the beginning, I didn't have the experience. I had Starbucks experience, but I didn't have international experience.

And so I had to learn. So I brought people onto my team. One of the first people I hired was an attorney who happened to be a Chinese national, and he had gone to law school in the U S and he ended up coming to work for us and he became my legal partner, how to put the agreements together. And that's when we decided to do a joint ventures.

And so then when we got into these stores in Japan, I had to create room for the Japan leadership team to create new products, which they did. And many of those products we brought back to the U. S. Lots of companies don't want to do that. Now we went with what we knew, but after, you know, a month or two, customer would say, well, don't you have this?

And we added new products. We didn't even have caramel when we first went to Japan and they wanted to put that in and we put that in and all sorts of different things that they put in the food was different and better, and I hate rules. But I have four rules. So when my people reported me, don't do anything illegal, don't do anything immoral, don't do anything unethical and sure as hell don't poison anybody.

If you can operate within those four worlds, we'll be okay. We can try things, we can fail. And we had lots of successes, but lots of failures, but, you know, each country was different. And we had to learn about each country. Now we weren't going to be experts, but we hired people to help us. And because we were doing joint ventures, the people knew about their country.

But I came back from that experience after opening, I don't even remember how many stores, something like five to 6, 000 stores internationally. When I finally retired, I came back from that experience. And I realized we're all the same, pretty much the same. We all want to love and be loved. We all want to be treated with respect and dignity.

We all want to grow as human beings. We all want more for ourselves and our families. And when you're able to provide that for your people, it doesn't make any difference, the color of your skin, the religion you practice, the food you eat or the culture you come from. It's all the same. And we insisted that we were going to treat our people well, and it didn't make any difference where we went.

We made some mistakes. You know, we had joint ventures with people that we misjudged who they were, and we had to figure out how to get out of those joint ventures, but we did. And it always helped us. 

[00:40:49] Hala Taha: I could just hear all the passion and love that you have for your experience at Starbucks. And I remember in my MBA, one of my favorite things to do was learn about the case studies of like KFC going to Japan and the joint ventures and how you had to like make sure that the names weren't offensive and the different people don't like certain ingredients in certain countries and different products.

And so interesting, I could imagine like how fun and dynamic that job would have been. And this is a great reminder for my listeners, this is an entrepreneurship podcast. We've got a lot of corporate professionals who also listen to us. When you're high up at a company, it's basically like you're an entrepreneur.

You can fulfill that entrepreneurial bug, not necessarily owning your own company, wouldn't you say? 

[00:41:31] Howard Behar: Yeah, absolutely. And I, my advice is you gotta be willing to bet your job every day. And what I mean by that, sometimes you got to take a risk that goes against the grain of the organization. And sometimes you do that.

And sometimes you're going to pay a price for that, but you got to be willing to do that or you're going to get nothing done. If you operate out of fear, then nothing good's going to happen. And unfortunately, a lot of people operate out of fear and they're unwilling to challenge leadership when leadership needs to be challenged.

You know, they're willing to do the things that it takes to make an organization a healthy place for your people to be. And so I was always willing to bet my job. I didn't need a job when I went to Starbucks, I could always support myself. And I always tell people that report to me, be willing to bet your job, step up.

You got something to say to me and you think I might not like it, I don't care. Tell it to me anyway. I love that. And that's what makes organizations grow and move forward. Yeah. 

[00:42:27] Hala Taha: So let's dig into more of your personal leadership philosophies. You obviously have had so much experience with Starbucks.

You've written a couple of books and you've given lots of speeches on servant leadership and what you call the principles of personal leadership. So I wanted to start there. What does personal leadership mean exactly? 

[00:42:46] Howard Behar: Well, the most difficult and the most important person you're ever going to have to lead in your life is you.

And you got to start with understanding that your primary responsibility in life is to lead yourself first. And if you do that well, then the rest of it's going to come easy or not easy, but it'll be less difficult. I didn't realize that until that guy told you about Jim Jensen started to talk to me about that.

And it's some of the basis of servant is learning to lead yourself. I'll tell you a quick story. I was at this Grant Tree Furniture Rental and I got promoted to Vice President and the Chairman of the Board came up to me one day after I'd been promoted and congratulated me and then he said a little three letter word that I don't like very well, but he said, one of the things I've noticed about you, Howard, you always wear your heart on your sleeve.

You're always emotional and telling people what you think and what you feel. And then he said, the other thing I noticed about you, when we're in meetings and we're discussing a subject, you're always willing to express your opinion. And I don't think great leaders do that like you're doing. I think great leaders kind of hold their stuff back.

They hold their cards closer to their vest. Maybe they'll come back a day or two later and act like they've been thoughtful about what they're doing. And I'm thinking when he's talking to me, Why did they put me in this job? They knew who I was. Well, that began a journey of a painful journey, eventually leaving that company.

But during that time figuring out, I never wanted to go through that again. It wasn't like he was asking me to change the color of my pants. He was asking me to be a different human being than I was. And so I didn't know who Howard was. I was just Howard being Howard, whatever that was. I, you know, I smile on my face.

I love people. People knew I did. But it wasn't intentional. So do you know what the conscious competency, unconscious competency and conscious incompetency stand for? Share it with us. Conscious competency means that you know what you're doing and you can teach it. Unconscious competency means you know what you're doing, but you can't teach it.

Unconscious incompetency means. That you're incompetent and you don't have, you don't even know you're incompetent. And then conscious incompetency means, you know, you're incompetent and that's just the way that you want to be. So I want to be a conscious competent about leadership. And that's when I really started to study servant leadership.

And the very first book I read was a book on how to lead yourself. And this is a picture 50 words or less. You can't read it, but I'll tell you what's on it. So first is my mission statement. The book said, first, you need to have a mission statement for yourself. In other words, why are you here? What are you here to do?

And this has changed a number of times. But it ended up with some plagiarism I did from Starbucks. So my mission statement is to live my life every day, nurturing and inspiring the human spirit, beginning with myself first and then for others. So that's how I live my life, is trying to nurture and inspire my own spirit first, because what I've come to understand after living for 79 years, if you're not okay with you, it's very difficult to help somebody else.

So every day I try to do something. Sometimes it's just picking up a piece of paper off the street. Putting it in a garbage can, you know, it's part of nurturing, inspiring the human spirit sometimes as I get to do things like this and hopefully somebody gets inspired to change who they are because of what I've said, then the book said, you have to develop your eight to 10 core values and had a list of 300 words that were human values.

Took me a long time to do this. To narrow it down to eight core values. You have 300 words. There's a lot of words that could represent part of you, but this meant the eight to 10 core value. These are the things, no matter what you live your life by. My first core value is honesty. My second one is fairness.

My third one is respect for self and others. My fourth one is responsibility. My fifth one is integrity. My sixth one is trust in self and others. My seventh one is caring. And my eighth one is love. love for self and others. And so I try to practice those every day. Now there's other words that, you know, I would use to describe myself, but these are the ones that come hell or high water.

Honesty is core to me. I mean, I don't care what the question is. You ask me a question. It may not be the answer you want and not be your truth, but it's my truth. And then I have my six piece, how I do everything. Everything I do in my life has to be with a purpose greater than myself. If it's not bigger than me, it's not worth doing.

And my biggest one is serving others. And if I have a purpose greater than myself, then I've damn well better be passionate about it. I better scream it from the highest mountaintops. It get me up in the morning and I love what I do. I can hardly wait to get going. I go to bed at night thinking about it and I wake up thinking about it.

Then the third one is persistence. We're all on these rivers. We call our lives. And in those rivers, there are rocks. Some rocks are above the waterline, some rocks are below the waterline, some rocks are in the shallows. But persistence pays. You gotta figure out how to get over those rocks, under those rocks, or blow up those rocks.

Because everything in life is gonna have rocks. Everything is gonna take effort to get done. Things don't just happen the way you want them to happen. And so persistence pays. And then the fourth one is patience. You'd say, well, that's the opposite of persistence. It's not. You have to be patiently persistent because not everything comes in the timeframe you want it to come, right?

Sometimes it takes harder to get your podcasts up to life into going and you've got to have the patience to stay with it. And so I've always believed that the most important person you have to have patience with is yourself because you can get too frustrated with yourself. And maybe not getting it done in the timeframe and you give up and then performance.

We don't like that word very well. We don't like to be measured, but the truth is we're getting measured every day. If you have friendships, if you have significant other in your life, your children, if you have children, they are measuring you every day by what you say versus what you do. If you're married, your significant, your wife or your husband is measuring you.

They may not give you a performance review every day, but trust me, they're going to give you one sooner rather than later. And maybe it comes in as an explosion, you know, a big argument, but it's really a performance review. Of how they feel about how you treat them. And then the sixth P is people. Like I said at the beginning, there's not anything you will do in life that isn't about serving others.

The sooner you recognize that, the better off you're going to be. And if you do that well, you may not become rich, but you'll have a fulfilling life. 

[00:49:42] Hala Taha: Everything that you're saying right now, I do a lot of branding work. I have a lot of clients where I manage their brand. And I always tell them, branding is consistency.

And if you want to have a consistent brand, you've really got to be proactive about deciding what you're going to be consistent at, your values, your personality, your voice, your mission, all those kinds of things, the way that you're going to transform your audience. And branding really is your reputation, right?

So it's like also your online reputation, your in person reputation, and you need to be consistent. So to your point, doing an exercise like this, and what book did you use to go through these exercises? 

[00:50:18] Howard Behar: I don't remember the title. It was similar to the Seven Habits by Stephen Covey, but it was longer. It's been out of print for a long time.

[00:50:26] Hala Taha: There's a million books out there that will help you. 

[00:50:29] Howard Behar: There's zillions of them. They will all give you the tools that you need. And all you got to do is go get a bunch and read them and you'll learn and ask other people about it. I want to say something about branding. It's a word we all use, but the consistency they want, we want is of who we are as a human being, because you basically could be a brand that wants to sell soft drinks to 82 year old gray haired women that wear purple earrings and one ear that's okay.

But you better be honest about it. It better represent who you really are. If all you're trying to do is get that dollar out of the great little 82 year old gray haired woman's pocket, they're going to figure it out. They're going to figure it out, that you're not honest, that you don't really care that you're just saying it to get them to buy something from you.

And you see that way too often in life. Be who you are. Your brand is who you are. It's sacrosanct. It's your values, and you have to live those every day, and if you find that you're not, you better fix it. And if you find somebody on your team that isn't living those values, you better coach them or get them out.

[00:51:38] Hala Taha: 

[00:51:47] Hala Taha: All right, so let's move on to another one of your key principles is the idea that leaders should wear one hat. What does that mean to you? 

[00:51:54] Howard Behar: Well, when I say one hat, many times you'll hear people say, well, I, particularly my wife will say, Howard, yeah, you get to live one hat. I got to wear 30 so you can live one.

I don't mean those kinds of hats. I don't mean the hat of the roles that we play, mother, father, you know, brother, whatever it is, boss. That's not the hat. I mean, I mean the hat that defines who you are as a human being, your values. So you get up in the morning and you look across the bed and if you've got to put on your significant other or spouse hat.

You better figure out if you're in the right relationship. Because if that person wants you to be something other than you are, then you better work that out and either you got to live with it or you have to have a change in relationship. If you go to work and say, Oh, I better put on my Starbucks hat. I got to have different values at Starbucks.

That I do for my personal life. You better really evaluate whether this is the right place for you to work. And that's the hat I'm talking about. Is a hat that says this is who I am. And come hell or high water, no matter where I go in my life, you can depend. This is who I am. You're never going to have to wonder.

Is what Howard says what he does and does he live a life really live his life according to a six piece and his values and his mission statement doesn't mean you're perfect. 100 percent of the time. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about wearing the hat that defines you and allows you to be you.

You know, if you try to be different people and have different values for every place you're at, you're not going to have a very happy life. You're going to come home at night and you're going to be frustrated and you're not going to have, first of all, you're not going to have an honest life and certainly not going to be a fulfilling life because you're going to be in constant pain.

[00:53:41] Hala Taha: I was going to say, it goes back to your honesty thing. If you have to like change your personality and like your values everywhere you go, then you're not being who you are. You're bound to make mistakes because decisions are going to be unclear because you've got all these different personalities to manage or I guess facades.

Exactly. So another principle that you talk a lot about is do something because it's right, not because it's right for your resume. You say the path to success comes from doing things for the right reasons. How do we know if we're doing things for the right or wrong reasons? 

[00:54:10] Howard Behar: Well, you got to go deep inside yourself and you ask yourself the question, why am I doing this?

I don't care what the answer is. Just be honest about it. I'm doing this because I want to make a lot of money. Okay. Now, you know, I don't believe that's the right reason to do anything, but everybody's entitled their own pathway and their own journey. You know, people get caught up in thinking that it's their resume that matters, build a life, not a resume.

And that's much different than building a resume. I used to get people, they always ask me, well, what do I need on my resume to qualify? I said, here's the only thing that you need to do. You need to be a good human being and serve others. That's enough of a resume for me. Now, if you're applying for an accounting position, I expect you to have the skills to be an accountant.

But if you come into the company, we're going to teach you about coffee, but it's hard to teach people about serving others. It's hard to teach people that other people matter. And that's the hardest thing to figure out in a person. Whenever I'd interview people, you know, I was interviewing mostly senior people.

That's what I would focus on. I didn't ask questions like, well, tell me about your experience in accounting. You know, can you add one on one? I said, tell me about your brother or your sister. What do they like about you? What don't they like about you? How do your parents wish you'd be different than who you are?

Kind of education do your parents wish you would have gotten? What was the most difficult human relationship you ever had at where it was really got off the tracks and what did you do about it? How did you have an argument with a friend? And solve the argument. How did you get out of a relationship that you knew that was bad for you?

Right. That's what I talked about. Yeah. It was more 

[00:55:58] Hala Taha: about character analysis to judge their character. 

[00:56:01] Howard Behar: At the end of the day, that's what matters. We can teach anybody how to make a cup of coffee. So to speak, it was very difficult to teach people how to treat others. And the quickest way to get fired at Starbucks was to screw with the people.

Difficult to get fired at Starbucks for missing your numbers. 

[00:56:18] Hala Taha: to your point, back to character assessment in an interview, you're assuming their skills are on track. 

[00:56:25] Howard Behar: We interviewed for those too, but somebody else did that. I didn't do that. I mean, it depends. If it was a merchant position or a leadership position, it was always about people anyway, so.

[00:56:35] Hala Taha: So a lot of the people that are tuning into my show are hiring managers, entrepreneurs. They hire a ton of folks. What can they learn from Starbucks about taking a chance on you? 

[00:56:46] Howard Behar: don't be so caught up on the technical skill set unless it's a really technical job and they have to have that.

But I don't care how good they are at the technical aspect of the job. If they don't have the human skills, they will blow your organization up. And we had so many people at Starbucks do that. So don't suck in, you know, just because the person was the top sales person at XYZ company, and they're really good at, but they're, excuse the expression, but they're an asshole, right?

Trust me, they will be an asshole at your company too. And they'll blow the place up. Just focus on people's skills first, then focus on the other stuff. Ticket to play is who you are as a human being and how you treat others. So 

[00:57:32] Hala Taha: one of your most famous recommendations, and I love this, is that the person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom.

So I'd love to talk about your decision making guidance and philosophies. 

[00:57:44] Howard Behar: I told you that when I wanted to start international, I was trying to get space again, right, for myself. And, in essence, I want to be the floor sweeper in international, so I wanted to be able to make decisions. So if you go and you hire somebody to come in the company, they pass all your tests, the people test, the skill test, and you bring them in, and don't give them the handbook that says, here's all the things you should never do under threat of death.

Sit down with them, and the first thing you need to talk to them, and you probably should have already done this, is what's the greater purpose of the organization? Why are we here? What are we here to do? You know, it isn't to make a profit that comes from what we do. That's not the driving force. Yeah. Do you have to make a profit?

Yes. But the first thing is, why are we here? And so then tell them what we're hiring them for. what we're hoping they'll be able to contribute to this organization. So let's just play the game. We hire a floor sweeper and we bring them in and we meet with them. We tell them about the purpose of the organization, why they're here.

They're here to increase the productivity of floor sweeping and have beautiful floors all the time. So when our customers come in, they say, wow, isn't this place clean? Then you say, you know, we have five brooms for you to choose from a right handed broom, a left handed broom. We have a plastic broom, a straw broom, and we have a push broom.

You could choose any of those five brooms that you want. At the end of a couple of weeks, I'd like to get together with you and see how you're doing in the job. Right? I'd like to see, you know, how it's going for you so we can see if we need to help you at all. Or if you need anything. So he comes, say, let's call him Jim.

Jim comes in and two weeks, we sit down with Jim and say, Hey Jim, how's it going? And you can tell Jim's excited about something. He's got a smile on his face. His eyes are bright And you say, Jim, I sense you're excited about, so how's it going?

Howard. I love my job and my floors are clean, but you know something? I was on the internet the other night and I found a new type of broom. And I think if I had this broom that not only could I have cleaner floors, but I could. Decrease the time it would take me to clean the floors and you say, Oh, Jim, that's fantastic.

You know, how many bosses would roll their eyes and say, Jim, just use the broom. I gave you the purchasing department says we can't buy five rooms. We can't buy Jim his own broom. Jim's gotta be just satisfied. Do the job he's hired to do. And what happens when you do that? You destroy any of the.

Excitement that Jim would have about being part of this company. And now all of a sudden people don't want to take chances because they know they're going to get rejected. Frappuccino came because Dina Campion listened to her people, didn't reject, pushed me till I agreed to do it behind people that didn't want to do it.

I broke rules to do it, could have gotten fired for it. But she made it happen. Dina knew more about her customers, knew more about the products she'd have than I did or anybody at the support center or the home office. So why not try it? If it's not illegal, immoral, unethical, and you're not going to poison anybody.

So that's where the person who sweeps before should choose the broom. Who knows better about what needs to be done to the person that's doing the work? Nobody. 

[01:01:00] Hala Taha: Such good lessons in this interview. I love all the stories that you're sharing. So the last one here, because we are running out of time. You say that one of your motto is think like a person of action and act like a person of thought.

Can you break that down 

[01:01:12] Howard Behar: for us? Yeah, well, it's the most difficult thing to learn. We all want to be thoughtful about the things that we do. We want to be thoughtful about how we build relationships. We want to be thoughtful about how we treat our kids. We want to be thoughtful about the work that we do.

We want to be thoughtful about the decisions we make with hiring people. We want to be all those things. But at the end of the day, you have to take an action, and most people get frozen there. They don't want to take the risk. Every decision you make in life has an element of risk. So as long as you can say, I've thought this through to the best of my ability, I've asked other people for input, the person that sweeped the floor, I've asked that person, then you gotta be willing to make the decision.

Don't bet the farm. I'm not asking you to bet the farm, but make the decision because you get caught in inaction and that's what kills most people. Awesome. Well, this 

[01:02:06] Hala Taha: was such a great conversation. I end my shows with two questions that I ask all of my guests 

 So the first one is, what is one actionable thing that our young improfiters can do today to become more profitable tomorrow? So what is one actionable thing they can do 

[01:02:21] Howard Behar: today?

Number one, write down your values. It's say, well, those don't relate to profits. They do. They're linked. They'll write down your values, define what those values mean to you, and have a personal mission statement for yourself and live up to that mission statement. You get profitable by how you live your life and the values that you follow.

You don't get profitable by just doing things. 

Totally agree. And I think that is sound advice. Now, the last question is more broad. What is your secret to profiting in life? And this can go beyond financial and business. What is your secret to a successful life, Live your life with intention. If you don't know where you're going, any path will get you there.

Everybody's heard that saying. Live your life with intention. You don't want to wake up like at my age at 79 and say, what the hell happened? Figure out where you're going. Have a plan. You ought to have a plan. You got business plans written down, write a plan for your life. What do you want to accomplish?

One, three, and five years. So live your life with tension. So you can be at my age and look back at my life and say, you know, was I perfect? No. Did I get everything done? I wanted to get done. No, but for the most part, I am happy with my life because I lived it with intention and I can honestly look at myself and say, attaboy.

[01:03:39] Hala Taha: Howard, that was so lovely. What a great way to end the show. Thank you so much for your time. Where can everybody learn more about you and everything that you do? 

[01:03:47] Howard Behar: Okay, so I always like to do this. Everybody has my cell phone number and my email address. So my cell phone number is 206 972 7776. And my email address is my initials, hb at howardbhar.

com, hb at howardbhar. com. I'll get back to everybody no matter what the question or they just want to yell at me. It's okay. You can do that too. And I will respond to everybody in some way or another. I'm a little slow sometimes, but I do get back to everybody. Thank 

[01:04:21] Hala Taha: you so much for offering to do that. I think a lot of our young improfiters will probably reach out to you.

So hopefully they don't slam your phone or your email, but really, really nice of you to do that. It was so great to have you on the show. I could just feel your energy and passion and, and you honestly, I could just tell, just want to help other people. So thank you for all that you do and I hope we connect again soon.

[01:04:41] Howard Behar: Thank you very much.

[01:04:42] Hala Taha: First off, I have to say like what a sweet old man, Howard Behar was like, that's the first thing I told my executive producer, Jason, like, wow, he was a sweetheart. He dropped so many gems and he's just out there trying to serve, help other people, scale their businesses, teach all the lessons that he learned at Starbucks.

And wow, did they build an incredible business? And one of the big takeaways that I had from this episode was about the law of reciprocity. And this is something that I teach in my courses. This is something that I personally aligned to. And this is a lesson that Howard learned early on from his father in the family grocery store.

You may not always get paid in money, you may not get the favor returned directly, but if you're generous, if you truly care about others, if you serve others, you will get paid back from the universe in some form or fashion. And this is always true for me, whether I'm donating to charities, donating my time, giving out advice, whenever I do something nice and I serve, that comes straight back to me 10x.

And I feel like it's one of the reasons why I've been so successful, because I'm not afraid to give out and help for free. Also, a college degree is absolutely not the right path for everyone. Now, he did say that nowadays it might be advantageous to get a college degree, but some people like Howard learn a lot more just from doing, from observation and mentors.

From interactions with others and from really caring about what others feel and think and leaning into that. And part of caring about others is commitment to honesty. One of the things that Howard said in this interview that I swear I will remember for the rest of my life is that only the truth sounds like the truth.

Only the truth sounds like the truth. And that means that if you want to have integrity and even when it's hard, you've got to have truthful, uncomfortable conversations with your employees, with your spouses, with whoever you want to have a relationship in your life, you need to have truthful, uncomfortable conversations.

And that means. If you have a layoff, if you've got to fire someone, you've got to tell them direct and be honest. That's the only way you will be able to leave those interactions with integrity and also with people respecting you. Because if you've built a reputation for honesty and fair dealing, others will respect you and others will vouch for you, even if it's not in their best interest.

If you're firing somebody, if you're letting somebody go, they're going to respect you. And they're not going to talk bad about you because you were honest with them and allowed them to get the feedback they needed to grow as a person and hopefully improve in the future. And that feedback loop is so important for people.

Because at the end of the day, as a leader, as Howard put it, you've got to trust your people. Trusting your people also means giving your people feedback. You don't grow your business on the backs of people. You grow your business with people. And this goes also for your customers, as well as your employees.

All the money is in repeat business and if you're serving your customers well, they will come back. If you're serving your employees well, they're going to treat your customers well. Finally, whether you're an entrepreneur or a corporate professional, Howard says you should be willing to bet your job every day.

If you're not willing to do that, if you're not willing to take risks, if you operate from a basis of fear, then really nothing good is going to ever happen because you're never going to be able to take those risks that are going to give you those big rewards. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Young and Profiting podcast.

Here we trust our people, especially our loyal listeners. So if you listen, learned, and profited from this conversation with Howard Behar, make my day. Share this episode with your friends and family. Hit that share button and pass this episode along to somebody who you think could benefit from it. And if you prefer to watch our podcast on videos, we're growing so fast on YouTube.

You can find all of our episodes on YouTube. Just search Young and Profiting. You can also find me on Instagram at Yap with Hala or LinkedIn by searching my name, it's Hala Taha. And before we wrap up, I did want to say thank you so much to my awesome production team. Thank you to my executive producer, Jason, my producer, Amelia, my researcher, Sean, and Greta, our ad ops team, the whole team at Yap Media.

You guys are absolutely crushing it for me and our clients. Thank you so much. This is your host Hala Taha, AKA the podcast princess signing off. 

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