Whatever country you find yourself in it’s more than likely you’ll also find a Starbucks. The coffee-house chain is the world’s largest with more than 21,000 stores across the planet and a market cap of $US60 billion. The group’s CEO and force behind Starbucks’ growth, Howard Schultz, is himself worth $US2.5 billion.

Schultz’s success can be traced back to the day he first tasted Starbucks Coffee. Before that day in 1981 Schultz had never even tasted a good cup of coffee. Working as a salesman for a company that sold European coffee machines, he noticed he was making more sales to a small store in Seattle, Washington than the national department stores. Intrigued, he walked into the Starbucks Coffee Tea and Spice Company, which at the time just sold coffee beans, and discovered great coffee. Schultz knew he was “home”.

Hooked on good coffee, Schultz struck up a friendship with the owners and became a supporter of the Starbuck ethos. In 1982, he was hired as Director of Retail Operations and Marketing.

Taking a break in 1983, Schultz saw coffee and community come together when he travelled to Milan in Italy, where he visited the city’s numerous bars. He was able to witness first-hand the importance locals placed on drinking good coffee together under one roof.

Back in Seattle, Schultz pushed to introduce the sense of a coffee community into Starbucks but found the owners unwilling to expand into coffee bars. To realise his coffee dream, Schultz quit his job and in 1985, he launched his own coffee-house chain, Il Giornale.

Il Giornale proved to be a huge success for Schultz but something inside his system kept nagging at him. Schultz wanted to own Starbucks and it wasn’t long before he actually did. By 1985, Schultz gathered together a group of investors and bought Starbucks. Merging it with Il Giornale, the Starbucks that we love today was born.

Selling quality coffee at a premium price was a gamble at the time. Americans were paying less than a dollar for a cup. Guided by his experience in 1981 with quality coffee plus his time in Milan’s coffee bars, Schultz was convinced Americans would change their coffee consumption habits. Schultz defined the Starbucks brand by the quality of the coffee and the shopfront as a community with a strong relationship between customer and barista. This community was highlighted in 2008 when a Starbucks employee noticed a regular customer was looking sicker and sicker with each visit. Discovering the customer needed a kidney transplant the Starbucks employee, who was a match, donated hers.

A coffee-house community was created because Howard Schultz discovered the joy of quality coffee on that one day in 1981.

Yesterday, Howard Schultz tasted his first cup of great coffee. Today, he’s the CEO of the world’s largest coffee-house chain.

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