Howard Behar is an author, speaker, and former President of Starbucks International. He has written two incredible books, including It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks. Most of our listeners are in the home services industry, but what Howard has to say will impact every single business—regardless of industry.
Whether you’re a Master plumber, a Journeyman electrician, the owner of a highly profitable HVAC company, or a roofer just getting started, you’ll want to hear what Howard has to say.
Howard Behar grew up around retail. His father, Albert, ran a small mom and pop grocery store. He watched as Albert ran the business day after day. Marketing, hiring, firing, and serving the people we call customers was all ingrained in Howard at an early age. Perhaps the most important lesson he learned from his father, however, wasn’t simply about running a business.
Howard was in the store, and watching as Albert rang up a customer. He enjoyed watching the manual cash registers. Before the days of digital screens and card readers, Albert was punching keys and pulling a lever that made that classic “cha-ching” sound. While ringing up this particular customer, Albert asked Howard to run and grab some bananas. Howard obliged, put them in the customer’s bag, and the customer went out the door. While only a child, Howard was old enough to realize that he hadn’t heard the sound of the register. He told his father that the customer hadn’t been rung up for the bananas before leaving.
Albert explained to Howard that not everything we do in life we need to get paid for. He went on to tell Howard that this particular customer was going through a rough patch in life, and that he knew they loved fresh fruit. Albert told Howard that these people are not just customers, they are friends and neighbors. This lesson stuck with Howard, and shaped his worldview. Albert was right. When you’re in service to other human beings, it’s not about the money.
Howard was 44 when he made the decision to join Starbucks. Howard Schultz was CEO of Starbucks at the time, and he and Howard had been dancing around working together for about a year. Howard finally told Schultz that he was interested, but wanted to work inside the company for a week first. He wanted to work in the roasting plant for a few days, in a truck for a few days, and just see what the company and culture was like before making his decision.
Before the week was up, Howard was sold. He attached immediately to the company because he realized it wasn’t about coffee, it was about people. This was before Starbucks was the retail giant it is today; in fact, there was no retail to be found back then. Starbucks was in the beverage industry, selling beans, tea, and brewing equipment. Still, Howard could see that the company culture matched his core values.
See, Howard knew even then that having the right culture was integral to company success. If you build a great culture and help grow them as people and professionals first, they will help you grow the business. It’s really that simple! You grow your people, the people grow the organization, and the organization grows the business. That’s exactly what happened at Starbucks. They focused on the people, understanding that coffee doesn’t do anything on its own. Needless to say, Howard Schultz, Howard Behar, and the rest of the Starbucks organization certainly found success with this strategy!
Howard isn’t naive. Profit is absolutely essential to growth. This is more about perspective and how you should look at growing your business and how to be as a human being. Just like the story of the bananas his father taught him years ago, it’s about serving other people. Whether you’re a technician, a plumber, a business owner, or anything else, being great means understanding you are there to serve. The “greats” do a good job of serving others, the word spreads, and business and reputation will grow. Profit is important, but it can’t be your driving force.
So, how does one build this type of culture? As with anything, it starts at the top, with leadership. A common problem with leaders is they often think they are there to be served, but it’s the complete opposite. Leaders are there to serve those that work beneath them, and those people will in turn go out and serve the people that come into your business. There is no way around this if you want a healthy culture, according to Howard. This is what we call servant leadership. Simply put, servant leadership means that as a leader, your primary responsibility is to help your people grow as human beings, to become better professionals, and to help them achieve their goals in life. If you do this well, they will want to help you achieve your goals as well!
At Starbucks, Howard used to say “we’re not a coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee”. It’s the same thing with anything else. If you’re a plumber, you’re not in the plumbing business, you’re in the people business. You just happen to serve people with your plumbing skills.
Many of us say we have to wear multiple hats. You put on your “parent” or “spouse” hat at home, your “professional” hat at work, and many other hats depending on what roles you need to play. Howard believes that underneath these roles, we should have a single hat that defines us as a human being. This singular hat is one we wear day in and day out, no matter where we are and who we are around.
Human beings need to be who they are no matter where they are. Howard feels strongly that if you’re having to put on multiple hats that contradict each other or make you act in a way that isn’t your true hat, something needs to change. If you can wear that same hat at all times, you will have a more fulfilling life.
CEO of RYNO Strategic Solutions and To The Point host Chris Yano often delivers keynotes, and sometimes covers his 6 P’s of Marketing. These are P’s that include items such as Personality, Product, Price, and ultimately, People. The 6 P’s of Marketing are designed to help grow businesses. Howard Behar also has 6 P’s, and while they end with the same item (People!), they are focused on that one hat we wear and to grow as a person.
Howard’s 6 Ps are a great place to start if you’re trying to design your hat. The first P is Purpose. Everything in life needs to have a purpose bigger than yourself. The second P is Passion. If you have a purpose bigger than yourself, then you need to be passionate about it! The third P is Persistence. In the river of life, there will be rocks. Sometimes these rocks are above the surface, sometimes below, and other times we’re throwing them in the river ourselves. We have to accept that there will always be rocks, and be persistent in navigating them.
The fourth P is Patience. Some will say patience is the opposite of persistence, but it’s not. You have to be “patiently persistent”. This might mean staying with something longer than you thought you’d have to, but patience will pay off. The fifth P is Performance. Performance matters in this life! The fact is, we are measured for our performance each and every day. Your children measure you, your spouse measures you, your coworkers measure you, and your friends measure you. These “performance reviews” are based on whether you are who you say you are, and do what you say you’ll do. The most important person you need to perform for, of course, is yourself. The sixth and final P is People. There is simply no job and few things you’ll do in life that matter that don’t revolve around serving other human beings.
Once you’ve got your one hat sorted out, how do we keep it on every day? Howard keeps himself on course by having daily affirmations as a habit. In fact, he’s been doing affirmations without fail for decades. Like anyone else, Howard struggles with himself. He uses two important affirmations to keep him on track to where he wants to go and who he wants to be. The first affirmation is “I love myself unconditionally”. The second is “I am enough, I have enough, I do enough”.
There are plenty of other affirmations he has used over the years, and yours may look a bit differently. What is important to understand is that human beings are incredibly fragile. When things go poorly or much better than expected, we often forget who we are. Affirmations help remind us of that and keep us centered.
Affirmations are also one of the quickest ways to change a habit. It takes 21 days to change a habit, and by reciting an affirmation daily you can ensure you stay the course. These should be in the present, too. Affirmations aren’t “someday I will”, it’s “I am”. If you continue to affirm to yourself that you are something, you will realize it. For some, affirmations are sticky notes on the mirror. For others, it’s a mantra we chant in the mornings. Others still, it’s a prayer to start the day. The key is that we are persistent, mindful, and diliigent about continuing to remind ourselves of who we are and where we are going.
Improving yourself can be hard work, but it costs nothing except a little sweat equity. You have to have a plan and goals, but the how and why you do things is what is truly important. Whether it’s building a better company culture or trying to get yourself or business on the right path, you have to have core values that guide you each and every day. If your goal is to get your business to 20 million in revenue this year, that’s great! But are you willing to lie to accomplish that goal? Steal? Cheat? How much money you make is never as important as how you make the money.
Howard recommends writing down your 8-10 core values. Define them, and write out how they will impact how you life your life. Then, write a mission statement for yourself. Howard’s mission statement is “to nurture and inspire the human spirit every day beginning with myself first, and then for others”. Finally, create a plan for your life. Not just your business life, but for every aspect of your life that is important to you. What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to be? How do you want to accomplish these things? It’s the same for your business, to. Be strategic and mindful, create goals, and most of, make sure you’re caring about people and wearing that single hat.
Howard has been gracious enough to share his cell phone and email with our listeners. He assures you that while it might take him a bit of time, he will respond to you! You can reach him at 206-972-7776, or via email at [email protected]. If you’re interested in reading his books or learning more about Howard, visit his website at HowardBehar.com.