Leadership in retail

Leadership: Retail Communities, the National Community, and Putting People First

Just this week, Howard Shultz, founder and chairman of Starbucks, held a company-wide meeting to talk to employees to create a sense of community.

“I can assure you, as we always have, as a company, as an organization, that our culture and values and guiding principals will hold true,” he said.

Retailing is a people-intensive business. Running a single store, a multinational chain, or an on-line business with call centers and fulfillment centers employs a lot of people. People spend forty or more hours a week working together, so their job becomes a huge part of their lives. This is where people celebrate birthdays, marriages, and all of life’s passages with their coworkers. Likewise, it’s a place where people are affected by the broader national community, for better or worse.

Mr. Shultz recognizes this. He is instinctively acting on the First Law of Retail, People First. When a company puts people first good things happen. In doing so, he is acknowledging the fact that a business like Starbucks has a culture through its people and their shared experiences. That means there are values, ethics, aspirations, attitudes, and a code of behavior. All of this and more exist, and these things can be defined and shaped.

That is what a great leader does. Clearly that is what Shultz is doing when he leads a company-wide meeting to reinforce their values at a time when many employees may be feeling general stress and anxiety within a broader context.

One of the results of Shultz’s leadership is business success, and in the case of Starbucks, consistent and very long-term success.

Now it’s true that Starbucks also does a lot of other things quite well. They have a great product, which is the Third Law of Retail. That product is offered at a fair price, which is the Fourth Law of Retail, and the turn on beverages is great, following the Second Law of Retail.

But it is recognizing the value of a positive creative community that is the foundation of all success. That also means recognizing and addressing the internal and external forces that affect the cultural health of that community.

Learn more about retail in my soon-to-be-released book, The Five Laws of Retail.  How The Most Successful Businesses have Mastered Them and How You Should Too. Sign up to follow my blogs and to be notified when the book is available.

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