Dare to Be a Social EntrepreneurThe rules of engagement around building a brand have changed significantly over the past 10 to 15 years. Where companies at one time could spread their message through traditional marketing, consumers now seek an enduring emotional connection with the companies they patronize. The foundation of that connection is the most important characteristic of building a world-class brand: trust. Trust with your people and trust with your customers.
In the early years, we tried everything we could to exceed the expectations of our customers. But we knew that to achieve that goal we had to first exceed the expectations of our people. That was never more evident than in 1990, while we were still a private company that had yet to turn a profit. That was when we provided comprehensive health care to all of our employees, including part-timers. We also passionately believed that our people should share in Starbucks's success through ownership in the form of stock options - what we call "bean stock." It's hard to imagine advocating such expenses while we were building the business. This was not an expense but rather an investment.
Growth can cover up a lot of mistakes, and it has an intoxicating quality that sometimes makes it hard to see the need to continue to make investments ahead of the growth curve. Think of investments in your company as a metaphor for building a 100-story tower: You need to first lay a solid foundation to support future growth.