Starbucks - A Cupful of Systems
It’s almost embarrassing to realize I visit Starbucks coffee stores so frequently they tend to know me by name! If my wife Susan didn’t know better, she might be jealous when younger women at various stores cheerfully welcome me as if I were their only customer.
She likes to tell people I have the entire United States mapped out by Starbucks locations. Of course, when we travel, she’s pretty quick to locate one for me with a Google search on her Droid. I like that system!
If I vary from my usual order at almost any Starbucks in Middle Tennessee, they wonder if they’re hearing the right voice—“Phil?” But, that’s the kind of consistent, friendly service I’ve come to expect at Starbucks, wherever I go.
Knowing what I know now about the importance of well-planned business systems, I felt sure the coffee giant had more than just a brilliant strategy of employing great people. Surely, I decided, Starbucks MUST operate using some elaborate system of checklists; to my way of thinking, that’s the one thing that could account for their stunning success.
So, one Saturday morning, stopping for my “grande decaf Americana with a little cream,” I was finally able to see the actual checklists that enable Starbucks to offer such a consistently high level of service.
Emily, a young “barista” (one who makes those wonderful cups of coffee) and one who has also earned a degree in marketing, was up on a step ladder cleaning an overhead fixture. I ask if she was using a checklist for cleaning. “Yes,” she said, and then pointed to a large binder at the end of the counter.
As the person behind the counter made my “usual”—one of the other employees, who had overheard me talking with Emily, was more than happy to show me the whole binder full of checklists, procedures and other documentation. I saw pages of detailed systems that allow the staff to take care of ordering supplies, etc.—also to keep up with the messes caused by Starbucks enthusiasts, like me.
Starbucks doesn’t just tell employees to “clean” when the store gets a little slow—it has an actual SYSTEM for cleaning Starbucks locations. I’m sure you know: what’s clean to one person is not necessarily clean by someone else’s standards.
The young man explained that each store receives new updates to the system each month, detailing all the actions to be taken daily to ensure consistency and the success of each location.
Certain inspectors are employed by Starbucks Corporate to travel to various stores with their own checklists; to be sure each store is actually following the Starbucks system, as the completed checklists would indicate. Great follow-up system! This ensures that products, services and the Starbucks brand are held to the highest possible standard.
Now, you may not be a Starbucks “nut” like some people we know, or even a coffee drinker, but you can’t argue with success. According to Starbucks’ corporate website, in 2010, the company posted a 7 percent increase in net revenues—to $10.5 billion for a 52-week period. That’s A LOT of coffee!! No wonder more Americans are waking up to things in these challenging times!
As I’ve stated in my book—“System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business”—a detailed checklist system can pretty much guarantee the success of any business, making sure necessary steps are taken accurately and consistently for any project.
How many times have I heard from service businesses that, ”Checklists are for manufacturers?” I (and maybe Starbucks?) have just a one-word response to that...
Did I mention?—Great systems work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.