We had a brilliant day yesterday. Now, if you say Seattle, I bet two things come to mind. Firstly, Microsoft (and we went there on Friday). Secondly, Starbucks. And that’s where we went yesterday.
You arrive at the office and it all seems normal – up in the lift to the reception, people coming in and out of a door. But when you go through that door, it’s like walking into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory! There are big open spaces with sofas, coffee kitchens on every corner, loads of conference rooms, people everywhere. Their building is the biggest office space in Seattle and is IMMENSE. There’s a huge coffee roasting machine on one floor, which is the space that everyone comes together in. We got something of a tour, including past the big placard with the numbers of Starbucks in every country – 0 in Belgium! almost 700 in the UK. We also saw their gym and down to the entertainment division. Amazing.
When we went to the conference room, we started with a coffee tasting, apparently that’s a thing that happens quite a lot. One of the people we were talking to had been with the company since it had 40 employees – it now has over 100,000! They’re all called “partners”, not employees. We had a very interesting discussion about how the company dealt with the vast array of people they have, and talked about the corporate culture there. They have 6 guiding principles, the sixth of which is profitability. Diversity is second.
You really left with a feeling that this is a nice company to work for (however you might feel about their world-dominance and their responsibility for making us all drink Latte!). They really seem to value the individual’s contribution to making the company. I guess my concern would be, how long would that culture remain if the company was in other hands than Howard Schulz and the people he has brought through the company? Something they think about too. I suppose you would have to hope that the culture is part of what makes Starbucks a success.
After that we went to the Puget Sound Regional Council, where there was a roundtable organised on diversity issues in the Greater Seattle area. We had been expecting 5-10 participants. 40 plus turned up!!! Seattle clearly has a lot more diversity going on than it might seem on the surface. Our meeting had Jewish, Filipino, Nigerian, Tanzanian, Mexican, African American, Peruvian, Vietnamese and I can’t think what else representatives. Once again, the discussion came down to education. Whatever this country has going for it, and it’s a lot, it all seems to come down to education. It does make one wonder what it will be like in 30 years, if Americans aren’t equipped for the kind of jobs that are around and they’re not letting enough foreigners in to do them. It does really seem like something that needs to get sorted out, pretty drastically!
I’m now in San Francisco, with a busy couple of days before heading out to the country. Should be fun!