I read the autobiography of Starbucks’ CEO Howard Shultz recently. Even though the book was published in 1997, it was clear to me that Shultz was ahead of his time in his management thinking.

I learned and gathered many lessons from the book, but the story of Frappuccino intrigued me. Sharing what I learned about it.

It is one of the Starbucks’ most popular and iconic drinks. It contributes almost $2 billion to Starbucks revenue.

Yet, it almost got rejected by the company.

Starbucks had previously declined requests for blended cold drinks. CEO and Chairman Howard Schultz was hesitant to introduce a blended drink that didn’t involve traditional espresso shots. He was worried it would dilute the company’s coffee-focused brand image. The initial recipe for the Frappuccino was a simple blend of coffee, milk, and sugar. Shultz found this blend awful, as it had a chalky, pasty taste.
Obviously, he opposed it.

Yet, as a good leader he was open for ideas and agreed to let the team test it with customers. After few experiments Frappuccino was launched in the summer of 1995 as a seasonal item in Starbucks stores in California. The drink became an instant hit and was soon offered year-round at all Starbucks locations across the US and later to be distributed bottled by PepsiCo.

Leadership lessons:

1. Brand and quality matters:
Shultz was right to be apprehensive.

His apprehension about the drink reflects his commitment to maintaining Starbucks’ brand identity and upholding the company’s high standards for coffee quality.

2. Trust:
Shultz trusted his team, and the employees trusted the management team.

This trust was the reason that a barista thought of creating a new drink and cared for what customers were asking for.

He could have done his 9-5 job.

3. A culture of safety:
A few store employees had started experimenting with the drink long before they reached out to Shultz with the new drink idea.

They did not ask for permission.

Employees knew that it was okay to make mistakes.

4. A culture of innovation:
Customers asked for a cold drink.

Employees listened to them, tried a new blend, and management supported.

Frappuccino’s success shows the innovation and adapting to changing consumer preferences.

In his book “Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time” Shultz wrote:
The drink’s success is a testament to the collaborative efforts of the company’s employees and their dedication to creating new and innovative products.

Their culture has been a key factor in Starbucks’ growth and success over the years.

This post is still a work in progress. I need to refine it further. So don’t get annoyed that it has come to an abrupt end. 🙂

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