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Starbucks president addresses military leaders

I Corps' fall leadership development session

Lt. General Steve Lanza thanks Starbucks President, Robert Culver, for his company’s ongoing support of the military. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Bryan Dominique

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Almost 150 military leaders gathered at the McChord Officers' Club on Joint Base Lewis-McChord to hear a keynote address by John Culver, group president for China/Asia Channel Development and Emerging Brands for Starbucks, Inc., Oct. 26.

The speech was part of I-Corps' Fall Senior Leader Development Training Session sponsored by U.S. Army I-Corps, which is headquartered at JBLM. The event this year drew senior commanders from the Pacific Theater, Alaska, Japan and Hawaii, as well as National Guard commanders from California, Oregon, Idaho, Minnesota and Kansas.

Introduced by Lt. Gen. Steve Lanza, the three-star commanding general of JBLM, Mr. Culver, who has been with Starbucks Corporation for more than 10 years, talked about his personal connection to the military and his company's commitment to supporting vets and active-duty members of the military and their spouses.

He began his address by speaking briefly about his childhood as one of five children of a career soldier, referring to himself as an "Army brat." He went on to explain that being part of a military family taught him life-shaping values such as the importance of sacrifice, putting people first, building trust and always acting with integrity.

He then related the history of Starbucks' strong commitment to the military. In 2012, after the publication of his book, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul, Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, was invited to speak at West Point. Until then, Schultz's exposure to military life and culture had been limited.  What he saw there, however, created an indelible impression on the Chief Executive Officer, and he left deeply impressed by the soldiers' dedication to the cause and to each other. This resulted in Starbucks' corporate commitment to hire 10,000 vets over the next 10 years - a goal which they are on track to reach three years ahead of schedule - and to do all that they could to support the spouses of active-duty military as well.

According to Culver, Starbucks' core value is expressed as "Performance driven through the lens of humanity," and the company demonstrates this value in various ways. One of the first large corporations to offer health insurance to every employee, including part-timers - as early as the 1990's - Starbucks continues to support its team members through other uncommon benefits, such as stock options and free college tuition through Arizona State University.  

Towards the end of his speech, Mr. Culver summed up the secret to Starbucks' success: " We make sure we do everything we can to elevate our people ... That has been the key to our success ... how we've been able to build that trust, how we've been able to build that commitment ... how we've been able to build that emotional connection ... That has been the secret sauce."

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