While many students sip drinks from Starbucks every night to fuel their studies, a few hundred students started their night by listening to a speech by the company’s former president Monday evening.
Howard Behar, former Starbucks Coffee president, spoke Monday night in Blau Auditorium at an event co-sponsored by University of Michigan Hillel and the Ross School of Business. Behar, author of “It’s Not About the Coffee”, emphasized serving others as the core of any business or career, even in a field when profit margins often reign supreme.
Throughout his Starbucks career, which included helping the company grow from 28 stores to an international brand, Behar said he built a culture rooted in values, rather than dollars.
“If it’s not about the coffee, what is it about? It’s about the people,” Behar said. “It doesn’t make any difference what you choose to do. There’s really only one profession in the world: that’s to be of service to another human being.”
Behar encouraged students to develop their lives and careers based on personal values, rather than a race for corner offices, promotions or six-figure salaries.
“We forget that what we really should be chasing is service to human beings,” he said.
As students prepare to enter the job market, many attendees, including Business graduate student Matt Jackson, said they found renewed importance in seeking a greater purpose in their careers.
“It was encouraging to hear such a high level person talk about values,” Jackson said.
After Behar’s speech, Business senior Todd Siegel, the event organizer, said he felt students reacted positively to Behar’s philosophy.
“When you do the right thing, the rest of it comes with it. That’s an important message,” Siegel said.
Siegel asked Behar to come to Hillel after hearing him speak at a conference last November. When Behar expressed interest in speaking with the Business School, Siegel decided to integrate the two groups.
In an interview after his speech, Behar said he enjoyed tailoring his speech to college students.
“It’s a wonderful experience for me … the fountain of youth exists on college campuses,” Behar said. “I get the energy and the passion of college students. I want college business students to at least think a little bit differently. You can lead with good values, caring about people and you can make money doing it.”