It’s a historic week for Starbucks. Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz announced a new program to benefit 135,000 baristas. The Seattle-based corporation is teaming up with Arizona State University to offer the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, which pays for full- and part-time employees to go to college online.
In an interview with ABC News chief business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, who also hosts “Real Biz,” Schultz said his company is taking the first step toward fixing the trillion-dollar college debt crisis in America. He said he hopes more U.S. business leaders will follow in his footsteps.
Schultz noted that the greatest and most successful U.S. companies invest in their employees. “You can’t build a great company by just focusing on the bottom line and making money,” he said. “You can only build a great company by bringing people along on the journey.
“If you look at the history of great companies in America, those companies look at their people as a primary opportunity to invest in. There is no better time, and no more important issue then investing in human capital in America today.”
This is not the first time a company has offered education benefits to its employees. But Starbucks’ plan is unique in its size and scope, and there are no strings attached. So employees don’t have to continue to work for the company after they graduate.
Arizona State University president Michael Crow said his university is preparing for at least 15,000 students this year. With tuition costs at roughly $7,500 per student, Starbucks’ bill will add up to a hefty price.
Schultz, 60, confirmed that Starbucks’ college tuition program will cost millions of dollars, but made a point of reassuring his investors that the cost of the plan is already factored into the stock price. “We’ve demonstrated over 22 years that it’s a public company with significant shareholder-value performance,” he said. “That’s the only way you could know the long-term value for your shareholder, when you tie it to your people.”
Jarvis also wanted to have a little fun with Schultz, so she asked “Real Biz Rapid Fire” questions to get to know the man behind the iconic Starbucks brand:
1. How old were you when you had your first cup of coffee?
“My first cup of coffee was my mother creating with a percolator inside our apartment in Brooklyn, New York. And I remember it well. Coffee in a percolator is not the best way to make coffee. Obviously, my mother did not know that at the time. It didn’t taste very well but here we are.”
2. What is your order at Starbucks?
“My order depending on the day is in the morning a double espresso macchiato and the rest of the day it is a French press of Sumatra that I make myself.”
3. Outside of coffee, what is the number one drink you can’t live without?
“Water,” Schultz joked, before confirming that vegetable Evolution Fresh juice, from a Starbucks subsidiary, is his favorite. Especially kale.
4. What is your guilty pleasure inside of Starbucks?
Homemade chocolate chip cookies.
5. What is the most complicated drink that can be ordered at a Starbucks?
“I’m stunned and amazed at the concoctions that people order with our Frappuccino. I never imagined it and the secret menu that has developed as a result.”
6. Outside of Starbucks, who do you most admire for their creative efforts to help their employees?
“Costco and Whole Foods. And it’s not a surprise that those companies are very successful.”
7. Number one piece of advice to other entrepreneurs?
“Surround yourself with great people and great big dreams. And don’t let anyone – your family, your friends, anyone – tell you dreams can’t come true. And at the end of the day ensure the fact that you’re sharing success with the people you work with.”