The Little (Big) Things

Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks, emphasized a “people-centric” culture among the company’s employees. When he was asked in an interview for an example of that playing out, he told the following story:

One of our stores was across the street from a nursing home. And in this nursing home, there was a guy they called Big Jim. He would come in at 2 p.m. every day and order a short drip and a blueberry muffin. They would put away a muffin for him, because they often sold out. And they would always write a note to Jim on his cup or the muffin wrapper: “Hey Jim, we love you” or “Hey Jim, the Steelers suck.” One day, 2 p.m. comes, no Jim. Three comes, no Jim. And one of the baristas took the muffin and drink across the street. The receptionist said, “I’m sorry to tell you, but Jim passed away last night.” The next day, one of Jim’s children came over and asked if the baristas could come to the funeral. As they walked into the funeral home, there were three big, round tables. And on the tables was every bag and every cup that they had signed something to Jim on—all the little sayings. Little did they know how much those things meant to Jim and how much they were a part of his life. To me, the lesson is it’s always the little things. They really cared about him. They weren’t doing it for the credit—they were doing it because they cared about Jim. That’s really treating people with respect and dignity. When you walk down the hall, say hi to everybody. Be involved.

The baristas at that restaurant clearly gave Jim joy! What a gift!

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