Former Starbucks president calls on Foster MBA grads to serve

All you need is… love?

Well, that’s not all you need to be successful in business. But in his commencement address to the Foster School’s MBA Class of 2016, Howard Behar, the retired president of Starbucks, suggested that this group of freshly minted grads view their careers ahead as a call to service and consider seriously the profound power of kindness, respect and, yes, even the L-word.

“All of you have earned your degrees. But why? What does that piece of paper mean? And what is it really good for? Some people may believe it is a permit to serve yourself. You’ve punched your ticket and now it is time to cash in,” said Behar.

“But I would beg to disagree. I believe what you have just been given is an obligation to serve others. It doesn’t make any difference what job you have or what industry you work in.”

This unorthodox corporate philosophy took shape at Starbucks under the leadership of Behar, Howard Schultz and Orin Smith (BA 1965), when they demonstrated that generous social policies could coexist with—and even lead to—exponential growth. Behar has explored the lessons of this era in two books: “It’s Not About the Coffee” and his latest, “The Magic Cup.”

And he’s shared them with Foster students as a recurring MBA mentor and during his time as Fritzky Chair in Leadership, calling Foster “an incredible institution primarily based on values and leadership.”

To the most recent Foster grads, he recounted stories of the famous Starbucks principles in action, small gestures that, over time and repetition, have transformed a simple coffee company into a beloved international brand.

“It’s the little things in life that really count,” Behar concluded. “The kindness, caring and love—yes, even love in the business world—that we need more of. So I hope that you will always remember why you are here and what you stand for: to serve people.”