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Three Lessons to Learn From Starbucks About Rocking Your Vision

The story of how Starbucks got its start is a fairly well-known one among students of business-success stories.  But the details are certainly worth studying too and much can be gained from them.


Starbucks began as a small coffee-bean and coffee-making equipment shop in Seattle, back in 1971, by three friends who were passionate about coffee beans and providing great-tasting coffee to customers.  The idea did well enough that Starbucks became a regional success story.


How did Starbucks become the powerhouse it is today?  It all started with one person’s vision.



Lesson #1:  Learn to Recognize a Great Idea


While on a business trip to Milan, Italy, Starbucks’ young Marketing Director, Howard Schultz, discovered the idea of the coffee-shop as a meeting place and as integral to community-building.  Italy’s coffee-shops, known as “espresso bars” not only made great coffee, but had espressos, cappuccinos, cafe lattes, and other exciting coffee-based drinks to their menu.  Schultz though this was exactly what Starbucks needed to differentiate them from the competition.


If you ever encounter a great idea that someone else has implemented, whether in your niche’s business or an unrelated one, don’t dismiss it by saying “I could’ve done that”.  Embrace it!


Think about your audience and whether the same or a similar approach could work for you too.  Don’t stick to “business as usual” simply because that’s how everybody else does it.  Innovate, and if not, embrace awesome and fantastic ideas that could work well for your business.


“Become a student of change. It is the only thing that will remain constant.”
– Anthony D’Angelo’


Lesson #2:  Don’t Listen to Those Who Can’t See Your Vision


Upon returning from Italy, Schultz excitedly pitched the idea to management.  After much insistence by Schultz, Starbucks reluctantly did a test pilot to sell espresso, which was wildly successful, outselling Starbucks’ regular coffee offerings by more than 3 to 1.


Unfortunately, Starbucks’ owners refused to roll the idea out on the grounds that they didn’t want to become involved into what they thought would be a “restaurant” or “bar-type” business.  This frustrated Schultz, and in 1985 left Starbucks to pursue his vision.


Oftentimes, you’ll share plans with those around you about where you envision your online venture taking you.  Though well-meaning, you’ll run across people who just don’t understand what you’re trying to build and will try to discourage you.


Do NOT let them.


Never take advice from someone who doesn’t truly understand what you’re trying to accomplish.  Whether you’re talking about the goal of becoming location-independent, or about building a business that allows you to live a different, exciting lifestyle that’s 1,000 times more fulfilling than the detractors could ever dream.


“Do what you feel in your heart to be right. You’ll be criticized anyway.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt


Lesson #3:  Forge Your Own Path


Schultz was not only hugely successful with his enterprise, named Il Giornale.  His new stores were soon serving over 1,000 customers a day, far above Starbucks rate of 250 customers a day.  Schultz executed his vision, and while not always flawless, he was smart enough to learn from his mistakes and right the ship along the way.  Eventually, he was able to purchase Starbucks and turn it into what we now know today.


By doing what you believe in passionately and wholeheartedly, you’ll not only be on the path of to success, but it’ll be of the rarer kind:  Fulfilling success.


Stay true to your vision and what you want to accomplish, but don’t be stubborn to the point of refusing to change or add steps along the way.  Learn for your mistakes, believe that the goal is at hand, and work hard to reach it no matter the obstacles.


“I don’t believe in pessimism. If something doesn’t come up the way you want, forge ahead.

If you think it’s going to rain, it will.”

– Clint Eastwood


How have you dealt with adversity when trying to accomplish your vision?


Keep tuned in and check back Mondays for business building info, Wednesdays for content related to expat life, and Fridays for tons of travel pictures as I do an on-the ground report spotlighting a travel destination.


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Also, check out my Pinterest page about Antigua Guatemala, one of the prettiest colonial cities in the world and latest digital nomad destination I’m trying out.


*Image: Esparta @ Flickr

About Rich Polanco

Fan of dogs + all things tech. Love a great pizza. My goal is not to travel to every country in the world. I only want to get to know my favorite ones REALLY well. Check out the big bio here. Follow @RichPolanco and connect on Facebook.
Currently exploring: Guatemala.


  1. I have been examining some of your posts and it’s nice stuff. I will bookmark your site :)

  2. Eloisa says:

    I’ve learned to ignore the naysayers a long time ago. Interesting story.


  3. Zed the Bed says:

    That was an excellent article. I struggle with number 2 sometimes but you gotta press on. Intersting article.

  4. Great post! Sometimes it’s challenging going for your dreams when everyone around seems to be a nay-sayer who encourages the comforts of safety, yet for me it is worth it. I love that he pursued his dream and was later able to purchase Starbucks and realize his original intention, yet I mostly love that he dared leaving Starbucks for his dream. That had to be scary.

    • Rich says:

      I found the story inspiring too. He pressed on because he knew in his heart it would worked, and was willing to stake his career over it.



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