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卸任星巴克CEO之后,舒尔茨还有更重要的事情需要证明

2017-08-04

每年,在星巴克年度会议召开前夕,霍华德舒尔茨总会去一趟坐落于西雅图派克市场的首家星巴克店面,喝一杯双份玛奇朵,并借机反思

 

 

每年,在星巴克年度会议召开前夕,霍华德·舒尔茨总会去一趟坐落于西雅图派克市场的首家星巴克店面,喝一杯双份玛奇朵,并借机反思这家公司30多年来走过的风雨历程。3月22日召开的年度会议,是舒尔茨第二个CEO任期的最后一次,这个惯例由此增加了额外的分量。他计划搞个仪式来纪念这一时刻。

舒尔茨拟定在上午6点半到达店铺,但他以早起跑步而著称,就像一位同事所言,他遵循的是“霍华德时间”。那些将要在这个仪式上扮演角色的员工知道,他们需要在6点15分之前到达那里,不然就很可能看不到他的人影。其中一位是舒尔茨钦定的CEO接班人凯文·约翰逊。那天早上,两人身着衬衫和领带,在摆放着一袋袋咖啡豆的店铺小聚了几分钟。舒尔茨回忆起这家咖啡店的早期岁月。

然后,他正式向约翰逊递交了这家咖啡店的钥匙。他说,近35年来,他一直随身携带着这把钥匙。两人合影留念。到早上6点22分,太阳还没有升起的时候,两人就离开了。“自我提醒:不要把钥匙弄久了。”在走出店门的时候,约翰逊高声耳语道。Every year, before 

 

 

新任CEO约翰逊将依靠他的技术经验,专注于打造星巴克的数字订购业务

图片提供:Brian Smale

事实证明,这位新CEO根本不用担心。一个半月后,在星巴克西雅图总部办公室,舒尔茨对我说,“我还有一把钥匙。”

还有比这更加贴切的隐喻吗?移交一家公司的控制权,向来都是很棘手的事情,而当这个过程涉及到一位极具魅力,几乎一手创建这家公司的长期领导者时,其难度无疑会翻番。4月3日,63岁的舒尔茨正式卸任星巴克CEO一职。

就舒尔茨的例子而言,一个不可避免的问题是,一位以渴望获得绝对控制权著称的完美主义者,将如何把他的完美主义应用到控制权的让渡上?考虑到他迄今为止最著名的职业失败正是他上一次卸任CEO的尝试——这起发生在2000年的卸任事件,逐渐演化为一场缓慢沸腾的灾难,最终以他的胜利回归收场——这项挑战显得愈发严峻。舒尔茨真的极其渴望这一次能顺利搞定。“我觉得,在一位上市公司CEO必须做好的重大事务清单上,接班人议题绝对排在前三项。我第一次搞砸了。”他说。

对于舒尔茨卸任CEO,华尔街已经表达了极其矛盾的立场:星巴克必须准备迎接新一代的领导层!霍华德,你能否继续坚守一段时间呢?

对于56岁的约翰逊而言,所有这些观点都不会让他感到轻松。除了接替一位商界传奇人物之外,这位新CEO的履新时间正值星巴克的销售额从“滚烫”转入“微温”之际。作为一项关键指标,同店销售额仍然在上涨,但其增长步伐正处于金融危机以来最慢的时刻。这家公司已经连续五个季度未能实现分析师对该指标的预期值。

尽管如此,星巴克仍然雄心不减。凭借去年创造的213亿美元收入,该公司在《财富》500强榜单中排名第131位。根据星巴克自己的预计,到2021年,其营收将增至350亿美元——也就是说,该公司的营收将爆炸式增长64%。为实现这一雄心勃勃的目标,星巴克计划在未来五年开设约1.2万家门店,门店总数将达到3.5万家。大多数新店将开设在中国。星巴克认为,有朝一日,中国将成为其最大的市场。其中约3400家店面将开设在美国本土。(相比之下,专注于墨西哥菜品的Chipotle快餐店只有大约2300家店面。)

除了用咖啡店覆盖这个星球之外,星巴克还有两大增长计划。按照约翰逊的说法,这是两件“对该公司未来至关重要的大事”。约翰逊将负责其中之一:持续推动星巴克的数字和移动业务。鉴于他曾经在微软担任多年高管职位,后来又出任电信硬件制造商Juniper Networks公司首席执行官,对于他来说,这是一项自然而然的使命。在这一领域,星巴克已然扮演领导者的角色,其25%的订单现在采用数字方式订购或支付。约翰逊的任务是扩大和烫平物流环节,以创建一个旨在促进速度和便利性,不会让客户感到沮丧和长时间等待的系统。

第二个关键领域将由舒尔茨亲自挂帅。作为执行董事长,他正在引领星巴克开发一个高端品牌和“体验式目的地”,以吸引那些放弃购物中心,转而光临小店的消费者。这项策略涉及一波三管齐下的攻势,其中包括(1) Roastery咖啡烘焙工坊——这是星巴克受电影《查理和巧克力工厂》启发而建立的少数几家大型超豪华咖啡宫殿;(2)一种被称为Reserve甄选的稀有咖啡豆,这是一个全新品牌;(3) Reserve甄选咖啡门店,属于二级精品店,比一般的星巴克咖啡店高一级,但没有Roastery咖啡烘焙工坊那样高端。如果一切顺利,这些新选项甚至有可能吸引一些以纯正咖啡主义者自诩的消费者。这些消费者宁愿花费16美元,在诸如Blue Bottle这类“手工作坊”购买一杯单一产地咖啡,也不愿屈尊光临星巴克。

此处蕴含着潜在的冲突。舒尔茨希望继续服务于每天光临星巴克咖啡店的9000万消费者,维系华尔街对该公司的推崇,并获得咖啡界的尊重。他是一位狂热的咖啡爱好者,这是一种非常个人化的感觉。绝非巧合的是,他喜欢喝双份玛奇朵,这种被浓郁的牛奶泡沫“染色”的传统浓咖啡,往往是那些步入罗马咖啡馆(而不是一家典型的星巴克咖啡店)的消费者的首选。

但他的公司之所以获得史无前例的成功,并不是得益于仿制意大利咖啡,而是因为它完美地适应了美国人的口味。正如一位小型竞争对手嘲笑的那样,星巴克咖啡是“咖啡和牛奶的‘大口吞饮’版本”。在星巴克服役21年的资深高管霍华德·贝哈尔透露称,舒尔茨最初不太愿意销售星冰乐。“它不符合他对纯咖啡的理解,”贝哈尔说。从一开始,舒尔茨总是询问一个问题:我们如何提升咖啡的品质?现如今,他正在将其作为自己的首要任务。所有这些都表明,他不会马上离开。

首次卸任失败

2000年,舒尔茨首次卸任CEO。这个进程起初相当顺利。他的继任者奥林·史密斯是星巴克的老臣子,曾在不同时期担任首席财务官和首席运营官。舒尔茨对他颇为了解,信任有加。公司业务蓬勃发展。

五年后,在史密斯退休之后,情况发生了变化。到那时,吉姆·唐纳德已经接管最高权杖。舒尔茨在2011年出版的著作《一路向前》中透露称,他与这位CEO的关系变得非常“复杂”。作为一位前沃尔玛高管,唐纳德是一位局外人,两人经常在一些重要的招聘决策上产生分歧。舒尔茨身上的“企业家病”——他无法脱离他所建立的公司——开始显露出来。他告诉《财富》杂志,“我把责任放在了自己的肩头。我不认为我当时像今天这样认识到了放手的必要性。”

2008年,舒尔茨重返首席执行官岗位。彼时,星巴克的业绩正陷于挣扎,美国经济急转直下固然是一个因素,但正如舒尔茨在一封泄露的致唐纳德备忘录中所言,另一个重要原因是“星巴克体验的商品化”。在回归最高职位之后,此前留任董事会主席一职的舒尔茨带领这家咖啡连锁巨头摆脱颓势,并迎来了一段黄金发展期。舒尔茨本人也由此赢得广泛声誉。

这些荣誉当然有助于提升舒尔茨本人的自我价值感,但不太利于星巴克的继任计划。去年12月1日,当约翰逊宣布出任CEO时,该公司的股票在盘后交易中短暂下跌12%。餐饮行业分析师约翰·佐利迪斯表示,“投资者非常关注此事。他们非常了解霍华德·舒尔茨上一次卸任时发生的事情。”

舒尔茨现在采用了一种折衷的方式。他清楚无误地表明,约翰逊正在执掌公司,但同时暗示,真正的老大绝不会远离。“我要说的是,他正在成为星巴克的首席执行官,但我希望你知道他将成为首席执行官。”在去年12月份的投资日会议上,舒尔茨在一段事先准备好的发言中这样说道。“他拥有最终决策权。他正在运营这家公司。”除两位高管职位之外,即创意、全球设计与创新高级副总裁丽兹·穆勒,以及Roastery和Reserve事业部总裁克里夫·布罗斯,舒尔茨的所有直接下属都已经开始向约翰逊汇报工作。

不过,每个人都需要调整的时间,就连舒尔茨的一些旨在鼓励的尝试,也难免让人觉得老狮子正在庇护他的继任者。4月27日,在约翰逊正式成为首席执行官不到一个月之后,他主持召开了他上任后首场分析师电话会议,舒尔茨也在线上。

“凯文,祝贺你的首次电话会议顺利召开。我认为你做得很棒。”在约翰逊完成业绩陈述之后,舒尔茨这样说道。(星巴克的业绩未能达到分析师的目标值。)他还对星巴克中国首席执行官王静瑛说,“你在中国半夜参加会议,我真的为你感到骄傲。”

约翰逊主持管理层讨论环节,但在高管们回答问题之前,他留了一段时间让舒尔茨发言。后者表示,他的发言“没有稿子,更加接近于总结陈词。”

舒尔茨坚持认为,这次领导层变更与上一次迥然不同。一方面,他说,约翰逊不是局外人。在技术上,这样说没错,但还是有一定的误导性。约翰逊自2009年起担任星巴克董事。他此前的职业生涯基本上都是在微软等科技公司度过的,随后于2015年,也就是舒尔茨的上一位当然继任者特罗伊·阿尔斯特德离职之后,开始出任星巴克首席运营官兼总裁。

一些分析师质疑约翰逊缺乏零售经验,但舒尔茨着重强调了他长达34年技术从业经验的重要性。他承认,日益关键的数字业务并不是自己的“主要技能”。The new CEO need not have worried, it turns out. “I have another key,” Schultz tells me a month and a half later in his office at the company’s Seattle headquarters.

Could there be a more apt metaphor? Handing over control of a company is always tricky—Schultz, 63, officially relinquished the CEO job on April 3—and doubly so when it involves a charismatic, longtime leader who all but founded the company.

In Schultz’s case, how does a notorious perfectionist who craves total control apply his perfectionism to the act of ceding control? That challenge is all the more fraught because his most notorious professional failure by far was his last attempt to leave as CEO, in 2000, a slow-boiling disaster that eventually concluded with his triumphant return. Schultz really, really, really wants to nail it this time. “I would say that, of the list of the most important things that a public CEO has to get right, succession is in the top three,” he says. “I did not get it right the first time around.”

For its part, Wall Street has made its position absolutely … contradictory: Starbucks must prepare a new generation of leadership!! And also, Howard, could you stay just a little longer?!?

None of that makes it easy for Johnson, 56. In addition to replacing a legend—as he has quipped, he has venti-sized shoes to fill—the new CEO is doing so at a time when Starbucks’ sales have turned from scalding to tepid. Same-store sales, a key metric, are still rising, but at the slowest pace since the financial crisis. The company has fallen short of analysts’ expectations on that measure for five consecutive quarters.

Despite that, Starbucks’ ambitions are audacious. The company recorded $21.3 billion in revenues last year, ranking it at 131 on the Fortune 500—and it’s projecting it will reach $35 billion in sales by 2021. To achieve that hoped-for 64% revenue explosion, Starbucks plans to open some 12,000 stores over the next five years, which would bring its total count to 37,000. The majority will be in China, a market the company thinks could be its biggest someday. Some 3,400 of the new stores will be in the U.S. (By comparison, Chipotle has about 2,300 in its entire system.)

Beyond covering the planet with coffee bars, Starbucks has two main growth initiatives, which Johnson calls the “most critical things for the future of the company.” Johnson will be in charge of one of them: the continuing development of Starbucks’ digital and mobile operations. That’s a natural mission for him, given that he was an executive at Microsoft (msft, -0.54%) for many years and, later, CEO of telecom hardware maker Juniper Networks. Starbucks is already a leader in this realm, with 25% of orders now placed or paid digitally. Johnson’s task will be to expand and iron out the logistics so that a system made to facilitate speed and convenience doesn’t leave customers frustrated and cooling their heels.

The second key area will fall to Schultz. As executive chairman, he’s leading Starbucks’ push to develop a higher-end brand and “experiential destinations” to entice people who have abandoned malls to stop by a store. That strategy involves a three-pronged attack consisting of (1) the Roastery, a handful of massive, ultraluxurious coffee palaces inspired in part by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; (2) a new brand of rare and single-origin coffee beans called Reserve; and (3) a second line of boutiques—a notch above a regular Starbucks but not quite as over the top as the Roastery—also called Reserve. If all goes well, those options might even lure some self-styled purists who spend $16 for a cup of single-origin pour-over at an “artisanal” coffee emporium like Blue Bottle and wouldn’t deign to set foot inside a Starbucks.

There’s a tension there. Schultz wants to keep serving 90 million people a day, maintain the admiration of Wall Street—and be respected by the coffee community. He’s an aficionado, and this feels personal. It’s no coincidence that his drink of choice, the double macchiato—a traditional espresso “stained” with a dash of frothy milk—is downed more often by people standing at the bar of a café in Rome than in a typical Starbucks.

But his company achieved epic success not so much by emulating Italian coffee as by adapting it to American tastes, what one tiny rival derides as the “Big Gulp version of coffee and milk.” Schultz initially hesitated to sell frappuccinos, says Howard Behar, a Starbucks executive for 21 years. “It didn’t live up to his purist idea of coffee,” says Behar. Schultz has always asked one question, Behar says, since the beginning: How do we elevate the coffee? Now he’s making it his primary mission. All of which suggests he won’t be leaving anytime soon.

The first time Schultz stepped aside as CEO in 2000, the process started fairly smoothly. His successor, Orin Smith, was a company veteran who had served as CFO and COO at various times. Schultz knew and trusted him. Business was booming.

The circumstances changed five years later, after Smith retired. By then Jim Donald had taken over, and Schultz’s relationship with him became “complicated,” according to Schultz’s 2011 book Onward. Donald, a former Walmart (wmt, +0.48%) executive, was an outsider, and the two regularly disagreed on major hiring decisions. Schultz’s entrepreneur’s disease—his inability to detach from the company he had built—began to show itself. “I put the responsibility on myself,” he tells Fortune. “I don’t think I was prepared as I certainly am today to recognize the need to let go.”

Schultz returned as chief executive in 2008 as the business struggled, owing to a combination of a spiraling economy and what Schultz, in a famous leaked memo to Donald, called the “commoditization of the Starbucks experience.” Schultz, who had retained the chairman title, returned to the CEO job and was hailed for the turnaround and the stellar run that followed.

Those kinds of accolades are great for the ego but less so for succession plans. When Johnson was announced as CEO on Dec. 1, the company’s stock briefly dropped 12% in after-hours trading. “Investors are very focused on it,” says restaurant industry analyst John Zolidis. “They’re well aware of what happened the last time Howard Schultz stepped aside.”

Schultz is now walking a fine line, making it clear that Johnson is running the business but signaling that the big kahuna is never far away. “I say not only that he’s becoming the CEO of Starbucks, but I want you to know he is going to be the CEO,” Schultz said during his prepared remarks at the company’s investor day in December, preempting the likely question from analysts. “He’s got the last word. He is running the company.” All of Schultz’s direct reports except for two—Liz Muller, senior vice president of creative, global design, and innovation, and Cliff Burrows, president of the group overseeing the Roastery and Reserve—have shifted to Johnson.

Still, it takes time for everyone to adjust, and even Schultz’s attempts to be encouraging betrayed the faintest hint of the old lion patronizing his successor. Less than a month after Johnson officially became CEO, he hosted his first earnings call with analysts on April 27, and Schultz was on the line.

“Kevin, congratulations on your first call. I think you did really well,” he said after the presentation of the company’s results, which had failed to meet analysts’ targets. Referring to Starbucks’ China CEO, Belinda Wong, Schultz added, “And, Belinda, coming from China in the middle of the night, I could not be more proud of you.”

Johnson ran the management discussion but left time for Schultz—who described himself as the “unscripted closer to summarize what’s been said”—to speak before executives took questions.

Schultz is adamant that this transition will be different from the last. For one thing, he says, Johnson isn’t an outsider. That’s technically true, but slightly misleading. Johnson, a company director since 2009, spent his career at Microsoft and other tech companies, then took an executive role as Starbucks’ chief operating officer and president in 2015, beginning when the last heir apparent, Troy Alstead, departed.

Some analysts question Johnson’s lack of retail chops, but Schultz has stressed the importance of his experience as a 34-year tech industry veteran. This increasingly critical digital business is not Schultz’s “primary skill,” he admits.

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