Memo to Howard Schultz: Please Come Back.

I have never been shy about my worship of heroes. From Jimmy Stewart to Maya Angelou to Steve Jobs to my dad, I love and admire focused, imaginative, passionate, hard-working, fun-loving people. And Howard Schultz has always been atop my list.

This man is a business dynamo, no less impactful than Elon Musk, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. But, in my opinion, much more fascinating. His ability to imagine and continue to re-imagine the retail phenomenon we know as Starbucks is absolutely amazing. Even now, as he is stepping down from his position as CEO, Howard Schultz is planning new innovative ideas with the Starbucks Reserve Roasteries, which I have no doubt will be hugely successful.

And while I am excited to see what happens next and what new concepts Schultz will develop, I am painfully aware that another of our great leaders is planning his exit from the spotlight. And I already feel the loss. And not to take anything away from Kevin Johnson, who may turn out to be a genius in his own right, I am already seeing problems looming for Starbucks.

I have noticed within the past several months that technology is slowly but surely killing the Starbucks customer service mojo – a hallmark of the Starbucks brand.

I am one of the traditional Starbucks customers who enjoys strolling into the retail store every morning for my first cup of Joe. But instead of being “the man” – as in, “hey Jim, your usual?” – I now find myself  endlessly waiting in both the ordering and pick up lines while the resident baristas dance for the drive-through and online order customers. Suddenly I am persona non grata. I’m the guy who is clogging up the lobby.

And here’s the thing… I am not only cool with new technology, I am a huge advocate. The Internet of Things is opening up a whole new world of possibilities, each more amazing than the last. But someone – and in the case of Starbucks, that someone has always been Howard Schultz – must make sure the retail business doesn’t lose sight of its primary customer base.

As with all brands, if you don’t love me, I am not going to love you. That’s the deal we have – spoken or unspoken. I wish you well, Howard, but really, I just wish you would stick around another 20 years.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.