It is early in the morning at Starbucks. Customers have drifted in and have left. I am the only one here at the moment. The store manager, Geoffrey Mlady, takes that moment to assemble the baristas. He wants to check out who will be doing what job for the next few hours.
But he begins by asking them, “What is our store vision?” I could hear that clearly from where I was sitting. The answers were hesitant and muffled, but eventually one of the baristas gave the answer the manager was looking for. I couldn’t hear it, so I went up to him and asked him what it was.
Here’s what it is: “Grand and Awesome.”
Obviously, that requires a little context. First, I would like to note that the founder of Starbucks, Howard Schulz, wrote a book about how he wanted Starbucks to work and he called it Pour Your Heart into It. So the manager of this Starbucks is clearly playing on the home court.
Second, each store in Portland is listed by its location. This store is located at—the nearest major intersection is— the corner of Grand Avenue and Lloyd Boulevard. The “convenience name” of the store is “Grand and Lloyd.” That’s what the manager is playing with. Grand and Lloyd is a location; Grand and Awesome is a way of saying what their vision is. It is who we are or at least who we can be at your best.
A vision isn’t a blueprint. It’s an artist’s rendering and if Geoffrey Mlady is, as I suspect, the inventor of that phrase, then he is the artist. He wants his staff looking in the direction of “who we could be.” He wants “We are awesome” to be part of the background of the decisions the baristas have to make. Some of those are easy, at least at the beginning of the shift. It’s just serving coffee to people who have come in because they like Starbucks coffee.
But some are difficult in principle. People come in off the street and want to abuse the facilities. People, in this lingering COVID era, want to sit at tables that are marked TABLE TEMPORARILY CLOSED and they have to be asked (awesomely) to move to another table. Or refused (awesomely) a free coffee on a cold morning.
The reason the manager wants “are you being awesome” reverberating in the back of everyone’s mind is that it is not a question that comes up naturally all the time. And it doesn’t require the same kind of behavior from you all the time either, which is why he said, “Whatever that looks like to you, do it.” You have to be firm sometimes. You get to be friendly sometimes. You have to compensate for “customer error” sometimes. “Awesome” looks like different things at different times and you have to make those decisions on the fly and you won’t make all of them right. Keep going. We are Grand and Awesome.
And we aren’t if you aren’t. Good job, Geoff. That’s awesome.