Starbucks Saves Lives


After 25 years working with one of the largest advertising (J. Walter Thompson) firms in the country, Michael was let go.

Twenty-five years of working in a culture that required energetic, young and aggressive employees who put work before family.

Twenty-five years of jumping where and when the company dictated you go.

Twenty-five years of reminders that the high-firm did not encourage or accept “praise memos” in case they had to fire someone.

At 55, Michael was no longer considered young. It didn’t matter that he produced and performed. He was expendable, replaceable.

So, after 25 years of loyal service and sacrifices of his time with family, he was suddenly unemployed, economically up shit’s creek.

The Starbuck’s Fairy

Michael’s life was falling apart. Despite growing up with a silver spoon, attending Yale, and landing a job with JW Thompson upon his Ivy League graduation, he was now:

  • 55 and jobless
  • needing to have brain surgery for an acoustic neuroma
  • divorced
  • without medical insurance

It was while Michael was sipping a latte in a Broadway Starbucks, wondering how his life fell into the toilet that his life began to change:

“They [Starbucks] were having what they call a hiring event. I was all dressed up with my briefcase pretending I was still a successful ad guy. A woman named Crystal walked over to me and said would you like a job? If I thought about it I would have said no, but I instantly said yes.” –Michael Gates Gill

The Success Behind Starbucks

Michael is one story of many whose lives were altered for the better through Starbucks. Their model works because it is based on respect and compassion.

Starbucks’ employees are referred to as Partners.

There is an understood mindset of we, not you or me.

Starbucks invests in its employees.

Medical, dental, and vision benefits are available to part and full time employees. There are stock opportunities as well as 100% tuition coverage available.

Starbucks cares about its community

It’s important for Partners to be happy and feel valued. When caring about others is a given, respect and self-respect grows. This sense of community extends to the customers. The result:

An unspoken understanding that we are in this life all together is fostered.

Michael’s Cup of Hope

Months into his employment with Starbucks, the former six-figure advertising exec discovers a happiness he’d never experienced in his “privileged” life:

“I could not deny the feeling of growing happiness in my heart. This new, quiet, inner happiness kept catching me unawares in the midst of a rush of serving a big line at Starbucks….No more fancy parties. I knew my parents would have wanted me to continue to join in with their view of a wonderful life in a perfect world lived at the highest reaches of the arts and society. I no longer had the energy or the will for. Thanks to…Starbucks, I no longer needed it.”

Starbucks’ theme of serving others brought Michael a palpable happiness in Starbucks never experienced in the corporate world.

Starbucks’ Opportunity to Grow

Whether it’s cleaning toilets, working the register, making the drinks, or bringing out the fresh pastries, to work at Starbucks means an opportunity to push past your comfort zone.

For Michael, this meant working the register.

But like a kind yet firm parent, there is a learning curve and with it, patience.

Terrified of giving back the wrong change, Michael tried to avoid the register at all costs.

Eventually, Michael faces his fear and discovers he can work the register. At the end of a shift, Michael tells Crystal (his manager):

“Look, I’m only three cents over!”

“Great. I knew you could do it, Mike.”

Crystal had more confidence in me than I had in myself.

Starbucks’ Lesson

People work hard when they feel:

  •  valued
  • respected
  • part of a team
  • supported
  • incentivized

Starbucks offers this to all of their employees. There is no sense of you vs. me. The ego is left at the door. 

Like a child, when an employee feels that they matter, confidence soars.

Starbucks doesn’t “cap” kindness and compassion. Breaks and time with family are encouraged. Education is encouraged. Health care and wellness are encouraged.

Starbucks Saves Lives

Michael Gates Gill engaging memoir, How Starbucks Saved My Life offers a window view into a man’s spiritual pilgrimage of what truly matters in this life. Through his journey, we meet other Starbucks’ Partners, whose lives are forever altered — for the better — by the corporate cultural game-changer that is Starbucks.

Imagine how many more lives could be changed if other corporations adapted the Starbucks mentality.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s