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星巴克成功转型,全靠这位零售高手

柯问思(Beth Kowitt) 2019年10月10日

作为全球最大的连锁咖啡店品牌,星巴克最近刚刚挺过了一场公关噩梦,销量显著提升,总算安然度过了其创始人辞职后的这段多事之秋。星巴克复兴的最大功臣,便是罗兹·布鲁尔。

图为布鲁尔正在检查位于芝加哥的一间星巴克门店。她上任后对星巴克的门店做了很多减法,让咖啡师可以节约出更多的时间来服务顾客。图片来源:Photograph by Sara Stathas

星巴克的运营总监罗兹·布鲁尔以前并不爱喝咖啡。两年前她刚加入星巴克时,她最喜欢的含咖啡因饮料是茶(而且是冰绿茶)。

作为全球最大的咖啡公司的高管,每天品鉴各种咖啡简直是再日常不过的事,星巴克的高管团队甚至还得经常到哥斯达黎加的咖啡农场开会。有些人可能会想,在这样一家公司当二把手,不爱喝咖啡怎么行?

不过自从干上这份工作,布鲁尔通过系统地学习,很快成为了一名大家公认的合格咖啡师。她扔掉了自己所有的克里格胶囊咖啡机——胶囊咖啡机是所有咖啡发烧友的公敌。她家的厨房里也摆满了全套的“硬核”咖啡工具。她经常站在咖啡吧里,系着星巴克的绿围裙,练习调制馥芮白,试验怎样才能把奶泡打得恰到好处。她最近正在挑战手冲咖啡,学习手冲咖啡是一个比较痛苦的过程,需要你非常有耐心,要一边搅拌,一边把水倒进一个锥形的过滤器里。她说:“在我做这件事时,我非常专注,几乎连呼吸都停止了。”

好在星巴克之所以聘请她,并不是看中了她做咖啡的技术。这也让布鲁尔可以从容练习。毕竟星巴克的员工里已经有很多的咖啡专家了。作为一名前沃尔玛的高管,布鲁尔给星巴克带来的,是像做手冲咖啡时一般的执著和专注,而此时的星巴克正迫切需要这种态度。

Roz Brewer, chief operating officer of Starbucks, is not by nature a coffee person. In fact, when she joined the company two years ago, her caffeination vehicle of choice was tea (green and iced, thank you).

Some might think that her apathy toward java could pose a problem for the newly appointed No. 2 of the world’s largest purveyor of the brew—a company where the slurps of tastings regularly echo through its Seattle headquarters and the executive team decamps to its very own coffee farm in Costa Rica for leadership meetings.

But since taking the job, Brewer has methodically worked toward earning her barista bona fides. She threw out all of her Keurig coffeemakers—the nemesis of coffee snobs everywhere—and restocked her kitchen with hard-core coffee paraphernalia. She’s put on the Starbucks green apron and practiced her flat whites behind the coffee bar—getting that layer of microfoam just right. Her latest challenge: perfecting the pour-over, a task that requires a painful amount of patience and swirling as water drips slowly through a cone-shaped filter. “While I’m doing it, I’m so focused I can barely breathe,” Brewer says.

While Starbucks waits for Brewer to master the technique, it helps that the company didn’t hire her for her espresso expertise. The Seattle giant already has plenty of coffee nerds on staff. What Brewer, a former Walmart executive, has brought to Starbucks is that uncompromising, pour-over-level focus—and at a time when the company desperately needed it.

图片来源:Photograph by Sara Stathas

布鲁尔在2017年10月被任命为星巴克的运营总监兼美洲业务负责人,她负责的也是星巴克规模最大、利润最高的一块业务。她进入星巴克时,星巴克正在经历摩根大通的分析师约翰·伊万可所称的“公司历史上最糟糕的几个月”。在经历了连续五六年的销量和门店数量增长后,星巴克发现自己陷入了经营混乱,门店客流量平平。不久后,星巴克又陷入了种族歧视争议。2018年4月,两名黑人走进了费城的一家星巴克,结果该店经理居然打电话报了警。最重要的是,此事发生仅仅几个月后,星巴克品牌的创始人、纵横商界30多年的商界传奇霍华德·舒尔茨宣布将从公司离职。

布鲁尔就是在这个关键时期进入星巴克的,她的任务就是用自己在零售业的经验,重整星巴克的门店,强化各级的组织纪律。百事公司的前首席执行官卢英德曾与布鲁尔在沃尔玛共事过,现在两人还是亚马逊董事会的成员。她表示:“罗兹是一个强硬的人,她很注重细节,她不爱夸夸其谈,但总能把事情做好。”

但布鲁尔希望带给星巴克的,不只是正确的门店运营方式,她也是首席执行官凯文·约翰逊的整张战略蓝图的一部分。约翰逊在“后舒尔茨时代”的基本理念,是要将星巴克从一家增长型公司转型成一家“持久型公司”。这意味着公司文化必须具备严肃性和一贯性,同时要确保星巴克的33万名门店员工(他们也是公司是的脸面)拥有恰当的工具,以处理他们可能面临的各种情况。布鲁尔曾在全球最大的零售企业工作过10年,她深知一家全球性企业怎样才能团结一致地前进。布鲁尔表示:“有些领导者不会将自己的理念或者机会规模化,但我在沃尔玛学到了这一点。”

起初,投资界也有些人质疑布鲁尔并非星巴克运营总监的上佳人选,因为他们并不认为布鲁尔在零售行业的经验对星巴克这样一个注重体验和高触感的品牌有什么帮助。不过随着星巴克的业务日趋好转,这些质疑的声音也渐渐消失了。贝尔德公司的分析师大卫·塔伦蒂诺指出:“事实已经证明,那些质疑她的人看走眼了。”

Brewer took on the job of COO and head of the Americas business—the company’s biggest and most profitable—in October 2017, just as the company entered what J.P. Morgan analyst John Ivankoe has described as a “terrible few months in the company’s history.” After an unprecedented run of sales and store growth lasting more than half a decade, store traffic flatlined as the company found itself in operational chaos. Then, in April 2018, the company faced accusations of racial bias after a manager called the police on two black men in one of its Philadelphia stores. But the icing on the cake—or frothed milk on the macchiato, as it were—was the announcement just months later that Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz, one of the business world’s most storied leaders and the embodiment of the Starbucks brand for more than three decades, would leave the company.

It was during this critical period that Brewer entered the fold, tasked with translating her retail expertise into cleaning up the company’s stores and imposing a level of discipline that has become her calling card. “Roz is a tough cookie,” says Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo who did business with Brewer when she was at Walmart and now serves with her on the Amazon board. “She’s into the details. She’s not a fluffy person. She gets things done.”

But the structure and focus that Brewer is attempting to bring to the company goes beyond just getting store operations right. It’s an essential part of CEO Kevin Johnson’s vision as he lays the groundwork for Starbucks in the post-Schultz era, a Starbucks that is less of a growth company and more of what he describes as an “enduring” one. That means bringing rigor and consistency to the company’s culture, as well as guaranteeing that its more than 330,000 store employees—the company’s public face—have the tools to properly handle any situation. The 10 years Brewer spent at not only the world’s largest retailer but also the world’s largest company taught her a little something about what it takes for a global operation to move in lockstep. “Some leaders have difficulty scaling their ideas or an opportunity,” Brewer says. “I learned that at Walmart.”

Brewer’s appointment has not come without its critics in the investment community, who initially could not see how her big-box experience at Walmart translated into an experiential, high-touch brand. But as the business has started to turn a crucial corner, the questions have waned. Says Baird analyst David Tarantino: “To the extent there were skeptics, they’ve been proven wrong.”

****

当约翰逊给她打电话邀请她来担任星巴克运营总监时,她完全没有心情谈工作的事。当时她正在纳帕度假,想在找到下一份工作前再放松一阵子。

当时,布鲁尔刚刚结束了她在沃尔玛的10年岁月,她在沃尔玛的最后一个职务,是山姆会员商店(Sam’s Club)的首席执行官,任期5年。布鲁尔在沃尔玛是一颗耀眼的明星,在职务上也是一路高歌猛进,没过几年,就从乔治亚州的业务负责人,成了东南大区负责人,然后是美东地区负责人,直至最后成为全美山姆会员商店业务的负责人。

布鲁尔表示,2016年沃尔玛以33亿美元收购Jet.com后,她有了一种预感,觉得以后山姆会员商店的重要性会逐渐降低。沃尔玛本身也在寻求改变。布鲁尔是在山姆会员商店干得最久的首席执行官了。在她领导下,山姆会员商店虽然再怎么努力也没能赶上更强大的竞争对手开市客(Costco),不过也实现了一定的增长。爱德华琼斯公司的分析师布莱恩·雅伯勒认为:“山姆会员商店做得还是不错的,但它并没有点燃整个世界。”

布鲁尔第一次见到舒尔茨就是在沃尔玛,当时,舒尔茨来到沃尔玛总部出席商业活动,他要与沃尔玛的首席执行官董明伦在一群员工面前谈话。然而活动马上就要开始时,董明伦突然有事无法出席,布鲁尔只好代替他参加了活动。她与舒尔茨一见如故。不久之后,舒尔茨就请她担任星巴克的董事,布鲁尔一开始拒绝了他——当时她已经是洛克希德马丁公司的董事了。不过在她从沃尔玛离职后,她又重新考虑了这个提议。2017年年初,星巴克正式宣布布鲁尔加入该公司的董事会。

在她加入星巴克董事会后不久,有一次刚开完董事会议,她便登上了前往纳帕的航班,想来一次久违的休假。结果这次葡萄酒之乡之旅突然被一通来自星巴克的电话打断了。布鲁尔本来还有些后悔,觉得星巴克的董事会真难伺候。结果来电话的人是约翰逊,他请她回到西雅图,说说让她当运营总监的事。

在当时,布鲁尔并不是一个显而易见的选择。她说:“如果没有人推荐,我自己去面试,那能入选的话就是奇迹了。”但是星巴克的董事会成员经过这几次开会,已经认可了她的务实和严谨。Ariel投资公司的联席首席执行官、星巴克的副董事长梅洛迪·霍布森表示:“她是一个搞运营的人。她不仅有看法、有眼界,而且有执行力。”而这些正是约翰逊需要的。约翰逊上台后的一项重要举措,就是给星巴克的重点业务“瘦身”。比如他砍掉了泰舒茶等一些非核心业务,关停了茶瓦纳零售门店。他从上到下地推动精简改革,并且需要有人对星巴克的所有门店进行同样的改革。约翰逊表示:“她懂如何大规模有秩序地运营。”布鲁尔在沃尔玛担任美东地区负责人时,她管理的业务的销售额超过1000亿美元,几乎是整个星巴克的四倍。

布鲁尔同意花一个周末的时间,在西雅图与约翰逊商量这件事。不过这份工作来的时机不太好。她和家人刚从沃尔玛总部所在的本顿维尔搬到了亚特兰大,并且在那儿盖了一座房子。最近,还有一家私募股权公司想请她去当首席执行官。布鲁尔也认为,那是一份相对容易的工作。不过布鲁尔从不隐藏自己的雄心壮志,她是无法对星巴克这样一家标志性的公司说“不”的。最终,她拒绝了那家私募公司,成了约翰逊的副手。

When Brewer got the call from Johnson about the COO job, she was in no mood to think about reentering corporate America. Actually, she was in no mood to talk business at all. She was on vacation in Napa, trying to unwind while she took some time off before her next move.

Brewer had just wrapped up her decade at Walmart, her most recent role there a five-year stint as CEO of the company’s warehouse membership business, Sam’s Club. She had become a star at the retailer, skyrocketing up the ranks from running Georgia, to the Southeast business, and then to all of Walmart’s Eastern region before being tapped to lead Sam’s.

But after Walmart acquired online retailer Jet.com for $3.3 billion in 2016, Brewer says she could see the writing on the wall: She expected Sam’s to become less of a priority. Walmart may very well have been looking for a change too. Brewer was Sam’s longest-serving CEO, and the division had seen only modest growth on her watch as it tried and failed to catch bigger rival Costco. “Sam’s did okay,” says Edward Jones analyst Brian Yarbrough, “but it wasn’t lighting the world on fire.”

Walmart was where Brewer first met Schultz, who was visiting the company’s HQ for an interview with CEO Doug McMillon in front of an audience of employees. McMillon had to cancel at the last minute, so Brewer stepped in, and the two hit it off. Schultz broached the possibility of a director role soon after, but Brewer—already a director at Lockheed Martin—initially put him off. After leaving Walmart, she reconsidered; Starbucks announced Brewer was joining its board in early 2017.

It was after one of her early board meetings that she hopped that flight to Napa for some much-needed R&R. So when her wine country respite was interrupted by a call from Starbucks, Brewer cringed, worried that she had just signed herself up for a high-maintenance board. Instead, it was Johnson asking her to come back to Seattle so they could discuss the COO job.

Brewer wasn’t an obvious choice. “If I were to interview raw, it would have been a leap of faith,” she says. But her fellow directors had already seen how she was willing to get into the nitty-gritty during board meetings. “She’s an operator,” says Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments and Starbucks vice chair. “She’s not just a person with a point of view and vision. She can execute.” It’s just what Johnson needed. One of his first big moves as CEO was narrowing Starbucks’ focus. He had rid the portfolio of noncore businesses—selling Tazo tea and closing its Teavana retail stores. He was simplifying the company from the top and needed someone to do the same across the entire store base. “She knows how to operate with discipline at scale,” he explains. At one point at Walmart, Brewer, as head of the Eastern division, was running a business with more than $100 billion in sales, about four times the size of all of Starbucks.

Brewer agreed to spend a weekend in Seattle talking it over with Johnson, but the timing of the offer was all wrong. She and her family had just finished building a house in Atlanta, where they had relocated from Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. She had recently been offered the CEO job at a private equity firm—a role, she says, that would have been easy. But Brewer, who has never hidden her ambition, couldn’t say no to a company as iconic as Starbucks. In the end, she turned down the CEO gig to become Johnson’s No. 2.

****

如果在离开沃尔玛之后,布鲁尔追求的是简单轻松的生活,那她来星巴克就是来错了地方。她刚一上任,就面临客流量停滞不前、同店销量增长缓慢的问题。在上任后前三个月,布鲁尔什么都没有干,一心学习业务。“我很快就发现,当前的模式是有问题的,于是我说:‘先不要做决定,因为情况很敏感。’”她很快就诊断出,症结主要出现在咖啡台的后面。近几年,星巴克的网上订单出现了巨大增长,顾客到达门店之前,就可以用过手机APP下单。但星巴克尚未学会应对网上订单的急剧增长。结果就是等待取饮品的顾客经常排成长队,咖啡师们手忙脚乱地调配一杯杯的拿铁和星冰乐,这一幕在星巴克简直司空见惯。

在舒尔茨时代,星巴克的领导风格很注重直觉和本能。但是约翰逊有技术背景,布鲁尔曾学过化学,他们更注重分析数字。布鲁尔分析了订单数据后发现,门店员工有40%的工作时间花在了与顾客无关的任务上——比如每天要数三次还剩下多少罐装牛奶,或者是补充用掉的咖啡纸杯,并且把它们撂得高高的。星巴克美国零售业务负责人莎恩·威廉姆斯戏称他们这是在盖“比萨斜塔”。

布鲁尔和她的团队采取了一些方法消除、简化或者用自动化手段替代这些任务,好让员工将更多时间花在顾客身上。如果有的门店的网上订单很多,就会有一名咖啡师专门负责制作这些订单的咖啡。清洁工作也从白天挪到了打烊之后。

不只是门店员工忙得手忙脚乱。布鲁尔表示,她最终将公司正在进行的项目砍掉了三分之二。她还给公司设定了三个优先目标:饮品创新、门店体验和数字业务。“我们统一了大家的共识,如果有什么东西与这三个目标不符,我们就会叫停它。”现在公司里都知道她是一个能做出艰难的决策并且贯彻到底的人。比如,星巴克在2017年大张旗鼓地推出的新鲜食品项目Mercato,曾一度进入6个市场的1500多家门店,这个项目现在已经被叫停了。布鲁尔和她的团队撰写了一份6页的白皮书,详细分析了该项目的优缺点,同时指出了公司面临的最大问题和挑战。结果很明显,Mercato业务并不符合公司的三大优先目标,于是它被毙掉了。

星巴克还削减了一些限时供应的饮品。这种饮品有的也曾火过一段时间,比如曾经红遍Instagram的独角兽星冰乐。它们虽然火爆一时,但日常销量并不足以支撑起一家咖啡企业。星巴克的研发团队将精力放在了那些可以被做成不同口味和版本的饮品上,比如氮气咖啡、绵云冷萃等等,而不是像独角兽星冰乐这种单一配方的产品。研发人员使用的原料,主要是门店里的现有产品,以免使咖啡师的工作变得过于复杂。比如说蛋白质冷萃奶昔理论上是个好东西,但是把它需要的5种原料调和在一起,流程过于复杂,难以执行。

If easy was what Brewer was looking for in her post-Walmart life, Starbucks wasn’t it. Her welcome present was flat store traffic and slowing same-store sales growth, an important industry metric. For the first 90 days Brewer did nothing but study the business. “I knew right away that this was problem mode, so I said, ‘No decisions because this thing is fragile,’ ” she says. She quickly diagnosed the issue: The company was melting down behind the coffee bar. Starbucks had seen massive growth in its mobile order and pay business, enabling customers to order via their app before arriving in the store, but the company didn’t know how to handle the resulting deluge of orders. The ensuing scene became a familiar one in Starbucks stores: Customers clamoring over one another as they waited to pick up their drinks at what Starbucks calls the “hand-off plane,” and panicked baristas trying to keep up with the onslaught of lattes and frappuccinos.

Under Schultz, Starbucks had often been a place led by intuition and instinct. But Johnson, with his background in tech, and Brewer, who trained as a chemist, turn more readily to the numbers. So Brewer looked at the research as she set her sights on imposing order on the stores. She discovered that 40% of employees’ time was spent on tasks away from the customer—counting milk jugs three times a day or unnecessarily restocking the floor to create what Rossann Williams, head of Starbucks U.S. retail, jokingly calls “the Leaning Tower of Pisa” of cups.

Brewer and her team moved to eliminate, simplify, or automate tasks so those hours could instead be spent with customers. Stores with the most mobile orders got a barista exclusively dedicated to making those drinks. Cleaning was moved from daytime to after close.

It wasn’t just store employees who had too many balls in the air. Brewer says she ended up killing two-thirds of the projects in progress at corporate. She set three priorities: beverage innovation, store experience, and the digital business. “We just lined everybody up and said if it doesn’t fit in these three lanes, we’re stopping the work,” she says. She gained a reputation for making tough decisions and sticking to them. One of those was to end Mercato, the company’s fresh-food efforts, rolled out with great fanfare in 2017 and ultimately introduced in 1,500 stores across six markets. Brewer had her team put together a six-page white paper breaking down Mercato’s pros and cons—an exercise she undertakes with all of the company’s biggest problems and opportunities. The results were clear: It doesn’t fit with the company’s priorities—kill it.

Starbucks also cut back on limited-time offers, which had produced rare one-off hits like the Instagram-famous Unicorn Frappuccino. They created buzz but not the routine purchases that drive a coffee business. The R&D team switched its efforts to products that could be made in different flavors and versions—like nitro coffee or cold foam—rather than stand-alone items like the Unicorn. Developers worked with ingredients already in the stores to make sure they didn’t overcomplicate the baristas’ work. Protein cold-brew shakes were great in theory, but putting together the more than five ingredients they required was too complex to execute.

咖啡实验:在布鲁尔的领导下,星巴克的咖啡实验室将精力放在了那些可以被做成不同口味和不同配方的产品上,而不是像彩虹色的独角兽星冰乐那种只能火爆一时的产品。图片来源:Courtesy of Starbucks

影响门店客流量增长的最大因素,是每天下午的业务。布鲁尔再次向数据寻求答案。她发现,星巴克的销量增长,基本上全部来自于它的“星巴克星享俱乐部”会员计划。该项目的1720万名参与者都是星巴克的忠实客户,这些客户对公司来说极为宝贵,虽然只有四分之一的星享客户每月都会来店消费,但他们贡献的销量却达到了40%。还有一些顾客虽然不是星享俱乐部的会员,但他们平均每月在星巴克消费1到5次,占据了午后客流的相当一部分比例。下午2点以后来店消费的人群更喜欢冷饮。目前冷饮的销量已经占到了星巴克饮品总销量的50%左右。

为了解决下午客流量的问题,该团队在各个层面都采取了一些措施。研发团队集中精力开发冷饮,一些比较有经验的咖啡师也从上午上班调整为下午上班。最重要的是,数字团队正在想方设法将下午来店消费的顾客变成星享会员。比如他们会要求Wi-Fi用户提供电子邮件地址,然后针对他们开展推广,以吸引他们加入星享俱乐部。上一季度,星巴克下午2点以后的客流量出现了三年来的首次上涨,星巴克也实现了最高的同期销量增长率。

布鲁尔虽然是一个数据狂人,但她也十分注重人际接触。她花了很多时间走访星巴克的各个门店。在那里,她不光会数汽车窗口的订单数量,或者咖啡师做了多少食品,还会看看那些认出她的员工会不会直视她的眼睛。“如果他们低头看自己的脚,就说明他们并不为这家店感到骄傲。99%的情况下,我的判断都是对的。”

One of the biggest drags on the company’s store traffic was its afternoon business, and Brewer again turned to the data to understand why. Starbucks had been getting all of its sales growth from customers in its membership program, Starbucks Rewards. The 17.2 million loyalists who are now part of the program are extremely valuable to the company, accounting for more than 40% of sales but only about a quarter of the customers who come into the store every month. Occasional visitors, who frequent a store on average one to five times per month, made up a disproportionate amount of the afternoon traffic. The post-2 p.m. crowd and these occasional customers also prefer cold drinks, which now comprise about 50% of beverage sales.

The team attacked the afternoon problem at all levels: R&D lasered in on cold beverages; more experienced baristas, who normally work in the morning, were redeployed to the afternoon. And perhaps most significantly, the digital crew focused on converting midday customers into rewards members, asking Wi-Fi users for their email addresses and then targeting them with promotions to entice them to sign up for the program. Last quarter, business after 2 p.m. grew for the first time in three years, and the company reported its best sales growth over the same period.

Brewer may be a data fiend, but she’s also a high-touch executive; she spends a good chunk of her time visiting various stores. She’s not just counting orders or how many food items baristas move. What she wants to see is whether employees who recognize her will look her in the eye. “If they look down at their feet, they’re not proud about the store,” Brewer says. “Ninety-nine percent of the time I’m right about that.”

****

2018年4月,两名黑人男子在费城的一家星巴克里被捕。当时他们并没有买东西,只是在等一个朋友,因此不愿意从店里离开,结果经理打电话报了警。围观群众将事发经过以及两人被捕的画面放在了网络上,结果在全美范围内引起了一场对种族歧视的声讨,一些人甚至呼吁抵制星巴克。

这起事件被星巴克委婉地称为“费城事件”,它给布鲁尔也造成了不小的打击。布鲁尔的儿子年龄与被警察带走的两名黑人男子相仿。作为一个黑人男孩的母亲,布鲁尔也感到了一种“母性的恐惧”。她在参加母校斯佩尔曼学院2018年毕业典礼时解释道:“我一直在疯狂地努力奋斗,疯狂地捍卫这家我深深喜爱的公司,而为了捍卫它,我必须直面我深爱的黑人社会。”布鲁尔和约翰逊亲自飞到费城向这两名男子道歉。后来星巴克还向公司的17.5万余名员工开展了反种族歧视培训,在这个过程中,她也发挥了重要作用。

In April 2018, two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks. They hadn’t made a purchase while they waited for a friend to arrive, and the manager called the police when they declined to leave the store. The video that onlookers posted on social media of the exchange and ensuing arrest set off a national firestorm about racial profiling, with some calling for a Starbucks boycott.

The “Philadelphia incident,” as it’s delicately called around Starbucks, hit Brewer hard. Her son is about the same age as the two men who were removed from the store, and it evoked in her what she describes as the “motherly fear” she’s always had raising an African-American male. “I was mad to have fought so hard for so long, mad to have to defend my company that I deeply admire, and I had to defend it to the African-American community that I profoundly love,” she explained while delivering the 2018 commencement address at Spelman College, her alma mater. Brewer and Johnson flew to Philadelphia to apologize to the two men in person, and she became instrumental in putting together racial bias training for 175,000 of the company’s employees.

时代征兆:两名黑人男子进入费城的一家星巴克后,门店经理报打电话报警,两名黑人男子被警察带走。事发后,有人上街举牌呼吁抵制星巴克。星巴克也很快开展了反种族歧视培训。图片来源:Bastiaan Slabbers—Nurphoto/Getty Images

布鲁尔并不避讳谈论种族问题,特别是女性和黑人群体中,本来就很少有人在事业上能达到她的高度。不过在谈到这个问题时,有时她只是幽默地带过,有时人们也能感受到她的痛苦。比如有一次她去参加会议,列席者都是首席执行官,有一位首席执行官可能把她当成了一个市场营销员或是小商贩,总之他觉对想不到,她竟然是山姆俱乐部的首席执行官。当看到她登台讲话时,那位首席执行官的表情简直可以用呆若木鸡来形容。想起这件事,布鲁尔忍不住笑了起来。而在佩尔曼学院的毕业典礼上,回忆起有一次她接受CNN采访谈到了企业的人才多元化问题,之后很多人要求她辞职,甚至对她和她的家人发出死亡威胁,不禁潸然泪下。

作为一个在底特律长大的孩子,布鲁尔从未想象过自己会走这条路。在她小时生活的社区里,黑人医生或律师就算是黑人里的高端职业人士了,她曾以为自己未来也会走类似的路。当时她的父母都在通用汽车工作,他们连高中都没有上过,但却坚持让5个孩子都读了大学。有一段时间,布鲁尔的父亲要同时打三份工,才能供所有的孩子完成学业。“我知道自己不能失败。”她说。

Brewer does not shy away from talking about race, and especially about being one of the few double minorities—both black and female—to reach her level in business. Sometimes she does it with humor and sometimes with pain. She laughs recalling the look of dawning recognition on the face of the executive who had pinned her as a marketer or merchandiser—anything but the CEO of Sam’s Club—when she stood to give the keynote at a CEO confab. She choked up during the Spelman commencement, recalling the demands for her resignation and the death threats she and her family received when she talked about the business case for corporate diversity during a CNN interview.

As a kid growing up in Detroit, Brewer never imagined this path for herself. The black professionals in her neighborhood were doctors and lawyers, and she thought she had a similar future. Her parents, both of whom worked for General Motors and had not graduated from high school, insisted that all five kids go to college. At one point, Brewer’s father was working three jobs to put all the kids through school. “I just knew I couldn’t fail,” she says.

费城事件后,星巴克很快开展了反种族歧视培训。图片来源:Joe Raedle—Getty Images

从斯佩尔曼学院毕业10天后,布鲁尔开始在金百利克拉克公司当化学实验员。这是一项很孤独的工作。布鲁尔自诩是个“健谈”的人,但是“那里并不是一切开始的地方,我甚至连个说话的人都没有。”后来,布鲁尔被一支做收并购的尽职调查团队挖过去搞专利评估,从而转向了商业领域。一开始,她负责的是一项价值1亿美元的肥皂业务。15年后,她已经成了一家全球性企业的总裁,公司所有的生产都归她管。不过,当沃尔玛打来电话挖人时,她还是决定跳槽过去,她不愿意在一家公司耗费自己的一生。

布鲁尔是山姆俱乐部的第一位黑人和女性首席执行官,是第一位在星巴克获得如此之高的职务的黑人女性……她已经打破了不少纪录,对此,她感到的更多是骄傲,但这种名声反过来也限制了她。“它让我感觉我好像不能犯罪似的,我也经常不能随心所欲地放松。”

在“费城事件”后,布鲁尔一直在思考成功的概念,以及怎样通过运营使公司蒸蒸日上。她表示:“我们很忙,我们正处于转型的过程中。但我们所能做的最重要的事,就是面对现实。同时我们要说,我们不仅要解决门店里面发生的事,还必须解决门店外面发生的事,因为它会从外面走到里面。你不可能把这两件事分开。”

今年早些时候,布鲁尔向星巴克的美国零售业务负责人威廉姆斯提了一个问题,如果星巴克想创造行业内最好的工作,那么,那份工作干起来应该是什么样的?对这种问题,答案肯定是“我们永远在路上”之类的。不过有此一问之后,星巴克确实在今年9月推出了一系列员工福利,比如提高员工的心理健康福利。威廉姆斯表示:“目前的情况是,如果你未来真想蓬勃发展,而不是勉强生存下去,我们就必须找到一种方法,让门店里的工作变得更有意义。”这并非只是一种“精神胜利法”。更快乐的员工,的确会让顾客变得更快乐,从而带来更高的销量。

“费城事件”也让星巴克开始反思,一家星巴克咖啡店究竟代表了什么。布鲁尔指出,像咖啡厅这种零售场所,本质上已经与图书馆这种公共空间没有什么区别了,它也必须满足员工和当地社会的需要。因此,在有些地方,经理们在洗手间里放一个针盒,用来处理吸毒者用过的注射器,也是十分必要的,只要他们觉得这样做可以提高安全性。布鲁尔还表示,有些咖啡师能调制出完美的馥苪白或者手冲咖啡,不过她希望这些咖啡师还能接受其他方面的培训,比如学习如何应对一些最困难的社交场合,从而使大家增强对星巴克的归属感。

这一切貌似与咖啡无关,却又有关。对布鲁尔来说,这可能也是星巴克目前还有的最大的一个机会了。

 

本文原载于《财富》杂志2019年10月刊。

 

译者:朴成奎

Ten days after graduating from Spelman, Brewer started as a bench chemist at Kimberly-Clark. It was lonely work. “It was not where things were happening, not even a conversation,” says Brewer, who describes herself as “a talker.” After being brought on by the M&A due-diligence team to assess patents, Brewer switched over to the business side, at first running a $100 million soap operation. Fifteen years later all of manufacturing fell under her purview as a global president. When Walmart came calling, she decided to make the move; she couldn’t bear the thought of working at one company her entire life.

The barrier-breaking headlines that Brewer would go on to garner—the first woman and first African-American CEO of Sam’s Club, the first woman and first African-American to hold such a senior position at Starbucks—make her proud more than annoy her, but they also confine her. “It makes me feel like I can’t screw up,” she says. “I can’t always let my hair down the way I want to.”

In the wake of the Philadelphia incident, it’s clear that the idea of success—and what it means to run a thriving company—has been on Brewer’s mind. “We were busy. We were in the middle of a turnaround,” she says. “But probably the most important thing we can do is face the reality and say, ‘Not only are we going to fix what happens in the store, we’ve got to fix what’s happening outside the doors because it’s coming inside.’ You can’t separate those two things.”

Earlier this year, she posed a challenge to Williams, head of U.S. retail: If the company were to create the best jobs in the industry, what would that look like? The answer will always be a work in progress, but that query led Starbucks to announce a new round of employee perks in September, including enhanced mental-health benefits. “We’re really in this mode of, if we’re going to thrive in the future, not just survive, we’ve got to figure out a way to make the jobs in our stores so meaningful,” says Williams. “It’s really that personal to her.” It’s not just a feel-good philosophy. Happier employees lead to happier customers and higher sales.

What happened in Philadelphia has also led the company to double down on what it means to be a Starbucks. The reality of retail right now, Brewer says, is that stores are essentially a public space like libraries and must serve the needs of their employees and community. In some locations, that’s even meant letting managers install needle boxes to dispose of drug users’ syringes in restrooms if they think it will increase safety. Brewer wants baristas to make the perfect flat white or pour-over. But she also wants them trained in how to deal with the hardest social situations they could possibly encounter so everyone feels like they belong in a Starbucks.

It has nothing and everything to do with a cup of coffee. And to Brewer, it’s perhaps the single biggest opportunity the company still has. 

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Fortune.

 

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