‘You are the future of Starbucks’: Howard Schultz’ letter to leaders as he steps down

Dear Leaders: 

As I step down as interim ceo of Starbucks, I am leaving you with this letter, written on the sunset of my last day as ceo for all of you to read on the morning of this new era. This is not a letter with advice. Everything you need to know resides inside of each of you.

What I want to write to you about is the love and responsibility for our company that we all share. Today, I am entrusting you all with Starbucks – something that holds a place in my heart second only to that of my beloved family.

Starbucks truly has been my life‘s work – but more than that, it’s always been about the lives of the millions of partners over the years who have proudly worn the green apron and it’s about the hundreds of thousands more who will join Starbucks in the years to come. It’s about every customer who comes through our doors. It’s about the communities our stores call home. Our company is like a river – the stewards of it will change over time, but it’s always growing and changing, carving a new path and moving forward to something better.

As I step away, I leave you all as the stewards, in service of all of our partners. They are the heart and soul of our company – the living embodiment of human connection. Through the years, I’ve seen over and over the profound impact our partners have on our customers, from a new parent whose first outing is to a Starbucks to introduce their baby to their favorite barista, to a store where partners learned sign language to better serve a deaf customer, to a widower who said that when he goes to his Starbucks, it may be the only time all week someone greets him by name. Our partners are making a difference in millions of lives a day. Serve them well.

I want to acknowledge that there are times when the responsibility for our partners, customers and communities around the world will feel heavy. But as partners, know that you are not shouldering the responsibility alone. Lean into one another – you will find support everywhere, from the boardroom to partners in plants to store managers to the newest baristas. Our partners have been teaching me for more than 40 years. They will help you all continue to earn your green apron every day.

And, importantly, lean into the joy. There is so much joy. Every single interaction that we have as partners and that we have with customers is an opportunity for meaningful connection. It adds up to a limitless capacity for joy, love and support, with the center being Starbucks. Remember that.

As I turn Starbucks over to you now, know that you have my utmost confidence, trust and love. You all are the future of Starbucks. The world needs Starbucks – and Starbucks needs all of you.

The privilege and honor of being part of Starbucks has been the gift of my lifetime. I know it will be yours as well.