Starbucks and Willow

Ok so I know that the “What we can learn from Starbucks” post are getting very tired.  I have found all of them to be very insightful and even posted a few of my own that I am sure you ignored.  But, as I was reading Scott Hodge’s blog this morning and the list of Starbucks that are closing, combined with the trip I made myself to Starbucks this morning, I had a thought.

In the business world, companies are always course correcting to stay with or ahead of the changes in culture, economic conditions and other factors.  Starbucks is going through that right now.  They have gone through a period where profits are down and business is slowing.  Starbucks’ business plan has always been a little strange to some people.  Starbucks has never been afraid to drop a new store down the street from an exsiting store because it creates hype and excitement in the neighborhood and in turn has pushed the existing store to perform better over the long run.  Now the climate is changing and this strategy that has proved so successful (and it has been successful) for Starbucks over the years is now actually hurting them financially.  What do they do?  Do they stand firm, asserting that this is the only way to serve coffee?  Do they complain that new companies that seem to be out-performing them are wrong?  Starbucks course-corrects.  They examine the culture, the economy and they take the necessary steps to adjust the plan so that they can continue to fulfill their corporate mission.  The mission to “Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles as we grow.”  The mission stays the same, the strategy changes.

Shift gears…People all over the world and even in my office have blasted Willow Creek, that “Why would anyone listen to them now, they only proved they don’t know what their talking about.”  One cannot debate that Starbucks has been wildly successful.  Their plan worked…until the landscape changed.  They have to respond and they have.  Willow Creek Community Church has been wildly successful.  God has used their ministry to bring thousands to Christ over the years.  Now the landscaped has changed and they are course-correcting.

Do we say that Starbucks doesn’t know anything about the coffee business, because they have lost some money in the process of a climate change?  No (well, some do, but we don’t listen to them).  Should we destroy Willow because in the midst of a very bold self-assessment that, by the way, no one asked them to do, they chose to do raise the bar on their ministry, they have made a course adjustment?  We shouldn’t.  The fact is, most of us in ministry aren’t bold enough to even ask the questions, because we are too afraid of the answers we would get.  I applaud Starbucks and Willow for the boldness of their choices.  Most of us are sitting on dying ministries too instead of boldly adjusting course to fulfill the mission of Christ.

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