The most important — yet often undervalued — components of any company are human resources and employee training, believes Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks Coffee Co. During a passionate keynote at the Insurance Conference Planner's Association annual meeting in November, Schultz shared insights on Starbuck's growth from a local Seattle company with 11 stores in 1987 to 6,000 stores worldwide. The success was not because of marketing, or real-estate savvy, or even the product, said Schultz. Rather, the Starbucks brand is based on a balance of profitability and benevolence. All employees, even part-timers, became stakeholders in the company in 1992. “We realized early on that to exceed the expectations of our customers, we had to exceed the expectations of our people,” said Schultz. “You have to find ways to demonstrate the conscience of your business.”

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