On Wednesday, October 15 and Thursday, October 16, College of Business students had the opportunity to pick the brain of one of Starbucks Coffee’s leading executives. David Olsen, Senior Vice President of Culture and Leadership Development within Starbucks’ Partner Resources Department, spent two days on campus visiting with business classes, student leaders and participated in a student Meet & Greet.
During visits with students in College of Business classes, Olsen, who was born and raised in Bozeman, fielded a wide variety of questions and discussed many topics. Students had the opportunity to ask about Olsen’s considerable life experience in the business world and discuss issues such as the risks and benefits of a large-scale Starbucks employee gathering in New Orleans. Olsen talked about issues Starbucks faced when stores opened abroad, and discussed ways the company maintains its corporate culture and identity in foreign countries.
After Olsen visited his class, Joseph Meyers, a senior in marketing said, “It gave me a sense of accomplishment, a revived spirit, and a true sense of the confidence that the College of Business has for its students. I had the pleasure to have a discussion with David Olsen about business ethics in my 474 class. This was a true test of my skills as an emerging business leader and a class period I will remember as a highlight of my academic career.”
Olsen, a Montana State University alumnus, has always been passionate about coffee. After graduation, he spent much of his time in San Francisco coffee bars researching the different types and quality of coffee available in the market to better prepare himself for a career in the coffee business. From there, he took his passion to Seattle in 1975, where he opened Cafe Allegro, a Seattle landmark credited with setting the standard for espresso coffee and generating the enthusiastic coffee bar trend. Cafe Allegro quickly became Starbucks’ most important espresso bar account.
In 1986, Howard Schultz, then Starbucks’ Director of Marketing and Retail Operations, took note of Cafe Allegro’s success and approached Olsen about helping develop his vision for a new Italian-style coffee bar chain called Il Giornale, as Starbucks was mainly a wholesale distributor at the time. Olsen believed this was a good opportunity and agreed to become director of operations for the chain. Il Giornale partnered with Starbucks and started selling Starbucks coffee. When Schultz acquired Starbucks in 1987 and merged the two companies, Olsen started traveling the world to purchase high quality coffee beans and helped develop new products and distribution channels for Starbucks, resulting in extraordinary growth and development for the company.
About ten years ago, Olsen created Starbucks Corporate Social Responsibility Department, which established guidelines for the company’s global business conscience. He directed the publication of a framework for action which describes Starbucks’ commitment to improve living and working conditions in coffee growing regions around the world. Olsen is now responsible for instilling Starbucks’ values and guiding principles into new executives, new Support Center partners (employees) and new international members of the Starbucks’ team. He also developed Starbucks’ partnership with CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, and has helped create many programs aimed at improving the quality of life for people in coffee growing regions. He passionately discussed this topic with many of the students during his visit.
It is through guest speakers such as David Olsen and others that the College of Business strives to bring real-world experience into the classroom setting. For more information about past guest speakers, check out our website news section: http://www.montana.edu/cob/news/articles/