I’ve had some difficulty these past two months with blog writing. It feels like I have exhausted anything I would say that is worth saying. As if I could write more, but it would be primarily re-stating what I’ve written numerous times. That sense changed this week after several people mentioned to me that they enjoyed reading this blog, and after I heard another friend describe how she and her step-father were care-taking her mother.
Howard Shultz is a name you probably don’t know, but I bet you have tried his coffee. Howard purchased Starbucks in the 1970′s when there were just a few stores in Seattle. Now there are almost 8,000 Starbucks houses world-wide. He published his second book in which he describes the turn-around that took place during the economic downturn in 2008-2009.
By the time the Starbucks stock price fell to the pits in 2008, Howard had already planned how he would resurrect his company. He had resigned as ceo 12 years earlier, and was about to come back in as the ceo. The Starbucks company then began a transformation that would take them back to the economic prominence they enjoyed in the early 2000′s.
What is striking to me about this story is that the company founder, who had stepped away, came back and lead a successful turnaround. Usually, those scenarios don’t turn out very well. But with some savvy moves, a love for his company and a lot of luck, Shultz was able to pull it off.
In his book, Shultz describes the deep- seated problems that were plaguing Starbucks. The one that bothered him the most was that there was no longer a heavy scent of coffee beans in his stores. The smell of melted cheese from the Starbucks breakfast sandwiches was masking all other odors. This situation grieved him because creating a coffee-house atmosphere where people could drink unusually good coffee, and enjoy one anothers company was what motivated him to get into the coffee business in the first place.
Howard does a nice job describing his trip to Milan, Italy when he was a young man. On almost every street corner there was a warm coffee house filled with the beautiful aroma of coffee beans, the sounds of people visiting, and a barista crafting expressos just the way he knew his particular customers liked. Shultz wanted to create that kind of community in this Starbucks stores, and by 2008 that was gone.
Shultz committed his company to making the highest-quality coffee, to taking care of the environment and poorer coffee farmers, and to providing excellent healthcare for all Starbucks employees. When he sought to remake his company in 2008, he stuck with these commitments.
It was fun reading about Starbucks because I like coffee (though I can’t handle caffeine and have to make do with decaf). But as I read I saw some things about Shultz and Starbucks that paralleled my experience at Texas Hospice. I began asking myself what we are doing that we need to do better.
Like Shultz, I love my company and believe in the mission. I am the founder/owner, and no-one else is more dedicated than I. Unlike coffee houses, hospice care is highly regulated and our day-to-day activities must follow specific requirements. For example, each patient must receive nursing, chaplain and social services care. We must provide physician visits and a certified nurse aid. All of these visits must follow a prescribed frequency, and so on.
But there are areas of hospice care that we have control of where some subtle changes can make a big difference. For example, why does each hospice patient get the same hospice bed? Wouldn’t a patient with cancer need a bed with different functions than one used by a patient with dementia? Or, why do our emphysema patients use the same oxygen tanks as non-hospice patients? Emphysema patients who are on hospice have smaller muscle reserves and would benefit from a lighter tank.
So we are in the middle of a head-to-toe look at what we are doing and how we can improve. This venture may take us into areas where no other hospice agency is moving. I sure hope it does, as long as those decisions improve the lives of our patients. We may even end up re-writing our purpose statements.
What we won’t do is change our mission, that is to be used by God to improve the lives of people. I like our mission statement because it brings in our dependence on the Creator, on his grace, his love and his power. We will continue to interrupt meetings for prayer when our patients are facing particularly difficult circumstances. We will continue to propose prayer to our patients and their families. And, we will always respect each patient and staff member as bearers of the image of God.