"I was trying to avoid corporate life, and all of a sudden I was back in it again," Howard Behar told a nearly full Austin Auditorium at Oregon State University's LaSells Stewart Center on Wednesday night. That was how Behar described joining Starbucks in 1989, when he accepted a job as vice president of sales and operations.

The decision paid off.

Behar became president of Starbucks International in 1995 and, before he retired in 2003, he'd helped Starbucks grow from 28 stores to more than 17,000 around the world.

Behar, 67, relayed lessons from his experiences at Starbucks and other companies to Wednesday's audience, focusing his talk on why it's important for both individuals and companies to find their sense of self and own set of values.

Behar's talk is part of the College of Business's Dean's Distinguished Lecture series and included an introduction by OSU alum Bob Mayes and an on-stage interview by College of Business professor David Baldridge. Before his talk, Behar also spent time at OSU with undergraduate and master's students and toured the Austin Entrepreneurship Program space in Weatherford Hall.

Behar discussed how his success with Starbucks, and the success of all companies, lies in having defined values, or "wearing one hat": staying true to oneself in good times and in bad. The lesson is also found in the first chapter of his book, "It's Not about the Coffee."

"We have to spend the time and do the work to figure out who you are to have a good life - and many of us don't do that work," Behar said.

Behar took that concept with him to Starbucks. There, he was part of the management team of the company (which then only had about 200 stores) who established the company's own set of values: be one of the most well-known and respected organizations, and be known for nurturing and inspiring the human spirit. Behar noted that the statements "didn't say anything about being big and didn't say anything about being profitable."

"Those two statements put together have been the glue that's held us together in times of strife and trouble," Behar said. "We're not in the coffee business serving people; we're in the people business serving coffee."

Contact Gazette-Times reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or gail.cole@gazettetimes.com

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