Tag Archives: Starbucks

The Planning Process in a Twitter World

I’m an analog dinosaur in a digital world. In the 1970s, I participated in an organizational planning process that lasted for nearly a year, concluding in an excellent document with many dozens of pages that came to rest on the “bottom shelf” and not the “bottom line.”

Then, ours was a Father Knows Best World – driven from the top down, operating at a snail’s pace compared with today, where we live at the speed of thought – where opportunities happen within the blink of an eye. Planning is still critically important, but the process now must be “fast, hot and cheap!” Real fast.

To convert this concept of planning to a concrete “Tweet” (fewer than 140 characters), I offer the following formula/framework: Planning includes purpose, passion, perseverance and precise performance creating a personalized and positive client experience. (128 words) This planning can be completely researched in less than an hour or two. I offer the process as “framing your future” – not the pyramid (top-down hierarchical model of yesterday) but rather a square framework capturing the part of the world marketplace that you wish to define and serve.

The base (foundation) of this framework is PURPOSE. This is the “why” of your future. Simon Sinek in his video – “Start With Why” –explains this as well as it can be done. If you are serious about the process of planning, start with the first 10 minutes of his presentation. If you don’t have time to do this, quit the process now and “continue to do what you’ve always done.”

See also: Go Digital… but Don’t Change Who You Are  

The left side of the frame is about PASSION. It is about the drive needed to live your purpose. Check out Susan Boyle’s audition on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

Watch the audience as she introduces herself – the skepticism of some and the contempt of others. In my mind, they were pre-judging the age, shape and condition of the “jukebox” from the outside and not the excellence of the “sounds (music) and passion” that was inside the “box.” In about three seconds, she won her skeptics over. Passion is needed for success.

The top side of the frame is PERSEVERANCE. It is about never quitting. It’s what (I believe) drove our troops onto the beaches at Normandy. It was about prevailing against all odds or to die trying. Check out online – Nick Vujicic, the limbless preacher. After watching about five minutes of any of his presentations, tell me about your problems or why you can’t-do something. Perseverance and quitting are choices. One will sustain you; the other will “restrain” you. You choose. Your results will be dictated by the choices you make.

The right side of this “planning” model is about performance, precision, and perfecting your product and delivery. It is about standing above the mediocrity that is most markets. It is about exceeding the expectations of your clients and the markets you serve.

It is not about being perfect in everything for everybody but is about being relentless in your pursuit of perfection. It is about becoming the “choice” of those individuals and populations that you choose to serve while recognizing they have many, if not unlimited, options. It’s more than “standing out in the crowd” – it’s about your clients and prospects searching for you and the experience you provide TO THEM in a very crowded global marketplace.

Sunday morning, my wife and I stopped at Starbucks. She loves the place and its drinks – I visit to observe the culture. I drink a small decaf coffee – she chooses a grande drink defined by words I don’t understand. She’s hip – I have an artificial hip.

Although I’m not a fan of Starbucks, I am envious of the marketing genius that was their creation. In 1970, a cup of coffee cost three cents at home and 25 cents out. Coffee was a commodity if you bought it by the pound at your supermarket. If you enjoyed coffee after a meal in a fine restaurant, it could be considered a “service.”

Starbucks leapfrogged all these distribution options and made coffee an experience. Today – for its devotees – it remains what some might consider an addiction. As I sat in the Starbucks last Sunday, I watched people stand in line to order their drink du jour and occasionally a “treat” to eat, then stand in line again to await its preparation. Many would grab and go with their drink – others would then move to a small table in a crowded room alone or with their posse – trying to talk loud enough to be heard and soft enough to not be overheard. Get the picture?

See also: The Challenges of ‘Data Wrangling’  

What caught my eye were the “splash sticks” that were being inserted into the cover of the filled coffee cups. I don’t know if they are there to keep the coffee hot or to keep it in the cup. To me, it was Starbucks’ never-ending pursuit for the “perfect experience” for their customer or more correctly their “followers.” Starbucks has been successful – it is the “little things,” the endless pursuit of perfection, that will assure their future.

Does your organization live its Purpose, with Passion, Persevering regardless of the circumstances, and constantly monitoring and demanding Performance, Precision and innovating to assure Perfecting the client Experience?

Producing Data’s Motion Pictures

Reality is tough to capture. It keeps moving. But somehow we’re growing faster and better at capturing it.

Consider visual reality. In 200 years, we’ve moved from illustrations and paintings, through still photography and into motion pictures. We then created technologies to transport the motion pictures across space to the places we wanted it. We’re now looking at 4K televisions and talking to family with FaceTime or Skype on displays that have the same or greater resolution than our eyes.

Data’s reality is no different. Back in the late 1980s, I did work for a paint manufacturer, trying to monitor the real-time operating conditions in one of its paint plants. We connected some PCs to the plant’s programmable logic controllers and then asked the controllers every 30 seconds, “How are things going? What are you working on?” The controllers spit out lots of data on operating conditions. We charted, we graphed (in real time!), and the plant operators had new insights on how things were going with paint production.

We were augmenting the physical instrumentation of the plant with virtual instrumentation.

Instrumentation — Data’s Virtual Reality  

So how is your insurance company instrumented? Are things running a little hot? Do you find yourself running short on any raw materials? How full is the pipeline? When do you find that out? Is it tucked into a spreadsheet a few weeks after the end of the month? Could you make more money if you found out in five minutes instead of five weeks?

Are “modern” insurers still living on static pictures of data’s reality?

Insurance leaders are creating real-time instrumentation for their companies, allowing them to open and close everything from granular geographies to wind risk and monitor premium production compared with last week, last month, last quarter, last year, as of today or any day.

To better instrument our companies we need to think about: acquisition and transportation; accuracy; presentation timing and type; automation and cognitive capabilities; and actions and reactions. When you finish this post, I think you’ll agree with me that instrumentation should carry a high priority in insurance’s digital agenda.

See also: How Virtual Reality Reimagines Data  

Acquisition and Transportation of Data

How do we monitor the data in a flow of information in constant motion, not just the discrete sets that are static and in place? First, our goal is to NOT be another weigh station in a step-by-step process. We need to be tapped into the flow without impeding it. To do this, we set up measurement devices that allow us to peek into the flow and draw of our information, then shuttle it to where we need it. This is not unlike the earliest “vampire” network connectors, feeding on Ethernet cables as opposed to a light socket sitting within a circuit.

There are any number of tools that one can use for real-time streaming and visualization, but the key to having any of them working properly is the setup of the data acquisition. A vampire approach will allow for real-time monitoring, as opposed to relying on continual requests and responses from data sources.

Accuracy of Data

One of the challenges in looking at continuous data is that spurious results may throw off the averages, so we need to be careful about outlier events. When looking at real-time data, it is far more likely that outliers will appear.

For example, as I was driving the other day, one of the “Your speed is…” signs I passed registered 110 mph. (I’ve driven 110 mph before, but not this day.) It quickly corrected itself to 55 mph. Data “in flight” like that needs the right periodicity to make sure that it is capturing the 55s, not the spurious 110s. And data obviously needs to be trained on what to notice and what to ignore. Automated removal of outliers helps keep the data pure. Keeping a concrete set of rules regarding data’s use will be very important in allowing people to trust the data when it is presented.

Presentation Timing and Type

In 2007 and 2008, Starbucks began opening stores as an undisciplined growth strategy. Eighteen months later, many of them were shuttered in a massive restructuring. In 2011 and 2012, Starbucks was adding stores again, but this time based on GIS traffic-flow data and demographics. Real-time reporting had become a more valued part of the business structure. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz reportedly received store performance numbers as frequently as four times each day.

How often an insurer needs data and how it wishes to have information presented is a matter of need and preference, but it can clearly be tied to business strategy. For one client we worked with, they realized that continual data visualization in public locations, such as lobbies and meeting areas, helped the whole community see how important data was to the decision process. Others may wish to keep their data tucked out of sight but still available via tablet or cell phone.

Depending on the insurer and the insurer’s reactive capability, they may want feedback every day, every hour or every few minutes. Whether you choose to use dashboards, standard reports or e-mailed updates will also depend on your role and your need to know.

Automation and Cognitive Use

One of the drawbacks to data visuals of any kind is that they are subject to perspective. Trends and movements can be hard to spot over time. Anyone familiar with Excel line graphs will understand what I’m talking about.

The graph below looks fairly flat.  But it shows a 5% move from start to finish.  Identifying that size movement will be important.

Here is where automation in data’s motion pictures plays an important role. If the system can “learn” what good performance looks like, then it can also improve its ability to communicate vital information in a timely manner. I was just on a call where we discussed facial recognition in insurance. The use case was that there are teams working to identify faces and emotions on facesIf we have tools that can tell if someone is unhappy, surely we can use those tools to recognize a hidden pattern in our data. Data’s flow won’t just represent current trends, it will also identify oft-hidden patterns. What we think we know from our common snapshot approach to data may be overturned when cognitive capabilities start to bring new insights to our eyes. Once again, data’s motion pictures aren’t just for our own amusement, but they greatly enhance our strategies and decisions.

Actions and Reactions

If I run a chemical plant, I’m deeply concerned with monitoring real-time flow. Every action I take to tune that plant has a reaction. As insurers, we should also be concerned with real-time flow, capturing our understanding of reality.

But there is also a historical component to data’s adjustments. In the chemical plant, if I change the mixture of a certain compound based on my data and the new mixture works, then I need to capture that moment in time as well. It is equally important for insurers to capture the timing of their corrective actions to make sure that we can see the relationship between action and reaction.

See also: Your Data Strategies: #Same or #Goals?  

Overlaying notes to explain that “we reduced available capacity in less profitable zip codes in June” should show some point of inflection in our results. Having that as a part of our reporting is critical to creating the positive action, a reaction cycle that we want to reinforce.

We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to data, and we are only going to get richer in the coming years. By instrumenting our organizations and realizing that we need some new tools and techniques to turn that information into actions that create the right reactions in our organizations, we can improve our results every day, week and month — not just when we close the books.

Lemonade: From Local to Everywhere

In a meticulously planned operation, we filed for a license in 47 states simultaneously. We’ll be revealing the first states in which Lemonade will become available in a couple of months. One thing’s for certain, 2017 is going to be an interesting ride! Stay up to date with news about our progress here

Now that I got this off my chest, I can add some color to why we’re doing this.

Many tech startups go through the famous Local vs. Global debate as they start to plan a market penetration strategy. This dilemma was born with the arrival of modern internet commerce and became even more prevalent with the emergence of SaaS companies that provide global coverage right out of the box.

When you’re selling a digital product, going global may seem like small overhead. Reality is a bit different, though, and, more often than not, small startups that take a bigger bite than they can swallow get into trouble.

When feasible, startups should consider aiming their launch beams at a single city or even a town with population that represents their typical customer.

Here’s why:

1. Know thy users, and design for them

It always amazes me how often startups overlook usability testing during the initial design phase. Having videos of random people playing with your (barely working) mockup is priceless. We learned more in a couple of days of testing than we did in months working in our office.

The cool thing is that you only need about five testers to get value out of a session like that, so there’s really no excuse to not doing it. The smaller the area you launch in, the better the chance of getting valuable data in a user testing session.

We spent hours in WeWork and Starbucks with our early stage, smoke-and-mirrors version of the Lemonade app. We would show it to people, ask for their feedback, ask them some questions and record the entire session. We would then sit in the office and analyze the videos to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

Our early Starbucks user testing sessions allowed us to launch a relatively mature product into the market and achieve faster adoption by our New York customers.

See also: Let’s Make Lemons Out of Lemonade  

2. Budget

Product launches require spending some money. To improve the chances of success, it is recommended to fuel the organic interest generated by social noise and PR efforts with some paid channels. Got a story in TechCrunch? Bloomberg? It will probably die down quicker than you think.

A nice trick is to use content recommendation tools like Outbrain and Taboola to promote content to users who may be interested in it. Google Ads are another obvious choice. Choosing the right outlets is one thing, but there’s a huge difference in costs between a global campaign and a local one.

This becomes much more dramatic when your company requires additional resources to operate in each region like Groupon and Uber. Lemonade recently closed its third round of financing ($60 million in one year of operation) from top VCs such as Google Ventures, General Catalyst, Thrive, Sequoia, Aleph and XL Innovate. We’re going to use this money to drive our expansion throughout the country and activate specific markets the way we did in New York.

3. Surgical use of media coverage

Getting great media coverage takes a lot of attention and time. Whether you can afford an agency or not, you’ll have to choose your battles well. Launching in a specific city allows you to focus on the outlets that are most relevant and will simplify your pitch to journalists.

If you’re creating something exclusive for a certain region, reporters who cover that region usually have a hunger for tech stuff that is happening, or launching in their hometown before everywhere else. BTW, there’s a case for launching in unexpected places like Portland or Philadelphia, which usually don’t get much attention from the tech and consumer industry for new products. There’s a good chance that media reach (which expands far beyond just the place you’re starting from) will be much stronger.

We chose New York for Lemonade’s home. We see NY’ers as an ideal representation of our target demographic and personality. So we invested our efforts in a select few outlets that are read by our first wave of early adopters of the city’s financial workers and young professionals — NY Post, Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal.

4 . Brand and messaging

Building a great brand involves a lot of consumer psychology. You spend weeks trying to figure out the best tagline, the perfect ad and the right illustrator to do your art. If you get this right, you have a real chance at grabbing your customers’ attention.

The first few months of brand activation are critical. Limiting yourself to a select region or demographic allows you to be laser-focused on framing and positioning.

Lemonade Local

Building an insurance company from scratch, in New York, one of the toughest regulatory environments in the country, is a huge undertaking. The sheer complexity and investment required to get to the starting point includes raising a lot of capital and hiring the right people to be able to get licensed by the state’s Department of Financial Services.

This is the life of a company that operates in a highly regulated industry, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the tech space. For Daniel and me, the decision to start in one state was simple. There’s no other way. Insurance carriers have to choose a state. Just one. And then maybe, if you play nice, regulators will let you go for more.

We wanted to launch Lemonade in one state — NY, and even more so when we realized we had no choice 🙂

See also: Lemonade: A Whole New Paradigm  

In the last three months since our New York launch, we’ve had overwhelming demand coming in from all over the country to open up for business in more states. This was very encouraging because it showed us hints of initial demand and product market fit to people and age groups that we never thought would be our early adopters.

But what surprised us most was the excitement coming from unexpected places, such as government offices and regulators. Having a favorable regulatory environment is a great opportunity to bring an honest, affordable, transparent and fun insurance experience to everyone in the U.S.!

Be the first to know how we’re making progress with our nationwide expansion.

Here’s the list of states where we will gradually launch in the coming year or so:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

* States in bold represent the ones most requests to launch came from

This article originally appeared here, and you can find more about Lemonade here.

Power of ‘Claims Advocacy’

“Claims advocacy” is fast getting the attention of workers’ comp claims leaders as a powerful approach to better claims outcomes. The on-demand economy has created cultural and multi-generational expectations around service, speed and simplicity, and some claims leaders have already figured out how to deliver.

The workers’ compensation industry is in the throes of internal debate about mission and purpose.  Employee-centric claims models have become a large part of this debate. Some claims leaders say that payer organizations should move away from a compliance-oriented and, at times, adversarial style to an “advocacy” style of claims management.

Research, too, indicates that claims advocacy is top of mind for industry executives. The responses of 700 participants in Rising Medical Solutions’ Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking Study confirm that many claims leaders know the building blocks of advocacy and recognize its potential value. 

We recently interviewed claims leaders to better understand the practical meaning of the concept, as it applies to all claims operations, from self-administered employers to insurers handling claims for thousands of policyholders.

What Is Claims Advocacy?

We asked Noreen Olson, workers’ compensation manager with Starbucks, for a definition of advocacy.  (Starbucks employs 180,000 “partners” worldwide and has close to 12,000 outlets in the U.S.) Olson proposed this:

“In workers’ comp, advocacy is a process grounded by the values of dignity, respect and transparency that coordinates activities to assist the injured worker effectively and promote expectancy and engagement in recovery, efficiently restores (and often improves upon) health and well-being, and resolves the experience in mutual satisfaction.”

Others we spoke with endorsed this or a similar definition. They all have in mind not a checklist, nor a charm offensive, but a culture.  A claims culture that makes access to benefits simple and builds trust – and one that must be supported by executive buy-in, organizational values, technology and operating systems to be successful.

Access to benefits from the worker’s perspective includes ease of filing a claim, ease in obtaining prescribed medications, access to medical specialists and help in navigating the healthcare maze. Along the course of injury recovery, there are many opportunities that affect access and trust as perceived by the worker. The highly respected Workers’ Compensation Research Institute reports in its Predictors of Worker Outcomes Series that “trust” is a key driver of claims outcomes.

See also: How Should Workers’ Compensation Evolve?

Why Now?

Tom Stark, technical director of workers’ compensation at Nationwide Insurance, told us that advocacy has been around for a long time. He’s practiced advocacy since the 1980s Several forces converge to promote advocacy in claims today. Claims leaders are emphasizing, or perhaps “reemphasizing,” the importance of interpersonal relations. As claims handling has shifted from onsite home visits to lower contact models, the importance of emotional intelligence, soft skills and customer service skills is greater than ever to dispel uncertainty and engender trust.

Perhaps the biggest driver of customer service and transactional speed is the American retail sector. Its massive engagement in these areas has shaped everyone’s expectations – of all generations. Millennials, born in the 1980s and 1990s, in particular have grown up with this customer-focused approach and therefore bring to the claims environment high expectations for both delivering and receiving quality service. Slow, bureaucratic responses can shock injured workers. Darrell Brown, chief claims officer at Sedgwick, says, “We are now an on-demand economy. That is the way it is.”

Why Is Claims Advocacy Attractive?

Brown says that engaging the injured worker is key. Fast and helpful response to injury pays off in worker satisfaction and lower claims costs. “People file claims, but they don’t know what is going to happen. If you lose injured workers at the beginning of the claim, to anxiety and fear, they go to litigation.” Brown also says that when claims professionals engage more constructively with injured workers, their own experience is better. This leads to better morale and talent retention.

For employers, claims advocacy provides a special opportunity to directly align work injury response with their corporate brand, core values, employee communications and benefit delivery.

Walking the Walk

Albertsons Safeway, with more than a quarter million “associates” in 34 states, has crafted its claims approach to reinforce engagement and confidence for the injured workers. Director of Managed Care and Disability Denise Algire, who is also the principal researcher for the Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking Study, says that staff talks with injured employees on the day of injury. “We focus on education and reducing uncertainty,” she says.  They avoid potentially intimidating or antagonistic terms like “adjusting,” “examining” and “investigating.” They also start with the positive expectation that every employee wants to return to work. “Workers’ compensation has become adversarial because we manage the system based on the deceptive few versus the deserving many,” she says. “Our claims approach is based on the majority, not the minority.”

Brown talked to us about tangible actions. “If you can make a compensability determination in two days, even though the law gives you 14 days, imagine how much uncertainty and anxiety is removed,” he says. “The same applies to indemnity payments. The industry is often guided by regulatory requirements. If you can take action and make payments sooner, why make it later? You’ve got to walk the walk.” Starbucks, for example, direct deposits indemnity checks into employees’ accounts to increase speed.

Advocacy does not hinder organizations from being compliance-minded. Rather, it becomes one aspect of a holistic, customer-driven framework that aims higher than the bar often set by regulatory standards.

See Also: How to Win at Work Comp Claims

Barriers to Overcome

Stark sees lagging technology as getting in the way of engaging the injured worker. To him, claims tasks grew exponentially while support staff in claims offices were cut. Claims technology has often not kept up. He says, “Look at the work-arounds – count the number of sticky-notes on the adjuster’s screen. If technology is not there to support effective claims management, even in its most transactional form, you are really stressing the model. How are you going to be an advocate?”

Olson brought up two challenges that Starbucks has solved but still confront most employers. She believes that it is important to make it as easy as possible for a partner to report an injury. At Starbucks, they not only have web, mobile and call center options, they also allow partners to self-report their injuries versus going through their manager or HR.

Olson additionally stresses the importance of easily moving the partner to other benefit programs if the injury is not compensable and to avoid language like “your claim is denied.” She says that placing the award of benefits in the “right benefit bucket” needs to be done seamlessly so that the partner does not feel on the hook. In addition to the state mandated language in these instances, Starbucks includes its own letter that communicates that, while the claim isn’t eligible for workers’ comp, the partner may be eligible for other benefits to help with their injury/illness.

One barrier that Algire notes – simply “rebranding” claims adjusters as advocates is not enough. “A true cultural shift will require organizations to move beyond performance metrics that are based primarily in cost containment to those based on clinical quality, functional outcomes and patient satisfaction,” she says. This shift is critical to “walking the walk” and reinforcing the advocacy approach with claims staff.

Conclusion

The on-demand economy has created cultural and multi-generational expectations around service, speed and simplicity – giving workers’ compensation a blueprint for claims advocacy. Embracing consumer-driven models around injury recovery is emerging as a competitive advantage, both from a claims outcomes and a talent recruitment/retention perspective.

The 2016 Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking Study will be surveying claims leaders on advocacy, among other pressing topics, to better understand its current application and perceived viability.  A copy of the 2016 Study report may be ordered here.

Thought Leader in Action: At Starbucks

From the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up Department: Steve Legg took an important step on his path to becoming the director of risk management of Starbucks to avoid having what looked like a bad pun on his business card. He had earned his Associate in Risk Management designation, but that meant his name appeared as Legg-ARM. So, he says, he went on to earn his Chartered Property & Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation, because it is listed before ARM. His card now (safely) reads “Steve Legg, CPCU, ARM.”

But I’m jumping into the middle of the story, in this second in our series of Thought Leaders in Action. (The first, with Loren Nickel, director of risk management at Google, is here.)

To begin at the beginning, I’ll provide a summary of Legg’s background, then follow with the story of how he earned his prestigious position, some detail on Starbucks and how it manages risk and some insights from Legg for other risk managers.

legg
Steve Legg

His bio

Legg, who is 46 years old, has been at the Starbucks headquarters in Seattle since June 1997. His responsibilities include global corporate property and casualty insurance and risk financing for the company. Legg reports to the treasurer of Starbucks and heads a risk management team of 13 professionals, with two-thirds involved in claims management and the balance working in risk financing and risk transfer, its risk management information system (RMIS) , internal reporting and captive management. Starbucks has 22,519 stores in 66 countries, with a targeted growth rate of 1,650 net new stores during this fiscal year. Starbucks, the name inspired by Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick, has one of the most recognized logos in the world. Its mission statement, developed by its founder Howard Schultz, is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

Before joining Starbucks, Legg worked as an independent insurance broker, as well as in a claims capacity for Crawford & Co. Legg served on the board of the Washington state chapter of the Risk & Insurance Management Society (RIMS) for seven years, serving as president of the chapter during the 2005-2006 year. He has been an active participant within National RIMS and has served as a speaker to other insurance industry groups, such as the CPCU Society, the Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) and the Marine Insurance Association of Seattle. He has a degree in political economy of industrial societies from the University of California at Berkeley.

His story

Legg grew up in Kirkland, WA, on the east side of Lake Washington. Nicknamed “the little city that could,” Kirkland is the former headquarters for the Seattle Seahawks and Costco. Kirkland Signature is still Costco’s store brand.

“I grew up interested in a lot of different things, but I wouldn’t say with any degree of certainty that I knew what I wanted to do for a living,” Legg said. “I was intrigued with going somewhere else to study, so I attended UC Berkeley. I was interested in crisis management, and I just happened to be at Cal when the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake [1989] and devastating Oakland Hills firestorm [1991] hit. From those experiences, I thought I might pursue law school.

“As things turned out, my first job was back in Washington state working as a claims adjuster for the branch manager of Crawford & Co., hired by our mutual friend and industry colleague Katrina Zitnik, who was later director of workers’ comp for Costco, 2001-2013. We handled the huge Boeing workers’ comp self-insured account. There were around 100 employees in that office alone. My specialty was working with chemical-related claims, which was really fascinating, before I moved over to liability claims. By my second year there, I started to really understand what risk management was all about.”

From that experience, Legg went on to achieve his ARM designation. “It may sound corny, but I didn’t like the way it looked on my business card as Legg-ARM, so I went on to pursue my CPCU,” Legg said.

“With that formal insurance education, I went to work for a regional insurance brokerage in Kirkland where I learned a lot about insurance and other facets of risk management.” Legg said: “I came to this realization that I didn’t want to handle claims or broker insurance. I wanted to be on the buyer’s side of all this – tending to insurance and a whole lot of other things.”

In 1997, Legg was hired by his predecessor at Starbucks, which had gone public in 1992. At the time he joined Starbucks, the company had about 1,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada and just a few new locations in Japan. Legg describes his experience at that time in risk management as more of a buyer of insurance, but his job responsibilities quickly deepened and expanded with the global spread of Starbucks. He assumed the director of risk management position in 2006 when his boss and mentor retired and became active in the management of Starbucks’ Vermont captive.

The evolving company

Legg explained that the organizational structure is set up based on three key global regions: (1) the Americas; (2) EMEA, which is Europe, Middle East and Africa; and (3) CAP, which is China, Asia Pacific. “Our biggest push is in the CAP region, especially China, which presents a lot of opportunity,” he said. Although that region has a tea-drinking tradition, Legg pointed out that Starbucks owns the tea company Tazo and more recently bought Teavana and its 300-plus stores, providing a high-end, specialty tea product that has become popular at Starbucks locations. He said Starbucks’ specialty coffee and expresso beverages have also become very popular in tea-drinking cultures.

Starbucks has also expanded its offerings in premium pastries (it bought La Boulange), food and merchandise offerings, and it recently began providing beer and wine in selected areas of the country. “Evenings at Starbucks had been under-utilized,” Legg said, “so with the rollout of beer and wine we’re able to serve additional patrons.”

How Starbucks manages risk

Serving 66 countries with various laws and customs, Starbucks has a global quality assurance organization work with business units that are immersed in foreign locations. “Risk management and legal principles are practiced with our people that understand and are sensitive to local government, culture, customs and laws,” Legg said. “Starbucks wants to provide appropriate food and beverages, and we have a global safety security organization, as well, that makes sure that we are tending to the different types of risks these different and diverse cultures hold. Safety and security are fundamental components in the initial and on-going training of our partners.”

When asked about the challenge of identifying, evaluating and treating risk in far-flung global operations, Legg noted that there is a common thread regardless of demographics that relates to keeping stores well-managed, clean, secure and hazard-free. He added that a global design team works with individual markets to address issues that mitigate any unusual risk factors, which could include something as simple as adjusting counter and stool height. Store components are designed to provide for each locale’s needs while Starbucks maintains the quality and consistency that its customers expect.

As for dealing with its insurance and reinsurance markets, Legg noted that Starbucks collects a significant amount of data on all of its locations to enable its internal team and underwriters to have the geographic information they need for modeling. North American operations are mostly self-insured via large retentions and deductibles; Legg points out that first-dollar and low-deductible insurance policies are far more common, accessible and prevalent in other parts of the world. Compulsory insurance requirements differ across jurisdictions — in many parts of the world, for instance, workers’ compensation as we know it is not available, and injuries or illnesses among employees (which Starbucks calls “partners”) are addressed in different ways.

“Regardless of the transfer or retention of risk, Starbucks feels that no one could ever care as much about our partners and our brand as we do,” Legg said. He added, “We inspire and nurture our partners and customers… through providing good products, friendly service and by contributing to our communities. It’s an important part of our culture and what makes this brand so strong.”

All eligible full- and part-time Starbucks employees receive comprehensive health coverage and equity in their company, referred to as “bean stock.” In turn, employees typically volunteer more than one million hours each year in helping their local communities. Starbucks has also set up agronomy offices in different countries around the world to help origin farmers to better manage their crops and businesses. “It’s really important all up and down the chain from the front-line stores to the source of the company’s most precious commodity to have a seamless connection,” Legg said.

His suggestions

I asked Legg what coaching suggestions he has for people entering the field of risk management.

He said, “I think to be successful in risk management that it helps to have a good understanding of a number of different disciplines like accounting, finance, law, etc. Most importantly, you need to have the ability to think critically through things to make good decisions and to then have the ability to communicate well and to influence others. Knowledge without good communication skills won’t equip you for this career.

“I find myself guiding and teaching other people in the organization every day, helping them develop their own risk assessment philosophy in what they do day in and day out. We in risk management can’t be there all the time, so our job is to train others throughout the organization to make good, sound risk management decisions.

“Be open-minded and flexible. Risk management staff needs to identify and admit their mistakes, correct things and be able to change course as needed.”

Legg added with a laugh, “You think you know in detail how things are, then you find out you really don’t know how things are.”