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Smart Decisions, Expensive Mistakes

David Gardner: Are you intimidated at all by the Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) brand?

Jim Donald: Am I intimidated by the Starbucks brand?

David Gardner: Well, you come from a supermarket background and Pathmark (Nasdaq: PTMK  ) , obviously a successful company. Not that one that has the kind of ubiquity where you walk in any store across America and start talking Starbucks and people get it. Is that at all.?

Jim Donald: I wouldn't say intimidating. It is like if you were the point guard on a basketball team and you had four Top 50 Hall of Famers. You wouldn't want to mess up, and you want to make sure each one of them got the ball. So you want to assist the brand in every way you can. That is what you really set your day doing.

David Gardner: Do you think Starbucks has made any mistakes in the past, ones that you have learned from?

Jim Donald: I think that the company would say that some of the mistakes that they have made are maybe in trying different avenues of business and finding that they don't work. I know Howard (Schultz) keeps a book rack in his office with Joe Magazine. It was a magazine that they had launched and it didn't do well, and he just keeps it in there as a reminder of that not everything is going to work.

David Gardner: We have had some fun talking about that with Howard on the show in the past. Jim, let me turn now to you before we play our game Buy, Sell, or Hold to close. Let me just ask you what you think, over the course of your business career, has been your single smartest business decision? By the way, you are not allowed to say, "Coming to Starbucks."

Jim Donald: OK. So if I gave you my single smartest business decision, I won't say it was coming to Starbucks, but I will say when I got to Starbucks. You know, when you come in from the outside and you look around, a lot of people from the outside bring a lot of people with them. But I think the single smartest thing that I did was take the time to go through the talent level in my organization of all the people I was working with and find out this was really a great bunch and have given new responsibilities, added to the responsibilities and used this core group as the group that is going to take us into the future.

David Gardner: Excellent. Now we give our listeners a chance to find out if Jim Donald is self-critical. Jim, looking back over your business career, how about one business decision that maybe you wish you had back and what you learned from it if say you were teaching a class?

Jim Donald: Pomegranates.

David Gardner: Let's talk about it.

Jim Donald: There I am, the CEO of a company, and I thought I am a product specialist. So I figure I can sell, because it was the time of year, it was fall, trailerloads of pomegranates. They said, "No, don't do it, Jim." I said, no, we are going to do it. Well, after about the third week I said, can you freeze these pomegranates? Because they didn't sell. So my lesson learned was that as a CEO, you are not going to know everything there is to know about other parts of the business. And that was an expensive mistake.

Catch up on the entire interview:

David Gardner is co-founder of The Motley Fool and is the advisor of Motley Fool Rule Breakers. The Motley Fool isinvestors writing forinvestors.

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10/21/2016 4:00 PM
SBUX $53.63 Up +0.04 +0.07%
Starbucks CAPS Rating: ****