Behind The Scenes With A Starbucks Coffee Canada Store Manager

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Ryerson University Bachelor of Commerce graduate Sara Lang is living the retail career dream with Starbucks Coffee Canada.

She’s the Store Manager of a unique Starbucks Reserve store in downtown Toronto, which sells special coffees and also brews them with the innovative new Clover brewing system.

Her store is known as the Britnell Books location because it was a family-owned bookstore from 1927 to 1999, and still retains much of the bookstore’s original charm, including art deco style, wooden shelves lined with classic books, and a community table made from a salvaged piece of cabinetry and marble that was the original cash-wrap for the bookstore.

“A job in retail is more than most people realize. It’s more than I thought it was when I graduated four years ago.” —Sara Lang, Store Manager, Starbucks Coffee Canada

Earlier this year, she had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica to learn where Starbucks’ coffee comes from. She met the very farmers who grow the coffee and the “partners” (that’s what Starbucks calls all of their employees) who work in the company’s Farmer Support Center.

“Without such passionate farmers, we wouldn’t be able to serve our customers,” Sara says. “The experience was truly amazing and now I have the opportunity to share what I’ve learned with my partners and peers.”

She didn’t start out as a globetrotting Store Manager, though. Just prior to graduating, Sara met the Starbucks recruitment team at a Ryerson hiring event and was hired as a part-time Barista. Within her first few months at Starbucks, she worked in a number of different stores and also helped open a new store.

“I’d thought after graduation I should find a job in marketing, but it never felt right to leave Starbucks and I was being promoted quite quickly.”

After only six weeks, Sara was promoted to Shift Supervisor, then Assistant Manager four months later and Store Manager six months after that. “The keys to my success were hard work, having great managers, and a development plan that included on-the-job and formal training,” she says. “I was given amazing learning opportunities every step of the way.”

Keep reading to learn more about how Sara went from Barista to Store Manager in under a year with Starbucks Coffee Canada!

As a graduating student, how did you feel when you first started at Starbucks?

Sara: When I started, I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed what I was doing and also how much I could actually put the skills I’d learned in school to use. I also realized that the people are great at every store and the experience is consistent. There is a real community of partners who made the work fun.

At first, in each new role, I didn’t always know exactly how to do everything, but the training always provided me with the confidence I needed. I have felt prepared for success in each role.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis as a Store Manager?

Sara: I love that, in my job, no two days are the same! One day per week is set aside for administration and that is the most concrete part of my week. Managers use this day to follow up on the previous week’s business results, review and manage our P&L (profit and loss statements), and understand our opportunities and successes.

Starbucks' Britnell Books location
Starbucks’ Britnell Books location

We make schedules for the following few weeks, check in with partners, build team goals and strategize for the week ahead. We also spend time on partner development plans with top performers and ensure inventory is accurate. I may also use this time for hiring and training new partners on my team.

Typically we start each week with a conference call, lead by our District Manager. This covers top line sales results, customer service metrics, planning for any district events and reviewing current promotions in-store. I meet with my District Manager once every few weeks and formally every month.

My store carries specialty coffees, so once a month I connect with the marketing and category team, as well as other Store Managers across Canada, to discuss objectives for our unique Reserve stores.

How does the work you do in-store impact Starbucks’ business as a whole?

Sara: Throughout the week, Store Managers follow the Action Plans we’ve built. Our day-to-day activities should be meaningful, focusing on customer and partner relationships.

I spend my time coaching, giving on-the-spot feedback, modeling desired work habits, and building rapport and trust with my partners. In turn, this creates a motivated and engaged team that provides world class customer service. By ensuring that my team delivers consistent, high-quality service, I know I am upholding our brand promise and positively impacting the business.

What’s the best part of your job?

Sara: Partner development! The best part is being able to watch a partner grow and learn new things about the job, and themselves, as they develop into a new position. It’s rewarding to see the impact that I can have on someone’s future.

I love how the atmosphere we create in my store impacts people in a positive way. Our mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit, and I truly feel like my partners and customers provide me with that inspiration every day.

Sara in Costa Rica
Sara in Costa Rica

Many students and recent grads are unsure about starting their careers in-store – why do you think it’s a great opportunity?

Sara: A job in retail is more than most people realize. It’s more than I thought it was when I graduated four years ago. It’s important to get started early, as it will help prepare you for whatever industry you choose. It will give you a deeper understanding of business, which can help you in many roles.

Sometimes people think that “retail” means shift work and a crazy schedule. As a manager, I do not work split shifts and I get two days off a week. Being a new mom, one of those days is always Sunday, which I spend with my family. I work approximately 45-50 hours a week, which would also be common in many office jobs. I control my schedule, so when I work more than 40 hours it’s my choice.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in a career in retail?

Sara: Talk to someone in the industry, observe them, ask questions and learn about the opportunity! Starbucks offers me challenges and rewards in a constantly changing work environment. The people are engaged, supportive and always want to help you grow and learn. If you work hard, you can showcase your talents at this company. That’s why it’s the right place for me!

If you are in business school, have an entrepreneurial drive and you’re thinking about what to do next, consider retail management. You will have direct impact on the business and accountability in areas such as HR, marketing, merchandising, operations, sales, finance and others.

A job at Starbucks is the beginning of something big, something better. It’s an opportunity to be more than an employee. Become a partner.

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