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If you want to grow a business quickly, the first step is to destroy it.

When Howard Schultz bought Starbucks, it was a small, local coffee chain in Seattle that didn’t even have Espresso drinks.

As soon he bought it, Schultz proceeded to destroy the business. On a trip to Milan, Italy he noticed coffee bars on practically every corner. In Italy, coffee bars were not like other drink shops, they were meeting places that were an important element of Italian culture.

Schultz introduced espresso drinks to Starbucks and tried to create an environment that would make each Starbucks a meeting place in its community, not just a place to pick up a cup of coffee. While the success that followed is well known, it came at a cost. Schultz alienated or drove out most of the original Starbucks patrons. The type of person who likes a small, local coffee shop serving drip coffee is not the type of person who goes to Starbucks today.

What Schultz and Starbucks story shows is a general business principle I’ve seen play out in many different businesses: You can usually double your customer base by just doing more of whatever you’re doing, but you can’t grow it by ten times.

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