In a nod to truly understanding their audience, Starbucks has opened up a new store in Washington, DC that caters to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. It’s located near Gallaudet University, an institution for deaf students, and features 24 employees who are proficient in American Sign Language.

Starbucks seeks not only to serve the deaf community but to provide employment opportunities for them. Through the use of ASL as well as technology, deaf employees are able to interact with customers and hold supervisory roles – something that Starbucks hopes will set an example for other businesses.

It’s a niche that may not work everywhere but given its location, it makes perfect sense. Is there a segment of your audience that you could serve more effectively? Maybe you could print some materials in another language to serve your ethnic neighbors. Offer more accommodating hours to meet the needs of those working third shift. Provide larger waiting rooms with child-friendly areas for those who must obtain your services with children in tow.

One size does not have to fit all. Thrive by being cognizant of what your individual customers need and then specialize your offerings to fulfill it.

Photo by Joshua Trujillo/Starbucks




I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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