Paul Durand-Ruel- Impressionism’s First Patron

Paul Durand-Ruel pic
Paul Durand-Ruel

The managing director of the New England Consulting Group, John B. Richards is an accomplished CEO and board member who specializes in providing strategic guidance pertaining to brand development and growth. John B. Richards has served in leadership roles at several corporations including Starbucks, Life Time Fitness, Elizabeth Arden- Red Door Spa, Four Seasons Hotels, and Dean & Deluca. Aside from his professional responsibilities, Mr. Richards enjoys impressionist art.

When impressionist artists began displaying their work in the mid-1870s, respected art critics received it with disdain. The innovative methods used by the group, then known as the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc., were critiqued for the way they portrayed traditional subject matter.

One gallery owner and entrepreneur, however, broke from the critics and embraced the new style that studied the effects of light and color. His name was Paul Durand-Ruel, and he dedicated the remainder of his life to supporting the artists that make up what is now known as the Impressionist Movement.

Durand-Ruel bought over 5,000 paintings and works by artists such as Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Cassatt, Manet, and Degas. Though a market for these ground-breaking works did not yet exist, Durand-Ruel recognized the potential return on his investment. As the years went by and public opinion didn’t sway, he continued to provide encouragement and financial support to the revolutionary band of artists.

In 1886, Durant-Ruel boxed up a portion of his collection of impressionist paintings and embarked on a journey to the United States. There, the paintings received extensive acclaim, resulting in the sale of the entire lot. After the success in America, European society began to recognize the beauty and innovation of the impressionist artists. Toward the end of his life, Durant-Ruel, and the impressionist artists he supported, were finally able to bask in the success of their creative endeavors.


Continued Charity with the Starbucks Foundation

Starbucks Foundation pic
Starbucks Foundation

John B Richards is currently the advisory partner and principal for the New England Consulting Group located in Westport, Connecticut. Between 1997 to 2000, John B Richards acted as the president of North American retail for Starbucks Coffee Company, increasing revenue from $400 million to $2.5 billion during his tenure. Today, Starbucks is a household name, and is known for its philanthropy and environmental activism.

In 2015, the Starbucks Foundation, dedicated to supporting global communities, donated almost $7 million to 128 nonprofit organizations. The goal of the foundation is to give opportunities to young adults, and to involve their employees with local nonprofits and events of their choosing.

The Starbucks commitment to charity and philanthropy is clearly outlined by their goal to have 100 percent of its worldwide stores participating in community service annually by the year 2020. As of April 2017, over 60,000 Starbucks employees were dedicating their time to supporting a variety of causes, from youth programs to hunger relief.

Starbucks also has a commitment to serve veterans, with over 10,000 veterans and military spouses hired since 2013. By 2025, they have vowed to hire 25,000.

Retail in a Changing World – the Starbucks Experience

Starbucks pic

John B. Richards has engaged with various companies where he significantly contributed to their growth and success. At Starbucks Coffee Company, John B. Richards was president of retail in North America then promoted to president of North American operations. He presided over stunning sales growth from $400 million to $2.5 billion on the back of rapid store expansion, which peaked with a new store opening every 18 hours.

Sharing his Starbucks experience, Mr. Richards notes that retail has been coming under threat from technology, namely in the form of the Internet and e-commerce. Yet Starbucks retails a very traditional product, coffee, and has managed to grow and prosper. The company focuses on several service principals, including choosing locations that are both convenient and high traffic, a consideration often overlooked by entrepreneurs.

The retail beverage company also focuses on transaction efficiency and speed as time has become a more precious commodity. The Starbucks Card cut initial transaction time, as swiping it was quicker than making purchases with cash.

Lastly, the company embraced technology, focusing on leveraging the Internet to improve service and create brand loyalty. It introduced online ordering and launched a loyalty program to reward patronage. Thus, in a technology dominated world, there can still be success in retail by focusing primarily on service principles.

The Four Seasons Model of Customer Service

Four Seasons Model pic
Four Seasons Model

Drawing upon extensive experience in the retail and service industries, John B. Richards provides strategic direction that leads to business expansion. For 10 years, John B. Richards served as Executive Vice President of Four Seasons Hotels, helping build the company from eight to 42 properties during his tenure.

Part of the reason for the global success of Four Seasons is its service culture, which has four elements:

1. Who we are. Four Seasons defines itself as a leading entity in the hospitality industry that focuses on the quality of its service and locations. In doing so, the company satisfies the needs of its customers and positions itself as a leading hospitality brand.

2. What we believe. A belief that the company’s people are its most important asset is critical at Four Seasons. All employees have a sense of pride in everything they do, and they carry themselves with dignity as they work together to achieve the company’s larger aims.

3. How We Succeed. At Four Seasons, success is defined as achieving a reasonable profit while providing benefits to guests, employees, and the hotel owners.

4. How we behave. Operating on the idea of “do unto others as you have would have them do unto you,” Four Seasons treats guests, employees, and business partners with respect and a professional attitude.