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Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,837 Ratings  ·  634 Reviews

In 2008, Howard Schultz, the president and chairman of Starbucks, made the unprecedented decision to return as the CEO eight years after he stepped down from daily oversight of the company and became chairman. Concerned that Starbucks had lost its way, Schultz was determined to help it return to its core values and restore not only its financial health, but also its soul.

Kindle Edition
Published (first published February 1st 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Simon Ruddell
I enjoyed this book, but not as much as Pour Your Heart Into It. Make no mistake, I love Starbucks, both as a customer and as an investor, but this volume lacks the warmth and sheer adventure of the account of the startup of Starbucks.
The most interesting aspect of this account, for me, is that it serves as a perfect illustration of how annoying American upper managament can be. Nothing is ever good enough or fast enough for this man. Everyone has to passionately commit. Everything has to be be
Sep 17, 2011 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This was a tough book for me to read and comment on. In some respects the inside look at Starbucks decline and return to profitability is a great case study for the 21st century. For me, however the story is overshadowed by the tone and attitude of Schultz. It is evident that Schultz sees Starbucks as a religion, going so far as to opine on the analogy of local Starbucks outlets having the value of churches in their communities. To this end Schultz envisions himself as the hero of his own story, ...more
Stephen E
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I like coffee, and I like reading about how things work.

But this book has a very self-congratulatory tone. Even the parts where they admit to errors in the past seem like "I thought they were errors, but realize that they were just learning experiences on my way to awesomeness".

Schultz has definitely accomplished a lot. He built a very successful chain, handed off the control to someone else, and then made big steps to rebuild it in a tough ec
Otis Chandler
An interesting book that describes Howards return to CEO and the challenges of getting Starbucks back on track after massive scaling and the economic downturn of 2008 left it in a vulnerable position.

Howard comes across as someone that loves Starbucks - the company he created. His passion for innovation and coffee and making it work are infectious, and learning a little about his leadership style was very interesting. I particularly enjoyed his descriptions of how Starbucks went astray as it ha
sarah gilbert
In attempting to paint a victorious picture of his takeover of the company and his underlying philosophy of passion and integrity, Howard Schultz has instead revealed his hyperactive and scattered management style; his penchant for distrusting his own employees and bringing in outsiders (at great cost, I’m sure) to make important decisions; his combination of self-doubt and hubris and sensitivity to criticism that keep him from ever finding that soul he insists he and his company have already cl ...more
Austin Storm
Jan 07, 2013 Austin Storm rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks
There are interesting events detailed in this book, but you have to work through the murk of endless corporate jargon to get to them. I have no doubt that this is Howard Schultz's authentic voice, but he hasn't adapted himself to the medium here. A structure he uses frequently is to print a transcript of a speech he gave - a shareholder meeting or earnings call - and then intersperse his thought process. The repetition and positivity are grueling - it's a tract for die-hard fans.

A few moments re
Aug 31, 2013 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like the following: A) Coffee B) Business C) Comebacks D) Starbucks.

Then this is the book for you.

Howard Schultz does a great job in telling the story and how it is possible for such a large organization to have soul!


After reading this book, I now notice the following when I go into a Starbucks:
- How Starbucks tries to make their store the 3rd place in person life - 1st home, 2nd work, 3rd Starbucks.

- Smell of the Store... Howard Schultz (HS) is big believer in the smell of the stor
Jul 07, 2011 Gil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Howard Schultz is very passionate about coffee. He treats it on the same level as brain surgery or the NASA space program. It's fun to read about the inner-workings of such a high profile company.

I'm an orthodox Mormon, and don't drink coffee. Schultz' descriptions of the roasts and blends are so enticing that I have almost stopped in and broken my vows several times. Not because I'm going to become a regular coffee drinker--because I want to taste their different roasts, machines, and cappuccin
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

Simply put: this is a good book if you love Starbucks, are interested in how Starbucks made such a drastic change or understand (or want to understand) the inner workings of a big business.

I drink at Starbucks (almost exclusively the Clover, which I find superior to their standard espresso), but I am none of those three things. That said, I can definitely see this being a 4-star read in a different readers hand.

Your Mileage May Vary.
Aug 15, 2012 Jay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, audiobook
""Onward" covers roughly 2005 - 2010 in the life of Starbucks, a time when the stock hits a long-term low and starts to recover, and the author returns as CEO. Schultz spends a lot of time describing his and others angst over decisions and cheerleading about passion, which are all too common in these types of books. Schultz comes across as passionate about his shops, but also quite pompous. His story about the foray into social media makes it sound like Starbucks took big risks early on, but tha ...more
Lars Bos
The problem with this book is that it is written by a person with a very biased point of view, namely, the ceo of the company. So you can only expect "good" things to come out of it. ceo's are excellent in sugarcoating and this book is no exception.

Yes, he talks about the day-to-day operations of the company, the ups & downs. yes there is a big part about company history. But everything is always placed in such a positive light that you never get to see the real side of the story. And for me
Aug 13, 2011 Kristin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. At first, I thought this book would be boring because who really wants to read about the fall and rise of a company that has taken over the world? And the fact that I try not to buy Starbucks coffee because I want to support my local, independent coffeehouses... But it actually turned out to be pretty good and has shifted my perspective on Starbucks to a more positive one. While I will still continue to support my local coffeehouses first, trips to Starbucks won't feel like I'm cheating on ...more
Robert Hobkirk
Schulz is a born salesman, so in his book he'll tell you what he wants you to hear. Although I can't prove it, I didn't have the feeling he was telling the whole truth. He likes to use euphemism to help with persuading people to buy what he's selling; for instance, a small cup is called a tall and employees are called partners. A partner in a business can't be fired by the other partners, not so much with Starbucks "partners." During the business downturn "partners" were given the ax. As heads r ...more
Jul 14, 2011 Kimberly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is the story of how Howard Schultz, once he became CEO (sorry, Howard, but I capitalize it) of Starbucks again, managed to turn around the company's finances during the recent recession by modernizing it while remaining true to its mission.

I enjoy going to Starbucks, so I was predisposed to enjoy the R&D and marketing stories of the various products (Pike Place Roast, VIA, Vivanno) that I'm familiar with. One thing this book proves is that Schultz knows and loves coffee! When he writes
Tim Jin
Dec 06, 2013 Tim Jin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although I am not a coffee drinker or bought anything from Starbucks, I was intrigued to purchase this book. The first half of the book was interesting, how the coffee shop got started and how Howard Schultz gained his power back at CEO and basically re branding the product. I couldn't helped comparing him to Apple and Steve Jobs. Both CEO's are strong opinionated and like Jobs, Schultz almost always got his way.

As I mentioned before, I am not a java drinker because of personal preferences, but
Apr 16, 2013 DC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A book about the lows and highs of a coffeehouse tycoon man who wanted to share a different kind of experience to the world - the Starbucks Experience. Tackles mostly the challenges the Starbucks HQ had to take on especially during 2008 - their high growth years, which was coupled with a crippling recession.

It's a great look into the struggles of a man dedicated to not only deliver a product but also a service. It dwells on nearly all aspects of the biz - from the product to the barista to the s
Kelly Olexa
Apr 21, 2011 Kelly Olexa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be a page-turner. Now I admit, I am biased when it comes to Starbucks, as I'm a proud addict. I loved the first book by Howard and this one, although totally different in subject matter, impressed me. I've seen some reviews saying that this book is only going to appeal to Starbucks employees. I disagree. I found it very compelling to hear how Howard carefully evaluated the diluted state of Starbucks and analyzed what had gone wrong, what was missing. I also love that this bo ...more
Jun 19, 2014 Aimen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The review in a phrase: This book is just the an overly-dramatised first world problem.
The review in depth:
I thought this book had a lot of potential at first. It had interesting conflicts, a new perspective, and centralised coffee. As I read on the conflicts were more repetitive.
"Oh no! We lost 1.4 billion dollars in profit. WAH!" is what I felt like I was reading a good amount of time. The author kind of just complained about the issue and then bragged about solving it.
The perspective was a s
C. Spencer Reynolds
Some of facts and figures gave me even more respect for the giant organization. The lessons learned and presented here are fantastic for leaders of even small businesses. I saw many opportunities to integrate the tidbits important to me and my business and look forward to the change that comes with learning! This CEO is a leader and learner in the highest sense of the word!!! I'm not even a coffee drinker and enjoyed it! ;-)
Arash Narchi
Oct 12, 2014 Arash Narchi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
It was nice reading the challenges of Howard's journey as an entrepreneur and how he had to innovate to get Starbucks back on the map, but he could've written that in 20 pages not 300. The rest of the book was very boring and I got sick of hearing how so many things were "on the line" and the company was at stake as if no other company has problems.

You could do without this one.
Mar 09, 2015 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
OK, from the business angle this was very interesting. The boastful tone definitely detracted but it is still very enlightening.
Jack Sallay
Feb 13, 2012 Jack Sallay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book on the culture and growth of the company.
Jan 06, 2014 Marisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a regular Starbucks customer, I was intrigued to pick up this book about the company's return from the brink of disaster. But my real interest lay in gaining insight into the author himself, CEO Howard Schultz, the leader who engineered both the rise of the company and it's amazing comeback.

I learned very quickly in the opening chapters that Schultz has an ego.
A big one. The book's flaw is that it is so self-serving. But once you get past all that, the book is a good read - interesting and a
Karen Jett
May 20, 2011 Karen Jett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: entrepreneurs, business people, business owners, ceo's
I have been an ardent Starbucks fan for many years. While I don’t drink coffee, I am in love with Starbucks’ Chai Latte (a black tea with spices – try it, you’ll like it!). And I find pleasure in the welcoming ambience of almost every Starbucks location. Therefore, I was dismayed in 2008 when Starbucks was floundering financially. What made it worse was that when I looked honestly at many of the reasons press gave for the decline I had to admit to myself that there was at least a kernel of truth ...more
Oct 06, 2012 Mavpion rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Onward tells the story of the CEOs return to Starbucks when he notices it is in the process of slowly self-destructing. He goes over his process of turning it around and tells why he did it, what was successful, and what failed. The book suffers from ghostwriting and feels like propaganda, but the story it tells is real and worth reading.

Let me start with my complaints before I get into why I like this book. First, this book comes across as a barely disguised piece of propaganda and really seems
Nini Villanova
Apr 11, 2011 Nini Villanova rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading Howard Schultz's description of returning to Starbucks as ceo and attempting to turn his company back around. While the book is certainly self-promotional and a promotional piece for the coffee giant, this book also provides an interesting look at life as a CEO in general, and specifically as ceo of Starbucks.

In more than one case Schultz outlines hour by hour the decisions he had to make, or the meetings he had to lead, or the news he had to reveal. What is evident in t
Brad Hopkins
Feb 27, 2012 Brad Hopkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sitting in a Starbucks. Let me be a bit more accurate. I'm sitting in a Target, with a Starbucks. The Starbucks in Target is not an official "Company Store." Because of this, certain promotions may not apply or be available at a Target Starbucks and employees at these Target Starbucks are employees of Target, not Starbucks. Regardless, I generally drink black coffee, so for me, the proximity trumps the experience of going to a company store, the closest of which is either Hagerstown or Winch ...more
David Taitelbaum
First of I should say I've never been a hardcore Starbucks person. I was interested in this book mostly because their economic woes seemed to closely follow the trends for the larger economy. The highlights of the book were the Starbuck company get-together in New Orleans when the city was still trying to recover from hurricane Katrina, and Schultz's visits to Rwanda as the company worked to expand its fair trade initiatives. I gained a lot of respect for their social responsibility.

There's a gr
Mykola Dumenko
Jan 13, 2013 Mykola Dumenko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Onward by Howard Schultz

My overall feel of this book:

I enjoyed reading this book. I bought it because I wanted to know more about Starbucks, about how to build a global brand, about how to expand and build a successful, meaningful and lasting business. Howard gives a pretty good picture of his experience after returning as CEO in 2007. This book paints a detailed story about the various difficulties that Starbucks experienced during the last financial crises, and Howard also provides details of
Mukwenda Kandole
Dec 04, 2013 Mukwenda Kandole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: onward
Mukwenda Kandole
Mrs. Shickman
British Literature
4 December 2013 Onward: Book Review
The book I read was “Onward” by Howard Schultz, who is the Chief Executive Officer and once Chairman of Starbucks. He writes the non-fictional story based on the actual events of Starbucks history, from its beginnings of determination to its prosperity period of growth, and then analyzes the tough stretch during the recession of 2008. It then documents and along the way displays principles of priceless wisdom of h
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Schultz is an author and businessman. He was born on July 19th of 1953. He is mostly known for owning Starbucks; he is also the CEO and chairman of that company.
He graduated Northern Michigan University with a bachelor's degree in Communication.
Schultz authored the book Pour Your Heart Into It How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time with Dori Jones Yang in 1997. His second book Onward Ho
More about Howard Schultz...

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“Grow with discipline. Balance intuition with rigor. Innovate around the core. Don't embrace the status quo. Find new ways to see. Never expect a silver bullet. Get your hands dirty. Listen with empathy and overcommunicate with transparency. Tell your story, refusing to let others define you. Use authentic experiences to inspire. Stick to your values, they are your foundation. Hold people accountable, but give them the tools to succeed. Make the tough choices; it's how you execute that counts. Be decisive in times of crisis. Be nimble. Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes. Be responsible for what you see, hear, and do. Believe.” 64 likes
“There are moments in our lives when we summon the courage to make choices that go against reason, against common sense and the wise counsel of people we trust. But we lean forward nonetheless because, despite all risks and rational argument, we believe that the path we are choosing is the right and best thing to do. We refuse to be bystanders, even if we do not know exactly where our actions will lead.

This is the kind of passionate conviction that sparks romances, wins battles, and drives people to pursue dreams others wouldn’t dare. Belief in ourselves and in what is right catapults us over hurdles, and our lives unfold.

“Life is a sum of all your choices,” wrote Albert Camus. Large or small, our actions forge our futures and hopefully inspire others along the way.”
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