Jeff's Reviews > Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul

Onward by Howard Schultz
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May 20, 12

bookshelves: leadership
Read from March 12 to May 19, 2012

What a wonderful book for those that run businesses. Obviously, we all can't run the billion+ dollar bohemoth that is Starbucks Coffee Company, but all sorts of nuggets can be gleaned from the book.

Schultz' primary theme of transformation is well articulated. It seems somewhat strange to mention the theme of a non-fiction piece, but Schultz sets it early and reiterates it again and again. I had heard that times had gotten a little tough for Starbucks, but I wasn't aware of the breadth of the problem; Schultz lays it out plainly. The company's ideas and visions for its transformation were clear and I would encourage all to applaud their dedication to making them happen. Each and every chapter circles back to the theme of transformation. Other themes included leadership, business growth, business ethics, and stewardship.

In 2006, Starbucks had been dabbling in movies, music, etc. The company focused - as Schultz depicts it - almost exclusively on break-neck growth. The company, quite simply, lost its way. It forgot that it was, first and foremost, a coffee company. Enter massive competition from all directions - most notably The Golden Arches - as well as an economic meltdown and the situation became serious in a hurry. Through it all, Starbucks re-organized its leadership team, infusing the team with new people and ideas, and plotted a common course for all (Schultz' "transformation agenda"). Even though the beginning of the transition did not yield results quickly, the team stuck to it. Next thing you know, it all turned around and Starbucks had re-positioned itself as the coffee authority with new products like VIA, Pike Place Roast...the company added a number of new ideas into the coffee industry - Clover, the Mastrena. And, I must say that it was refreshing to see Starbucks not waver from a number of core values. Regardless of how "bad" it had gotten for the company, Starbucks never took away health insurance from its employees. Even though Starbucks made 401k matching discretionary, it never missed a 401k match. Businesses should have a conscience; Starbucks' transformation shows that such a conscience can turn a profit.

Passion...why do we do what we do? Howard Schultz knows; he loves coffee and wants to share the love with everyone. Schultz leads Starbucks to forge a connection with its customers and dubs it "the Starbucks experience". It lead me to think of what type of connection my company makes with its customers. Is there a JH Consulting, LLC experience? I think so and Schultz made me want to work a little harder to establish that connection.

Each time I picked this book up, I got an idea for my own company...so many that I can't put them all into words. Those above are just the major ones. This book, in some ways, re-ignited my own passion as an entrepreneur. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and for me, it came from a cup of coffee.
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03/15/2012 page 33
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Dave (new)

Dave Brown Sounds like an interesting read. Good review!


Jeff It was a very well written, interesting overview of that period in Starbucks' history. Given your affinity for coffee, I think you would enjoy Schultz' obvious passion for all things coffee that permeates each chapter!


message 3: by Dave (new)

Dave Brown Ooh...does it have scented pages?


Jeff Hahaha. Perhaps "permeate" was not quite the right word!


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