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It's Not about the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks
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It's Not about the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,260 ratings  ·  143 reviews
“At Starbucks, the coffee has to be excellent, from the sourcing and growing to the roasting and brewing. The vision has to be inspiring and meaningful. Our finances have to be in order. But without people, we have nothing. With people, we have something even bigger than coffee.”

During his many years as a senior executive at Starbucks, Howard Behar helped establish the S
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Portfolio (first published January 1st 2005)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  1,260 ratings  ·  143 reviews

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Kevin Buckley
May 22, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trevecca
This may be the worst book I have ever read. I felt like I read a 160 page advertisement for Starbucks. Every chapter is the same "Starbucks is successful because I found a way to put people first." You will read about countless example of how the author put people first and learned a life lesson. He is definitely a fan of tooting his own horn.
Nick Richtsmeier
Jan 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
It's unfair to call this book truly terrible. But sometimes life is unfair. Howard Behar's exploration into what makes him such a lovable huggy bear of a COO is not only a long and dull trope of quotes and self-important anecdotes, it is a one more corporate megalomaniacs attempt to make his career expanding efforts sound like the work of Mother Teresa.
Apparently (by his own description) Behar is known far and wide for the wall of framed quotes (by the dozens) that make up his office walls. He
May 29, 2009 rated it liked it
This is an important book to read. But the basic message was simple:

- Know your values and stick to them.
- Be honest
- Be open and communicate what you want
- Allow people to choose their own path
- Treat your peeps as humans.

Not rocket science, but an important message. Probably good to read the book to reinforce the message, though it may be somewhat obvious.
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This comes across as more of a motivational book than a business book. The learnings proposed are just too basic and revolve around being a servant leader. I've read a few other books on Starbucks, and the other books had quite a bit of detail on the issues that Starbucks faced. This is more along the lines of a paragraph or two on how the author dealt with something at Starbucks (or the furniture company he worked at before Starbucks), or how Starbucks made mistakes along the way, or, oddly, ho ...more
Mar 09, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: swn, business
There is not a single original thought in this book. The lessons boil down to this: (1) be true to yourself, (2) love what you do, (3) listen to people, and (4) don't lie even when things get bad. Maybe I've read too many business books, but there's no need to read this one if you've read anything else. He basically outlines other great business writers (like Jim Collins), and even the language is extremely simple--this is business lite.

The only redeemable parts of this book were when he was
May 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
By page 7, I've realized why I like Starbucks' atmosphere but not always its principles or its coffee. The Margaret Mead quote, the blending of Eastern mythical business speak with watered-down nods to Western Christianity, and the lack of consistency are already irritating. "We need to get rid of rules -real or imagined - and encourage the independent thinking of others and ourselves." If that were true, nobody would use a timer on the coffee, Howard. "Are you letting truth be your guide" is a ...more
Emily Dy
Mar 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily by: Starbucks Philippines
How about a business book that says..

"Do it because it's right,
not because it's right for your resume."

A former company President whose formula for the worker-workplace-success relationship is:

"When someone brings their passion to work,
and it is aligned with the wrk of the organization,
success is the natural outcome."

and whose advice to leaders simply is:

"Wear one hat."

The hat referring to a personality, a center, a
May 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-books
I'll admit it right up front, I'm not a big fan of Starbucks coffee. It always tastes bitter and a little burned to me. However, I seem to be on a business book kick and this book intrigued me. I think I read it over the course of 4 days and I kept saying, "Yes, THAT'S exactly what I think!" (My husband thought I was crazy and eventually stopped asking me "What?")

It's a tough job being a thoughtful, good leader. Without actually talking to his employees, it seems that Behar is that s
Mar 11, 2015 rated it liked it
I really struggle with leadership and business books. Too often, they are basic and superficial. This is better than most, but it still lacks a piece of truth. A CEO talking about "the business" is a bit like the President talking about the Country. You can tell they are missing the reality of the business, and they live in the theory of the business.
Dylan Austin
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are a Starbucks Partner, this book will speak volumes to you. Especially if you are in or are seeking a leadership position. Many reviews say it is vague, but I think that unless you understand or a part of the Starbucks culture, you won't get it as truly as we do. I am currently being promoted to assistant manager and this book opened my eyes to many new ideas.
Richard Angelus
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Howard Behar starts with the idea that if you regard employees and customers as human beings, everything else will take care of itself. "We're all human." If you think of your staff as people (not labor costs) they will achieve results beyond what is thought possible. And if you think of your customers as people you serve (not sources of revenue) you'll make a deep connection with them, and they'll come back over and over.

He often repeats this mantra: "We are in the people business serving coff
Jennifer Whitaker
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book!! Howard Behar talks about a level of humanity and kindness in our business and in our lives that we should all strive for. He encourages us to put PEOPLE first, not profits. In such an ever-increasingly self-centered and capitalistic society, I found this book to be incredibly refreshing and inspiring. I won't hesitate to recommend it to others - and I will most definitely read it again!
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This short memoir is focused on one thing: When it comes to running an organization, it's about the people. Whether we sell coffee or any other service or product, our priority should be the people we serve and those we serve with. Behar restates this philosophy a hundred different ways, which can be either affirming or redundant for the reader. For me, I appreciated hearing from a business leader that advocates for people over product, especially in today's world.
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this because Robert Gates, author of A Passion For Leadership, sits on the Board of Starbucks due to his admiration of their people-first business and leadership practices. I learned a lot from Howard Behar, so much good stuff in a fairly short book.
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great little book about what makes Starbucks, well, Starbucks. Onward by Howard Schultz is one my all time favourite business books and I was keen to see how this book stacked up against that. I must say, it did give plenty of food for thought.
Lisa Long
Dec 09, 2018 rated it liked it
A few good leadership principles and applications but this book could have been a magazine article with subheadings. Just because Behar is a top Starbucks executive doesn't mean he should write a book. By that I mean that Behar is a Starbucks executive not a writer.
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We were assigned this book to read at work. I am going to recommend it to everyone in my organization. There is a lot of wisdom on these pages, many of which I highlighted to refer to again in the future.
Soha Eldeeb
Dec 05, 2018 rated it did not like it

It's an easy read mainly because there is no substance in it.

It's more of a promotion for Starbucks than a decent book. To me, it lacked actual original thoughts and takeaways.

The book had many typos which was ironic considering how it's about the people.
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite leadership books. The principles Howard touches on throughout the book are easy to remember and implement. As a young leader/manager it was a great read to help me understand how to encourage and manage my team
Jun 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Average book with a few exceptional points. The best part was in the opening. Paraphrasing: "If you want to build a great company, invest in making people great." That is a good, and powerful, concept. But he basically repeats that mantra in different ways for about 180 pages.
Oct 12, 2019 rated it liked it
It's a cute work. I had liked to read this book, because it's written simply and inspiry.
Ahmad Badghaish
Sep 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I didn’t like it that much.
Jess Coulston
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
This author has great ideas about leadership but the book is definitely boring.
Matthew Benjamin
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Expected to read about the history of Starbucks, not philosophy.
Sharon Cromartie
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Verbose and redundant.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
in between self-help book and Starbucks history. Still very nice and relaxing
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Got this audiobook for my drive up north on vacation. I tried a couple fiction audiobooks first, but they were too boring or too vulgar. I could listen to this with a bit of interest and with my toddler in the car.

Fascinating look into a corporate philosophy developed by hippies. Very positive sounding and New Age. Eastern religions referenced heavily. Quotes from major religions and famous people cherry picked to support various points. It reminded me of Junior League training. Posi
Craig Laughlin
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book about how what we do in retail isn't so much about our product but about our customers. It is the desire to serve the customer that guarantees excellence in our product.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was useful to me in that it affirmed that my instincts about leading and communication were correct. However, there was little actionable information.
Bruce Nieminski
208 pages
Book # 30 of 2017

Leadership book from the former president of Starbucks International. Lots of great nuggets that can be applied to many professional areas.
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