Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “It's Not about the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks” as Want to Read:
It's Not about the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,474 ratings  ·  155 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,474 ratings  ·  155 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of It's Not about the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks
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. ...more
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.
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
Mar 09, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, swn
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 tal
Evelina Bogdiun
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was ok
Book is rather boring, tips and advices are based on 1-2 sentence stories, no eaborated descriptions, e.g. “We tried once, didn’t succeed. Tried second time and we succeed. Keep trying.”
It’s a lot about bragging how perfect Starbucks is and “People are first”.
The only thing I liked - there are questions at the end of each chapter, useful to answer to yourself and come up with some ideas for your life.
Probably would be more useful if I owned a business, but in general, introduction is quite en
Thomas Mankowski
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
On the might of princes latte emo: “Our success is directly related to our clarity and honesty about who we are, who we’re not, where we want to go, and how we’re going to get there.”
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
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
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 sort of leade
Emily D
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 self. And the key to life is first finding that hat, and then finding the job
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. ...more
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.
Jun 29, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2014-15
The book that I read for book club this month is called, It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks by Howard Behar. Behar is the former President of Starbucks International and worked closely with the top tiers of the company for the majority of his time at the company. The book is part memoire and part business guide. It was a book that was handed out to the whole staff at Interfaith Outreach because he addresses the way to have a business model that pu ...more
jesse whitmore
Apr 11, 2020 rated it liked it
It’s a decent book. A quick read once I really wanted to get through it, only about 160 pages. Other reviews are pretty accurate about it being advertisement for Starbucks, it made me definitely know where I’m sending my resume if my current gig doesn’t work out. I wouldn’t say it’s for nothing though, more leading by example if anything; I do wish there were more examples for him elaborating his execution of his advice, but if he learned, developed, and executed it all in the one place he’s tal ...more
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! ...more
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. ...more
Jen K
Oct 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
Howard Behar shares his experiences as a leader at Starbucks. He seems very passionate about putting people at the forefront of business which I do appreciate. It was interesting to hear some of the stories from Starbucks. I'm not sure I have actually seen the fruits of his efforts while getting coffee but good to know that they do try. Behar's guidance is well intentioned and it's interesting to consider how to apply to my own work. I am definitely guilty of wearing too many hats without corpor ...more
Aliya Khasseneyeva
The message is quite clear: follow your heart, care for people, treat employees as partners and your company will succeed. But to be honest, the book seemed hypocritical for me. I would really love to hear what people who work at Starbucks cafe actually think about the company. The book is too "vanilla" sweet, advertising and praising Starbucks.
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.
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.
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. ...more
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. ...more
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.
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
Ella Notte
Mar 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
A great writer, but as a teen it went a little over my head, and took me a bit to get through. However, I was reading it to my grandparents, and they LOVED IT! Great leadership qualities and I loved the coffeehouse setting.
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. Positive, but va
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.
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. ...more
Jess Coulston
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
This author has great ideas about leadership but the book is definitely boring.
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Financier (Trilogy of Desire, #1)
  • The Titan (Trilogy of desire, #2)
  • Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
  • Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul
  • Пиши, сокращай
  • The Stoic (Trilogy of desire, #3)
  • Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes
  • Любов та бюджет
  • The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary
  • ВкусВилл: Как совершить революцию в ритейле, делая всё не так
  • Dieu voyage toujours incognito
  • Wild Ride: Inside Uber's Quest for World Domination
  • 45 Татуировок менеджера
  • Dancing with Elephants: Mindfulness Training For Those Living With Dementia, Chronic Illness or an Aging Brain (How to Die Smiling Book 1)
  • 45 Татуировок личности
  • To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History
  • The Glittering Hour
See similar books…
See top shelves…

Related Articles

  Luvvie Ajayi Jones—author, cultural critic, digital entrepreneur—might be best described as a professional truthteller. Her crazily popular...
51 likes · 0 comments
“Do it because it's right, not because it's right for your resume.” 6 likes
“Unfortunately, in many cases, the rule book goes way too far - it tries to tell people how to be instead of explaining what we're trying to do.. We need recipes, not rules.” 3 likes
More quotes…