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

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  24,956 ratings  ·  1,026 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.
Hardcover, 350 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Rodale Books (first published February 1st 2007)
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Joanna Goodman Onward is an excellent business book. I have a business and what I learned from Onward (and Schultz) about strategy was game-changing for my company. …moreOnward is an excellent business book. I have a business and what I learned from Onward (and Schultz) about strategy was game-changing for my company. It's kind of hard to begrudge the man's success as a CEO, and frankly I found him to be quite humble in the book. He's a true visionary and whether you like Starbucks or not, this is one of the best business books out there.(less)

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Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Simon Ruddell
May 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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
I conquered this book! Woohoo! Disclaimer. There's no Starbucks in my country, so I've only visited once while traveling. I also don't drink coffee. So I read this book purely as a business book without any particular feelings towards the company itself.


1. It felt a lot like a promotional brochure for Starbucks instead of a business book. Because talking about your barista donating a kidney to a regular customer... is clearly not a fair example of the great customer service your com
sarah gilbert
Mar 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-am-in
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 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
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
Aug 31, 2013 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
Gil Bradshaw
Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
As a memoir or a biography, this was a terrible example. Actually, it reads more like a biography written by someone else. The narrative is distant from Schultz, giving you zero insight into him personally or how he personally coped with the struggles of these years bringing Starbucks back to profitability.

Onward comes off more as a biography of the company itself. Or, more accurately, as a very detailed presentation to investors and potentially investors: here's how we messed up, here's what I
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.
Lars Bos
Mar 28, 2012 rated it liked it
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, th
Arash Narchi
Oct 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
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.
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Read this for a twenty page report in business school back in 2011. Entertaining read. The author grew up poor and I admire his humility balanced by intelligence and skill. He went to Italy and brought back the layout idea for Starbucks.

Highly recommended for nonfiction lovers.
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
""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
Karen Jett
May 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 05, 2011 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 abou
Tim Jin
Dec 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Kelly Olexa
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Ha Hoang
Mar 24, 2017 rated it liked it
"At the heart of every merchant is a desire to tell a story by making sensible, emotional connections." A nice detailed record about what Starbucks did to recover from the crisis. However, the book is not as inspiring as the first volume and even a bit lengthy and self-promoted at some points.
Feb 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
OK, from the business angle this was very interesting. The boastful tone definitely detracted but it is still very enlightening.
Oct 19, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Oleksandr Golovatyi
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting story from the founder of the international and very popular Starbucks company Howard Schulz on how the company has reached its peak of popularity and development and how it fought for its survival against the backdrop of the global financial crisis in 2008. In my opinion, Howard very successfully described the company's values, which were always with the company and saved it even after major financial difficulties. The book is inspiring, it will be a good example in the library ...more
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Greg Kopstein
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
It’s hard to review a book that was written with such passion and heart. This book was written by the CEO of Starbucks who clearly loves his company and eats, sleeps, and breathes his passion. Literally.

This reminds me of Hit Refresh, written by the CEO of Microsoft, which I reviewed earlier this year. Both books were written with such passion and went so far into depth, that it lost me, the average reader. I’m no Starbucks fanatic, so this book didn’t resonate with me as much.

Did this book co
C. Spencer Reynolds
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
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! ;-)
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loooved the way it is written, with the cadence of a novel. A different way to see the trouble moments of a big brand. Although it's coordinated to give a good image of it and it's written by his ceo, you can learn a lot from the business, core and personality of the brand.

A very good and fast lecture book, it can give you some ideas of what to do or how to innovate with your own business.
Jack Sallay
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great book on the culture and growth of the company.
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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

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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.” 74 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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