Starbucks: Onward (Review)

Sam Frentzel-Beyme Follow Managing Partner & Strategy Director

The Short of It

  • Grow with discipline.
  • Be decisive in times of crisis.
  • Be responsible for what you see, hear, and do.

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to take a small local coffee chain of 11 stores and expand it to over 17,000 stores in 55 countries, with over 11,000 in the United States, then Howard Schultz’s Onward is a must read.

Written in a smart, conversation style, Howard tracks the progress of building the company, stepping out of the company to become chairman and then re-leading the company as CEO as same store sales started going south.

The book also contains a tremendous amount of insight into the type of innovation it takes to continually reinvent and make relevant the coffee experience. From it’s Pike Place Roast to combat increased competition from Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s, to its 10 year JAWS (Just Add Water and Stir) project that lead to its successful instant coffee VIA, Starbucks shows that it continues to try and earn each customers business one cup at a time. Here’s a quick excerpt of Howard’s leadership:

“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.”

In the context of our own organizations, certainly words to make us think not only about what we do, but how we can do it better.

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