- Hardcover: 350 pages
- Publisher: Rodale Pr (29 March 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781605292885
- ISBN-13: 978-1605292885
- ASIN: 1605292885
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.2 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 680 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 122,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul Hardcover – 29 Mar 2011
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About the Author
Howard Schultz is the chairman, president, and CEO of Starbucks and the author of the New York Times bestseller Pour Your Heart Into It.
Joanne Gordon is a former Forbes writer and contributing editor who has spent more than a decade profiling companies and business leaders for numerous publications including five previous books.
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What might be considered as an autobiography of a business tycoon at first blush of the title of the book will lead the reader to an interesting peek-a-boo of a successful enterprise that is armed to the teeth with its unique philosophy of practicality and idealism rooted in operational rigor and accountability striving for a healthy balance of profit and social conscience to provide customers with prime quality coffee proprietary to the brand. Schultz’s ambition to perfect the art of making fine espresso as the company's distinguishing attitudinal value attitudinal value of coffee-making from the competitors is akin to that of craftsmanship of a seasoned artisan of a medieval guild. For example, in the afternoon of one Tuesday in February 2008, Schultz closed all of the US stores to improve the making of espresso because pouring espresso was something of an art, and therefore required a barista to attend to the quality of the beverage even though it meant the huge loss of profits for closing the stores just for one day. To Schultz, taking the ordinary to elevate it to an art also relates to a business principle of putting the sincerest endeavors to the foundation and innovation of the company; it is a right way to win as he believes, “Coffee can’t lie,” which is also reminiscent of what Theodore Roosevelt commented on his favorite coffee as being “good to the last drop.”
In addition, Schultz offers many more interesting tidbits of the company without disclosing its trade secrets in an informative way: That Starbucks is company-owned and not franchised is something new to learn. Unlike William Rosenberg, the founder of Dunkin’ Donuts, who was a fervent believer of a franchise, Schultz adamantly opposes the idea of franchising Starbucks because ceding ownership of stores to individuals will most likely to mar the enterprising spirit of the company and loosen the cohesiveness of esprit de corps, let alone the principles of providing a customer with the best quality beverage in a social yet personal environment between one’s house and job. Besides, the company’s provision of full health care benefits to all employees, ranging from the corporate heads to part-time attendants in stores points to the veracity of Shultz’s fostering of social conscience in the course of making profits, withal.
Onward is a testament to the steadfast adherence to cardinal principles of playing a good clean competition in a business world without becoming a tainted soul. That is, achieving success in promoting its profit growth and idealism is all over the shouting of the winning of the entrepreneur gambit. It might make the reader wonder if Schultz has heard the adage of Ralph Waldo Emerson during his lecture to the audience in the height of the Lyceum Movement: “Knowledge, plus moral character, promotes business success.” All in all, Schultz’s touchy-feely narrative surprisingly devoid of self-aggrandizement or ostentatious display of his lifetime achievement, relates a tale of a man whose ambitious but admirable philosophy of entrepreneurship rigorously kept against the insurmountable odds with the heart of a man responsible for his legion of employees and their families appertains to the reader in one way or another. Upon reading the book, the reader will feel a bit privy to his/her regular Starbucks on a next visit in a nice sort of way.
For example, NOT blaming employees who do not have the tools or training to function at their highest potential. Hard work in a circle is not going to help the customers have a better experience, but when you have high turnover rates and an untrained retail staff, it is precisely what happens. Instead of blaming the employees, Howard's solution is to provide them with the training and tools needed to make them better at their jobs.
The idea of being a responsible corporate entity and ensuring that the public is aware of it not only so that the company gets credit for its good deeds, but to raise interest in those good deeds.
In many ways, Howard reminds me of Jiro from the movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. You can tell that Howard has a passion for his company and coffee and it is ways of preparing it and how best to do that.
Onward is a fascinating look at one company and how it suffered from rapid growth that took it out of its intended purpose back to that goal.
With that said, the book was still interesting in seeing the difficulty of micro-focusing on each individual customer experience while simultaneously macro-focusing on growth. There are definitely advantages to being on every street corner, but the more spread out the company becomes the harder it is to make that experience unique but consistent for those who want the same product and experience in any location, fast but leisurely for those who aren't in a hurry, and successful for the company that can't help but focus on growth when opening multiple stores every day. Schultz effectively describes all the variables he considered through this time period to "thread the needle" to get the best of this small and big focus.
While it's hard to recognize that the successful companies we depend upon are typically short-lived, this book does a good job of showing why. A founder's focus and commitment to the original vision for a company is difficult to pass on to successors who have to be equally if not more committed to pushing it forward and adapting to changing customer tastes and competitive threats. As Schultz points out here, his successors couldn't accomplish that even though they were good people. Like Michael Dell of Dell Computer, Schultz cared and resolved to come back and make the necessary adjustments to carry Starbucks through. The average CEO probably wouldn't do that. And--as other reviewers have observed--what will happen the next time Schultz retires. It's why so many businesses don't last over extended periods and inevitably submit to competitors who come up with better ideas.
Even several years after it was published, this book is a good read to understand these long-term challenges that all businesses face. Today--as Sears, J.C. Penney and (gasp) even Walmart--seem destined to fail, "Onward" helps to explain why killer business models must be constantly tweaked or else they will eventually stagger and then fail.