Have you ever wondered what was behind Starbucks meteoric rise to greatness? Was it just great coffee or was there something more that was driving it? Starbucks Chairmen and CEO Howard Schultz gives a glimpse behind the curtain in his latest book “Onward.”
Onward is the story of how Howard Schultz brought the company back to life. In the early 1980s Schultz was the Director of Marketing for a small coffee bean boutique named Starbucks. After a trip to Italy Schultz became obsessed with the desire to recreate the Italian coffee bar experience in America. When the Starbucks owners didn’t share his passion Schultz raised money and purchased the brand to pursue his dream.
We all know what Schultz was able to turn Starbucks into over the following two decades.
In 2001 he stepped down as CEO to invest his time in other ways. The company began to slide. Sales were down. Customers were less satisfied. At a time when Starbucks was growing faster than ever lackluster results threatened to bring the machine to a halt.
In 2008 Schultz returned as CEO to right the ship. He immediately laid out a plan with 7 initiatives that were to be the focus of the company for the next several years. What unfolded in the book was a fascinating story of how Schultz resurrected the Starbucks experience driven by his passion for excellent coffee.
– Schultz casted a clear and powerful vision to bring Starbucks back to life. He was open about his plan and the motivation behind each initiative. Partners rallied behind him to bring his vision to life.
– Schultz’s passion is obvious. He doesn’t just love running a business. He loves everything about coffee and the coffee experience.
– Decisions are not just about ROI:
– Schultz spent millions replacing new espresso machines because they were too tall. The baristas creating the espresso could not interact with the customer which according to Schultz is a key element of the Starbucks experience.
– Schultz also halted the practice of shipping pre-ground coffee to stores. While the pre-ground beans saved baristas the time of grinding the beans, the grinding created a rich aroma that added to the Starbucks experience.
– Schultz closed all the North American stores simultaneously one day to retrain baristas on creating the perfect espresso. This cost millions in sales, but Schultz was determined to help baristas create the best espressos available.
– Schultz included everyone as teammates. Baristas were influential in creating more efficient processes and store managers influenced technology decisions.
This was a great case study on leadership and running a business. Throughout the book Schultz demonstrates his unmatched passion for Starbucks. Time and time again he makes decisions based not on money, but on his passion for the Starbucks experience. I also loved watching Schultz craft a compelling vision for his partners and build the right team to execute that vision.
What’s another good book to observe leadership in action?