Week 2: Onward
I love Starbucks.
There’s something about a cup of java, a familiar comfortable setting, and the buzz of community that I just can’t get enough of. You know it, I know it, Starbucks knows it.
In late December, I made a quick trip to Ottawa for the day, which meant an extremely early morning, exhausting and jam-packed day of excitement, an afternoon energy lull, and a flight back home, during which I needed to get work done. If you count it, that’s about 3 trips to Starbucks plus a brunch, at least!
During one of these visits, I remembered that I had read a tweet earlier (circa 5:30am perhaps?) that it was 1/2 price to purchase Onward today, by the founder of Starbucks as we know it and current CEO Howard Schultz. Naturally, I went for it despite fact that meant adding another 2 lbs to my carry-on, also known as my carry-around-all-day (travelers - you get me).
Now, I have to state that I absolute love a good autobiography, or biography for that matter. People are fascinating. In particular, a person with a captivating, true, raw, revealing story to tell is fascinating to me.
Onward is the story about how Howard Schultz acknowledged failure, took it head-on, and created even greater success. Now that’s a fascinating story.
Inspired by Italian espresso bars, Schultz crafted the concept for Starbucks, and bought the company he used to do marketing for in 1987. The rest is history. He was CEO for many years before stepping down in 2000 and passing the reigns to his successor. But in 2008, Schultz returned again as CEO to re-align the company with its original intent and mission - and that is where this story begins.
If you enjoy a good business book, you’ll love the complexity of Schultz’s personal responsibility as returning-CEO. Every pillar of the business, from being the undisputed coffee authority, to expanding the global presence – while making each store the heart of the local neighbourhood, seemed to have started to stray from the Starbucks mission. Schultz describes it as “the watering down of the Starbucks Experience.” When you have a global brand as recognizable as Starbucks, even a seemingly small stray off course can have massive implications.
And so, Starbucks looked inward in order to push onward. Back to their tradition, and back to their mission “to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup, and one neighbourhood at a time.” They focused solely on what they’re best in the world at (if you’re familiar with Jim Collins’ hedgehog concept in Good to Great), and this meant being straightforward and honest about every aspect of the company.
But beyond the business of Starbucks, this story is about transformation of Schultz himself, as well as those around him and throughout the company. He admits defeat. He recognizes his faults. He holds others accountable to their work. He expects greatness. At all times, without fail. It is refreshing to read the words of such an influential person, an entrepreneur, visionary, and seasoned business leader, written with such candor that you cannot held but be inspired.
Of course, if you consider yourself a coffee connoisseur, you will enjoy reading the details of the roasting standards, the dedication to brewing the perfect espresso, not to mention Schultz describing the perfect cup. He’s an artist, really.
So grab a cup of your favourite brew, get reading, and we’ll meet back here next Monday.