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It's Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks Hardcover – December 27, 2007

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There are pivotal moments in the lives of all seekers when we realize that we’ve been traveling on our path of growth toward happiness and ful­fillment, but, simply put, we want to go faster.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover (December 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591841925
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591841920
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After a working life spent building Starbucks from a chain of 28 stores to an international coffee business through positions such as executive vice president of sales, founding president of Starbucks International and president of Starbucks North America, Howard Behar tells of the strategies he used to establish the business into the success it is today. Behar shares the soft skills that helped to construct the company from a regional outlet to a corporation with international reach. While the book occasionally brings in examples from other companies, sharing anecdotes from Starbucks itself is Behar's strong suit. The most interesting sections involve stories behind products readers may know from their own visits to the coffee retailer. Thoughts behind the bottled Frappuccino product's launch or the have it the way you like it approach to beverage making are revealed. While revolutionary ideas are outnumbered by more standard good business practices, the voice of experience and in-house examples from a popular company make for a decent read for those wanting to develop or refresh basic business leadership skills. (Dec. 27) A Q&A with Bob Delaney (Oct. 29) identified the coauthor of Covert as Bill Walton. The book's coauthor is Dave Scheiber; Walton wrote the foreword.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Howard Behar, the keeper of Starbucks’ soul for many years, has given us a book about how to succeed anywhere—not just in business. His ten principles should be required reading for every government official and college president.”
—Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley

“Howard Behar has written the most down-to-earth, in-the-trenches, straightforward, and utterly useful leadership book I’ve ever read.”
—James A. Autry, author of The Book of Hard Choices and The Servant Leader

It’s Not About the Coffee offers the true ingredients for enduring results: a set of proven principles we can all aspire to work and live by.”
—Bob Fisher, former chairman, Gap Inc.

“The tips inside are intelligent, heartfelt, tested and honed in reality. Bravo.”
—David Allen, author of Getting Things Done

“The story of Starbucks is itself an astonishing read. But what’s even better is getting a true insider’s view of how it all happened. This book is a must-have for any leader who aspires to build an enduringly great company.”
—Keith Yamashita, chairman, Stone Yamashita Partners

It’s Not About the Coffee is a testament to Behar’s profound grasp of the link between relationships—let’s call it human connectivity—and success. Read it!”
—Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations

“Howard’s ten basic principles illustrate how genuine, purposeful, and caring attention to your people can drive extraordinary results.”
—Craig E. Weatherup, former president, PepsiCo, and chairman and CEO, Pepsi-Cola
“When Howard speaks of words like ‘mission,’ ‘pride,’ and ‘service,’ he is laying out the tenets for running a business and building one of the greatest brands in the world. This book is a step-by-step guide for people searching for daily inspiration and those meant to deliver it.”
—Kevin Plank, CEO, Under Armour

It’s Not About the Coffee has the potential to be life changing for executives who want to inspire genuine greatness in their teams and bring more meaning to their own lives.”
—Chip Adams, partner, Rosewood Capital --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

I recommend this book to anyone who is managing others.
Larry Crabtree
It's Not About The Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks by Howard Behar is an excellent book for today's busy leader.
Philip R. Heath
Easy to read, and easy to implement-highly recommend this book.
jennifer snyder

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Well, Starbucks has to be about its coffee at some level (and the book admits it on page xiii). For heaven's sake they sure make a big fuss about it, right? In any case, I am not a real Starbucks customer because I don't drink coffee, they don't serve soda, and I think their pastries have no flavor (but they look nice). That being said, I like this book even if it is another in the many books trying to catch some of the glow in the success of Starbucks. Behar at least has the credibility of actually having led a good chunk of the growth.

The book is about getting your core understanding of yourself just right and having people centered values. Howard Behar joined Starbucks in 1989 and was named its President in 1995 and retired in 2003. In this book he lists ten principles and then discusses each in its own chapter (plus an introduction). They are:

1) Know who you are
2) Know why you're here
3) Think independently
4) Build trust
5) Listen for the truth
6) Be accountable
7) Take action
8) Face challenge
9) Practice leadership
10) Dare to dream

While these seem awfully like light fluffy clouds in a list like this, the chapters do flesh them out in ways that will help you get at why a serious man like Behar believes in them. Really, it comes down to how you work with people. You cannot run a business of any size by yourself and in order to work with people and earn their trust you first have to know something about yourself. Once you have a solid core with serious values you actually live by, you can then reach out and lead others because you are worth following.

This is a helpful and concise book and if you appreciate reading about principles for self-development, this will be a book you enjoy.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Conor Cunneen on March 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The problem with most of the books written about Starbucks is they lack a caffeine jolt! Howard Behar's book falls into this trap. Yes, it does contain some interesting (though few if any) new nuggets.

The best book on Starbucks continues to be Pour Your Heart Into It by Chairman Howard Schultz who essentially wrote about the same concepts as Behar, but in an interesting and lively manner.

Schultz and Behar are master business people. Schultz is also a masterful, inspirational story teller, as anyone who has seen him give a keynote speech will testify

Behar takes the reader through ten business concepts, all of which make good sense but few of them are illustrated in anything but a general way. Combine this with multiple sub-concepts and you have a book that fails to be a page turner. Some of the concepts are downright trite e.g. celebrate failures, which he admits Starbucks doesn't do either!

Despite its current problems, Starbucks has done so many things so well that it should be studied by business people. Thus taking any of Behar's ten concepts and implementing them in your business might well be worth trying. Implement them though with passion which is probably what this book is missing.
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Format: Paperback
You have to serve for the people - people who buy your products, people who work with you, people who you work for. Howard Behar is the man who made Starbucks the biggest coffee shops network in the world and now he shares his knowledge and experience with us.

There is nothing much new or different from any other business success literature in this book. Howard shares his life journey while developing Starbucks into the biggest coffee chain in the world. He shares ten principles, which made his fortune. All those principles are pretty much the same as many successful people have. What I found different in this book is that Howard writes it from the perspective of people. Mostly he concentrates on all the people who make the business like customers, colleagues and employees. Author points out how important it is to listen to people around and act on other people's needs.

It's Not About the Coffee made me to start looking more deep into people, analyze what they want and find a way to help them in what they need. It was a good reminder of the success principles as well, and mostly it helped me to realize how important people around you are. The book showed me that it's people who do the business. It's important to have a good product, but it's also very important to have and develop good team.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sy Santos on March 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I respect, though do not agree with Lloyd Eskildson's review. While the review was deeply thoughtful and wordy, the underlying fact is, that the book is about the author's people skills, not about current market fluctuations which occur in every industry known to man. The author is not professing his beloved Starbuck's will rise through the likes of a nuclear explosion - which is seemingly where you expect a business to go -my goodness. The review was snobby at best.

Way back down here on earth, the real-life day-to-day operations within a company are complex at best, and accounts of these experiences must be given more credit than to call them "surface" and "misleading". They are called books because they are TINY WINDOWS into the life of an author. Why do I understand this? Because of extended, sometimes painful experience - I can read "behind" the wording and envision the type of conversations going on when he 'appears' to be surface-writing. Only someone with more corporate experience than time spent in a library, would understand this.

That being said, the book is a magnificent tool to change a very trendy and highly disturbing trend in American business - complacency. When business is 'all about me' (the birthplace of complacency in my opinion), it declines. Without mentioning names, I will say with ferver and focused passion, that there are only a handful who really understand how to avoid the 'all about me' syndrome, which the majority of business owners fall into quite readily. More times than not, giving a person the keys to their own business is like a lamb being led to slaughter when it comes to personality change. There grows within the concept of being a C.E.O., a need to self-serve for the sake of who's watching.
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