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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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
on March 30, 2008
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. Peer pressure at this level is magnificent and largely a waste of precious time and energy. I roll my eyes at it, out of pure boredom and silliness of the game because I simply haven't time for caring if my social and physical accessories are up to par with the Jones family.

What the author has done here is level the playing field - and not out of disrespect for the office he honors. He understands 'how' to wear his hat and how to let others wear theirs. Nothing is more damaging to a company than to not understand this. It's an excellent book and should not be missed by anyone wanting an edge in their business. I highly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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. It is easy to read in spurts, but it also goes very quickly. In a mere 165 pages, Behar takes readers on a journey of insight from the time that he spent running the operational side of Starbucks for Howard Shultz. I don't mean to trivialize Behar's work, but it all has its root in a simple principle of honesty. He starts the first few chapters by dealing with being honest with oneself first. It meant a lot to me reading about the idea of "Wearing One Hat". It is tempting for many reasons to try to be something other than what you are in your profession. Knowing what you enjoy and what you stand for sound like simple ideas, but they are harder to follow through on than one might expect. Then he moves on to being honest with others through empowerment, caring, listening, and being accountable. As he says, "Only the truth sounds like the truth." I've experienced listening to a presentation or reading a memo that I know is total nonsense. People can spot a phony almost every time, yet I would love to have a dollar for each occurrence for a single day. I know that I want to work for people who follow the kind of principles that Behar discusses, and that is why I hope that I am able to carry them out as a leader myself. I hope that I can look back on my career and describe similar things when the time comes. You will not be a worse leader for having read this.

Overall: A
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2008
As a leadership author and teacher, I recommend Behar's work for its challenge to live the idealism of leadership. While Starbucks is less than perfect as an organization [just witness their recent court battles], Behar outlines how he tried to inspire leadership in all ranks of the company. The chapters on mission, personal development, and the complexity of collaboration are important areas for those desiring to become effective in their leadership roles. Too many organizations live subpar--in the "real" world of corporate practice. Behar challenges the reader to live leadership idealism. What a difference it would make in corporate America if some leaders lived out even a few of Behar's principles. A simple, yet worthwhile read.
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on March 31, 2010
Howard Behar, It's Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks (New York: Portfolio, 2009)

Review by Darren Cronshaw

Howard Behar was the organisational leader who helped grow Starbucks from 28 stores to a world-renowned brand with thousands of stores worldwide. His book is an inspiring story of fostering humanity in an organisation. Behar describes his leadership principles, illustrated with stories of where Starbucks put people first while juggling challenges of exponential growth. It is interesting because it is about coffee but relevant because its principles are applicable to church. Behar prompted me to ask dozens of questions about humanity in church life.

He places a big priority on people, teams, trust and caring like you really mean it: "People come before the coffee. After all, people grow the coffee, choose the coffee, ship the coffee, roast the coffee, brew and serve the coffee - and enjoy the coffee" (p.136). His passion prompted me to see people as more important than my resume as pastor, and to ask how can I cultivate that attitude in others? How can I grow a fruitful church and not compromise my sense of humanity? How can I make a big deal of each person?

He counsels knowing who you are - wear one hat and be clear about your values purpose and goals. Rather than trying to do too many things, it reminded me to ask what will make a church `feel most deeply and vitally alive' and in tune with what God is calling us to?

Behar counsels listening attentively - the walls talk, so keep your ears and eyes open for organisational insights. How do I make space to hear people's hearts, to invite them to share what is on their minds? How can we ensure good communication between denomination and churches, between pastors and members, and between churches and their communities? Starbucks' purpose is to build bridges among people - the fairtrade coffee, trained staff, comfortable seating, ambient music, diverse products and excellent service all enhances that. What do the walls say about the vibe of our churches?

He encourages independent thought in teams - the person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom, so get rid of as many rules as you can and empower people to do what it takes. Similarly in church, how can we empower leaders to transform their communities?

And Behar says dare to dream - to say yes, the most important word in the world to open people up to big goals, joys and hopes. How can we better cultivate in our churches a culture of permission and possibility to resource people in their dreams?

Behar's leadership story at Starbucks is about fostering creativity, energy, passion, mutual care and respect for humanity as part of its organisational culture - inspiring lessons to consider for our churches.

Darren is a Baptist pastor at Auburn Baptist, and enjoyed a Frappuccino while writing this review which may appear in The Witness (Sep 2010).
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on May 15, 2009
Although this book will tell you that in life and business we all need to be wearing only one hat, meaning fulfilling one role, this book wears many hats, and wears each one with style and attitude. Within the chapters of It's Not About the Coffee you will find a self help book, a business book (for small and big companies), and an exciting read. It's Not About the Coffee is about the human spirit and how we can push forward with only our values and instincts to guide us.
The Ten Principles of Personal Leadership that the book follows are all based in knowing yourself, respecting and learning from others, while challenging the societal norms that don't make sense. Of the Ten Principles, some of the most valuable lessons are "Only the truth sounds like the truth," or "Care, like you really mean it," and maybe the most simple, while at the same time the most revolutionary "The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom." All of these lessons, that seem to be grown from the seeds of the golden rule- do onto others as you would do onto yourself- might at first seem obvious, but in reality they are the forgotten truths of childhood, and they desperately need to be reintroduced to our adult schema.
There's never been a better time to bring It's Not About the Coffee into your mind set, because no matter what goal any reader is trying to achieve- college admission, a promotion, a new business start up, even just facing the every day, literally, any hardship or challenge we face, can be met with the sound advice from a sound source in this book. No matter what you think about Starbucks and it's global impact this book will help you prepare mentally and physically for almost anything.
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on September 20, 2009
When it comes to leadership, there's no shortage of "how to" books. But the difference between books that offer laws, factors and rules, and Behar's quick read is that It's Not About the Coffee pinpoints the one thing on which every organization must focus to reach success--the people.

The book is a collection of learnings from Behar's career as a senior executive at Starbucks. It was here that he helped establish the company's culture, which stresses the importance of people over profits. Behar coached hundreds of leaders at every level and helped the company grow into a world-renowned brand.

A few of his key principles:
* Know who you are: Wear one hat. When you know who you are and remain true to yourself, then you wear one "hat." And when you do that, everything becomes easier, even the things you dread doing.
* Think independently: The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom. Organizations naturally apply rules to help with efficiency. But those that thrive encourage employees to bring their unique perspectives to the job and take charge. Explain to people what you expect of them, then step back and let them surprise you.
* Be accountable: Only the truth sounds like the truth. Being truthful must start with you first. If you're not accountable--both in words and actions--then you can't expect others to be.

It doesn't matter if you're a company of one or one million, success lies in, and within, people. I recommend this book to anyone at any level and within any industry who cares about building trust, facing challenges and dreaming big.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2008
Silly book! The title says "IT'S NOT ABOUT THE COFFE" when you open the book, the first page will tell you exactly the opposite! Another PR for Starbucks.
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