42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2011
I am just about to finish the book...only a few pages left but I had to write a review. I don't write them very often but this book really resonated with me. Unlike a lot of business books written on leadership that are based on theory, ONWARD is a true story of one man's passion to restore his vision for his company. What I really enjoyed was how he didn't glorify himself. Howard was truly authentic in his communication. He had doubts, fears and made mistakes just like we all do. Basically, what I am saying is that you can learn a lot about business from this book but you will learn even more about the mindset and strategies of a true leader and what makes him tick. I am inspired by ONWARD and can't wait to get back to it. My copy is already full of notes, ideas and plans that I have already begun to implement in my company (with noticeable results) I highly recommend ONWARD!
57 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2011
My fascination with Starbucks began as I savoured the first book 'Pour Your Heart into It' as a business school student and now continues with 'Onward', another highly inspirational read by Howard Schultz; a now humbled CEO with a natural talent for knitting powerful words together to tell an engaging motivational story that takes you through the nail biting journey of a company that went from peak to rock bottom to a slow, painful yet rewarding ride back up the mountain. I wont be surprised if this book finds itself in the business schools curriculum as a learning guide for reinventing oneself during challenging times. Get yourself a copy now!!
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2011
I was so disappointed by this book. It's simply a fairy tale -- the story of Starbucks' turnaround with all the negatives removed. It quotes speeches and memos by Schulz ad nauseum, but skips over crucial details such as where the capital came from for Starbucks to expand from hundreds to thousands of stores in a short time. It's repetitious, full of unnecessary detail, and more a marketing piece than a history.
As Schulz described the ideal new Starbucks store, I thought about my local, urban Starbucks -- the floor is dirty, it's incredibly noisy, you can't see the baristas at all behind the giant coffee machines, everyone is so busy it's hard to get their attention, and the places to order and to receive your drink seem backwards.
26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2011
I enjoyed this book, but not as much as Pour Your Heart Into It. Make no mistake, I love Starbucks, both as a customer and as an investor, but this volume lacks the warmth and sheer adventure of the account of the startup of Starbucks.
The most interesting aspect of this account, for me, is that it serves as a perfect illustration of how annoying American upper managament can be. Nothing is ever good enough or fast enough for this man. Everyone has to passionately commit. Everything has to be better than last year, last week, yesterday. Everything has to be done by yesterday!
The newly revamped Starbucks may be wonderful, but it is unsustainable, as is most of the American corporate model. A classic example of this is the author's breathless account of someone coming up with a good idea on a flight back to Seattle and his pride in the fact that he was able to approve the concept and get committment to a date from others on the ground so that by the time they arrived everything was in place. Would it have been such a catastrophe if everyone had taken a day to think it all through? There is a great deal of this kind of thing in this book, and in my experience dealing with American business, such freneticism is all too common.
There is a great deal of pride expressed here in doing more with less - but that cannot go on forever.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2012
The book has some pretty good insights but the flow of the book was horrible. Onward is more of a feel good book telling you how great Starbucks is rather than a book outlining ways to rebuild a company. The writer seems to be in love with himself
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2011
Author, Jim Collins got it right when he said "Good-to-Great transformations don't happen without level 5 leaders at the helm, they just don't". Howard Schultz demonstrates his level 5 skills, which are a paradoxical combination of personal humility and professional will. Throughout the transformation outlined in this book, Starbucks seemed to methodically and systematically align all the elements required to not only reinvigorate the Starbucks experience, but to also plan on how to make long term changes that would significantly reduce costs and improve customer service making the company a fierce competitor once again. All of this while focusing on finding Starbucks Soul.
It has been fun to watch the company change direction and remember what made the company so great and learn how they have been able to embrace the qualities needed to rebuild their enduring greatness. The recipe seems so simple, but Howard Schultz shows us how difficult it can be to change with the times and embrace challenges such as environmental issues, political divides, and economic uncertainties all adding to the looming recession we were all about to experience. Their savvy strategies to recruit past partners who had the passion and skills to innovate and improve the in-store experience were brilliant! This was the shortest path to the customer and Howard Schultz was smart enough to surround himself with experienced passionate partners who knew how to execute with precision.
I was a former partner at Starbucks and have incredibly fond memories of the people and experiences that I feel so fortunate to have been a part of. Starbucks was and is a great company and Howard Schultz does a great job of sharing his personal journey and sharing what it means to be an entrepreneur. His passion, drive, anger, and love for all that Starbucks has to offer was an exciting read and I am grateful that he had the courage to grab the bull by the horns and take back what makes Starbucks so special. The soul of Starbucks comes to light in this book and it is great to see it shine so brightly once again.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2011
The first half of the book I honestly enjoyed. I liked being able to go "behind the scenes" to get a look at the everyday operations of a retail giant like Starbucks, to get an idea as to what goes on outside of the cookie cutter stores. However, by the last 50 pages or so, I was skimming. It seems as though the entire book was a commercial, an extra long mission statement, to distract the consumers from realizing that Starbucks is the Walmart of coffee, destroying the little man and getting rid of independent coffee shops across the country.
I admit I read this book with a sense of cynicism, having worked in food service in various capacities over the years. I can't tell you how many times I'd have a human resources manager visit my store and act friendly with myself and my employees, smiling from ear to ear, all the while looking at name tags every few minutes because until that day we were all just a number on a profit sheet. I found it hard to believe that employees (I'm sorry, "partners") were as enthusiastic as Howard claimed them to be when he made a visit. I'm thinking more along the lines of "oh s***, he's here, clean that machine real quick and glue on a smile." I've been down that road.
Another of my issues with the book lies with the reasons behind the declining sales within Starbucks when the recession started. Howard claims that he noticed things were going downhill when wrote the infamous memo, but it wasn't until after the memo leaked that sales started to decline. My cynical take on the matter? Howard couldn't stand not being in charge (he alludes to that fact several times) and couldn't get along with a CEO who wasn't handpicked by him. You notice that he mentions firing the person who "leaked" the memo, but then has a kumbaya moment where he realized that that was no longer a priority. I think he leaked the memo on purpose to give himself an excuse to retake the reins.
In the end, is this an inspirational book, a book that can make you think anything is possible, that it's not over until the fat lady sings? Sure, if you've never held a job in the food service industry and seen what your superiors will do for a profit. All in all, this is a commercial. I laughed out loud when I read that Starbucks doesn't like to advertise. They do. They just like to do it in innovative ways. Not on your television, but at your local library.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2011
Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz is a good enough book but should only be on the reading list of those who are passionate about coffee or are interested in business turnarounds. Beyond that, this book has limited appeal. This is Schultz's second book. His first was Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time.
Howard Schultz is the passionate CEO of Starbucks. He loves coffee. He loves the company that he grew into the ubiquitous purveyor of coffee worldwide. Sometimes, his company even makes a good cup of coffee. As a business, it is hard to argue with their success. Until 2007, Starbucks was a consistent growth company, which kept expanding and expanding. In 2007/2008, they hit a wall. Quality declined. Customer satisfaction declined. Revenues didn't grow. After retiring as CEO earlier in the decade, Schultz convinced himself and his board that he should be brought back to reinvigorate the company. In dramatic fashion, he shutdown all of the stores for a day to retrain the staff (i.e., "partners") on how to make coffee; he disposed of the hot sandwiches that were stinking up the stores; and, he closed many unprofitable locations. What he wouldn't do is cut back on the quality of the coffee or benefits for employees. Those were values near and dear to him. The turnaround succeeded and the company found its groove again.
The results for the company were impressive. The boldness of Schultz's moves are noteworthy. Shutting an entire chain of retail stores for a day was a bold move. There is a lot to learn from him as a turnaround operator--have a defined mission and set of goals; know the values you cannot compromise on; act decisively; be willing to consider all options, even very difficult ones.
So what's wrong with a great turnaround story? Nothing. It is the book itself that has flaws. The book tends to repeat itself (lots of material about how well employees are treated and how even part-time employees get benefits). Also, the book at times becomes an advertisement for the company. It occasionally reads like an infomercial. Finally, Schultz seems to preach at times rather than tell his story. It is a fine line but it comes across to the reader. What is great about the book is the honesty and Schultz's openness.
Two elements of his turnaround are worth mentioning. Schultz swears the best cup of coffee comes from a French Press. I tend to agree. He found a small company in Seattle that invented an inverted press system called Clover. It is used to brew coffee. The results are fantastic. (I had a cup of coffee from the Clover system. What a cup of coffee!). Second, I was a bit surprised to learn that Starbucks' web-presence was so anemic in 2007/2008. But, I guess if you are focused on the coffee, you can miss a few things.
By way of contrast, I am going to re-up my recommendation to read Steve Jobs. While Schultz comes off as a far nicer human being, Jobs also had to turn around himself and his company and did the latter at least with dramatic success.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2012
I figured that since I drink enough their coffee, I might as well learn a little something about the company behind the cup. So with only a couple of bucks needed to get Free Super Saver Shipping, I pitched a used copy of Howard Schultz's "Onward" into my shopping cart and figured at worst I would get a crummy read to donate to the local school's annual book sale.
"Onward" surprised me, however. I learned a couple of things about Starbucks that I simply hadn't heard about before, such as their Clover brewing system available in some stores. It's a nifty vacuum brewing system developed by a couple of tinkerers in Seattle. (If you visit their website, you can search for stores nearby that have one.) The history of the development of their instant coffee (excuse me, "water soluble coffee"), Via, was also pretty interesting... I won't spoil it, but let's say that it wasn't an overnight discovery. There are definitely a few other "hey, that's kinda cool" stories in here too.
I won't say, however, that I learned anything from "Onward" as a business/leadership/management book. To be perfectly honest, I don't have much experience reading such types of books, so maybe I wasn't reading it with the right "eye" so to speak -- it was more of leisure reading than anything else. But to this untrained leader, it just didn't seem like there was much there beyond the basics that everyone really should know (humility, listening to people, etc.). Then again, since so many companies do those things poorly, maybe even the basics need to be repeated.
In any case, "Onward" was an enjoyable read and well worth the couple of bucks I paid for it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2013
I really liked the first Starbux book Pouring Your Heart and was excited to see this one come out (at actual Starbux stores I think?).
I didn't know that this book was about the slight dip in growth and stuff that Starbux experienced a few years back (which every business was feeling I think so was it really that unique to Starbux?) and man I'll tell you that the length of this book kind of made it tough for me to get through and also the subject matter wasn't as great as the first book.
I think it's important to not lose sight of who you are as a company but man, I think it could've been written about in a better, entertaining and really a lot shorter of a book.
But it's always great to get a look into the company that has dominated most of my adult life (that and Microsoft and Apple I think) and learn more about what makes them tick. I don't think there's that much I can apply to my life since I'm not dominating the world and am not really the person most responsible for the values and culture in my various jobs. I am really curious how your contract changes when you return to such a well-known company like Starbux though and what everyone involved learned about that person and things like that (just like Apple too).
I'm trying to figure out what this means to me personally so that's a good thing but I do realize why most of my friends haven't heard or read this book even a couple of years after the fact.
It's not a definite book that I think everyone should read but a good book if you happen to read it.