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on June 2, 2014
I read this book specifically to better understand a CEO's perspective in starting a company and then coming back to save it. Howard Schultz's very personalized account demonstrates the commitment needed to keep a vision and mission statement going as later leaders start to vary from the initial vision and as the economy inevitably affects the business. Schultz casts some blame on leaders who succeeded him, but most of Starbucks' issues seemed to be caused by the recession more so than internal decisions. If one recalls how many personal finance experts were recommending to skip the $4 latte as a way of saving money, this loss of business they suffered through 2008-9 shouldn't have been too much of a surprise.

With that said, the book was still interesting in seeing the difficulty of micro-focusing on each individual customer experience while simultaneously macro-focusing on growth. There are definitely advantages to being on every street corner, but the more spread out the company becomes the harder it is to make that experience unique but consistent for those who want the same product and experience in any location, fast but leisurely for those who aren't in a hurry, and successful for the company that can't help but focus on growth when opening multiple stores every day. Schultz effectively describes all the variables he considered through this time period to "thread the needle" to get the best of this small and big focus.

While it's hard to recognize that the successful companies we depend upon are typically short-lived, this book does a good job of showing why. A founder's focus and commitment to the original vision for a company is difficult to pass on to successors who have to be equally if not more committed to pushing it forward and adapting to changing customer tastes and competitive threats. As Schultz points out here, his successors couldn't accomplish that even though they were good people. Like Michael Dell of Dell Computer, Schultz cared and resolved to come back and make the necessary adjustments to carry Starbucks through. The average CEO probably wouldn't do that. And--as other reviewers have observed--what will happen the next time Schultz retires. It's why so many businesses don't last over extended periods and inevitably submit to competitors who come up with better ideas.

Even several years after it was published, this book is a good read to understand these long-term challenges that all businesses face. Today--as Sears, J.C. Penney and (gasp) even Walmart--seem destined to fail, "Onward" helps to explain why killer business models must be constantly tweaked or else they will eventually stagger and then fail.
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on October 14, 2017
Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its SoulAn easy to read book that details how Howard came back to Starbucks and reclaimed its legacy. I am fascinated by some of the thought processes that go into how Starbucks 'should' work when at optimal function.

For example, NOT blaming employees who do not have the tools or training to function at their highest potential. Hard work in a circle is not going to help the customers have a better experience, but when you have high turnover rates and an untrained retail staff, it is precisely what happens. Instead of blaming the employees, Howard's solution is to provide them with the training and tools needed to make them better at their jobs.

The idea of being a responsible corporate entity and ensuring that the public is aware of it not only so that the company gets credit for its good deeds, but to raise interest in those good deeds.

In many ways, Howard reminds me of Jiro from the movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. You can tell that Howard has a passion for his company and coffee and it is ways of preparing it and how best to do that.

Onward is a fascinating look at one company and how it suffered from rapid growth that took it out of its intended purpose back to that goal.
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on August 13, 2013
It's a book that discusses the re-energizing of a aging brand and a study of how to focus and lead in times of difficulty for a company. It also is a vehicle for the founder to express his passion for the firm he created, and how that drove the decisions and growth of the company. It also seems to be a platform to discuss his regrets for some difficult decisions along the way which I wish he would have gone through in some more detail. However, a great read for someone trying to understand what makes a company beyond the numbers.
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on June 22, 2012
First, this was a well-written book. I have to say that it was an enjoyable read, but it didn't fully meet my needs. I'm not a huge Starbucks fan (I'm just not a big coffee drinker). I'm a grad student flirting with entrepreneurship, so I was looking at this book with a surgical eye.
What appealed to me: The passage about his biologist/chemist colleague who tinkered with different instant coffee formulas (I can't help it. I'm biased!), learning of Starbucks' philanthropy (had no idea) and how Schultz turned the company around (this piqued my interest).
But, I did a lot of skimming... A LOT. Maybe it wasn't fluff for the ardent Starbucks fan, but it was for me. The take away message: remain passionate, don't grow too quickly, think outside the box and give back. I didn't need 350 pages to get that message.
The best chapters, IMO, were 27-Innovate, 28- Conviction, 29- Connecting Dots and 30-Balance
On the whole, I came away liking Schultz and the Starbucks brand. His passion is palpable and it saved his company. Whenever I'm in the mood for coffee, I know where I'll get it. I just won't buy a second Starbucks book.
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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.
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on April 20, 2017
What an amazing and inspiring recollection of the Starbucks revival. This book was very interesting and informative my main take away from this book is that winning consists of a combination of formulas,skills,behavior,attitudes,transparent communication as well as great moral and heightened passion coupled with a determination to win, there is no silver bullet nor magic wand. I really enjoyed this book kudos to you Howard Schultz.
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on February 28, 2017
This is a classic business read ...the author weaves an authentic account of what it takes to turn around a ailing company and restore it to glory.....absolute fascinating!
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on April 21, 2017
Wonderful book written by an inspiring man.
He should run for President!!
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on December 10, 2014
A good book. Sometimes it gets a little boring, but as long as you read it and if you take your time to digest it, you can see the leadership skills mr. Schultz has and used to get his company back. Every leader or a leader pretender should learn the most valuable skills are: To keep loyal to your values and if you feel you have lost them, take your time to find them back, probably a little bit redefined but keeping their real essence. The second value is to be clear and transparent with your partners, they are the real and most important resource you can have to be successful. At last, money is a consequence of work made with love and quality.
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on July 12, 2013
A fairly young executive who is a master of PR has managed to sell a second self directed biography. While it is of some interest to stockholders, it is really a little too much to read a second Howard Schultz self promoting bio.
He stepped aside on reaching a great success, but the truth is that he was still the puppet master in his "hands off" role. The company and its stock were in a downward spiral when Howard rode to the rescue. He did indeed turn the declining company around but did he really need to commission a new book about his Phoenix like rise from the ashes?
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