Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul – Book Of The Month

Almost everyone has been a customer at Starbucks, but not everyone knows the story behind the rise, downfall, and rescue that went into creating the brand that Starbucks is today. Howard Schultz talks about the successes and failures that Starbucks faced in his book “Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul“. Howard Schultz bought Starbucks from its original founders in 1987. Schultz was the chairman and CEO of Starbucks from 1986 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2017. In this week’s blog post, I will point out the 19 lessons that helped Schultz take Starbucks from Seattle to all across the world. The book has a story associated with each of his lessons. In this post, I will also talk about some of those stories.

Here are the 19 collective lessons that informed Howard Schultz’s leadership:

  1. Grow with discipline
  2. Balance intuition with rigor
  3. Innovate around the core
  4. Don’t embrace the status quo
  5. Find new ways to see
  6. Never expect a silver bullet
  7. Get your hands dirty
  8. Listen with empathy
  9. Over-communicate with transparency
  10. Tell your story, while refusing to let others define you
  11. Use authentic experiences to inspire
  12. Stick to your values as they are your foundation
  13. Hold people accountable, but give them the tools to succeed
  14. Make the tough choices – it’s how you execute that counts
  15. Be decisive in the times of crisis
  16. Be nimble
  17. Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes
  18. Be responsible for what you see, hear, and do
  19. Believe

Schultz always focused on the Starbucks culture, and the customer experience. The reason for the downfall of Starbucks back during the 2007 timeline was because Starbucks tried to expand too quickly, and had lost its touch with customer experience. Upon coming back as the CEO in 2008, Schultz closed down all the Starbucks for a day in order to teach the baristas (partners) how to pour the perfect espresso shot. He wanted to make it evident that quality of the product is what matters. He was fine with the barista throwing out the drink if it wasn’t perfectly made. This just went to show how much Schultz valued the customer experience.

In order to rescue Starbucks in 2008, Schultz had to make the tough decision to close down many unprofitable stores. He started focusing on the quality rather than growth of the business. He knew that shareholders would not like the fact that Starbucks was not going to open as many new stores as before, but Schultz knew that focusing on quality was the correct decision for long term growth and success of the company. Schultz also talks about how Starbucks was always willing to innovate and testing with new products. He specifically went into detail about coming up with Starbucks’ Pike Place Roast coffee, and also how Starbucks got into the instant coffee business. I also liked how Schultz created the company culture. He specifically dives into the experience that Starbucks partners had during the 2008 leadership conference in New Orleans, and how the volunteering aspect inspired everyone.

Overall, I thought this book was engaging and interesting. You could see the company and its daily operations through the eyes of Howard Schultz, the CEO at the time. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in knowing how a company can be rescued, and anyone who is interested in knowing the story behind the success of Starbucks. You can see that by the end of the book, Starbucks was back on its mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.


Hope you learned a little and found this blog post helpful. We talked Howard Schultz’s account of Starbucks in the book Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its SoulAs always, you can sign up for our free mailing list here.  You can sign up for our paid subscription services here. Like us on our Facebook page here. Thank you!

Superior North LLC’s content is for educational purposes only. The calculators, videos, recommendations, and general investment ideas are not to be actioned with real money. Vyom Joshi is not a professional money manager or a financial advisor. Contact a professional and certified financial advisor before making any financial decisions. Please review the Disclaimer and Terms and Conditions.

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