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Book Review Of Onward

1466 words - 6 pages

Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul. Howard Schultz with Joanne Gordon. New York: Rodale, Inc., 2011. 331 pages.

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Onward is a book written by Starbucks ceo Howard Schultz (the company uses lower case for all job titles) about how the company recalibrated itself after getting too big, too fast. The reason I chose to read and review this book is because I am a coffee addict. Ironically, I am not a fan of Starbucks. I’ve always felt that their coffee is a bit overpriced and just very dramatic for my liking. However, I’ve always been intrigued by the store’s ambiance. I admit that I’ve visited a number of stores with friends to play catch up ...view middle of the document...

It was almost as if he instantly envisioned the future of Starbucks. Back in Seattle, his proposal to recreate this Italian coffee bar experience was turned down by Starbucks founders. He later left the company and opened up his own shop, called Il Giornale, where he was able to live that dream and a year and a half later he purchased his former employer’s company, allowing him to keep the name, Starbucks. As the business grew, it became more than just a coffee shop, but a promising investment for its stockholders. Stores were opening up at an increasingly fast rate, making big profits; there was no reason for Starbucks to change. In the year 2000, Howard stepped down as ceo and handed the position to Jim Donald who will oversee day-today operations. Howard stayed on board as chairman where he focused more on Starbucks’ global strategies. However, with all its financial success, Starbucks was losing its soul. Like other companies that were doing great financially, Starbucks did not see the cracks that started to form. That all changed with the economic downturn. Starbucks started to lose financially; stocks plummeted and came embarrassingly short of investor expectations. Because of this stumble, Howard Schultz makes an intuitive decision to go back into the ceo role in 2008.

Onward provides a brief history of Starbucks, but primarily focuses on this stumble of 2008 and Howard’s decision to come back as ceo eight years after he became chairman. Onward isn’t so much a memoir as it a reflection on the last four years of Starbucks history. Schultz doesn’t ponder how his childhood shaped his career as an entrepreneur, or even really talk much about how he grew Starbucks from a small Italian-influenced coffeehouse into a brand with 16,000 storefronts. However, it has all the elements of a great story. Man transforms a small coffee company into a global retail power house. He steps up as chairman, company continues to grow and expand until suddenly, eight years later it hits a wall. Man returns as ceo to save his company. In almost intimately described details, Schultz narrates the ins and outs behind his decision making processes.
Schultz suggests that his primary reason for shutting down 600 underperforming stores and reorganizing the company’s leadership in 2008 pertained to preserving the brand’s authenticity and value. He laments that under prior ceo, Jim Donald, too much growth had led to lower-performing storefronts and loss of belief amongst Starbucks partners. And what he refers to as partners is anyone and everyone ranging from ceo to barista; which is something I admire all throughout his book. His changes during his return as ceo are swift and decisive; from the major shake-ups in the company hierarchy, to the decision to simultaneously close 7,100 stores for three hours in order to re-train baristas on the art of making perfect espresso, to embracing the influence of the internet to re-connect with consumers. ...

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