Onward. Howard Schultz.

[ I’ll preface this Reading Notebook post by once again saying how far behind I am on writing about books I’ve read and that I’ll try to catch up.  The one thing I’ve got going for me right now is that I’ve not been reading books as much, so that just might happen!]

I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Starbucks, but one thing I do love is the business success story. Imagine starting with a single store just 30 years ago to now seeing one on just about every corner in a big city in the US.  But that is also one thing I don’t love — seeing SBUX everywhere.  Except when I want/need coffee.  🙂

See?  Love/hate.   (there’s more to it that just the ubiquity.. there’s the brew… there’s the sugar and all the things they add to coffee, which is just not necessary for good coffee, etc. etc…)

Anyway, this book documents Howard’s return to CEO after having resigned that role a few years prior, returning at a time when the company was really beginning to falter.  Some problems were due to the global economic crisis, but many problems had started earlier and were deeply interwoven into the company’s fabric.  The success SBUX has had since then has been remarkable, so the book is a good read just for that.

I’ll only comment on a couple of things:

1)  Pikes Place:  Howard raves about this coffee, how they were trying to reach a larger, mostly American population, and how everybody loves it.

Strategically, Pike Place Roast had the potential to be a powerful catalyst for and symbol of our transformation.

Sadly, I have to disagree…  I tried it at least 4 different times just to be certain — but I can’t stand it.  These days, if I’m getting a drip/brewed coffee, I’ll always go for the dark roast — anything but Pike’s!  And if there is not another option, I’ll order an Americano instead.

2) Clover:  I love the clover.  The brew this machine makes is excellent.  Granted, Starbucks only uses their “reserve” beans in it, and that may be part of the reason Clover coffee is so good, but I also think the process has much to do with it.  I was a French press man for years, but then switched to slow drip (since  I don’t brew a pot at home as I’m the only drinker…).  These days I love slow press — unless I’m near an SBUX with a clover.

First and most important, Clover makes a terrific cup of brewed coffee. A cross between a French press and a vacuum pot, Clover sucks water through the bottom of finely ground coffee instead of pressing water through the top, using a very fine filter that lets the coffee retain its best-tasting oils.

The transcendent little coffee machine born in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood produces one of the top five best-selling beverages at the more than 100 stores that serve it in cities in the United States and Canada. Clover is finding its way into more locations, giving customers an opportunity to enjoy the nuances of our traditional blends and the flavors of our exotic, smaller-batch Starbucks Reserve coffees.

I have to include a few quotes:

The Starbucks mission: To inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

Historically, though, it is times like these, times of disruption, where America seems to discover its greatness.

I do think effective leaders share two intertwined attributes: an unbridled level of confidence about where their organizations are headed, and the ability to bring people along.

But in business as in life, people have to stay true to their guiding principles. To their cores. Whatever they may be. Pursuing short-term rewards is always shortsighted

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