Tag Archives: Starbucks

Onward by Schultz Takes the Prize as Most Enjoyable Book

I am frequently asked what has been the best book, the most influential book, and the most enjoyable book that I have read for the First Friday Book Synopsis over the 17 years we have been conducting the program.  I  entertained that question as recently as last night, as I distributed fliers for our August 1 program in Dallas.

The best book was Good to Great by Jim Collins.(New York:  Harper Business, 2001).   The most influential book was Winning the Global Game  by Jeffrey Rosensweig (New York:  Free Press, 1998). But, those explanations are for other posts.

In today’s post, I will cover the most enjoyable book.

That winner is Onward by Howard Schultz, the President and CEO of Starbucks (New York;  Rodale, 2010).  Onward Book Cover

Novel-like in its presentation, this book took you inside the operations of the company as well as inside the brain of its author.  The book makes you feel as if you were celebrating with the author in good times, and struggling with him to feel the anger and pain in hard times.

In every event covered in the book, you not only read the facts, but also, the attitude and feelings that accompany them.  Most striking was the story of a leaked e-Mail that found its way to the Internet, jeopardizing the future of the company.  Another was the anger that Schultz expressed when he wanted his shops to smell like coffee, not burnt cheese, causing him to ask if they were going to start serving hash browns.

The story of VIA was captivating, as were the issues of expanding the business internationally.

Starbucks has been the subject of many books, articles, and posts over the years.  The company’s success speaks for itself.  But you will find nothing that takes you inside nearly as much as this book.

Howard Schultz PictureI sometimes wish that Schultz would keep his mouth shut.  When he speaks out about politics, education, and other social issues, I visualize boycotts, picket lines, and lost customers.  But, he can’t do it.  He is outspoken and opinionated.  And, he has enough money to cut his losses.  There is no question that this book would not have been my choice for the most entertaining work had Schultz been modest and laid-back.  That is simply not him.

It is dated now.  Starbucks has moved on.  Schultz and the company have solved many of the problems you read in this book, and they have been replaced by new challenges.

However, history is history.  And this one is fun.  Perhaps that is because I am a customer and have experienced in the stores much of what I read here.  But, what makes it fun is going inside the boardroom, operations, and brain of its author.

For a period of time, this book was # 1 on the best-seller lists, such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

You can read a review of this book written by Bob Morris on our blog by clicking here.

I will explain why I selected the best book and most influential book in future posts.

Before We See Foreclosure Signs on Book Retailers…

Before we post foreclosure signs outside of book retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, Half-Price Books, and others, because everyone purchases books and downloads them on devices such as Kindle, let’s talk about what these retailers really are.

Yes, they sell books.  But, any cursory glance at a visit to these stores will tell you that customers are there for many reasons.  They are there for an experience.  Last night, at a prominent store of this type, I walked in and found it packed.  Patrons filled cafe tables, drinking, eating and chatting.  People were on sofas chatting.  As I kept walking, I found people listening to CD’s in the music section, conducting business near the magazine section, browsing through gift items near the cash registers, listening to stories in the children’s section, and of course, perusing book aisles.

Any trip to these stores will confirm the notion that these are places that offer experiences, not sell books.  Predictions were wrong that Amazon.com would put these stores out of business.  It didn’t happen.  Predictions will be wrong that devices such as Kindle will do the same. 

The reason is very simple.  These stores have amply diversified beyond any one product type or line.  There is much more to them than books.  In fact, they are much less of “bookstores” than Starbucks is a “coffee shop.”   As Joseph Pine and James Gilmore argued in The Experience Economy, they have evolved into places where people can go for a fulfilling experience.  

While sales have slipped, a CNN Money report indicates that they have done so less than expected, and in fact, no more so than other types of retailers who have felt the brunt of a shaky economy. 

Don’t think for a minute that people do not like to get out and relish in experiences.  If that is the case, then we would have lost every retail mall once online shopping became available.  There are plenty of people who will download books to devices such as Kindle, and among them, many who will curl up in their recliner and read their books that way.  But, there are also many of them who will do that and also find their way into retail outlets that stock and sell books.

Perhaps if a retailer only sells books, it will be in trouble.  But, not in any more trouble than any other kind of retailer who puts total emphasis upon one product type.  That is not what these retailers are doing.  They sell books, but offer experiences.  And that is why an electronic device will not shut them down.

Do you disagree?  Let’s talk about it.