An exciting business memoir yet still an easy read about the origins of Starbucks. Just gonna jump into it.
Verdict: Fantastic read for anyone, really: future CEOs, anyone in the business industry, for those who are interested in the history of Starbucks, or for those who simply want to better themselves.
CEO and author Howard Schultz talks about a myriad of life situations that had shaped Starbucks into what it is today. This book is seriously a gold mine; I’ll have to reread this book soon to make sure I truly get everything downloaded.
I’ll be organizing this post by Schultz’s short but powerful quotes. Here’s what grabbed my attention:
Risk more than others think safe.
Some days, I couldn’t believe I was even entertaining the notion. Taking a job at Starbucks would mean giving up that $75,000 a year job, the prestige, the car, and the co-op and for what? Moving 3,000 miles across the country to join a tiny outfit with 5 coffee stores didn’t make sense to a lot of my friends and family. My mother was especially concerned.
Simply put, you can’t live your big dreams without taking risks. This especially connects to me, since I’m currently in a similar situation mentioned, working a safe software engineering position in a big company. However, no matter where you are in life, you’ll have to step out of that comfort zone to go beyond whatever you can imagine. Running a marathon starts with one step outside the house. Eating healthy starts with one smart purchase. Getting into medical school starts with opening that textbook. Small steps. Small steps.
If you say you never had a chance, perhaps you never took a chance.
Just take any opportunity that comes to you. You never know what you’ll make of it. Quotes delivery!
No great achievement happens by luck.
It’s one thing to dream, but when the moment is right, you’ve got to be willing to leave what’s familiar and go out to find your own sound. That’s what I did in 1985. If I hadn’t Starbucks wouldn’t be what it is today.
Life is a series of near misses. But a lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It’s seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It’s seeing what other people don’t see, and pursuing that vision, no matter who tells you not to.
While bad luck, it’s true, may come out of the blue, good luck, it seems, comes to those who plan for it.
Dream more than others think practical:
Fear of failure drove me at first, but as I tackled each challenge, my anxiety was replaced by a growing sense of optimism. Once you overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, other hurdles become less daunting. Most people can achieve beyond their dreams if they insist upon it. I’d encourage everyone to dream big, lay your foundations well, absorb information like a sponge, and not be afraid to defy conventional wisdom. Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Whatever your passions and ambitions are, keep dreaming big. After reading several business stories, every company no matter what size gets me thinking, what did it take for someone to grow a company this successful? What endeavors did they go through to make it happen? Whatever happened must have been huge. Whatever the average person does is almost nothing in comparison. Personally, I don’t think that’s a life worth living, and Schultz agrees by emphasizing this point throughout his book. These companies prove that anything’s possible, and I love reading on how these individuals did whatever it takes to make their dreams come true.
Expect more than others think possible:
…you don’t just give the customers what they ask for. If you offer them something they’re not accustomed to, something so far superior that it takes a while to develop their palates, you can create a sense of discovery and excitement and loyalty that will bond them to you.
Think about the customer. But just because it’s not popular, doesn’t mean they don’t need it.
It takes research and creativity to find that niche that you could provide. For Starbucks, it’s making coffee an experience, not just grabbing any cup of coffee right before going to work. Schultz realized this revelation when on a trip to Italy, where the Italians provided a fantastic presentation upon brewing and serving coffee to their customers; no coffee stand in the United States has never done anything similar to that. Schultz was so passionate about the idea that he did whatever it takes to jump onto the Starbucks team, even having being initially denied.
Stay true to your values:
Many of us face critical moments like that in our lives, when our dreams seem ready to shatter. You can never prepare for such events, but how you react to them is crucial. It is important to remember your values: Be bold, but be fair. Don’t give in. If others around you have integrity, too, you can prevail.
While the above heading isn’t a direct point, this is Schultz’s biggest argument throughout his book: to accomplish your dreams, you absolutely must stick to your values. He had never once considered purchasing lower quality coffee beans just because the market inflated horribly – over 300% within only three months. He never took away health insurance from his employees (what he calls partners) because their well-being was his number one priority. As he puts it:
What, then, would keep us coming into work every day? Higher profits, at the cost of poorer quality? The best people would leave. Morale would fall. The mistake would eventually catch up with us. And the chase would be over.
I’m even realizing this at my own workplace in the engineering workforce. When time crunches arise, everyone rushes to get in their code in, trying to skip steps in the design process, avoiding testing their code because they’re positive it works, etc. And everyone paid for it the week of the deadline when all that needed to be done was fixing bugs. They were everywhere, and it was quite horrific. All of my coworkers definitely hold a standard to good code on a regular basis – they just can’t let it get away from them.
Seek to renew yourself even when you’re hitting home runs:
When you’re failing, it’s easy to understand the need for self-renewal. The status quo is not working, and only radical change can fix it.
But we’re seldom motivated to seek self-renewal when we’re successful. When things are going well, when the fans are cheering, why change a winning formula?
The simple answer is this: Because the world is changing. Every year, customers’ needs and tastes change. The competition heats up. Employees change. Managers change. Shareholders change. Nothing can stay the same forever, in business or in life, and counting on the status quo can only lead to grief.
Similar to the first bullet I make, don’t be afraid to step out of that comfort zone. Don’t settle. Don’t ever settle. Better yourself everyday, no matter where you are in life.
I get criticized often on how much I save despite being an engineer: preparing the cheapest meals daily (but still macro-friendly and filling), taking public transportation, etc. I get criticized on why I read so often about subjects that seem to have zero relation to my life: why waste time reading on a book about biology?, etc. Until the earth has truly reached a point of utopia, there is never a good time to settle. And even then, life gets boring if you do.
Even if you happen to be a billionaire. Don’t settle. See how you can benefit others, benefit the world, with your fortunes. See how you can maintain your riches, because you never know when it may all just go away. It doesn’t matter where you are in life. It really doesn’t.
“The difference between great and average or lousy in any job is, mostly, having the imagination and zeal to re-create yourself daily.” -Tom Peters, The Pursuit of WOW!
There’s actually a lot more in this book, but I’ll be keeping this post to a minimum to hopefully make a stronger impact. Almost every chapter name is a good bullet point to remember, so if you’re interested to see what else Schultz has to offer, grab a book and check it out! Such a worthwhile book, whether you’re a fan of coffee or not (I personally am indifferent, but I can appreciate great coffee).
Keep it up, readers.
PS: I had also read Schultz’s second book, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, actually before this one just because the sequel shipped to my house first. His writing style and wisdom easily convinced me to read Pour Your Heart Into It as well. While the sequel another great book with different values and lessons, it can be quite tedious and repetitive and may not be worth your time if you’ve already read this one; you would likely benefit more from reading another book of a separate topic. I may or may not write a book review for that one as well.