“Starbucks’ touchstones, the source of our pride” Howard Schultz
In January 2008, chairman Howard Schultz resumed his roles as President and CEO of Starbucks eight years after he relinquished them, replacing Jim Donald, who took the posts in 2005 but was asked to step down. Schultz’s immediate objective was to restore what he characterizes as the “distinctive Starbucks experience” after years of rapid expansion that had compromised it. The bulk of this book’s material covers the period since then, although Schultz (in collaboration with Joanne Gordon) does include valuable perspectives on the events that preceded his joining Starbucks as director of retail operations in 1982 and his subsequent purchase of the company from its three co-founders in 1987.
Others have their own reasons for praising this book, Here two of mine. First, Schultz is a skillful raconteur and the dramatic narrative that he provides is compelling as he introduces various characters, develops a lively plot filled with crises as well as triumphs, and meanwhile examines several themes that invest the narrative with structure and direction. For example, how to accelerate but manage growth so that the company (however large it may become) retains its entrepreneurial spirit? As Starbucks expanded into new locations, states, and even countries, how to preserve the ambiance of an Italian café (i.e. coffeehouse) while take full advantage of modern technologies? This book is a great read because Schultz has a multitude of fascinating stories to share.
My other reason is that the book anchors in real-world situations, involving real people, a number of business principles that are relevant to all organizations, whatever their size and nature may be.
1. Don’t “fall in love” with loyal, devoted workers who no longer measure up. By all means employ them and find useful work for them to do (if at all possible) but keep in mind that business development (especially when growth is rapid) frequently creates new demands that some people cannot handle. Schultz acknowledges that he waited too long to respond to earnest and willing but clearly under-performing employees of whom he is obviously fond and for whom he feels genuine appreciation.
2. Do not confuse investments with costs. Schultz was (and remains) a passionate advocate of frugality but eagerly made (and makes) substantial investments in people (e.g. generous benefits for part-time workers) and equipment (e.g. purchasing only the very best beans, state-of-art onsite brewers). Compromising quality to save money is never a “bargain.” On the contrary, the total cost of a so-called “bargain” is often prohibitive.
3. No matter what, always preserve and nourish your core business. For Starbucks, its core is the multi-sensory experience that offers a “third place” renowned for its hospitality, ambiance, indeed its panache. Offer, serve, and sell only what enhances each patron’s experience. Also, hire only those who will be evangelists as well as facilitators of that experience. There is no reason why where they work can’t be as enjoyable for them as it is for those whom they are privileged to serve.
With regard to the title of the book, it refers a process, not a destination. Schultz stepped down when he thought the company could continue to improve, returned when he realized that it hadn’t and couldn’t without him, and since then he makes certain that the process continues into an otherwise uncertain future.
This is among the most entertaining as well as informative accounts by a CEO that I have read thus far, worthy of inclusion with those written by Alfred Sloan, Andrew Grove, Sam Walton, John Whitehead, Jack Welch, and more recently, Danny Meyer and Chip Conley.
Thank you, Howard Schultz, for the pleasure of your company!
How and why “Free Radicals” create wealth for themselves and meanwhile improve the world
Initially, I was somewhat put off by this book’s title but it certainly caught my attention and thus served its purpose in that respect. However, I wonder, how many people will let it go at that rather than read and then consider what Any Kessler has to say about various “unapologetic rules for game-changing entrepreneurs”? As my rating indicates, I think he has much of value to say…and says it well.
With regard to the meaning and significance of the book’s title, here is what Kessler observes: “the best way to leverage Abundance and Scale and to create Productivity is to get rid of people…Now I’m not suggesting we actually eat anyone…But we do need to get rid of worthless jobs [and those who languish in then]…There’s nothing productive about [many different kinds of jobs], though they may be temporarily necessary until someone, a true Free Radical, writes a piece of code to make them obsolete. That’s how you create productivity…If you look at the world through a productivity filter, a lot more things start to make sense, especially about who is pulling their load and who is just along for the ride.”
As Kessler goes on to explain, a “Free Radical” is a change agent who is determined to eliminate anyone and anything that reduces (if not eliminates) value, however defined. Especially during the current Depression/Depression/Great Reset/Whatever, it makes no sense to leave in place barriers (human and non-human) to productivity and efficiency, that are both scalable and sustainable.
How to decide what to do and not do? Kessler offers a baker’s dozen of “Rules” (the last is a bonus) and devotes a separate chapter to each. He explains why and how all can be essential “game-changers” for Free Radicals such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and Sam Walton. However different they may be in most other respects, all of them not only created wealth for themselves, but at the very same time, improved the world, made life better, and increased everyone else’s standard of living. As Kessler explains, “Free Radicals found situations to combust and destroy, but in the end, it was only to make room to build the new [and the improved] – disrupt the status quo, do more with less, advance society, drive progress rather than have progress drive them. A free Radical is someone who gets wealthy inventing the future by helping others live longer and better.” So, “eating people” is a metaphor for the process by which Free Radicals (Creators) and their allies (Servers) eliminate whoever and whatever opposes or impedes “increasing productivity, increasing society’s wealth, reinventing the way the world works and generating enough (altruistic?) profits to reinvest in their process to keep this reinvention going for decades on end. These are the real heroes in history.”
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out the just published 10th Anniversary Edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto co-authored by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger ; also, Bill Jensen and Josh Klein’s Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results, and Rework, co-authored by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.
In both this volume and in 50 Self-Help Classics, Butler-Bowdon has selected and then provided a rigorous examination of carefully selected works which have had, for decades, a profound impact on those who read them and then applied the principles which their respective authors affirm. In this instance, “winning wisdom” to apply in one’s life and work. There are several reasons why I hold this volume in such high regard. Here are three.
First, Butler-Bowden has assembled excerpts and focused on key points from a wide variety of works which include (with authors listed in alphabetical order, as in the book) Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick, Andrew Carnegie’s Autobiography, Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, Thomas J. Stanley’s The Millionaire Mind, Brian Tracy’s Maximum Achievement, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Sam Walton’s Made in America, and Zig Ziglar’s Meet You at the Top. Obviously, some of this material would also be appropriate for inclusion in 50 Self-Help Classics.
Second, I appreciate the fact that Butler-Bowden also enables his readers to focus on issues of greatest interest to them by suggesting combinations of selections within these four thematic categories:
Motivation (e.g. Tom Hopkins’ The Official Guide to Success)
Fulfilling your potential (e.g. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement)
Prosperity (e.g. Russell H. Conwell’s Acres of Diamonds)
Leadership (e.g. Warren Bennis’ On Becoming a Leader)
The diversity of Butler-Bowdon’s primary sources even within the same category is indeed impressive.
Third and finally, he makes clever use of a number of reader-friendly devices throughout his narrative, such as “In a nutshell,” “Final comments,” and a brief bio of the author at the conclusion of each selection. I also appreciate the inclusion of brief quotations wherever they are most relevant.
In the Introduction, Butler-Bowdon observes that “When we think of success writing it is often the motivational classics that first come to mind, and the titles in this [volume] represent the historical development of the genre….While all of the books have been bestsellers [and many continue to be], the main criterion for their inclusion was their impact and renown, or whether they filled a niche in terms of a particular subject or person….The leaders discussed are not specific markers for your own success — it is generally not a good idea to compare yourself to other people — but their stories illustrate a `way’ of success that anyone can follow.”
I agree with Butler-Bowdon that each person seeking success (however defined and measured) must assume primary responsibility for being and doing whatever is required to achieve it. However, most of those who share or are the subjects of the success “stories” in this volume have duly acknowledged the assistance provided to them along the way by family members, friends, allies, and in several instances, benefactors.
Butler-Bowdon realizes that he is providing “only a taste of the literature (the main ideas, context, and impact of each title)” while urging his readers to “feast on the real thing.” What he offers is by no means a buffet of entrepreneurial “hors d’oeuvres.” On the contrary, the content is solid and skillfully presented effectively. I am convinced that many of those who read this book will then be encouraged to read (or re-read) “the real thing.” If Butler-Bowdon’s efforts accomplish nothing else, that will indeed be sufficient to earn the praise I think he has earned…and justly deserves.
Bloomberg Press (2009)
A total of six contributors are identified and presumably dozens of others were also involved in the selection, organization, and discussion of a full range of business topics that begin with “When firms started”(Page 2) and conclude with “Business etiquette tips” (Pages 254-261). Think of this as an anthology of generally brief (i.e. one-page) items (approximately 120 in number) rather than as a dictionary, encyclopedia, “history of….” etc. There is a British flavor to phrasing and spelling but the geographic scope is definitely international. As I worked my way from one entry to the next, I occasionally responded with comments such as “I didn’t know that” or “Oh yes, I had forgotten that.” Here are two that caught my eye:
“Some business giants of the past” (Pages 83-91): Andrew Carnegie, Walt Elias Disney, Henry Ford, William Gibbs (previously unfamiliar to me), Ray Kroc, Alfred Krup, William Hesketh Lever, John Pierpont Morgan, Akio Morita, John Davison Rockefeller, Mayer Amschel Rothschild, Sam Walton, and Frank Woolworth.
“Bubbles that burst” (Pages 164-170). Eight are discussed, including the current “credit crunch” that that has squeezed millions of individuals as well as companies, industries, and even countries. Of special interest to me (because I knew little, if anything about them) are “The Mississippi Bubble” (with a Scottish businessman, ironically bearing the name of John Law, playing a prominent role) and “Railway mania” in the UK (in the 1840s) and in the US (up to 1873). “The railway bubble burst in the ‘Panic of 1873,’ the same year as America’s first successful train robbery.”
One word of caution about this delightful as well as informative book: Do not place it in what the English refer to as the “loo” because those who begin to examine it may not reappear for quite some time.