Onward was one of my favorite books not long ago. I purchased it as soon as it came out and devoured it within the week. It’s the story of how Starbucks almost went away with a worsening economy and internal troubles.
However, the former CEO, Howard Schultz, came back as CEO and began to once again oversee the day to day operations.
Today Starbucks’ stock price has increased almost ten-fold from its low. It has once again returned to profitability. Since I go there regularly, their story has always intrigued me.
The book is a great read as it covers the decision making, the store closings, and also the elimination of some of its people. On the one hand I’m sure many felt that Schultz went about it the wrong way. For some it could appear that he was unnecessarily ruthless at times. But Starbucks had lost its way, and someone had to right the ship. Howard Schultz was the man to do it.
I have included twenty quotes that sort of summarize the decisions, the emotional turmoil, and the process that brought Starbucks back. Rather than include all twenty in one post, I will break it into two posts with several highlights in each post. These are all the words of Howard Schultz.
1. “There are moments in our lives when we summon the courage to make choices that go against reason, against common sense and the wise counsel of people we trust.” p. 7
2. “What upset me, what felt like a blow to the gut, was the leak. I could not imagine who would do such a thing. It was nothing less than betrayal. In my life I place enormous value on loyalty and trust.” p. 27
3. “Saying good-bye to people when they leave Starbucks never gets easier, even when I think it is the right choice for the company, and especially when I truly respect the individual.” p. 60
4. “Did we have the right people with the right skills in place for everything that needed attention.” p.77
5. “Our coffee and marketing departments went out and conducted their own taste tests to gain a definitive understanding of what many consumers really wanted in lieu of a bold brew–not what we assumed they wanted, which was a weak, inferior coffee. What we heard, what many people told us, was that they wanted Starbucks to sell a more consistent, balanced brewed coffee.” p. 85
6. “Closing so many stores felt like a defeat, even if it was the right thing to ensure the company’s health.” p. 152
7. “Success is not sustainable if it’s defined by how big you become. Large numbers that once motivated me–40,000 stores!–are not what matter. The only number that matters is ‘one.’ One cup. One customer. One partner. One experience at a time.” p. 156
8. “I know people are angry and grieving and I know people are mad. But I had to make the difficult choice (and consider) the long-term sustainability of the company.” p. 172
Obviously being at the top can be emotionally draining and incredibly challenging.
In my next post I will add some more quotes and lessons from a great comeback.