The last post talked about my opinion of the three things I find extremely important for a company to do in order to succeed. It was initiated by the treatment that I had received the previous day at Starbucks and a posting by Jason Kottke. The timing could not have been better for Tom The Architect to recommend I read the book Pour Your Heart into It : How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, the inspring story by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on how he built the Starbucks brand and business on – you guessed it – the three things mentioned in my previous posting.
The book begins talking about Howards childhood and the origins of his drive to succeed being based on his fathers unhappiness and hardships supporting his family. We go through college with Howard and his first job, as a salesman, on to his first exposure to Starbucks corporation, a coffee roasting company dedicated to bringing fine coffees to its customers. Howard is completely caught up in the passion that the company owners have, and persue them to hire him as an employee. Finally, after a lot of convincing on Howards part, they hired him.
We then go to Milan, where Howard is first exposed to the espresso bar. He is captivated by the environment which these bars create and takes an idea back to the Starbucks owners to begin opening espresso bars in the Seattle area to recreate the environment he encountered in Milan. The owners of the company are resistant to the idea, fearing it will comprimise the standards they have set for themselves in being the finest coffee roasters in the Seattle area.
Finally, Howard decides to leave Starbucks and start his own company running his own authentic espresso bars in the Seattle area. His Il Giornale stores are highly successful. By the time Howard has 3 stores (to Starbucks 6), the owners of Starbucks decide to put the company up for sale and Il Giornale buys the company, changing it’s name to Starbucks.
The remainder of the book chronicles the building of the Starbucks we know today and the journey from small entrepreneurial company to a large, multi-national, professionally managed one. The most amazing thing about the story was the adherance to the core values that the company was founded on and the unwavering belief that customers and the employees drive business success. The company is living proof that success (financial and otherwise) is a by-product of doing the right things for your customers. It is also is a very good example of how valueable a mission statement that articulates the values of the company can be as a “measuring stick” to help you make decisions.
Reading this book was a breath of fresh air for me. I highly recommend it as not only a fascinating story in general, but for the lessons in leadership that it offers. Howard Schultz is very honest about both the things he feels he did right and mistakes he thinks he’s made. He shares the heartbreak of being turned down for venture capitol, and the elation of succeeding in the business of his dreams. He explains some of the real challenging times he has had as CEO of Starbucks, the issues encountered when a company grows really quickly and the ways in which these issues were handled. He outlines his creation of a “leadership pipeline” and his long journey towards being able to let go of the details and finding people he trusted to take care of them as the company grew. Finally, he talks about the delicate balance between values and Wall Street, and the stress that the shareholders can bring to a business.
This is probably the best “business” book I’ve read in quite a while. It has everything you could possibly want in a book about leadership, vision, and values. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a truly inspiring story.