Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks, returned to the helm of the global cafe group in mid-2008 to save the company from financial distress. Amidst the global economic downturn, Starbucks could no longer produce its previous year-on-year 50% growth in sales and profits, and is faced with keen competition from cheaper alternatives like McDonald's.
It is therefore a good time to read this memoir of Schultz published in 1997, 5 years after the company was listed in New York with stunning performance, leading every Wall Street analyst to look for "the next Starbucks". In the book, Schultz explained how he came across Starbucks, a retailer of high-quality roasted coffee beans in Seattle and became a connoisseur of fine coffee. Following a trip to Milan, Italy where he witnessed the art of coffee-brewing by the baristas of espresso bars, he resolved to bring this coffee-drinking culture back to the States. The rest is history.
Through his description of the early days of building up Starbucks, opening new Starbucks outlets across the country, foraying into Japan, developing new products like Frappuccino, and taking the company public, Schultz demonstrated his passion and perseverance in educating the Americans about good-quality coffee. Despite financial difficulties and challenges that plague every start-up company, Schultz has never lost faith in what he believes. Thanks to his leadership, vision and integrity, Starbucks has successfully become the "Third Place" of many people, next to their home and workplace. This is really a phenomenon.
Employees of Starbucks are highly valued - they are called "Partners" and even before the company went public, the Partners were already rewarded with stock options. Starbucks was the first private company to offer stock options to its staff. The book shows you that care and focus on staff development is the key success factor of the exponential growth of Starbucks in the 1990s.
This contrasts drastically with the close-down of 900 outlets and lay-off of 19,000 employees across the globe in the past year, all brought about by Schultz as part of his salvage plan. The stock price of Starbucks has risen from $7 to $14, but whether these measures are sustainable remain to be seen.
Hence, this memoir written in 1997 is all upbeat, optimistic and high-sounding stuff. It is because the challenges faced by Schultz today were beyond his imagination then.
An interesting read....Continua
This narrative on the history of Starbucks (written by its founder) starts promisingly. The episodes from the early days are captivating and inspiring, especially for aspiring entrepueners. But the book goes downhill when it gets to the stage where Starbucks becomes a major corporation. Buy it only if you are willing to pay full price for a good half....Continua