Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz and Joanne Gordon

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Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz and Joanne Gordon

Category: Business and Finance
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The story of how Starbucks was pulled back from the brink. It's interesting and full of suspense but might have been better told by an outsider.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 348 Date: April 2011
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons
ISBN: 978-0470977644

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For nearly thirty years Starbucks had measured its success by its rate of expansion. In 2007 anyone looking at the accounts might have realised that there were odd areas which weren't quite so good, but overall the results continued to improve as they had done for many years. If it wasn't broke what needed to be mended? Former Chief Executive Officer, Howard Schultz, then watched as the share price started to tumble and it suddenly seemed that the very existence of the company was in doubt. He did what no one expected him to do – after eight years away from the job he returned as CEO.

Onward is the story of how he stabilised the company and brought it back to its core values. When a company has 16,000 stores it's never one area which is the answer to or cause of the problems. There was slippage in virtually every area and the company seemed to focus on expansion at the expense of innovation. Other companies were catching up with – or even overtaking – Starbucks and there was talk that it might be better if the company was taken over. Howard Schultz was determined that this wasn't going to happen: he'd been there at the beginning and he loved that company.

If you're looking for a book about what can go wrong with a big company and how difficult it is to put it right then this could well be the book for you. Schultz is open about the part he played in promoting expansion above all else and about those of his ideas for regeneration which fell flat on their faces. It's a story which needed to be told, but I do wonder if it might have been better told by an outsider. Schultz might disagree with people but he never seems to have an argument. No one ever seems to depart on bad terms and no one seems to bring him to the point of apoplexy with their actions. As I read I couldn't help but feel that I was reading the sanitised version of events.

The story of the fight for Starbucks' life is well told and there's a level of suspense which keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens next. I could have done with fewer quotations from Schultz's speeches and memos – in places the book read rather more like an advert for the company than a retelling of what had happened.

I know that I sound churlish. I feel it. I'm conscious of all the good that Starbucks has done and of the fact that people who work there never stop singing its praises. I just feel that I'd like to know the inside story of what really happened.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For the story of another company revived by its CEO we can recommend The Rise and Fall of Marks & Spencer: ...and How It Rose Again by Judi Bevan.

Buy Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz and Joanne Gordon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz and Joanne Gordon at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz and Joanne Gordon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz and Joanne Gordon at Amazon.com.


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