Given my facination (or maybe obsession) with Starbucks it was inevitable that I would read CEO Howard Schultz’s book “Pour Your Heart Into It”. I’ve always admired the “vibe” that their stores had that compelled you to pay triple what you used to pay for coffee, ever since I stepped into my first Starbucks in Vancouver, BC in 1990. After reading this well paced and facinating book, now I have a much better understanding of the background and inspirations of that vibe, and an even greater admiration for what Schultz and his teammates have created – a worldwide brand rivaling McDonalds, and a real “societal change agent”.
The keys for Schultz on this amazing journey? Passion and Persistence. This wasn’t a fairy tale, where magically everything fell into place right from the very beginning. There were a lot of false starts and rejections of his dream in the early years – all character building, of course, but here was a man who used these rejections as fuel for pushing that much harder. Think about it: he was pushing a commodity, not a new-fangled technology or one-of-a-kind product that had a lot of sizzle. This was coffee – about as ubiquitous as any beverage on the planet.
It was the passion that pushed the success of Starbucks beyond just the coffee – Schultz vividly explains the genesis of how Starbucks became a “Third Place”, and offered these “benefits as seductive as coffee itself”:
- A taste of romance
- An affordable luxury
- An oasis
- Casual social interaction
Just as admirable is the way this company expanded this passion all the way down the ranks, with non-traditional compensation and benefit programs that pushed ownership to all employees, and extended health benefits for even part-time people. As Schultz put it, “I wanted to win the race. But I also wanted to make sure that when we got to the finish line, no one was left behind. If a small group of white-collar managers and shareholders won at the expense of employees, that wouldn’t be a victory at all. We had to be in a position where we all reached the tape together” He also speaks about the “open door” philosophy that encouraged questions, suggestions and comments from everyone -and cites the development of the Frappuccino as a prime example of how this worked. Respect and dignity are the employee watchwords that Schultz has preached and practiced since he started the modern Starbucks’ in 1987, and you can “see” that on just about every page of the book where teammates are mentioned.
Lastly, the book serves as an excellent case study in “leadership with heart”. Schultz is an undying “inclusive optimist”. Here’s his definition of success and how a leader can achieve it: “Success should not be measured in dollars: It’s about how you conduct the journey, and how big your heart is at the end of it……One person can do only so much. But if he gathers a company of people around him who are committed to the same goals, if he galvanizes them and inspires them and taps into their inner drive, they can perf0rm miracles together. It takes courage.”
Schultz has lived and breathed this dream of success and how to achieve it, and it has come true. So take heed all those folks who prefer to lead with the heart instead of the head – it can be done! Just walk into any Starbucks and see – and read this book.