Book Review: Onward

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Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul. Howard Schultz with Joanne Gordon. New York: Rodale, Inc., 2011. 331 pages.

Reviewed by _______________
Onward is a book written by Starbucks ceo Howard Schultz (the company uses lower case for all job titles) about how the company recalibrated itself after getting too big, too fast. The reason I chose to read and review this book is because I am a coffee addict. Ironically, I am not a fan of Starbucks. I’ve always felt that their coffee is a bit overpriced and just very dramatic for my liking. However, I’ve always been intrigued by the store’s ambiance. I admit that I’ve visited a number of stores with friends to play catch up over a cup of coffee and I did feel warm, cozy, and welcomed. I wondered to myself, how does this company do it? How do they provide their customers with this “third place” feeling? As Schultz mentions early in the book, if home is a person’s “first place” to connect with others, and work is a person’s “second place” to connect with others, then a public place such as a coffeehouse- such as Starbucks- is what he refers to be a person’s “third place”. Onward is the chronicle of a ceo’s mission to revive, reinvigorate, and reinvent a company without losing the essence of what the company was originally built on.

Schultz was born and raised in the poor projects of Brooklyn, New York. Upon finishing College, he accepted a job offer in Seattle as head of marketing for a small coffee company called Starbucks. At the time, the company only sold coffee beans, no beverages. It wasn’t until a business trip to Italy that Howard discovered his true passion for coffee. At a small coffee shop in Milan, he was inspired watching a barista work his magic- pouring shots of espresso into small porcelain cups, creating these warm relationships with his customers. He described it as theater and said: “The blend of craftsmanship and human connection, combined with the warm...
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