Starbucks: Company with a Soul!

Just a quick post here to recommend a book I thoroughly enjoyed:

Pour Your Heart into It:
How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

It’s a really interesting way to tell a story. It’s a biography of Starbucks, told in the first person Howard Schultz, by the president and former CEO of Starbucks. The book is written with a specific timeline focused around the company, peppered with crises and shows the way Howard dealt with all the crises that nearly destroyed the company and what he learned from it.

It’s almost as if the book was written in the same way you’d write fiction, with real character development, except with the company itself as a character. And it manages to do this without seeming like it’s trying to be cute. It’s just… good. It’s a really engaging way to write a business biography.

Structure aside, I enjoyed the book itself a great deal. He set out to build a company with a soul and a passionate, committed team from the lowliest coffee-peddler all the way to the top of the food chain, and he shows how he did it and why it worked… or didn’t.

It shows how the company went from a small coffee beans-only store in Seattle to an international success that’s branched out into soft drinks, ice creams, and even music.

A few things about the book surprised me.

First, Starbucks has been around since the early 1970s, but only sprang into prominence in the last ten years. The foundation for greatness was always there but it only recently sprang into being such an incredible brand. This couldn’t have been accomplished without the company being committed heart-and-soul to being the best at what they do, and finding out how they cultivated and tapped into this soul makes for a great read.

Second, Starbucks doesn’t franchise! Every single Starbucks location (over 6,000) is corporately owned and run to manage quality. Generally franchising is faster, cheaper and easier since you’re putting most of the burden of establishing the business on the entrepreneur that’s going to manage it. But the fact that Starbucks doesn’t do this and STILL maintains the unbelievably high rate of growth that they do is amazing.

Third, ALL Starbucks employees, even part-timers, get stock options and health insurance. They were one of the first companies in America to offer this to part-timers. This ties into the whole “how to build a company with a soul” concept, and is pretty amazing considering how much money they could save by not giving a damn.

After reading it, I’m even more convinced than before that it is possible to accomplish more and better things with a small, nimble, passionately devoted company that respects its employees than you could with a large, lumbering, faceless behemoth of a corporation.

I don’t mean to sound like a hippie when I say that. I’m still 100% pro-corporations and pro-business. I just prefer the more human, more respectful way of playing the game. The one where respecting your employees and not being evil ultimately annihilates the slower, weaker and less respectful of their most valuable assets… people. 🙂

I mean, good lord, look at the size of Starbucks. It’s a gigantic company. Their product is good, it’s consistent, it’s EVERYWHERE, their people are always amazing at every level, and they grow larger and more profitable every day, even though they go to ridiculous and expensive lengths to take care of their people, donate to charities and try to make the world a better place by utilizing their leverage as a large corporation.

If a company THAT BIG can prove the formula works, what else could people accomplish with the same attitude, in a different industry?

We’ll see.

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