Onward by Howard Schultz
  • Title: Onward
  • Subtitle: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life without Losing Its Soul
  • Author(s): Howard Schultz
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
  • Year: 2011-04-20
  • ISBN-10: 1119979234
  • ISBN-13: 9781119979234


“Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul” by Howard Schultz is a captivating account of Starbucks’ journey through a tumultuous period of corporate crisis and how the company managed to reinvigorate its brand and values while preserving its essence. In the wake of the global economic downturn, Starbucks faced challenges that threatened its very existence. Schultz, the company’s founder and CEO, returned to lead the charge and, in this book, he takes readers behind the scenes, offering an intimate look at the decisions, struggles, and triumphs that shaped Starbucks’ transformation.

The book’s first paragraph recounts the pivotal moment when Schultz took charge again and steered Starbucks on a path of revitalization. Facing declining sales, store closures, and a diluted brand identity, Schultz was determined to reignite the company’s passion for its original mission: to provide a “third place” for people to gather and enjoy premium coffee. Throughout the narrative, Schultz emphasizes the importance of staying true to core values, fostering a sense of purpose, and empowering employees to become ambassadors for the brand. He narrates how Starbucks tackled challenges head-on, such as streamlining the menu, reconnecting with customers, and recommitting to sustainable practices. By sharing these experiences, Schultz offers invaluable leadership lessons for business leaders and entrepreneurs who seek to navigate turbulent times while staying authentic to their company’s purpose and values. Overall, “Onward” is a powerful and inspirational tale of resilience and transformation that sheds light on how an iconic brand can overcome adversity and emerge even stronger.

Book Review

“Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul” by Howard Schultz is a compelling and candid account of Starbucks’ journey through one of the most challenging periods in its history. In the book, Schultz, the company’s visionary founder and CEO, takes readers behind the scenes, providing an in-depth look at the decisions and strategies that helped Starbucks weather the storm of the 2008 global economic downturn and emerge even stronger.

The book opens with a vivid description of Schultz’s emotional return to Starbucks as CEO in 2008, after stepping down from the position in 2000. The company was facing declining sales, a dilution of its brand, and growing competition from local coffee shops and fast-food chains. Schultz’s decision to return was driven by a burning desire to reignite the company’s passion for its original mission - to create a place where people could gather and enjoy premium coffee. He knew that reconnecting with Starbucks’ core values and purpose was critical to its survival. Schultz writes, “I wanted Starbucks to recapture the culture of warmth, familiarity, and humanity that had made the company so special.”

Throughout the book, Schultz emphasizes the importance of preserving Starbucks’ soul and authenticity. He shares numerous examples of how the company refocused on delivering a superior coffee experience, from investing in training to ensure baristas became true coffee artisans to streamlining the menu to reduce complexity. Starbucks also made significant strides in sustainability, committing to ethically sourced coffee beans and environmental conservation. Schultz’s storytelling highlights the significance of staying true to core values even in the face of challenges and pressures to compromise.

The book also delves into Schultz’s commitment to putting people first. He shares touching examples of how Starbucks supported its employees during tough times, providing them with benefits and opportunities for personal growth. Schultz firmly believed that taking care of his employees would lead to better customer experiences, and ultimately, stronger financial performance. One example is the decision to provide healthcare coverage to part-time employees, a move that reflected Starbucks’ deep-rooted belief in social responsibility.

“Onward” is not just a story of corporate survival; it is a testament to leadership, resilience, and the power of purpose-driven business. Schultz’s passion for the company and his unwavering dedication to its core values shine through in every page of the book. As a result, “Onward” offers valuable insights and lessons for entrepreneurs, business leaders, and anyone seeking inspiration in navigating through challenging times. It serves as a reminder that success is not solely measured by financial metrics, but also by the impact a company has on its employees, customers, and the communities it serves. Schultz’s storytelling and leadership philosophy make “Onward” a must-read for anyone interested in the dynamics of building and sustaining a beloved brand in an ever-changing business landscape.

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Target Audience

The book “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul” by Howard Schultz is a captivating and insightful read that offers valuable lessons for a diverse audience. Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, a business leader, a coffee enthusiast, or simply interested in the story of a remarkable corporate turnaround, this book is recommended reading for the following reasons:

  • Aspiring Entrepreneurs For those dreaming of building their own business empire, “Onward” provides a masterclass in leadership, vision, and resilience. Howard Schultz’s journey from a small coffee shop in Seattle to a global brand powerhouse serves as an inspiring example of how determination, innovation, and staying true to your mission can drive success. Aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from Schultz’s hands-on approach, his willingness to take calculated risks, and his ability to lead with a purpose-driven vision. The book is a blueprint for building a business that thrives while maintaining its core values and social responsibility.

  • Business Leaders For current business leaders, “Onward” is a goldmine of practical insights and strategic decision-making. The book offers a behind-the-scenes look at how Starbucks navigated through a tumultuous period, making tough choices to overcome financial challenges without compromising the brand’s essence. Leaders can glean lessons from Schultz’s emphasis on fostering a strong corporate culture, engaging employees, and investing in their growth. “Onward” also provides valuable lessons in crisis management, showing how transparent communication and swift action can turn a struggling company into a beacon of hope.

  • Coffee Enthusiasts and Consumers Coffee lovers and Starbucks’ loyal customers will appreciate the inside look at the company’s commitment to delivering the best coffee experience. Schultz’s dedication to sourcing ethically and sustainably grown beans, his obsession with the quality of every cup, and his focus on enhancing the customer experience make this book an engaging read for those who savor the coffee culture. It deepens the appreciation for the brand’s coffee heritage and the efforts behind each cup.

  • Leaders with a Social Impact Focus For leaders driven by a desire to make a positive impact on society, “Onward” is a case study in corporate social responsibility. Schultz’s emphasis on taking care of employees, offering healthcare benefits, and promoting community involvement showcases how a business can thrive while fostering social consciousness. The book serves as a reminder that companies have a broader role to play in creating positive change beyond just financial success.

In conclusion, “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul” is a recommended reading for a wide range of audiences. Its gripping narrative, practical leadership lessons, and emphasis on social responsibility make it a valuable resource for aspiring entrepreneurs, current business leaders, coffee enthusiasts, and anyone looking for inspiration in the face of adversity. Schultz’s commitment to preserving the soul of Starbucks while leading it through challenging times is a testament to the power of purpose-driven leadership and serves as a guiding light for businesses aspiring to make a positive impact on the world.