Book Review: Onward by Howard Schultz

Chances are you’ve been into a Starbucks at some point and if not, that you know the brand. People have all sorts of feelings about Starbucks but one thing is for sure – they’ve had a very interesting ride as a company. This book tells of the experience of Howard Schultz, the two-time CEO and spokesperson of the company.

Onward is a quick read and as a business owner of an expanding business, I was particularly curious about what sort of challenges they faced as they grew.  Obviously we’re no Starbucks, but I’ve found that you can learn from the history of almost any business.

The key lessons learned that I think are relevant to Orange are the LEAN principles of feedback on processes as well as reassurances that using your guiding principles is a great way to steer your business when the waters get murky or you don’t know exactly how to proceed.  Our company, like Starbucks, is focused on maintaining standards of social responsibility and  green practices so those factors make it easier at times for us to decide how we want to improve our business.

Some interesting quotes from the book that resonated with me in regards to Orange:

  • “The great companies will be the ones that find a way to have a hold on to their values while chasing their profits, and brand value will converge to create a new business model that unites commerce and compassion.  The heart and the wallet… The great companies of this century will be sharp to success and at the same time sensitive to the idea that you can’t measure the true success of a company on a spreadsheet.” Believe it or not that came from Bono of U2, and it’s funny to think of him saying words like spreadsheet and business model.
  • “Large numbers are not what matter. The only number that matters is ‘one.’  One cup.  One customer.  One partner.  One experience at a time.” Schultz himself said this; I can easily reinterpret the quote to reflect our values here at Orange: “One shot.  One client.  One partner.”
  • “Grow with discipline. Balance intuition with rigor. Innovate around the core. Don’t embrace the status quo. Find new ways to see. Never expect a silver bullet.  Get your hands dirty.  Listen with empathy and communicate with transparency.  Tell your story, refusing to let others define you.  Use authentic experiences to inspire.  Stick to your values, they are your foundation.  Hold people accountable but give them the tools to succeed.  Make the tough choices; it’s how you execute that counts.  Be decisive in times of crisis.  Be nimble.  Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes.  Be responsible for what you see, hear, and do.  Believe.” This final quote comes towards the end of the book when Schultz summarizes what he had to do to turn the company around.

Overall, it was a good read and I’d recommend it for anyone interested in learning about how to grow a business while remaining true to your values.