Sep 18, 2020dixithanoop rated this title 4.5 out of 5 stars
I picked up this book because of multiple reasons. First and foremost, as an avid coffee fan (but not at all a connoisseur) who tries out different ways of making coffee and exploring various varieties of it, I always wanted to learn Starbucks' take on innovation in coffee. Secondly, I knew this was the story of a turnaround, and a mighty impressive one at that given Starbucks has rebounded from its 2008 woes pretty solidly. Reading the stories of bouncing backs are always much more captivating than those of hagiography!
And in regards to that, the book not only didn't disappoint, it even overdid it. Literally, the very last chapter of the book is the only chapter in which the author and the Starbucks legend (and a legendary CEO in his own right) Howard Schultz talks about the success story. The rest of the book is about how it went through a series of rough phases starting in 2007, and how a lot of measures taken in positive spirit by the founder-CEO promptly backfired. Howard Schultz has been humble and honest enough in the book to accept his tactical mistakes and strategic blunders, and that's a rare quality. The title of the book "Onward" apparently is the signature of Howard Schultz.
There are some amazing lessons to learn from some of the incidents that transformed Starbucks around 2007-2008. The meticulous attention given to the smell of burnt cheese off breakfast sandwiches so the shop always smells of aromatic coffee, innovating via the reverse French Press - the Clover machine, Michelle Gass' story of taking Frappuccino from nothing to 2 billion, the ingenious voting ad (free coffee if you vote), the super creative "MyStarbucksIdea.com" story (the hero my previous book Marc Benioff makes a cameo there :)), the unusual Blizzard partnership, the instant coffee and "JAWS (short for Just Add Water and Stir) project, the heart touching story of coffee tasting events for blind in Japan are a few of the interesting stories you could read in the book. The book ends with the story of Starbucks adopting new and improved technology, and their expansion in China. And those two combined invariably reminds me of Luckin Coffee!
The book also gives a great insight about the supply chain of Starbucks coffee, all the way from the soil and coffee plants of Rwanda from where they source their finest Arabica coffee (Starbucks has never used the lower quality and cheaper Robusta coffee even at the heights of recession), to their unique roasting and mixing approaches. I did like many of the quotes of Howard Schultz, but my favorite one has been "Starbucks is not too big to fail. But it's certainly too good to fail".
Overall, I think this is one of the most inspiring books that I have read this year. It teaches through the lessons it learned from its failures. I'd recommend it to two sets of people - avid coffee fans, and entrepreneurs.