The former CEO of Starbucks wants to give everyone a chance to be their best selves.
Schultz (Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul, 2011, etc.) reflects on his personal and professional journey “to try to answer a vital question of our time: What can we do to effect meaningful change and create the just, fair, and secure future we all desire?” He recounts successes, challenges, and failures as he pursued his goal of creating a profitable business that balances “seemingly competing priorities of humanity and prosperity.” Schultz envisioned Starbucks as more than a coffee shop: a place of respite and community where people would feel welcomed, a “third place,” he calls it, not home or work but rather an escape from both. “Haunted by the anxiety” of his family’s financial insecurity, Schultz wanted to give his employees respect, fair pay, and benefits such as health insurance, stock options, and, eventually, tuition reimbursement. Starbucks, he hoped, would become known “as a great place to work” as well as a place “that fostered human connection over great coffee.” The author comes across as a sensitive—although sometimes naïve and wide-eyed—observer of injustice and a “common-sense” problem-solver open to innovative ideas. In 2014, after the deaths of Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin, for example, he began to ask himself “what the tragic deaths, court rulings, and uprisings revealed about the plight of black people in America today.” As a white, wealthy male, he wondered, “Where had I been?” His response was to mount an initiative called Race Together—a message featured on Starbuck cups and discussed in open forums—which, he was surprised to discover, generated “biting headlines” and satirical jokes. Nevertheless, he believes his decision to focus on race embodied the company’s values “of trying to uphold human dignity by fostering civil conversation about complex topics.” More successful initiatives include college mentoring, job creation for veterans and refugees, and philanthropic giving from the author’s family foundation.
Optimism about America from a man mulling his next expression of civic responsibility.