Kirkus Reviews QR Code
ONWARD by Howard Schultz


How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul

by Howard Schultz with Joanne Gordon

Pub Date: March 29th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60529-288-5
Publisher: Rodale

With the assistance of former Forbes journalist Gordon (Closing the Engagement Gap, 2008, etc.), the CEO of Starbucks explains how he collaborated with a cast of thousands to rejuvenate a declining business.

In 2000, Schultz (Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, 1999) surrendered the CEO position but remained as chairman, focusing on spreading the coffee products to other nations, especially China. He was comfortable with his immediate successor, chosen from inside Starbucks, but the next CEO arrived from outside. Though Schultz liked him and respected his work ethic, the quality of the product and the service began to drop and the company’s financial growth stagnated. Alarmed, Schultz decided to return for a second act as CEO. In his first book, the author described the early years of the company, with a heavy emphasis on ideals. Here, he looks back occasionally at those earlier years, but mostly provides a chronological account of what happened from 2007 to 2010. The detail is immense, and the cast of characters can feel overwhelming. Overall, though, the chronological account contains enough revelations and suspense to keep readers engaged. Schultz does not dodge outside criticisms of his performance, nor does he eschew self-criticism. For many of its employees and customers, Starbucks is a sacred place that fills needs of connectedness and companionship. Schultz reprints correspondence from both employees and customers that demonstrate the special place that local Starbucks stores hold in the hearts and minds of so many. The author pledges to donate the book’s proceeds to support neighborhoods where stores are located and to provide financial relief to employees facing emergencies.

An engaging account by a wealthy executive who sounds sincere and seems approachable.