What We Can Learn: Onward

What we can learn from Howard Schultz in Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul

Throughout the book there is one theme that overwhelmingly stuck out to me. Focus. Throughout each story in the book, Shultz singular focus is clear: To deliver the best coffee experience he can. I think the word experience is key there, because he wanted to deliver more than a cup of coffee. To Schultz, a cup of coffee truly should be an experience which includes everything from the ambiance of the coffee shop, the smell, and the community. This focus brought with it an unparalleled attention to detail, epitomized by the story where he had a South American company rework a machine to make it four inches shorter. These four inches gave the customer more visibility to the barista; thus, a more engaging experience. His focus to deliver the best coffee experience also trumped his desire for profit. In one instance shutting down every Starbucks store globally to hold training for his employees to ensure they’re serving the best espresso possible. His focus also drove him to realize he couldn’t be all things to all people. He chose focus over profit by removing breakfast sandwiches when he returned to his position as CEO, as they distracted from the singular goal.

How can we apply this to business when we’re not in the coffee industry? Emulating Schultz focus can drive you no matter what industry you’re in. Defining a goal, sticking to it, and forsaking other things that may seem beneficial in the short term, but are detrimental in the long run.

Schultz’ focus drove attention to detail, attention to experience, and a desire for quality over profit which have lasted throughout the Starbucks franchises for years. As we see in Starbucks, the fruit of his labor has and continues to pay off, and the profit, although not prioritized, has surely followed.

About the author: BK

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