Reading is one of the best disciplines to stay ahead of the game. As business guru, Robin Sharma says, reading from a great book is really all about having a conversation with the author. You can learn what makes great men tick, how they think, the issues they dealt with and what made them successful. Reading an autobiography allows the author’s brilliance to rub off on you or as Sharma said after reading Mahatma Ghandi’s autobiography, “you can drink coffee with Ghandi”.
So I have decided to review a few great books and autobiographies that have impacted me. “Pour Your Heart into It” was given to me by my friend, Barry Berman and I was so enthralled with it that I read it twice.
Given my fascination with Starbucks it was inevitable that I would love the story of Schultz, who came from the wrong side of the railway tracks outside New York and built a global giant. The book will give you admiration for what Schultz created – a worldwide brand, rivaling McDonalds, and a real “societal change agent”.
The keys for Schultz on this amazing journey? Passion and Persistence; the two attributes of successful people. His story wasn’t a quick fairy tale, where magically everything fell into place right from the very beginning. There were a lot of false starts and rejections of his dream in the early years – all character building of course, but here was a man who used these rejections as fuel for pushing that much harder. Think about it, he was pushing a low price commodity, not a new-fangled technology or one-of-a-kind product that had a lot of sizzle. This was coffee – about as ubiquitous as any product on the globe.
It was the passion that pushed the success of Starbucks beyond just the coffee – Schultz vividly explains how he built Starbucks into a “Third Place” which is a place after home and work where you can chill and enjoy yourself. Starbucks shops offer these “benefits as seductive as coffee itself”:
• A taste of romance
• An affordable luxury
• An oasis
• Casual social interaction
Just as admirable is the way the company expanded this passion down the ranks, with non-traditional compensation and benefit programs that pushed ownership to all employees, and extended health benefits to even part-time employees. As Schultz put it, “I wanted to win the race. But I also wanted to make sure that when we got to the finish line, no one was left behind. If a small group of white-collar managers and shareholders won at the expense of employees, that wouldn’t be a victory at all. We had to be in a position where we all reached the tape together.” He also speaks about the “open door” philosophy that encouraged questions, suggestions and comments from everyone – and cites the development of the Frappuccino as a prime example of how this worked.
Respect and dignity are the employee watchwords that Schultz has preached and practiced since he started Starbucks’ in 1987, and you can “see” that on just about every page of the book where teammates are mentioned.
Lastly, the book serves as an excellent case study in “leadership with heart”. Schultz is an undying “inclusive optimist”. Here’s his definition of success and how a leader can achieve it: “Success should not be measured in dollars: It’s about how you conduct the journey, and how big your heart is at the end of it……One person can do only so much. But if he gathers a company of people around him who are committed to the same goals, if he galvanizes them and inspires them and taps into their inner drive, they can perform miracles together. It takes courage.”
Schultz has lived and breathed this dream of success and how to achieve it, and it has come true. So take heed all those businesspeople who prefer to lead with the heart instead of the head – it can be done! When you are overseas just walk into any Starbucks and see how a global brand was built, one coffee at a time. I highly recommend this book.