It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks Paperback by Howard Behar

“We’re not in the coffee business serving people. We’re in the people business serving coffee.”

  •  Howard Behar (former President of Starbucks) discusses the ten principles integral to the success of the coffee chain. He also discusses some of Starbucks’ development and the culture within the company. I am glad I read this book because I learned more about a major force within the food industry. I discovered some examples of the company’s strong focus on their employees (both their welfare and contributions):
  1. The company took pains to increase labor costs despite cutting into 2% of sales.
  2. Howard Behar wanted to find tangible ways to let employees know that he (and Starbucks) cared about them. At a point, he was sending more than 2500 greeting cards (anniversary, birthday) monthly throughout his company. He personally wrote and signed these cards, making a valuable and indelible impression throughout the employee base. Behar’s gesture exemplified Howard Schultz’s (CEO of Starbucks) goal of “Getting big and staying small.”
  3. Starbucks has many meetings and open forums where employees are encouraged to discuss current issues.
  4. Employees are empowered to make decisions and add value to the service-“The person who sweeps the floor chooses what type of broom is bought, not someone from higher up.”

-I gained an interesting term from Behar: “Compassionate Emptiness.” He describes this as listening to others without providing (or offering) any solutions to their problems. Often people just want and need to be heard. Lending an open ear (alone) can do wonders for the other person. I was a little disappointed with the book for two reasons:

  1. The principles Howard discusses are extremely generic and very similar to those described in many other business-related books.
  2. I enjoyed the vignettes he related (relevant to his ideas). However, there really werent enough of these to get a firm grasp of the company’s culture and inner-workings.
  3. I think I would have enjoyed more examples of the company’s slogan (mentioned earlier) regarding being in “the people business.” I dont doubt that it is important to Starbucks. I am just at a loss as to where this can be seen or experienced. While I find Starbucks employees to be respectful, pleasant, and helpful, I have never walked away with the feeling that they are in the “people  business.” For that, you need a little bit of Tony Hsieh’s (Zappos) magic.
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One Response to It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks Paperback by Howard Behar

  1. Pingback: The Audio-book experience | Shower Thoughts

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