Leading the Starbucks Way: A book review by Bob Morris

Leading StarbucksLeading the Starbucks Way: 5 Principles for Connecting with Your Customers, Your Products and Your People
Joseph A. Michelli
McGraw-Hill (2013)

How one coffee shop in Seattle became 20,891 in 62 countries

This is the second book in which Joseph Michelli focuses on lessons to be learned from the Starbucks organization. It should also be noted that the first Starbucks was located in a unique retail environment in Seattle, one that John Yokoyama and Michelli discuss in When Fish Fly: Lessons For Creating a Vital and Energized Workplace from the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market (2004). Whereas the focus in the earlier book, The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary (2006), is on how to create an extraordinary customer experience, the focus in Leading the Starbucks Way is on how managers can establish and then strengthen relationships with customers, products, and associates.

As indicated in both Starbucks books, many of the lessons to be learned from its organization bear striking resemblance to those to be learned from another of Michelli’s books, The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (2008). Both César Ritz and Howard Schultz built organizations based on essentially the same principles, stated somewhat differently:

RC: Define everything and refine constantly
S: Savor and elevate
RC: Empower your people through trust
S: Love to be loved
RC: It’s not about you
S: Reach for common ground
RC: Deliver “Wow!”
Note: Ritz observed long ago that “people like to be served, but invisibly.”
S: Mobilize the connection
RC: Leave a lasting footprint
S: Cherish and challenge your legacy

All great organizations have outstanding leadership at all levels and in all areas. That is certainly true of Starbucks but there was a widely publicized deterioration of its structural integrity after Howard Schultz’s first tenure as CEO (1987-2000) and before his resumption of CEO duties in 2008. He recounts all this — sustained periods of meteoric growth, economic downturn, recovery, and transformation — in Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul (2012).

As is also true of Michelli ‘s previously published books, he makes skillful use of several reader-friendly devices such as “Reflection on Connection” and “Connecting Points” sections inserted strategically throughout the narrative. He is also the master of bullet-point checklists as well as relevant quotations from primary and secondary sources that illustrate key points. These devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of material later.

Although Joseph Michelli tends to write about large organizations, he correctly asserts that the most valuable lessons to be learned from them are relevant to almost any other organization, whatever its size and nature may be. How else to explain why one hotel became 81 in 26 countries and how one coffee shop became 20,891 in 62 countries. Those who read this book will be well-prepared to adapt the five principles in ways and to an extent that are most appropriate to the given enterprise.

Posted in

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.