For Love of Country

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz challenges us to do more for our veterans.

For Love of Country coverFor Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice (ISBN 978-1101874455) is a new book by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Washington Post war correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The book begins with five stories of bravery from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. It concludes with five stories of the sacrifice and service veterans continue to make upon returning home. You’ll meet real and unforgettable heroes like a sixty-year-old physician that follows his fallen son in military service and a nine-year-old boy who requested “Soldier of Kindness” as the engraving on his father’s tombstone.

I found the book difficult to read yet also difficult to put down. Like Starbucks’ chairman, I too am inspired to do more than just say “thank you” and move on. The book’s web site lists several ways we can all do that.

Proceeds from the sale of For Love of Country are donated to Onward Veterans, a donor-advised fund of the Schultz Family Foundation that supports the successful transition of military veterans and their families.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tales of the Siren: A Starbucks Melody

What happens when a Seattleite starts a blog about her favorite coffee shop?

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time it’s pretty hard to miss that I’m a big fan of Starbucks. Nearly every morning begins with a Grande cup of brewed goodness from the Starbucks tucked inside my local grocery store. On other days, I’ll tear open a Via packet and make coffee at home. Starbucks has elevated our view of coffee and ignited our desire to make connections with other people in the “third place” created by their stores. I’m firmly convinced that Starbucks can teach us how to create better human connections in our organizations, making the BI Competency Center the “third place” between an office worker’s cubicle and the IT department.

Starbucks cups

Tales of the Siren: A Starbucks Melody (ISBN 978-1499344202) is a book written by a fellow blogger named Melody Overton who created the Starbucks Melody blog. Being a passionate Starbucks fan in Starbucks’ hometown of Seattle has given her a unique perspective on the company. She’s woven her stories into a book that is “the other Onward”, covering roughly the same period that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz writes about (see my related book review for Onward).

After reading Melody’s book, I’m convinced that I must add visiting Seattle and attending a Starbucks shareholder meeting to my bucket list. If you’re a fan of Starbucks, you’ll enjoy Melody’s unique perspective. And if you’re a blogger, whether you blog about Starbucks, stamp collecting, or Scandinavia, you’ll learn some valuable lessons about how Melody has pursued authenticity over audience (although she has ample amounts of both).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Meet Me at Starbucks

What can we learn from Starbucks’ first global ad campaign?

Starbucks Cup with Dallas Name 500

Last week, Starbucks launched its first global ad campaign, “Meet Me at Starbucks”. Shot over a 24-hour period in 40 Starbucks stores across 28 countries, it reminds me of Apple’s “shot around the world in one day” commercial, 1.24.14. The 30-second and 60-second spots cull footage from longer documentaries that you can watch on Starbuck’s special “Meet Me” web site. The ads illuminate the human interactions that occur daily at the “third place” Starbucks creates between our “first place” of home and our “second place” of work.

 

In my recent ASUG presentation, Secrets of a Business Intelligence Barista, I made the case for integrating the Starbucks customer experience into our Business Intelligence Competency Centers.

The business intelligence competency center is a third place between the cubicle and corporate IT that provides a collaborative environment to solve business challenges and align execution to organizational strategy.

I’m a realist- “Meet Me at the Business Intelligence Competency Center” isn’t going to generate the same emotional response that Starbucks has achieved with their new campaign. But I’m also an idealist. Solving business problems with data? That’s something that can be life-changing for the people we serve.

Some of our business intelligence consumers are gregarious. Some are cantankerous. But as you begin your week today, look beyond the crisis of the moment. Look beyond the technology. Take a moment to make the human connection.

What’s your reaction to Starbucks’ new campaign?

Onward

A book review of Onward by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

Onward tells the story that begins with the private memo that Howard Schultz sent to then-CEO Jim Donald in February 2007 entitled “The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience“. That memo was leaked to the public. Subtitled “How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul,” the book provides a first-hand account of how Starbucks, a darling growth stock of Wall Street, weathered the recent economic downturn and challenges from its competitors. Schultz would return to the CEO post in January 2008 and initiate a series of dramatic changes. The most daring was the closing of all 7,100 US locations— for three hours— to retrain all its partners in the art of the perfect shot of espresso.

We’re taking time to perfect our espresso.

Great espresso requires practice.

That’s why we’re dedicating ourselves to honing our craft.

Where his previous book, Pour Your Heart Into It, described how Starbucks maintained its values and unique corporate culture during rapid growth, Onward describes how Starbucks maintained its values during a dark downward financial spiral. At the onset of the 2008 recession, the daily trip to Starbucks was one of the first things consumers began to cut from their household budgets. Simultaneously, competitors such as McDonalds were upgrading their coffee offerings while undercutting Starbucks on price. What is also different from the previous book is how technologies such as the world wide web, Wi-Fi, smartphones, and social media have changed how Starbucks interacts with its customers and partners.

As a long-time BusinessObjects professional, I found myself thinking about how BusinessObjects was assimilated by SAP during the same timeframe as this book. Starbucks had a distinct set of values that were furiously maintained despite some drastic changes in its operations. In contrast, SAP seemed to go out of its way to prove to the world that BusinessObjects did not have a unique set of corporate values worth preserving. Instead, SAP seemed quite focused on destroying anything BusinessObjects employees, or even customers, found of value.

As judged by its stock price, Starbucks has turned the corner. It sharpened its focus and improved its back-end operations while staying true to its mission –  “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time”.

From page 13:

If home is the primary or “first” place where a person connects with others, and if work is a person’s “second place,” then a public space such as a coffeehouse— such as Starbucks— is what I have always referred to as the “third place.” A social yet personal environment between one’s house and job, where people can connect with others and reconnect with themselves.  From the beginning, Starbucks set out to provide just such an invaluable opportunity.

So when some refer to Starbucks’ coffee as an affordable luxury, I think to myself, Maybe so. But more accurate, I like to think, is that the Starbucks Experience— personal connection— is an affordable necessity. We are all hungry for community.

I’m guilty as charged. Most of my work-day mornings begin at Starbucks. For me, the quality of the coffee, Wi-Fi access, and community make it the perfect place to begin the day.

Howard Schultz is fond of saying that Starbucks isn’t in the coffee business serving people, but in the people business serving coffee.  Anyone in the “people business” will profit from reading this engaging story.

Onward!

UPDATE 09/29/2012: Mike Urbonas has another take on Onward- a really smart article on Smart Data Collective about how Howard Schultz used business intelligence to “get his hands dirty” and find out what was really going on at Starbucks.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Pour Your Heart Into It

A book review of Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz

Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz and Dori Jones Yang was published in 1997 and chronicles the early years of Starbucks.  Starbucks was founded in 1971, providing high-quality whole coffee beans to coffee aficionados.  Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ current CEO, joined the company in 1982 but departed in 1985 after failing to persuade Starbucks owners to branch into cafes like the ones he had visited in Italy.  Mr. Schultz created a small chain of cafes named Il Giornale, named after the Italian newspaper.  Two years later, after choosing to focus on their Peet’s Coffee acquisition, Starbucks owners would sell the company to Mr. Schultz, who combined it with Il Giornale but kept the name Starbucks. And instead of simply a local retailer of specialty coffee beans, we today know Starbucks as a global “third place” between home and work.

While my original idea was to provide a quick, stand-up, to-go service in downtown office locations, Starbucks’ fastest growing stores today are in urban or suburban residential neighborhoods. People don’t just drop by to pick up a half-pound of decaf on their way to the supermarket, as we first anticipated. They come for the atmosphere and the camaraderie.

People didn’t know they needed a safe, comfortable, neighborhood gathering place. They didn’t know they would like Italian espresso drinks.  But when we gave it to them, the fervor of their response overwhelmed us.

from Chapter 8, If It Captures Your Imagination, It Will Captivate Others, pages 121-122

In a chapter entitled The Best Way to Build a Brand, Howard Schultz talks about what has made Starbucks an enduring brand.

Our product is a log more than coffee. Customers choose to come to us for three reasons: our coffee, our people, and the experience in our stores.

Howard Behar [then head of Starbucks retail, now a board member] has [a saying]: “We’re not in the coffee business serving people. We’re in the people business serving coffee”.

Chapter 18, The Best Way to Build a Brand, pages 249-250

A major theme of the book is the establishment of values, creating a unique corporate culture and maintaining that culture as the company experienced massive growth.  He tells the story of Starbucks refusing to offer skim milk. Although health-conscious customers asked for it, the coffee purists (including Howard Schultz himself) thought that beverages made with skim milk tasted bad.  Was offering skim milk simply catering to customer choice, or a crisis of values?

In hindsight, that decision looks like a no-brainer. But at the time, we weren’t sure what impact it would have on our brand and our identity… How did we deal with our consciences? We had to recognize that the customer was right. It was our responsibility to give people a choice.

Chapter 12, The Value of Dogmatism and Flexibility, page 169

In corporate IT, there are certainly standards that make things run smoothly. But there are other standards that simply drive our customers nuts.  There are times for IT dogmatism, but there are also times for IT flexibility, particularly if we want to see increased user adoption of our business intelligence systems.

The book is interesting because it describes initiatives to expand the Starbucks brand into other areas beyond coffee. Curiously, these same initiatives are curtailed as the company refocuses during the 2008 economic downturn, chronicled in Howard’s 2001 book, Onward (see my related book review of Onward).

In the book, I discovered a lot of lessons about customer service that I hope to incorporate into my work habits.  After all, I’m not in the business intelligence business serving people, I’m in the people business serving business intelligence.  I want to become a business intelligence barista, helping my customers create that “third place” between the information worker’s cubicle and the IT department.  A place where people come for three things: our business intelligence, our people, and the customer experience.

I’m glad I read this book even though I’m not in the coffee business.  Which books have you read outside the business intelligence industry that you’ve found useful in your work?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed this book from a public library. It was not a free review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Business Casual Business Intelligence

Delivering business intelligence that’s as readily available as a good cup of coffee.

Today is the third and final day of the 2009 SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Dallas, Texas. In the morning, I’ll be giving the last of three breakouts that I was selected to present this year, entitled “Deploying BI to the Masses using SAP BusinessObjects Explorer”.  Explorer, formerly Polestar, is an intuitive application that takes the simplicity of search (think Google) to provide instant access to information. Explorer leverages your existing business intelligence infrastructure and opens it up to a new kind of user, the casual business intelligence user. Dan Kearnan, from SAP BusinessObjects, led a conference breakout earlier this week about how to use Explorer. Although I’ll give a brief demo of the Explorer user experience, the focus on my breakout is the back-end details that IT needs to know to deploy Explorer effectively.

We live in a brave new world of instant information. My eight-year-old daughter knows that she can ask her dad to “just Google it” if there’s a piece of information that needs to be found. Sites like Google and Wikipedia help us make sense of the world around us. SAP BusinessObjects Explorer intends to do the same for the knowledge inside of our organizations.

Of course, business intelligence vendor demos can make everything look all too easy. Real life is messier, generally because we haven’t applied the same focus to data quality and data governance as we have to putting cool software like Xcelsius and Explorer in front of our users. Take, for example, the new Starbucks iPhone application. It holds a lot of promise, using the iPhone’s GPS to identify the nearest Starbucks. It even utilizes the Google Maps built into the iPhone to generate travel directions. So far, so good. But alas, Starbucks chose to pass GPS coordinates rather than the store address to Google Maps. Meaning that instead of finding a neighborhood Starbucks in a strange city, I ended up in the middle of an unfamiliar residential neighborhood. Somebody must have fat-fingered the coordinates. The application also tells me that a Starbucks location is open, but when I drill down to the operating hours, the store is clearly closed.

I’m genuinely excited about tools like Xcelsius and Explorer. I’m glad that I make a living helping customers build BI solutions with them. But without good data, we’ve only given our users more elegant ways to look at junk. It’s not easy, and unfortunately it’s not sexy. Just watch your users’ eyes light up when you talk about “ETL” or “data quality”. Or not…  But the man or woman in the corner office needs an answer that’s as readily available as a good cup of coffee.