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.”