Onward How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul

Howard Schultz with Joanne Gordon

Rodale Books




384 Pages



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In 2008, Howard Schultz decided to return as the CEO of Starbucks to help restore its financial health and bring the company back to its core values. In Onward, he shares this remarkable story, revealing how, during one of the most tumultuous economic periods in American history, Starbucks again achieved profitability and sustainability without sacrificing humanity.


Praise for Onward

"Through the lens of his personal leadership journey, with all of its dizzying ups and agonizing downs, Howard Schultz has written, with aching honesty and passion, the single most important book on leadership and change for our time and for every generation of leaders. This book is not just required reading, it's mandatory."—Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business, University of Southern California and author of Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership

"Howard Schultz's refreshingly candid, compelling narrative demonstrates what it takes to lead in these extraordinary times. Onward is a rare first-hand account at how one of the world's most iconic brands overcame the challenges that confront us all."—Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo

"The second toughest thing in business is building a enterprise—the toughest is to engineer a turnaround and still maintain the core culture and values of the organization. This is a classic example of how it can be done. Howard has proven it's not enough to be smart or well intentioned—sustained success will not occur without true passion from the very top!"—Jim Sinegal, co-founder and CEO of Costco

"For anyone looking for insights . . . Onward is essential reading . . . Schultz comes across in these pages as a genuinely, even disarmingly, nice guy . . . you find yourself cheering him on."—Fortune

"We can all learn from [Schultz's] integrity and vision."—Tina Brown, Editor in Chief, Newsweek, The Daily Beast

"With the assistance of former Forbes journalist Gordon, the CEO of Starbucks explains how he collaborated with a cast of thousands to rejuvenate a declining business. In 2000, Schultz surrendered the CEO position but remained as chairman, focusing on spreading the coffee products to other nations, especially China. He was comfortable with his immediate successor, chosen from inside Starbucks, but the next CEO arrived from outside. Though Schultz liked him and respected his work ethic, the quality of the product and the service began to drop and the company's financial growth stagnated. Alarmed, Schultz decided to return for a second act as CEO. In his first book, the author described the early years of the company, with a heavy emphasis on ideals. Here, he looks back occasionally at those earlier years, but mostly provides a chronological account of what happened from 2007 to 2010. The detail is immense, and the cast of characters can feel overwhelming. Overall, though, the chronological account contains enough revelations and suspense to keep readers engaged. Schultz does not dodge outside criticisms of his performance, nor does he eschew self-criticism. For many ofitsemployees and customers, Starbucks is a sacred place that fills needs of connectedness and companionship. Schultz reprints correspondence from both employees and customers that demonstrate the special placethat local Starbucks stores hold in the hearts and minds of so many. The author pledges to donate the book's proceeds to supportneighborhoods where stores are located and to provide financial relief to employees facing emergencies. An engaging account by a wealthy executive who sounds sincere and seems approachable."—Kirkus

"Schultz is the founder and CEO of Starbucks, a company that began as a small Seattle distributor of coffee beans and ground coffee that he transformed into what it is today, inspired by the espresso shops he visited in Italy. Schultz described the founding of Starbucks in his first book, Pour Your Heart into It. Written with Joanne Gordon, a former Forbes writer and contributing editor, this account is a spotlight on the period of 2007-08, when the company lost some of its vision due to overexpansion and the pressure to maintain unabated growth. Seeing that Starbucks was becoming a victim of its own success, Schultz returned to the CEO position after eight years away from overseeing daily operations of the company. He details the struggle to maintain the identity of Starbucks while attempting to branch out into areas such as music sales and hot food, facing competition and the oversaturation that caused the company the painful closing of about 600 stores in 2008. This is one of those turnaround stories that illustrates that a company can overcome its growth pains by returning to its core principles."—David Siegfried, Booklist

"In this personal, suspenseful, and surprisingly open account, Schultz traces his own journey to help Starbucks reclaim its original customer-centric values and mission while aggressively innovating and embracing the changing landscape of technology. From the famous leaked memo that exposed his criticisms of Starbucks to new product strategies and rollouts, Schultz bares all about the painful yet often exhilarating steps he had to take to turn the company around. Peppered with stories from his childhood in tough Canarsie, New York, neighborhoods, his sequel to the founding of Starbucks is grittier, more gripping, and dramatic, and his voice is winning and authentic. This is a must-read for anyone interested in leadership, management, or the quest to connect a brand with the consumer."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Howard Schultz with Joanne Gordon

  • Howard Schultz is the chairman, president, and CEO of Starbucks and the author of the New York Times bestseller Pour Your Heart Into It.

    Joanne Gordon is a former Forbes writer and contributing editor who has spent more than a decade profiling companies and business leaders for numerous publications and five previous books.