How I came, had coffee, and conquered: Starbucks boss publishes secrets of success

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The Independent Culture

Apparently starved of options at the counter, customers at Starbucks can now buy a new book by the firm's billionaire chief executive, in which he boasts how he rescued the company before building it into a global giant.

Copies of Onward: How Starbucks Fought for its Life Without Losing Its Soul have been stacked on tills at more than 700 British outlets of the chain.

The book's publisher, Wiley, describes the work as an "extraordinarily intimate look at [Howard Schultz's] decision-making process, from closed-door planning sessions to conversations with coffee farmers".

Marketing genius or a gross act of megalomania, proceeds from the book, which costs £15, are going to charity, though reviews have already damned it as "self-flattering", at best.

"We have regularly sold books in stores and this seemed like a logical step," said a Starbucks spokesperson. "All of the monies accrued will be donated back to the Starbucks Foundation, which engages in charitable projects around the world."

In the book, Schultz, 57, describes how, in 2007, Starbucks' stock price and profits had plummeted. "We took our eye off operations and became distracted from the core of our business," he writes. "Decision by decision, store by store, customer by customer, Starbucks was losing some of the signature traits it had been founded on". The executive closed 600 under-performing outlets in the United States and 50 in Britain.

To boost staff morale, he spent $30m (£18.5m) taking 10,000 US store managers to New Orleans to conduct 50,000 hours of community service. Starbucks declined to say how many customers had picked up a copy with their lattes and blueberry muffins but reviewers have been less than impressed. "It is one thing to talk about financially tough times with your investors, but do Starbucks consumers need to live through it, too?" wrote a reviewer.

"Now Schultz has not only tainted the Starbucks brand with a sickness most non-investors were unaware of, but he also claims to have cured it."

LA Times book reviewer Jeff Bailey wrote: "It will be required reading for a small circle of people: those who might hope to succeed him as chief executive of the coffeehouse chain."

Schultz joined Starbucks in 1982 as director of operations and marketing. The following year, he left the company to found his own coffee firm Il Giornale. In 1987, he oversaw a merger between the two enterprises and took charge. When rebranding, he took inspiration from the rustic appeal of Italian espresso bars serving high-quality products. Now, Starbucks attracts 60 million visitors a week.

Schultz puts his success down to no more than four hours' sleep a night and regular stress-busting cycling work-outs.

Next week, the chief executive is due to make a rare British appearance at the London Business Forum, where coffee and further copies of his book will be available.