I love reading books written by people who have reached great heights in business. “One Cup at a Time” is the complete history of Starbucks through the eyes of it’s founder Howard Schultz. Over the past 15 years I’ve read/seen a lot of interviews with Howard Schultz, and vaguely remembered him returning to the company to ‘turn it around’. Plus I love coffee, so you really can’t miss.
I get excited when real creators of value write about themselves for fun. Autobiographies of great men and women are a huge theme in my book list no doubt and this (partial autobiography) fits in well.
The first third of the book is packed with personal stories from Schultz’s life, detailed accounts of the early Starbucks days, and lessons learned throughout the process. For me this was the juiciest part of the whole book. When I read about CEO’s you can find plenty of fluff, Howard Schultz got right into the real struggles he faced as a child and early entrepreneur. The hustle.
One common theme among business magnates (and yes I consider Howard Schultz one after reading his story) is how relentlessly they can pursue a goal over an extended period of time. This skill was certainly not lost on Schultz. I won’t get into all the facts of Starbucks and it’s history (because read the damn book) but for instance did you know:
Schultz grew up in public housing
He originally took over a year to convince Starbucks to hire him (when they were tiny)
Schultz then LEFT Starbucks to pursue his own vision of European styled espresso stores in the U.S. (at a time there were virtually zero)
After establishing his business, he then spent months pitching well over 30 investors (with virtually no experience obtaining significant venture capital) so that he could buy Starbucks himself!
Wow, ok enough history I’m getting too excited.
The verdict on this one is, Howard Schultz gives you an up close and personal look at every challenge he faced building one of the (arguably) better run companies in the entire country. He does not glamorize his skills, but gives you brutal accounts of the pain he experienced and the mistakes he made. This is preferred as it allows you as the reader to feel the same feelings, and thus reflect and learn from Schultz on your own. Awesome.
Verdict: Read it!