Pour Your Heart Into It

How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Howard Schultz

Pour a grande cappucino and settle in for this chatty history of Starbucks by its CEO, Howard Schultz, who announces that he considers the company to be only in its third chapter (which is nowhere near the eleventh).

Schultz first heard of Starbucks in 1981 when he sold to the fledgling business a number of expensive coffeemakers. He fell in love with the company immediately. He calls the meeting bashert (Yiddish for “meant to be”), and while the Seattle-based group may have had another word for it, Brooklyn-bred Schultz does seem particularly suited to Starbucks.

He repeatedly swoons over the coffee and details at length the process that turns a small green bean into a dark brown drink in a green cup. His enthusiasm for his product is palpable when he writes of “the romance of the coffee experience” at Starbucks, though his tips about how to run a company are less valuable.

Schultz does offer some useful war stories–especially his dinner with the Seattle partners, who found him “too New York”–and his idea of putting even part-time workers on the company’s health-care plan is both admirable and cost-effective, saving money on employee turnover.

Schultz, who bought the company for under $4 million, should have more specific points to convey about how he made Starbucks worth over $270 million in just a half a decade. And much of the Starbucks story is overly familiar, while elsewhere, the narrative would be better served if the events were discussed chronologically: It’s jarring to jump from the 1996 success of Frappuccinos and ice cream to the devastating Brazilian frost of 1994.

Though in places this is unsatisfying as a skim-milk latte, Schultz is less a braggart and more a true believer than many CEOs, and—with able assist from BusinessWeek staffwriter Yang) he provides a pleasing read.

Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Howard Schultz with Dori Jones Yang (Hyperion ISBN: 0-7868-6315-3)

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Rebecca Kurson

Rebecca Kurson writes about literature, pop culture, television, science fiction and music. Her work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Observer, The Federalist and Rodale's Organic Life.

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