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It's Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks

It's Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks



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Published by Janet Goldstein
Howard Behar's new intro to paperback edition, with "Checklist for Leading in Hard Times." -- BUY/LEARN MORE: Click green button at right
Howard Behar's new intro to paperback edition, with "Checklist for Leading in Hard Times." -- BUY/LEARN MORE: Click green button at right

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Published by: Janet Goldstein on Apr 03, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 Preface to the Paperback Edition
Leading in Hard Times
lthough this book is titled
 It’s Not About the Coffee,
of course it is about the coffee—it’s about the people andthe coffee. Without the people who buy, roast, deliver,prepare, and serve the coffee, we wouldn’t have Starbucks.Without our ties to the communities we’re a part of, we wouldmiss the connection to the human spirit that has shaped us fromthe beginning. People and community are the true essence of Starbucks. There can be no coffee without people.It is my humble but firm belief that it is people—in the bestof times and especially in the hardest times—who will inspireyou, sustain and grow your organization, and get you through.As I’ve learned throughout my career, and my own trials andtribulations in leading myself and others, the easy high-flyingtimes are guaranteed not to last. Ups and downs, even severeones, are part of both the economic and human cycles.But our values do last, and the impact of our actions last, too.I’ve seen that the values and actions of showing you care, build-ing trust, holding yourself accountable, knowing who you areand what you stand for—of putting people first—can provide
stability and a lifeline on a personal level and for a whole orga-nization or community.I can anticipate two challenges you might have to this notion.The first is that you don’t believe the premise of putting peoplefirst. (To you I say read this book if you’re so inclined, see whatfits for you, and start there.) The second is that you do believethe premise—and maybe have read books like this one andpracticed such an approach in your own leadership—but youdon’t see how it’s possible to put people first when your entirelivelihood and way of working seem up for grabs.You may be saying to yourself, “Behar, you’re not in the realworld. These are extremely tough times. Companies are fallingapart. People are losing their jobs. The future seems tenuous.It’s not about people now. It’s about making the numbers. It’sabout survival.”My response is equally urgent. “Yes, it IS about the people. Itis people who have the creativity, energy, and passion to moveus forward.”Even if financial resources are at hand to ease your business(whether from investors, banks, the government, good internalmanagement, or family), it’s not going to make any differenceif everyone isn’t committed, creative, and purposeful aboutwhere you’re going. Whether it’s local and state governments,global companies, nonprofits, or your own small or large enter-prise, we need new and unique approaches, ideas, products,and services. We need people’s creativity, which means dou-bling down on taking care of people.You can’t retreat to success. You can’t retrench to success.You need to reach toward success which means the honoring of 
people who will take you there, treating them not as assets butas creative human beings.Starbucks, like all companies during these tough times, islearning to acknowledge and understand today’s realities. Ourpeople are figuring out how to deal with them in ways that staytrue to our mission and the guiding principles that got us thisfar. It is not easy to do. There are the pundits who constantlypredict Starbucks’s demise, competitors who think they seeweakness, and of course all the people who work at Starbuckswho worry that their dream may be over.For me this is just another stage in the development in thelife of Starbucks. One of the problems with success is that it cantend to overshadow past struggles. At Starbucks there werenever any easy roads—from Howard Schultz’s difficulties inraising the needed startup capital to disappointing the publicmarkets by missing quarterly earning projections. Today’s is-sues, some self-inflicted and others not, are puzzles to be solved.Some pieces of the puzzle cause pain for human beings, suchas layoffs that become necessary and stores that need to close,which must be undertaken with a respect and care towardpeople. Other pieces require fresh thinking about everythingfrom products to services to new opportunities. But at the endof the day, “success” returns by taking one step at a time, bystaying true to one’s values, and most important, by never let-ting go of the driving vision to nurture and inspire the humanspirit.
 It’s Not About the Coffee
is a book dedicated to the idea thatwe are all in it together, just as my parents were always tellingme in their stories about the Great Depression and how diffi-

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