Pour Your Heart Into It By Howard Schultz

Cover image credit: Amazon.com

The specialty coffee industry owes a big part of its success and ubiquity to Starbucks. Through its massive growth, it has introduced a very large number of people to not only espresso drinks, but to cafe culture as well. And while it has become popular to slam Starbucks as a faceless, corporate beast, which has destroyed good coffee through bad (read: dark) roasts and bastardized once-standardized drinks like the macchiato, the company has done a lot to drive specialty coffee deeper into the mainstream of coffee culture.

Pour Your Heart Into It is a good retelling of the company’s history from its CEO’s perspective. The reader gets a front-row seat into the development of Starbucks from a small business with just a couple of locations to a global giant. Part of its early ethos was caring for the employees; building a business that valued its people:

What many in business don’t realize is that it’s not a zero-sum game. Treating employees benevolently shouldn’t be viewed as an added cost that cuts into profits, but as a powerful energizer that can grow the enterprise into something far greater than one leader could envision. (Schultz, 1999, p. 6)

It’s also a motivational book, in which Schultz writes to inspire entrepeneurs. If you are looking to start a small business of any kind, not just a coffee buisiness, you’ll find several good nuggets of advice.

Most people can achieve beyond their dreams if they insist upon it. I’d encourage everyone to dream big, lay your foundations well, absorb information like a sponge, and not be afraid to defy conventional wisdom. (Schultz, 1999, p. 19)

And it’s about leadership, both among the ranks of employees as well as in the market:

If people believe management is not fairly sharing the rewards, they will feel alienated. Once they start distrusting management, the company’s future is compromised. (Schultz, 1999, p. 57)

and…

Part of what constitutes success is timing and chance. But most of us have to create our own opportunities and be prepared to jump when we see a big one others can’t see. It’s one thing to dream, but when the moment is right, you’ve got to be willing to leave what’s familiar and go out to find your own sound. (Schultz, 1999, p. 64)

I enjoyed the book thoroughly because it was part motivational and part historical. As a coffee geek, understanding where Starbucks started and what they were striving for is interesting and also gives me a broader perspective on specialty coffee. And as a small business owner, there is a lot to learn from the book, both directly and indirectly.

See also: Starbucks: Friend Or Foe

I confess; I do drink a lot of Starbucks coffee because it’s convenient. They’re everywhere. As someone who travels a lot, I appreciate the ability to get a familiar and decent coffee in nearly every airport I’ve been in. Granted, I’d much rather have a really good cup of coffee but Starbucks scratches an itch when the really good stuff can’t be had—and airports rarely have good, specialty coffee shops.

Airport coffee, upgraded!

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Schultz, H. (1999). Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. Hachette Books.


Michael C. Wright

Michael is an American expat living in Singapore where he writes about many things coffee-related. A roaster by trade, Michael is also a licensed Q Grader and an Authorized SCA Trainer (AST).

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