Onward Review. Starbucks come back story.

I bought this book because I am going to open a beer and wine bar. I thought that our respective business models are the same: Offer the customer a good place to hang out and have a drink.

I think no one understands this business model better than Schultz.

Even though there is no shortage of Schultz telling you in the book “It’s the best coffee, it’s the best coffee…” for me, and I have always known this, it’s less about the coffee and more about the coffee culture.

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When Starbucks came to my town, Santa Monica, CA, they opened a store inside a book store (Barnes & Noble). Until that day, some 30 years ago, a book lover was never allowed to sit in a chair and read from one of their books for 20 minutes. Until that day, a book browser was never allow to bring food and drink into the store. That day, not only was food and drink permissible, they gave you a soft, comfy leather chair to sink into to sip and read. Although the coffee is good, I learned their business model is about coffee culture, not the coffee.

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In Los Angeles, there are two rivals, Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL). The CBTL people HATE Starbucks and will use any opportunity to tell you what they think of Starbucks. If I have heard this comment once (usually unsolicited), I have heard it a thousand times “CBTL coffee tastes better than Starbucks coffee.” Whenever they say this, I always think “Who asked for your opinion?” It’s arrogant, stupid, and not true (best coffee). And while we are at it, aren’t you CBTL people supposed to stand for the opposite of arrogance? You can generalize the CBTL crowd to be the tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing crowd. The Starbucks people don’t hate the CBTL people, we just avoid the store. I have never heard one Starbucks customer denigrate CTBL coffee or the coffeehouse.

As for the coffee, I hate CBTL coffee. In a 30 day period, I maybe, and I say maybe, giving the utmost benefit of the doubt, like (not love) their (drip) coffee one day out of 30. When I go to Starbucks, my drink order is Grande, non-fat, Café Latte. I agree that during the non-Schultz days, the drink could be a bit inconsistent. On Schultz’ watch, it is a very consistent, satisfying drink. If I’m going to be honest, the best (drip) coffee in the world is in Kings Road Cafe West Hollywood. Now that’s coffee! Which is why I cannot listen to the CBTL line about the coffee.

Why do I go to Starbucks? Because I like the atmosphere. The décor is inviting. It invites you to be comfortable and stay a while. You can go to read the morning news, work on a report, do your homework, or enjoy a cup with a friend. Much to my chagrin, my husband is a CBTL fan. For the last 6 years, we have gone to CBTL every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I order a plain drip (dark) when I go to CBTL. In 6 years, they don’t know my name, they don’t know what my drink order is (Hello? Unlike Starbucks’ 3,000 different drink orders – which might be a challenge, I order Plain coffee. What’s to remember?) Forget that they don’t know my name, they don’t even recognize that I have been in the store more than once. 6 years, people! 6 years!

The décor is the same décor from the day they opened. The place is dirty, dingy, and the furniture is often broken. The bathroom mirror has graffiti. I give them points because they have a professional window cleaner once a week. The outdoor tables are never cleaned in the morning. They have a thick layer of dust, leaves, and blown debris from the street sweepers. They should be cleaned every, damn morning to welcome customers.

Anyway, back to the book…who else to teach you about culture than Schultz? On his return to Starbucks, the country was facing the worst recession since the Great Depression. In just two years, he took the stock price from $8 to $33, a 400% increase…despite the recession!

I liked hearing cold, hard numbers on his sales-to-investment ratios (page 152). I definitely will implement those numbers. I like the ‘Lean’ philosophy where you let individual managers come up with better ways to build the mousetrap. In their corporate manual, they had to grind the day’s beans first thing in the morning. This resulted in lots of waste at the end of the day. One manager switched to grinding just before brewing. This resulted in a fresh brew, no waste, and a coffee smell (to lure more customers) throughout the day. They were usually out of decaf. One manager came up with a plan to never run out of decaf. The Lean technique is also a plan I will implement.

I agree with his line that “leadership is about confidence”. You have to have passion, which he does, about your convictions. As a leader, sometimes, no one understands or endorses your convictions than you. Passion gives you the ability to press forward anyway.
When they implemented a customer loyalty card, they were going to include customer preferences when the card was swiped at the terminal. I talked to a few stores after reading the book. They have the card but there are no customer preferences. I am going to talk to my IT people to see if this can be implemented as I think it’s very important. Much like Blackberry contacts had fields for business people, even adding one line of customization will be a tremendous bonus to a customer. Bottom line? Customers want to be recognized and appreciated. The coffee or the product comes second. Unlike the famous Seinfeld Soup Nazi episode, people don’t want to be dissed, or worse, ignored, no matter how good the product is.

One singular thing that made me successful in business was to CONNECT with people. I speak to this concept a great deal in my book below. Even though Schultz talks about the quality of the coffee, which I am glad this is his benchmark, you will find threaded throughout the book, just how deeply he connects with people. He does it so well, he is almost removed to give it any credit. I promise you, three times in the book, I was actually crying and had tear stains on the pages of the book. When’s the last time you cried while reading? Thought so.

I recommend this book to any business person to learn how he quadrupled his business in 2 years. There is take-away that will be helpful for any business. I just looked today, the stock price is $75.

Linda Gross, Author of

Make room for the little things.

Not my blog, but a great post nonetheless. Enjoy!

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A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

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The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles
rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

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The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed..

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—-your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—-and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend/your spouse.

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Shawn beer – Pineapple Wheat

My position on the Donald Sterling ban.

I think most blacks are missing the point. In my opinion, this tape is the greatest opportunity to finally MAKE a statement on race relations in the last fifty years…greater than the Civil Rights Movement, greater than OJ, greater than Rodney King, and greater than Trayvon Martin. I think many blacks are not keeping their eye on the correct target.

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I am grateful that Commissioner Silver imposed the stiffest fines he could, but it doesn’t end there.

First off, Sterling, with his billions, and a lawyer himself, is going to fight the selling of his team every which way ’til Sunday.

Then, there are the owners (see how they made their money) themselves. Are they going to get 29 board members (owners) to oust their own? That would almost be like a doctor ratting out another doctor, even though malpractice was involved.

The more important question is IF the 29 NBA owners force Sterling to sell, what should become of that money? Who cares if an ownership change occurs as that money will just go back into Sterling’s pocket. That’s ridiculous. Some or all of that money should go towards an endowment to subsidize black homeownership and black education. THEN, he will feel some pain.

C’mon. He’s 81 years old and now has prostate cancer. Banned for life? Who cares? Because of his condition, he likely would not have been able to attend the games or visit the clubhouse in the near future anyway.

Sterling is not going down without a fight. He will likely die before any such sale takes place. This could easily be held up in the courts for 10 years. Another possibility is that ownership will be transferred to a family member, like his wife. Good luck on that one. She’s as big a racist as he is. She also is not without scandal herself. She posed as a government agent to try to evict minorities out of their apartments. That suit got settled for $2.7 million dollars.




So? What’s a player to do? Numbers talk. I recommend that the entire population of black NBA players stage a ‘Bench Day’. 24 hours is enough to get everyone’s attention. Since more than 78% of the players are black, they will be heard loud and clear.

During that time, they should ask that Sterling or the NBA franchise set up an Endowment Fund. It is a long shot that they will force Sterling to sell…and anytime soon. If they do, that money should fund the endowment. In the event the sale gets tied up in the legal system, the NBA should set up a fund from 5% of the owners’ profits.

Why do I say homeownership and education? The unequivocal difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ has always been, and will always be, real estate and education. This is the quickest way for blacks to close the gap on status and power.

Washington Bears professional basketball team, 1943.

There are some who say that we need to reinstitute a Black Player’s League. That’s not going to work, either. There’s more to it than just buying a team or having a league. In today’s economy, it’s not about playing the game as much as it is about money. Having a League is pointless unless you also have television rights. Having television rights is pointless unless you have advertisers. As for the number of black athletes, that’s where there is clout. Having a Bench Day would make an impact. Blacks do not hold a substantial majority in television/media or with advertising (corporate sponsors).

stiviano.  5-14Don’t focus on the petty. V. Stiviano is the petty. She is entirely irrelevant. I wouldn’t punish her in the least. She did us all a favor.

Who is being called a racist or not is also irrelevant. What’s relevant is that racism still is going strong in this country. We have a decided opportunity to make history.

Bench Day. Game on. Let’s go!