Book Review: Leading the Starbucks Way by Joseph A. Michelli

Image credit:
Please click the image to learn
more about this book at Amazon.

"Each of Dr. Joseph Michelli's books offers a learning laboratory that's rich with example from leaders as they address the aforementioned challenges and opportunities. They provide information, insights, and analysis on how leaders seek to create a high-performance organization that operates through the lens of humanity. This book demonstrates both the setbacks and the breakthroughs that the Starbucks leadership has encountered as it has attempted to position its products and people to deliver consistent, engaging, and loyalty-enhancing experiences."

---- Herve Humler, President and Chief Operations Officer, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., page vii, "Leading the Starbucks Way," published by McGraw-Hill in September 2013 with a list price of $25.00.

I have had the pleasure to review three of Dr. Joseph Michelli's books prior to this one. As Mr. Humler so eloquently stated, all of the author's books are learning laboratories that go well beyond coffee, hospitals, hotels or shoe companies. 

Dr. Michelli takes a long look into corporate cultures and best practices that can be studied and exported to any personal or business brand. Starbucks is the author's chosen microscopic slide once again. Like its famed coffee brands, you will be exposed to an eclectic blend of insights in this compelling, well-written and detailed analysis of an iconic global phenomenon: Starbucks.

Organized Format

Dr. Michelli discussing his first book, "The Starbucks Experience."

Dr. Michelli's books are organized to make the reader's experience more rewarding. There are twelve chapters that detail five learning principles along with a lengthy bibliography and index. Each Starbucks' principle is explained in two chapters. Every chapter begins with a provocative quote to introduce the topic. My favorite was "Treat employees like partners, and they act like partners" by Fred Allen on page 85. The author's writing style is enthusiastic, informative and thought-provoking. He interviews many people inside and outside of Starbucks to cultivate an objective and comprehensive portrayal.

Innovative Features

The author utilized helpful "Reflection On Connection" sections in each chapter. Each of these were organized into three brief yet compelling thoughts to reinforce key learning objectives. For example, "If a visitor could drop into your organization from another planet, would that visitor be able to know your vision for product excellence without having to read it on paper?" (Page 32)

Dr. Michelli also introduced "Connecting Points" sections in various places. These outline more highlighted points than the "Reflection on Connection" format; however, both features reinforce integral concepts how the Starbucks way can be translated into your own industry or profession. An example of this was seen in the following: "Seeking to do 'the right thing' is at the core of leadership excellence, and in today's interconnected world, it involves both your public and your private behavior." (Page 83)

Other Notable Quotes

What it is like to be a Starbucks Partner.

"Before delivering an important jobs speech, U.S. president Barack Obama placed a call to the president, chairman, and chief executive officer of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, because of Howard's leadership on job creation." (Page 2)

"Human connection is the magic at the core of the Starbucks brand. In order to make the magic happen, Starbucks looks for prospective partners who are authentically and consistently interested in others." (Page 38)

"People are not a company's most important asset. People are the company. Everything else is an asset." Adrian Levy, the founder of RLG International, quoted on page 72.

"Howard (Schultz) argued that the cost of providing health-care benefits was 50 percent less than the cost of hiring and retaining a new employee. He made a case for part-time employee coverage on the grounds that two-thirds of the workforce at the time were not full-timers." (Page 90)

"We started out before there was a digital revolution; the third place was our stores. Our mobile focus has evolved to the point where everyone is getting primary information and communicating in a way that was nonexistent before. I don't think any enterprise or organization can exist in the future without having a primary relevant position in the minds and hearts of people through these mechanisms, whether it is technology or software." Howard Schultz, quoted on page 159.

 "If you had to reduce the Starbucks model of innovation down to a sentence it would simply be the following: Mix curiosity, courage, and discipline in a tireless pursuit of the ever-changing needs of your people, your customers, and the profitability of your business." (Page 227)

Taking Coffee from Zero to Hero

Channel Development at Starbucks.

Warren Buffett once said, "The best companies buy a commodity and sell a brand."

Starbucks took a mundane consumer staple, coffee, and branded it in ways that were never seen before in the marketplace. They changed the way the rest of the world views their daily caffeine fix by focusing first and foremost on people. 

Joseph Michelli documents the unique Starbucks way that can be emulated in your own personal brand or industry. Regardless of our chosen work, we all are in the "people business" to quote Howard Schultz. This book will help you become better at it.

My Ratings

Client References and Testimonials
Image credit:

Content: 9/10
Editorial Structure: 9/10
Readability: 9/10
Research: 10/10

Please Note

I have received a complimentary review copy from a representative of the publisher, McGraw-Hill. I was not financially compensated by the author, publisher or any party who would benefit from a positive review.

About the Author

Image of Joseph A. Michelli
Joseph Michelli.
Image credit:
Joseph A. Michelli is an organizational consultant who focuses on intersections of business, leadership, and workplace productivity. He is the bestselling author of The Starbucks Experience, The New Gold Standard, Prescription for Excellence, and The Zappos Experience. One of today’s leading thinkers on the topic of customer experience, Michelli also speaks to corporate audiences approximately 60 times a year.

He also provides free weekly podcasts at Podbean.

Biographical text courtesy of and McGraw-Hill.

About the Reviewer

Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator from Washington, D.C. Steve focuses on career-related themes, Chinese healing/martial arts and international soccer journalism. Steve has been a reviewer in the McGraw-Hill Business Insider program since 2011. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries and The Soccer Translator

This review was written on 16 August 2013.