How'd you like to build one of the most famous brands in the world, take it global and open up 16,000 stores, only to watch as your company loses its mojo in the face of the economic collapse? That was the situation Howard Schultz found himself in in 2007. Concerned about Starbucks' trajectory over the 2000s, Schultz, who had stepped back from day-to-day operations and became chairman of the board, re-entered the CEO suite when he sensed that the company was headed in the wrong direction. Howard's entire adventure as an accidental turnaround CEO is captured in his new book, Onward which went on sale on March 29, 2011.
To kick-off his new book, Schultz came to speak to members of Inc. Magazine's Business Owners Council in between his appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe and his book launch party at Tina Brown's east side parlor. During 60 minutes of Q&A, Schultz wowed the crowd with his entrepreneurial chops, reminding them that, even when you run a gigantic global operation, there has to be some love for what you do if your company's going to retain its soul.
Schultz worked very hard once he landed back in the CEO suite to re-energize his senior team, encouraging them to "get dirty" and embrace big ideas that would help Starbucks re-emerge as a leading innovator in its space. But his real skill set which oozes out of this book is his decisiveness as a leader. Schultz seems to have no problem making the big calls and standing behind them. During our Q & A session, he embraced the duality of his role, recognizing that he was responsible for motivating his workforce of 200,000 partners while at the same time, keeping the focus on financial performance. He walks the razor's edge over and over again as a turnaround CEO and hearing him describe it created a lasting impression for the audience of business owners in Florence Gould Hall yesterday.
Pour yourself another cup of joe and curl up with Onward.
LEWIS SCHIFF is the executive director of the Inc. Business Owners Council. His latest book is Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons.
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