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It's Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks

Howard Behar

Retail Price: $15.00
LS Price: $10.20
You Save: $4.80 (32%)

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Format: Paperback, 208pp.
ISBN: 9781591842729
Publisher: Portfolio Trade
Pub. Date: April 28, 2009

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

“At Starbucks, the coffee has to be excellent, from the sourcing and growing to the roasting and brewing. The vision has to be inspiring and meaningful. Our finances have to be in order. But without people, we have nothing. With people, we have something even bigger than coffee.”

During his many years as a senior executive at Starbucks, Howard Behar helped establish the Starbucks culture, which stresses the importance of people over profits. He coached hundreds of leaders at every level and helped the company grow into a world-renowned brand. Now he reveals the ten principles that guided his leadership—and not one of them is about coffee.

Behar starts with the idea that if you regard employees and customers as human beings, everything else will take care of itself. If you think of your staff as people (not labor costs) they will achieve results beyond what is thought possible. And if you think of your customers as people you serve (not sources of revenue) you’ll make a deep connection with them, and they’ll come back over and over.

This approach has been integral to Starbucks from the start, and remains so today. Behar shares inside stories of turning points in the company’s history as it fought to hang on to this culture while growing exponentially. He discusses the importance of building trust, facing challenges, daring to dream, and other key principles, such as:

Know Who You Are: Wear One Hat
When organizations are clear about their values, purpose, and goals, they find the energy and passion to do great things.

Think Independently: The Person Who Sweeps the Floor Should Choose the Broom
We need to get rid of rules—real and imagined—and encourage the independent thinking of others and ourselves.

Be Accountable: Only the Truth Sounds Like the Truth
No secrets, no lies of omission, no hedging and dodging. Take responsibility and say what needs to be said, with care and respect.

Take Action: Think Like a Person of Action and Act Like a Person of Thought
Find the sweet spot of passion, purpose, and persistence. “It’s all about the people” isn’t an idea, it’s an action. Feel, do, think. Find the balance, but act.

Behar believes that as work becomes less hierarchical and as the world economy becomes more and more about relationships and connecting, the principles of personal leadership are more important than ever. This book will show you the way.


“Howard Behar, the keeper of Starbucks’ soul for many years, has given us a book about how to succeed anywhere—not just in business. His ten principles should be required reading for every government official and college president.”
—Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley

“Howard Behar has written the most down-to-earth, in-the-trenches, straightforward, and utterly useful leadership book I’ve ever read.”
—James A. Autry, author of The Book of Hard Choices and The Servant Leader

It’s Not About the Coffee offers the true ingredients for enduring results: a set of proven principles we can all aspire to work and live by.”
—Bob Fisher, former chairman, Gap Inc.

“The tips inside are intelligent, heartfelt, tested and honed in reality. Bravo.”
—David Allen, author of Getting Things Done

“The story of Starbucks is itself an astonishing read. But what’s even better is getting a true insider’s view of how it all happened. This book is a must-have for any leader who aspires to build an enduringly great company.”
—Keith Yamashita, chairman, Stone Yamashita Partners

It’s Not About the Coffee is a testament to Behar’s profound grasp of the link between relationships—let’s call it human connectivity—and success. Read it!”
—Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations

“Howard’s ten basic principles illustrate how genuine, purposeful, and caring attention to your people can drive extraordinary results.”
—Craig E. Weatherup, former president, PepsiCo, and chairman and CEO, Pepsi-Cola

“When Howard speaks of words like ‘mission,’ ‘pride,’ and ‘service,’ he is laying out the tenets for running a business and building one of the greatest brands in the world. This book is a step-by-step guide for people searching for daily inspiration and those meant to deliver it.”
—Kevin Plank, CEO, Under Armour

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About the Author

Howard Behar joined Starbucks as a senior executive in 1989, when it had just twenty-eight stores. His positions have included executive vice president of sales and operations, president of Starbucks International, and president of Starbucks North America. He has also served on the company’s board of directors since 1996. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Lynn. Behar is donating his proceeds from this book to the CUP Fund (Caring Unites Partners) and the Robert Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. Janet Goldstein is a publishing consultant who has worked with entrepreneurs, business leaders, and nonprofits.

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