Book Review: The Starbucks Experience

The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary

by Joseph A. Michelli
Copyright 2006

The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary attempts to explain the reason behind Starbucks’ success using customer anecdotes, insider stories, and the occasional business strategy thrown in for good measure. The book is a fascinating study; stressing the very unique mindset this organization has over most of the businesses in our market today. For example, they offer benefits for part-time employees working as little as 20 hours a week, including adoption assistance, stock options, and health insurance. They build stores in such close proximity that they are oftentimes competing directly with one another. And they sell a product that until a few years ago most of us just brewed at home or paid a few cents at a gas station for on our way to work.

To put perspective on Starbucks’ success, author Joseph Michelli states, “if you had “invested $10,000 in the Starbucks IPO on the Nasdaq in 1992, your investment would be worth approximately $650,000 today.” If that weren’t enough Michelli tells us “Starbucks opens five (5) new stores every day – 365 days a year.” And yet through all this, they have maintained their level of quality – oftentimes a tough thing to do when a company expands at such a level.

The Starbucks Experience reads more like an autobiography than it does a business case study, and that alone should give you some insight into just how unique an organization Starbucks is. The book outlines five “experiences” that Starbucks uses to drive their company. Note that these principles are vague in description, making them easy to apply to any aspect of the company – from management through R&D to customer service. They are:

  • Make it your own
  • Everything matters
  • Surprise and delight
  • Embrace resistance
  • Leave your mark

Each one of these principles are given more attention, for example under the first principle of “Make it your own” the company further lists “be welcoming, be genuine, be considerate, be knowledgeable, and be involved” and stresses that these aren’t just for the retail level folks but for every area of the company. At the end of each principle is a “create your own experience” segment which rephrases the principle in a way businesses can apply to their own brands, and an “ideas to sip on” thought that gives an overview of the chapter.

Still, with all of these insights there is no surefire list to follow, no defined strategies. All in all The Starbucks Experience serves more to add to the mystique of Starbucks’ success than it does to define it in a way other organizations can emulate. However, the author’s eighteen-month study of the chain does provide enough information to at least get you inspired and looking at your business an entirely different way.

Book purchased by reviewer.

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