How Can A Business Be Successful?
In the word of Howard Shultz, the CEO of Starbucks, “We’re seldom motivated to seek self-renewal when we’re successful. When things are going well, when the fans are cheering, why change a winning formula? The simple answer is this: Because the world is changing.”
Life is a constant change but the sense of excellence remains. It is with electric enthusiasm that I submit to you How Can A Business Be Successful? my essay about how Schultz’s book Pour Your Hear Into It: How Starbucks Built A Company One Cup At A Time opened up vistas for me and re-energized my entrepreneurial spirit to embrace innovation all the way to the top.
Once upon a time there was a king named Midas, and everything he touches turns to gold – literally. In the history of folklore, he, more than any other character real or imagined, had the greatest power to be the wealthiest man in the world. From another point of view, however, his must have been the loneliest of existence; for how do you reach out to the one you love without turning him into a block of metal?
Be that as it may, the term “Midas Touch” has come down to us, purified as to have become the object of man’s greatest quest since the Holy Grail. A person with a Midas Touch is like a magnet for success and outstanding accomplishments; everything he touches turn to gold, as it were – his tiangge stall becomes a mall, his indie film wins an Oscar.
If there’s one company in the world that possess that elusive Midas Touch, it’s gotta be, hands down (pardon the pun) Starbucks. Of course, as you say, there are other big companies without naming names but most of them had their ups and downs. That’s normal, to be sure, perfectly normal; in fact, you can say that the story of average business is like a see-saw. But Starbucks blasted all expectations and zoomed past all conventions. Instead of plateau-ing, the world’s most successful and most famous coffee chain soared up, up and away in an exhilarating spiral of achievements and innovations.
This is about, to get to the point after building up the suspense and literary value, is Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built A Company One Cup At A Time by its CEO Howard Schultz. I’m not quite sure if folks in Seattle believe in feng shui, but Starbucks is a lucky company – obviously, duh! – and Schultz is a lucky guy to be at the helm of a treasure ship destined for El Dorado. “But a lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all,” Shultz warns. “It’s seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It’s seeing what other people don’t see, and pursuing that vision, no matter who tells you not to.” There you go – item: business advice; worth: priceless. The Starbucks book outlines and explains – and shows – the principles and dynamics that catapulted the Starbucks company to where it is today: in a league of its own.
As a businessman – excuse me, entrepreneur – I believe in the big picture; what drives me is the knowledge that everything I do contributes in crafting and shaping my future the way I see it, the way I want it. Besides, “Without romance and vision, a business has no soul, no spirit to motivate its people to achieve something great,” Howard says. “But a successful company can’t sustain itself on exhilarating ideas alone. Many business visionaries have failed as leaders because they could not execute. Process and systems, discipline and efficiency are needed to create a foundation be ideas can be implemented and entrepreneurial vision can be realized.” I hope everyone is getting this newsflash: it explains a lot why there are those who are good in planning and that’s the only thing they’re good at. On the other hand, there are people who can build a computer company no knowing the difference between a microchip and a potato chip.
Those things relate to individuals. In a larger sense, what makes – or breaks – a company? Why do some companies expand and go global while the competition close shop, and vice versa? In the business world according to Howard Schultz: “Many young companies can’t make the leap to maturity because they either don’t support the creative spirit with structure and process, or they go too far and stifle that spirit with an over-developed bureaucracy. The most successful examples have been led by a both a visionary, like Walt Disney, and a business-like implementer, like Roy Disney.” Now we know why, as long as there are kids, there will be Disneyland, and why the world needs Mickey Mouse.
People first. We’ve all heard about the phrase before, and it has become a cliché. But the truth is, and here’s another cliché, a company is only as good as its people. “An intelligent executive team is vital for a company to prosper. Strong, creative people are a lot more stimulating to be around than yes-men. What can you learn from those who know less than you? They message your ego for a while and take orders easily, but they won’t help you grow.”
Why is this? It’s because “People directly affect the quality of products and services our customers receive,” Shultz says, in the case of Starbucks. “People will determine the ultimate success of Starbucks. Products are inert. You have to hire great people, celebrate their passions and skills, and give them the freedom to do their jobs right.”
Have you heard the story about the wood cutter who was given four hours to chop down a huge tree – and he did it? How did he do that? He says, “I spent the first hour sharpening my axe.” No, it’s not in the book, but it perfectly illustrates the value of preparation, don’t you agree? Planning is good, but it is just the means to an end – you’re not even halfway toward the goal. Knowing what you want and getting it down on paper is a huge advantage, but it depends on what you do next.
“A business plan is only a piece of paper, and event he greatest business plan of all will prove worthless unless the people are committed to it. It can not be sustainable or even implemented properly, unless the people are committed to it with the same heartfelt urgency as their leader. And they will not accept it unless they both trust the leader’s judgment and understand that their efforts will be recognized and valued.”
Are you successful? Am I? How about that guy over there? What is success anyway? We all know what it is, but if we ask 7 different people we’ll get 12 different answers – and half a dozen “Cash” and “House and lot.” But success should not be measured in dollars: it’s about how you conduct, and how big your heart is at the end of it.” Pour Your Heart In To It inspires me to strive for excellence; and I most certainly will do that, but after a well deserved and cheerfully enjoyable coffee break.