Starbucks and the ‘Sorbetto’
I’m reading (for the 2nd time) ‘Onward’ by ‘Howard Schultz of Starbucks’. I thought it may bring a little inspiration remembering how it was all about change through a difficult period. A few paragraphs really struck home to me over the weekend. It was about how they launched a new drink when they were trying to turn things around in 2008.
The ‘Sorbetto’ was one of a series of initiatives upon commencement of his second stint as CEO and was set up to be a huge hit, achieving great sales and relating with their loyal customers as another hit drink ‘Starbucks are back!’. They put a lot in to this and had a lot of hope resting on it.
But it went completely wrong despite a very compelling case for success. Despite doing some good initial volumes, there were numerous logistical, operational and cost problems that hadn’t been anticipated and 12 months later they gave up on the ‘Sorbetto’.
Schultz reflected how, at that very point in time, he had realised that no single thing could be the ‘silver bullet’ and it takes a combination of many aspects of your approach in business to succeed and much patience.
It immediately made me identify with our business…
I have always believed in big initiatives, I love how they can galvanise and inspire our people and our customers and help focus on an outcome. To this end, I have always tried to bring them into the business wherever possible and over the years we’ve had some great success from them. Of course, also many failures, from which we brush ourselves off and hopefully learn.
What has become apparent over time though is an understanding that it’s not the big initiative that will crack the problem, or change the course of the business, it’s what you do around it that really matters.
Ultimately, I agree with Schultz, I don’t believe there is any silver bullet to success in business. It takes time and patience (which is hard sometimes when you want to go faster). It’s a continuous blend of nurturing your people, building your values (from the ground up sometimes), enhancing the customer journey and shaping your goals and vision.
The Great Cake
Compare it to making a great cake (I was going to compare to being attacked by an assailant, but Boris beat me to it). You might source the very best chocolate sauce, even the best in the world, if it exists. But without the other (even basic) ingredients, it will not work.
Even when you have all the ingredients sourced, the best ingredients! if you don’t blend them correctly or use the right volumes, it can still be a disaster (I know I tried once). Then, you learn, you practice, you persist. You find the way to get the best out of the ingredients and you bake a great cake.
But, alas, it doesn’t stop there. Once you think you’ve cracked it, ‘reached the end game’ there will always be a better cake come your way. There will be someone out there that can bake it better, someone that has worked harder, a better recipe, a new innovation in cooking equipment, whatever it may be.
So, we must evolve, always, making small adjustments to the ingredients, add exciting flavours, make different variations…we must keep learning. At the same time, we must stay true to our values, never compromising on quality, never forgetting that our purpose is to make a great cake.
Doing Less to Achieve More
It’s the same in business and taking this approach consistently over time, can produce amazing results, in the culture of your people, the customer appreciation and ultimately your bottom line.
We at BWS, have always taken so much on as a business internally. Always trying to improve but sometimes we found we were just doing too much, stacking on more tasks, even forgetting what our priorities were (always doing this!). At the beginning of 2019 we found a way to overcome this, a new system that has enabled better focus and continuous improvement every quarter since, in all departments.
It’s about doing less to achieve more, building blocks one at a time, making incremental progress. It’s not plain sailing but it has produced so many more wins, we provide so much more to our clients in value and it actually progresses you faster than any single silver bullet ever will.
The End Game
The end game, well that’s a different matter and one that, in a way, can be achieved right at the beginning. It’s about being happy about where you are at any given point in time. Not an easy thing to master but one I’m really working on.
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