Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Riches to Rags story which is frighteningly familiar

Have you been reading a book and suddenly it hits you that the story line is quite similar to your life and you wonder if your life too could lead down the same path the story does? Well that’s exactly what happened to me when I was reading the book “How Starbucks saved my life”. It is a personal memoir but I picked it up completely by accident thinking it was a business case study book. Guess sometimes when you judge a book by its cover it does lead to finding some gems though this is the exception to the rule. This book was one such gem.
It is about a guy named Michael Gates Gill who was a high flying advertising executive working for the global agency JWT. A company where I started my own career in the trade I might add. He was the committed worker. Always giving priority to the company over his personal and family commitments even leaving them on Christmas day to make sure a campaign was delivered on time. Sadly after 25 years a person who he mentored terminated him and suddenly he was without a job. Naturally this put his life in a complete spin. He ended up divorced, penniless and a father of an illegitimate child. To add to the misery they discovered a tumor in his brain which was not life threatening if removed on time but something that would affect his hearing. Sadly he had not renewed his health insurance due to the lack of funds. You could say he as up shit street without a paddle and was at his wits end trying to figure a way out of his dilemma when he was literally thrown a lifeline by Starbucks who offered him a job as a barista. He took the job mainly because of the medical insurance Star Bucks provided for all their workers. I use the word “workers” instead of employees intentionally because Starbucks offers medical benefits to even their part time employees.
So at the age of retirement the not so young Mister Michael Bill Gates had to start over again from the very bottom and learn a new trade.  He spent most of his first days on the job cleaning toilets. I doubt he would have ever pictured himself doing this kind of menial work even in a worst case scenario. But to his credit he did his work with enthusiasm with humbleness and humility. And he found that finally he was enjoying life. He was looking forward to go to work in the morning and walking in to Starbucks with a spring in his step. Which was absolutely amazing.
Of course being an ex advertising copy writer the book was extremely well written in a very simple and down to earth style. Which made it an easy uncomplicated read. Though I did keep wondering “could this happen to me?” virtually at the turn of every page.
Even though this was not a business case study book it did teach me a lot of things. Firstly how unemotional uncaring and unforgiving the world of multinational agencies can be. And secondly how well people will perform if treated right and given the proper responsibility and authority. It also  increased my respect for Howard Schultz – the CEO of Star bucks – one notch higher and made me committed to be inspired and try to imitate their best practices. I had always thought Starbucks was a great company to emulate and this book just proved it. Do try and watch the video posted below if you have the time it is quite interesting. At least to me. :)

Michael Gill: How Starbucks Saved My Life from Tattered Cover and Tattered Cover on


Here on Earth said...

Hi...Did you purchase this book from Sri Lanka?

cj said...

Hi Here on Earth Yes I picked this up at the Odel Bookshop. I believe a few more copies are available.

Here on Earth said...

Thanks :)

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