the ceo magazine, vision statement,
John Dowling

A vision without value is a pipe dream.  Let’s examine some real life success stories as examples of what value has meant to these successful visionary ideas.


Opening a coffee shop in the United States and then franchising it 30 years ago seemed like a vision conceived by looking out of your rear view mirror, backwards.  Thirty years ago, in the US, coffee was dead, or at least it tasted that way. Coffee had become a commodity and worse. Something many people consumed, but were preoccupied with paying less and making it at home.  The coffee shop was dead.

Starbucks was then a fledgling coffee bean store in Seattle, but Director of Retail Operations, Howard Schultz, had the vision to bring the Italian/European café espresso experience to the United States. The value was not only in the drink, although they certainly raised the quality of coffee, but in the experience of relaxing in a comfortable, non-rushed setting and enjoying a delicacy, not drinking a commodity. Today, Starbucks has 22,000 stores in 67 different countries.


The cellphone started out as a brick. Basically, it was keypad attached to a radio. As within the electronics world, everything shrinks and gets less expensive.  The brick cellphone was slowly but surely becoming commoditized in price and size. The race was on to shrink it and it’s price.  Then Apple came along with its iPhone, larger and 10x the price, at least.

Apple’s vision was to bring together the technologies of mobile phone, internet access, music, GPS, etc. all in one device. The value is in the empowerment provided in one device vs many, meanwhile growing to brick like proportions.  Apple has sold over 700 million iPhones.  iPhone Six is over 6” long.


Twenty years ago a burrito was something purchased at a roadside Tacqueria or a side dish at a local Mexican restaurant.   Steve Ells had the vision of providing healthy burrito and taco meals with his “Food with Integrity” vision.  Mystery meat or other nefarious ingredients were replaced by higher quality beef and fresh ingredients. Dusty picnic benches were replaced by clean tables and chairs.

Ell’s vision of a fast, efficient and high quality casual dining experience was the value proposition that replaced commoditized burritos and tacos. Today, Chipotle has 1700+ restaurants.

By adding value to the customer experience, Starbucks, Apple and Chipotle have transformed commodities into high value brands.  Does your vision statement and strategies add value to your customers’ experience or simply follow today’s trends toward commoditization?  

About the Author

John F Dowling has a passion for leadership, strategic management and sales. For over 30 years, he has worked for fortune 500 companies including Molex, Ametek and Litton, as well as small businesses. He was Founder & President of Gloria Dunne Cosmetics and served corporate roles of National Sales Manager, Regional Sales Manager and Global Account Sales.

John has a Graduate Certificate in Leadership from Rice University, an Executive MBA from University of New Haven and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Penn State.   His hobbies are tennis, fitness, travel, history, college football and writing.


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