The Secret Fears of Small Business Owners Considering Experience Design

In the comments of Friday’s post about search queries was a question so compelling it had to become its own post. Thanks to Janice, of the utterly fabulous Painting a Day blog, for the inspiration.

Kelly- I would like to know if there is a most asked question that your clients ask you about their stores when you consult with them. Seriously, is there a top spot in their FAQ’s?


Oh, yes, there’s a number one, and close runners-up in two and three. If you’re feeling these pains, you are not alone:


The number one question is a variant of “Why aren’t we making more money?” No surprise there. Sometimes it’s, “Sales are slumping, can you help us,” sometimes it’s “We think we’re doing everything right but it’s not taking off like we want.” When we help solopreneurs and startups, it’s “How do I position the business to make money?”

People realize they aren’t capturing all the business they could. They may sense there’s something wrong with the Experience they deliver, but figuring out what to do is overwhelming. Prioritizing into their busy day it is a lost cause. Getting the directions laid out so they’re ready for the future seems impossible.

Everybody’s too darn busy, and they need us to take this nagging question off their minds, answer it, and fix it. Like a plumber for their Customer Experience pipes.

If you’re feeling this way, we’re only too glad to help—just contact us. Check out my Experience Design 101 series for a ton of great ideas you can tackle yourself, or read how we start the process.


Next most asked is “How can we get our staff more thrilled about us?” and its cousin, “Our employees are running all over us.” Many folks understand that their human “resources” are critical to customers’ joy but they don’t think the joy has to come from within. Your people will not fake loving your company. Unhappy staff=unhappy customers, period. Usually the solution is not as simple as the equation.

Do you need to push, or get out of the way? Read more about true leadership here.


Another one I hear more these days is about the owner himself/herself. “This isn’t anything like what I want it to be.” I talked to a restaurant owner a few weeks ago who was floundering, had lost his own joy, and could just barely remember why he himself was coming in to work every day. He was thinking about giving up, and I’m not going to kid you. Sometimes that may be the answer. I’ve seen a lot of good come from spectacular failures. Not for this owner. He decided to jump up and get his business flying again.

We worked on his Solution by backing up to see the original picture. As he saw where the plan was going, he got his own mojo back. Yes, we worked on his interiors and his graphics, and planned some staffing changes, but it was the work at the start of the project that made the major difference. That’s why I always put such emphasis on it. The research and planning was what he was unbelievably grateful for, even before we got to executing the plan. That felt really good.

For small business owners Vision and direction is a huge part of success or failure. When you’re overworking yourself wearing too many hats, have no balance with your personal life (or don’t have one!), and go from sale to sale without a plan, it’s a crazy existence that eventually breaks you down. You go from “when will I get a break” to “what if this is my last success, I can’t slow down” without that plan in place. One day you wake up and you are not doing what you meant to for a living!

If this is your situation, read what to do before you give up hope for a little inspiration, then dig right in and become the Visionary you’re meant to be.


Folks call to us to get perspective, finally let go of a little control, have someone else look at things, help them make improvements without having to overextend themselves even more, and to make a key decision: bring the plan back to the original Vision, or revise the Vision to go with the state of my business today?

Working with us is about a lot more than beauty. It’s about function: clients want to make money, lead a great team, share their passion, and love their work. If relieving pain points with strategy + design can do that, well, then I’ve got a great job.

Money, power, or self? What’s the big pain in your business?

(Are you creating Maximum Customer Experience to ease the pain?)

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson