UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 21 December 22, 2005

It's All Unimportant Until It's You

I Met with a client a while back and got into a debate about what it was like to be a client of their firm. As I kept banging my head up against their story , I persuaded them to humor me and try something new….

I asked the President of the company to go outside and come in as if he was a client arriving for an appointment. Within 5 minutes of sitting in his own reception area he didn’t like how uncomfortable the chairs were, hated that he could see a bunch of old boxes in a cubicle down the hall, didn’t like how dark it was and we stopped right there.

Stupid exercise?...perhaps. Definitely simplistic. But it was a start.

It will all seem unimportant until it is you waiting in the reception area or stuck on hold.

What if you took some time away from trying to figure out what your clients want next and spend time every month experiencing how they actually see you today.

How many business owners take time to be anonymous clients of their own companies?


User Profile

Howard Mann is the founder of Brickyard Partners, a business strategy agency based in Portland, OR. Prior to founding Brickyard Partners in 2001, Mann owned a premier international logistics company with over 140 Million in revenue, six U.S. offices and a global network of over 40 agents worldwide.

As that business came under severe pressure from the previous economic downturn and industry consolidation, Howard lead the company out from those treacherous times by returning to the basics that make every business great and completing 6 acquisitions that re-imagined the business so it was highly attractive to buyers. Finding that “secret sauce” did not come easily but has fueled his purpose to help other business leaders to never have to go through what he endured. 

Through real world experience and those hard times in the “trenches” of business he has learned that it is not following the latest fad, copying competitors or adding complexity that makes a business truly great. His pragmatic approach and knowing what it feels like to sit in the CEO/Owner chair is what makes his work so different and effective.

In addition to his strategy, marketing and communications work, Mann coaches a select group of entrepreneurs, CEO's and business owners. His highly focused workshops and keynotes help executive teams take aggressive action to unlock the true potential of their organizations and build remarkable businesses that endure. In good times and bad. Online and off.

Howard is a sought after speaker both in the U.S. and around the world. He writes frequently on his blog about the importance of the basics and reconnecting to the passion that too often gets lost as businesses mature.

Add new comment


“You will believe your service is great until you experience it yourself” as HOWARD said. I would say:

“You will believe your service is great until THE FINAL COSTUMERS don’t call you, don’t buy yours, don’t visit you… until the results talk by themselves.”———
“he didn’t like how uncomfortable the chairs were”

As a President of a company then he is alone, working without people with values! That Boss got to think about the people who work with him, it means the people who works with him is not working in Pro- to the company interests. As a President of a company, does he got to check all that details? there’s no people working with him? does he can attend some targets on his company whithout think about it ‘cause, there’s somebody preventing somethig fails?

If the chair is not comfortable, or there’s no water in the reception: the BOSS got to care about it, as the “excercise” says it. ‘cause an small firm can do that. yes. ** but iF you have employees working with you, then somebody would be fired!!! Imagine to David J. O’Reilly Chairman and CEO Chevron Corp. checking if the reception is comfortable. There are specialized people working there to check all that !!

This is a really good idea. I’ll do that next time a client forces me to do something that goes against all the usability and organization concepts I have. Maybe they’ll learn something too.

Role playing and empathic modelling are excellent tools that allow our clients to see through the eyes of their customers. Unfortunately they are rarely spoken about.

Well done in bringing the concept to the fore in such an accessible manner.

Penlix – perhaps you are correct but the experience allowed my ideas to penetrate the story he was telling himself about their service. You will believe your service is great until you experience it yourself. Blaming it on everything else is always easier than the truth.

But the moment he returned to his big ol’ leather boss-chair and got on with his business, I bet my email he forgot all…. well if not, most of all that! Nice excercise though, thanks for sharing!

Excellent exercise; it’s a good way to sell user experience to clients, make them understand it.

That’s great insight. So many businesses have the wrong attitude (or are even oblivious) when it comes to things like this. Especially companies that are mainly business to business oriented.