The 3rd Bucket

What prevents businesses going from surviving to thriving? Sure, time and money play a factor, but could there be a 3rd reason? Our research indicates yes!

Earlier this year @fditrapani shared a video with @johnmaeda where David Lennie from Shopify spoke about the small business owner having two buckets, one for time, and the other for money:

Ever since I’ve noodled on this idea, questioning if those two buckets are it, or if it was possible that there could be a third bucket…? After all, it takes a certain type of person to realize success with an idea. Time and money are useful and necessary, but what does it really take to succeed? What personally drives someone even though they may potentially exhaust their time and money in the process? What happens at that critical point in a business that could cause them to fizzle out?

It wasn’t until the small business research report came out this past quarter that I had an “ah ha!” moment looking at the Business Maturity Spectrum, what I had suspected all along was finally mapped out with plain language to see:

Visualizing what it takes for a subsisting “Uncertain Hopeful” to go from surviving as an “Engaged DIY” to a thriving business, as an “Established optimist”.

The report described what we learned about our customers in these 3 segments, how they compared, and where they differed. It explained that an ‘Uncertain Hopeful’ is likely to have a viable, marketable product or skill, but they lack two key factors that the other segments possessed. On the other hand, the thriving ‘Established Optimist’ has fully realized success and can now focus their time on improving their business and technical skills. And in the middle we have the surviving ‘Engaged DIYer’, who has experienced some success. The key differentiator that pushes them through from subsisting to surviving: they are motivated, driven, and have a high growth mindset.

3 factors necessary for success: viable, marketable product or skill, drive and high growth mindset, business skill and/or tech savvy.

Working on the WooCommerce design team we listen to many customer success stories. We know that our customers that are driven to use WordPress + WooCommerce appreciate and highly value doing business their way. They are motivated by figuring things out on their own, and they take a lot of pride in that journey. They aren’t as interested in the quickest way to get something done if they think it may compromise their customer’s experience. They are encouraged by community support and feel comfort knowing an answer is just a question away.

Most of all, they have a unique business service or product setup. It’s important that they have full control on how it’s setup and they favor solutions that can be tailored to exactly to their needs. It’s not an easy task but the rewards are fulfilling. These customers fully embody the Engaged DIY spirit, living it out day to day. Driven to push through because there’s a greater outcome on the other end:

“My goal is to work less like earn more so I could have more family time and get it about 50/50.”

“I’d say my favorite thing is just being my own boss, getting to decide what I want to do, when I want to do it, I mean I probably work much harder than I did before, but it’s definitely worth it.”

So yeah, I think there’s a 3rd bucket, in addition to time and money. Without drive it can be much harder to realize that success. It’s our job as product designers to help make it as easy as possible to push through any doubt, confusion, and uncertainty, and keep them focused on their end goal, whatever that may be. Spoiler: it’s not the website!


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