Lessons from a pumpkin patchPublished 10:09am Thursday, March 14, 2013
Column: Dean Swanson, SCORE District Director
I had so many comments about one of my last columns, which gave some lessons from watching geese for the small business, that I was reminded of another book I am reading titled “The Pumpkin Plan” by Mike Michalowicz. The book draws some lessons for small businesses from a pumpkin farmer. I can relate to this because I have always been fascinated with these skilled pumpkin growers who can grow a pumpkin to be a half ton or more and have had several conversations with some of them who have figured out how to do this. It is similar to my fascination and respect with business CEOs who have figured out how to grow a small business to a big success.
In his book, Michalowicz shares the secret he learned from a pumpkin farmer on how to grow those big ones. He says the process is quite simple:
—Step one: Plant promising seeds.
—Step two: Water, water, water.
—Step three: As they grow, routinely remove all of the diseased or damaged pumpkins.
—Step four: Weed like a mad dog. Not a single green leaf or root permitted if it isn’t a pumpkin plant.
—Step five: When they grow larger, identify the stronger, faster-growing pumpkins. Then, remove all the less promising pumpkins. Repeat until you have one pumpkin on each vine.
—Step six: Focus all of your attention on the big pumpkin. Nurture it around the clock like a baby, and guard it like you would your first Mustang convertible.
—Step seven: Watch it grow. In the last days of the season, this will happen so fast you can actually see it.
I have to share with you a quote from the book and you will see why I love it. He says, “Holy crap, I thought. Pumpkin farmers hold the secret formula for big-time entrepreneurial success. My get-out-of-jail-free card. The Holy Grail. The missing link. My golden ticket. (Yes, it was all of those things to me . . . and more, so much more.) There it was, in black and white . . . and orange. The answer I’d been looking for, for years. I needed to treat my company like a giant pumpkin!” So he wrote the book called “The Pumpkin Plan.”
I will summarize some of his insights to a successful small business:
—Step one: Identify and leverage your biggest natural strengths.
—Step two: Sell, sell, sell.
—Step three: As your business grows, fire all of your small-time, rotten clients.
—Step four: Never, ever let distractions, often labeled as new opportunities, take hold. Weed them out fast.
—Step five: Identify your top clients and remove the rest of your less-promising clients.
—Step six: Focus all your attention on your top clients. Nurture and protect them; find out what they want more than anything, and if it’s in alignment with what you do best, give it to them. Then, replicate that same service or product for as many of the same types of top client as possible.
—Step seven: Watch your company grow to a giant size.