A Gigantic Business Lesson From A Gigantic Pumpkin
By Mike Michalowicz
Ordinary pumpkins are kinda, well, ordinary. When Halloween comes around you likely go to the farm to pick out a nice round one for the porch. But besides that, you pay little attention to pumpkins. That is until you see a story of a mammoth pumpkin in the local paper. You know what I am talking about; one of those prize winning, nearly a ton, behemoth pumpkins.
Those guys (and gals) who grow them? They have a secret, a business secret that you need to know to grow your own colossal success.
Here is their strategy:
Step One: Start with promising seeds. The record-breaking pumpkin farmer is highly selective of his seeds and always picks the ones that have the best growth potential. Similarly, a wildly successful business starts with a promising seed. Instead of trying to take advantage of the latest trend or trying to convert a hobby into a business, the successful entrepreneur launches a business at the intersection of their passion, strong customer demand and their ability to systematize the entire process. When these three elements overlap, the entrepreneur has found their giant seed.
Step Two: Feed the strong sprouts and disregard the weak. The first sign of a gigantor pumpkin is a strong, healthy sprout. The farmer focuses on caring for these promising pumpkins and ignores the other less promising sprouts. In similar fashion, the most successful businesses focus on growing their best clients and the similar prospects. The “weak” customers and prospects that distract, demand and disregard are turned away or referred to a competitor.
Step Three: Use less water, more often. A farmer of ordinary pumpkins dumps the same amount of water on each plant, once a day. It’s too much water for the moment, and evaporates way too quickly. Effectively the plant drowns for an hour and is dehydrated for the rest of the day. A farmer of mammoth pumpkins waters her plants regularly in smaller amounts, adequately quenching its thirst frequently, sometimes as often as five or six times a day.
Entrepreneurs grow their businesses quickly by using the same strategy. Instead of running a broad one-size-fits-all marketing campaign once, they run a steady “drip” campaign targeted at their best prospects and clients for years. This persistent niche presence makes the entrepreneur’s company the perceived leader, because to the targeted prospect, they are everywhere.
Step Four: Focus on the root system. While the whole pumpkin plant has importance, the root system provides the steady stream of water and nutrients the plant needs to live. A few days without sun and the plant will survive. A few days without the root system and the plant is rotting in the field. The farmer of colossal pumpkins focuses on a healthy root for the entire life of the plant.
For entrepreneurs the root system that “feeds the business” is a steady referral source. Instead of asking for referrals from clients (which, if any, typically yields bad leads), the entrepreneur behind a colossally successful business concentrates his efforts on generating leads through complementary vendors. A growing, complementary vendor network is the strongest root system a colossal business can ever have.
Step Five: Relentless pruning and weeding. Those who grow extraordinary pumpkins ensure that not a single weed grows in the patch, because every time a weed starts to sprout it takes away water and light from the colossal pumpkin. Smaller pumpkins on the colossal vine are an even more insidious threat. That’s right—if a pumpkin is small, weak or showing blight, the farmer kills it instantly to ensure the colossal pumpkin gets all of the nutrients.
Similarly, the entrepreneur who grows mammoth, industry-dominating businesses has a maniacal “kill” strategy. Often the weeds and diseased pumpkins blocking an entrepreneur’s path to success are labeled as “opportunities.” The successful entrepreneur kills any new distraction or “opportunity” that does not serve their “colossal pumpkin” as soon as it appears.
Even colossal pumpkins die eventually. This is the nature of the game (or is it “the game of nature?”), yet death doesn’t phase the colossal pumpkin farmer. When the pumpkin dies, they come back harder next season with a brand new seed with “great pumpkin” potential.
Colossally successful entrepreneurs show this exact same trait. Even if they follow formula detailed in my new book, The Pumpkin Plan, some ideas, products or services run their course. And when this happens, just like the blue-ribbon pumpkin farmer, the “Pumpkin Plan” entrepreneurs reappear next season with a new super seed.
While following The Pumpkin Plan yields successes more often than not, it is not a guaranteed success; there are no guarantees in farming, or in business. The only thing you can be sure of is, when you set out to grow ordinary anything, be it pumpkins or businesses, you’ll end up with just that: ordinary. You can never build colossal success on something ordinary. Guaranteed.
The Pumpkin Plan is a method that shoots for the moon, which if nothing else, will at least land you a few stars. And on a few occasions, when luck is on your side, you will defy what is “possible” and grow the biggest winner of the season.