The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field by Mike Michalowicz, Portfolio, 228 pages, $26.95, Hardcover, July 2012, ISBN 9781591844884
Has the dream of owning your own business turned into a nightmare? That is where Mike Michalowicz was five years into his first business. He had built his computer technology company from nothing to one million dollars in revenue, but he was taking less of that home than his receptionist, was barely able to support his wife and child, and certainly wasn’t able to spend any real, quality time with them. Speaking of the hours he kept during those years, he writes:
Did I keep regular hours? Sure I did. If I was awake, I worked. Regularly.
That, I’m sure, sounds familiar to many reading this review. His business mentor had prescient advice: he had to cut his client list, focusing on his best, top-paying customers and cutting the rest. That sounded to Mike—like it would to most entrepreneurs busy trying to find more clients—like madness, until he read an article in the local newspaper about a prize-winning pumpkin and the farmer who produced it.
Here’s how the article broke down the pumpkin-growing process:
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 on pumpkin on each vine.
STEP SIX: Focus all of your attention on the big pumpkin. …
STEP SEVEN: Watch it grow. In the last days of the season, this will happen so fast you can actually see it happen.
That article was the serendipity Michalowicz needed to understand and follow his mentor’s advice. He modified those rules into a pumpkin plan for his own business: identify your natural strengths; sell, sell, sell; fire all your small small-time, rotten customers; weed out distractions, often disguised as new opportunities; identify your top clients and remove the rest; focus all your attention on those clients and replicate that service for as many of the same types of top client as possible, and; watch your business grow.
Entrepreneurship is no fairytale. It is a lot of hard work, late nights, and worry. No book is going to change that, but The Pumpkin Plan can at least help you make sure you’re worrying about the right things. Maybe before you turn your pumpkin into the golden carriage that will get you to the ball, you’ll first have to turn your business into a pumpkin.