Grow your business like a prize-winning pumpkin farmer

Just as most pumpkin farmers grow ordinary Halloween carving pumpkins, most entrepreneurs grow ordinary, unremarkable businesses. Yet other farmers know that by tweaking their methods in a few small ways, they can grow giant, award-winning pumpkins that get attention and press coverage.

In The Pumpkin Plan, Mike Michalowicz (who is keynoting the upcoming Trim The Fat Fest on November 15) reveals how the same principles that farmers use to grow colossal pumpkins can be applied by entrepreneurs to grow colossally successful businesses. He writes that these farmers “hold the ‘secret formula’ for big-time entrepreneurial success: they plant the right seeds, identify the most promising pumpkins, kill off the rest on the shared vine, and nurture only the pumpkins with the biggest potential.”

I think one of the main obstacles preventing many good businesses from becoming remarkable ones is the time they dedicate to their less than ideal clients and prospects. We all make exceptions when it comes to bringing on new clients who are not a good fit for one reason or another, and we have a hard time letting them go once we realize it was a mistake. The biggest mistake is that while we’re busy trying to please everyone, we’re not doing everything we can to provide an unparalleled experience for our best clients or to attract more like them.

If you find that you’re always “busy,” I encourage you to examine how you spend your time and ask yourself if you’re only working with clients who are truly a great fit.

As Mike suggests, “you can’t just go with revenue, and you can’t just go with your gut. If you truly want to pull off this whole entrepreneur thing, you’re going to need awesome clients you really connect with, clients who make you want to go to work in the morning, not hide under the covers. You want clients who have potential, who are open to new ideas, who have the money to pay you what you’re worth, who respect you, who are going places and who want you to be part of it. You can’t leave finding those awesome clients to fate. And you most certainly can’t wait for your awful clients to suddenly realize how great you are and turn into awesome ones. That never happens.”

If you have clients who are not a fit in terms of revenue AND difficult to work with, you should fire them. Today! As long as these clients remain in the picture, they can have the same effect on your business as the small pumpkins that take resources and growth potential away from the best ones on the vine. In some cases, firing them may be too extreme. You may only need to evaluate these relationships and make some changes so they’re more mutually beneficial.

Mike suggests taking a look at your clients and as a starting point, identifying those who do not pay on time, never refer you and/or always question your advice. Is there a way for you to create new policies or reset expectations in these situations?

Several years ago, I noticed that a block of my wealth management clients were no longer an ideal fit due to the amount of time I was spending with them. I enjoyed working with them, but I was traveling to them, and on average, spending four hours in drive time annually on each one. I was reluctant to make a change, but I also knew I couldn’t continue to grow my practice with so much “dead time.” I reached out to each client to let them know that going forward, we would need to meet in my office. The majority of them were fine with this. The ones who said no were effectively telling me that my advice was not valuable enough to justify them coming to me, which made it easy for me to move on from these relationships. In the end I freed up a lot of time, and liberated myself from relationships that were not a good fit.

Are you spending all of your time working with clients you love? Have you ever revisited certain relationships to reevaluate what you’re providing, and whether they’re worth it?



  1. by Jill Chodorov on October 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    I highly recommend the book “Attracting Perfect Customers” by Stacey Hall. After reading it and completing all the exercises in the book, I am attracting more of my perfect customers – customers that appreciate my time, value my expertise, and want to pay me a full commission. I can’t wait to learn about The Pumpkin Plan and how it can take me to the next level.

  2. by Derek on October 31, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Thanks Jill! I will definitely check out your recommendation and hope to see you on the 15th!

  3. by Kerrie on October 31, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Love what you shared, Derek. I believe getting clear on your ideal client is crucial to the success of any business. I have spent time over the years articulating what my ideal client looks like and I have attracted AMAZING clients? I know that these clients finding me was directly related to me getting clarity around the type of person I want to work with. I leave every one of my client sessions with more energy than when I arrived! . . . And I arrive with a lot of energy to begin with. 😉 That has been one of the signs that I’m working with my perfect client!

  4. by Derek on October 31, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Thanks Kerrie! As one of your newest, happy clients I feel comfortable saying that you deserve to only work with amazing clients given how valuable you are! Perhaps you should think about charging more $$! Why did I say that? 🙂

  5. by Kerrie on November 5, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Thank you, Derek! I appreciate your feedback. You are such a pleasure to work with.

  6. by Kerrie on October 31, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I meant exclamation point after AMAZING clients! 🙂

  7. by Marc Freedman on November 1, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Just like peeling an onion, until you pull back the outer layer you don’t really know what is inside. Same thing with weeding out/tweaking the clients one works with. We must keep in mind the old adage – 80% of our revenues come from 20% of our clients. What the “Pumpkin Plan” can teach us is how to change that old adage thus balancing the equation while creating a remarkably successful awesome business! Looking forward to the 15th!

  8. by Derek on November 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks Marc- totally agree! The great think about The Pumpkin Plan is that it goes beyond the 80/20 rule and provides actionable ways to make it happen. Look forward to seeing you there!

  9. by Jodi Scholes on November 13, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Normally I skim thru a blog. This is one of the very few blogs that I read & re-read the content. I am ready for some more prize-winning pumpkins! Looking forward to Thursday (thank you Steve Winter for the invite).

  10. by Derek Coburn on November 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Thanks Jodi! Look forward to meeting you on Thursday. 🙂

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