Secrets of Giant Pumpkin Farmers

Huge pumpkins don't happen by accident (courtesy of Temple Community Garden)

Everybody loves a colossal pumpkin.

The darlings of farmer markets and fairs, gargantuan pumpkins stand out from the crowd. They attract a tremendous amount of attention, win prizes, and reap fame and glory for their farmers.

In a way, products and businesses are like pumpkins. There are tonnes of average ones which people don't give two hoots about. However, the exceptional ones - like huge pumpkins - draw a disproportionate amount of customer interest, revenue and loyalty.

Thanks to a podcast by Inc columnist and life coach Marla Tabaka, I learned about a fascinating business strategy called The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz. Drawn from Michalowicz's book, the key idea here is for entrepreneurs to apply "the same few simple methods farmers use to grow colossal prize-winning pumpkins" in order to "grow colossally successful businesses".

So what are the steps behind the plan?

First, carefully select your seeds and only plant promising ones. This process of meticulous and careful screening helps successful pumpkin farmers to to grow winning pumpkins, unlike ordinary farmers who "try their luck" with as many seeds as possible. The focus is on quality rather than quantity.

In a similar fashion, pick the right customers or products to develop. For clients and guests, carefully choose a profitable market segment rather than target the whole wide world. Similarly, pool your resources on the few products and services that generate the greatest bang for the buck.

Next, observe your sprouts and nurture the strong ones. Ordinary pumpkin farmers spend their time propping up the weak sprouts to give them a fighting chance. However, colossal pumpkin farmers pay attention to strong seedlings and saplings, while removing the weak ones.

Likewise, concentrate your energies on customers or products that show the greatest potential. As resources (time, energy, manpower and money) are finite, you need to conserve them for the critical few that matter.

Thereafter, choose to water your growing "crops" frequently in small amounts (ie water, water, water). This strategy runs contrary to what ordinary farmers do, which is to water in huge amounts once a day. Huge pumpkin farmers water their crop up to 10 times a day in smaller amounts that do not drown or saturate them.

This same principle of consistent regular effort applies to businesses. Instead of overwhelming your customers with a deluge of advertising and promotions (equivalent to huge campaigns), spread your attention out but be consistent over a longer time frame. Such endeavours would help build stronger customer relationships over time.

Likewise, product development should take place step by step. Adopt carefully calibrated processes to test your product, learn, adapt and modify. In a sense, this resembles a marathon as opposed to multiple 100 metre sprints.

Big pumpkin farmers also routinely discard any diseased/damaged pumpkins and weed consistently. Paying special attention to the root systems of their prized plants, they ensure that competition for the limited space, nutrients and water in the plots is reduced.

In the same vein, you should minimise or eliminate corporate distractions - be they unprofitable customers, projects or products. Don't let these entities drain your resources. Be willing to cut losses sooner rather than later. Such pruning helps your organisation to be leaner and meaner over the long term.

Finally, big pumpkin farmers lavish their love and attention on the stronger, faster-growing pumpkins. They this as much as possible until they have only one pumpkin on each vine. In other words, they maximise their efforts such that the lone pumpkin has the best chance to grow explosively.

Similarly, concentrate your energies and resources on the few "big pumpkins" in your company. Focus your attention on these customers or products, and nurture them until they eventually bear fruit. Once the burden of sub-par products - or unprofitable customers - are removed, you should channel your full efforts on the ones that matter.

What do you think about the Pumpkin Plan? Can its principles work for your organisation?

For more information, do check out this link on The Pumpkin Plan.

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