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Ken Keller: Learning from the Pumpkin Patch

Posted: March 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Ken Keller

 

Last week I provided the Pyramid of Business Success, a nine layered structure. Layer seven was the Growth Plan.

For a few years I have struggled to conceptualize what a Growth Plan would look like and have tried hard to put it on a single sheet of paper.

It’s funny how life works. When you look for something, it is often right in front of you. And so was my answer, in a book entitled The Pumpkin Plan, authored by Mike Michalowicz.

The book opens with a recap of how Mike read in his local paper how a farmer grew a prize winning pumpkin. The farmer used a seven-step method.

First, he planted promising seeds. Second, he watered, watered, watered. Third, as they grew, he routinely removed all diseased or damaged pumpkins. Fourth, he weeded like a mad dog. Not a single green leaf or root was permitted if it wasn’t a pumpkin plant. Fifth, when they grew larger, he identified the stronger, faster-growing pumpkins. Then, he removed all the less-promising pumpkins and repeated this until one pumpkin was on each vine. Sixth, he focused all attention on just one big pumpkin. The farmer nurtured it around the clock like a baby, and guarded it like his first car. Step seven, he watched it grow. In the last days of the season, this happened so fast he could actually see it taking place.

Mike suggests that to grow the right client base, and associated revenue and profits, there are seven steps to be taken. These steps are not for the faint of heart, which is why some owners settle upon reaching a comfortable plateau and others are interested in climbing their own business version of Mount Everest.

The first step is to revisit the dream; the reason the business was started in the first place. This is often lost in the hectic days of running a business. Before starting growth, think back to the core reason behind the leap of faith that was taken.

The second step is to identify natural strengths and to consciously use leverage. Strengths are what the business has intrinsically and does better than the competition.

To propel growth, leverage in an area of innovation. Mike says there are three areas of innovation: quality, price and convenience. No business can be good at all three; most should focus on just one for maximum results.

The second step is to sell only to the client in the defined sweet spot. It may take some time to determine what that is, exactly and precisely, but once identified, start selling and don’t stop.

Third, as the business grows, terminate, kindly, all small time and difficult clients. This is the necessary pruning required for growth. These are clients that don’t fit the profile, perhaps are high maintenance and not profitable. Even if they are profitable, they may be more trouble than they are worth.

Fourth, avoid distractions. Stay focused on selling. Let the reputation of strengths and innovation spread. Fifth, identify top clients and remove the less promising clients. Another round of pruning.

Sixth, focus energies and efforts to get close to top clients, learning what they want and need; and deliver what they seek. Then, replicate the same service or product for as many of the same types of top clients as possible.

This helps growth and reduces risk of concentration.

Seventh, and last, watch the company grow to a gigantic size.

Every organization is either growing or dying; there is no middle ground. It isn’t necessary to want to grow to a large size to use the process provided.

What the process offers is a plan and hope for a better future. Every leader should be embracing that.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with small and midsize business owners to grow top line revenue. He can be reached at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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