A simple memory of an annual family outing forty-five years ago ensured the survival of our family’s landscape business when COVID-19 arrived.

Every autumn, my parents loaded me and my siblings into our white station wagon with its wood grained side panels. They hauled us over the river, beyond the woods and across the wide-open fields of DeKalb County, to the Sandwich Fair; the gateway to an enchanted land of giant pumpkins. 

Growing up, I didn’t know Illinois was literally “the great pumpkin state.”  It’s something of an obsession apparently. Two seasons ago, a man from the next town over grew a 1510 pounder in his backyard. 

My fascination of squash that can grow bigger than my Lawn Boy made The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field intriguing. 

Fueled by a chance meeting with a grower of house-sized pumpkins, serial business builder and author Mike Michalowicz realized something important. The secrets giant pumpkin farmers have honed were exactly what was needed to help grow a profitable business. 

This book rose out of his desire to help ordinary people like you and me grow a business beyond the ordinary – especially when our businesses hit a plateau.

The Pumpkin Plan reads like a letter from a well-respected friend who is responding to our exasperated questions about “how do I make this work in the long term? How do I grow my business so that I also have a life? How do I streamline my approach to my business so my reputation proceeds me wherever I go?”

There’s truth in the saying ‘like attracts like’ when it comes to mates – and it’s no different for clients, employees and co-workers. When our entire team – from vendors to clients – are on the same page around kindness, authenticity and generosity, for example, it’s a shoe-in that we’ll create a life that’s rewarding both professionally and personally.

We stumbled on The Pumpkin Plan after a friend introduced us to a different Michalowicz’ book, Profit First. As we began diving into that book, we realized the fundamentals of The Pumpkin Plan were essential first steps. So we began incorporating tools from both books.

Over the course of three months, we thoroughly committed to creating greater value for our clients and greater profits for our company. Which meant investing even longer hours in the business for a few months. Doing the Pumpkin Plan approach required deep analysis into which of our customers were truly our best, based on metrics that mattered to us. We quickly found the book’s exercises revealing so much clarity about increasing profits in our business, the task actually became fun. 

As Michalowicz writes:  

“What if you could predict, within a small margin of error, exactly how many people would buy your new product or sign up for your new service? What if you could build a community committed to promoting your new product or service before you even finished developing it? What if you could be sure that every time you launch a new product or service, you absolutely, positively knew it would not fail? Screw the “what ifs.” Because you totally can. The process is pretty straightforward. No mystery, no hocus-pocus, no nonsense. You simply need to get your customer community to directly influence the development, launch and marketing of your offering. At the end of this process, you’ll have a product your clients already want (because they built it for themselves), and the rest of the strategy will take care of itself.”

By increasing our profits and our cash flow we were able to keep our doors open, our bills paid and all our employees on payroll. We even hired new three people – all of whom had lost their jobs when their former employers closed their doors. Our clients are happy. Our people are happy. Our vendors are happy. And our company is working for us instead of the other way around. And for that, we are grateful.