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A quick review of the core elements of Mike Michalowicz classic, The Pumpkin Plan, and how it applies to MSPs.

Our previous blog talked about what life on the MSP hamster wheel is like. It’s a chaotic hive of activity that sets the owner up for burnout, and sets the business up for serious growing pains. In the original Pumpkin Plan book, Mike Michalowicz describes how growing a thriving business is similar to growing a prizewinning pumpkin. How do you wind up with a monster orange squash? Michalowicz lays out seven steps:

  1. Plant promising seeds.
  2. Water, water, water.
  3. As the pumpkins grow, remove all of the diseased or damaged ones.
  4. Weed, weed, weed. Not a single leaf or root in the patch that isn’t from a pumpkin can remain.
  5. As the pumpkins grow larger, identify the stronger, faster-growing ones. Then snip the less promising pumpkins from the vine. Repeat until you are down to one on each vine.
  6. Focus all of your attention on the winning pumpkin. 
  7. Watch it grow. In the last days of the season, this will happen so fast you can actually see it!

What does all this have to do with you growing a healthy MSP that provides well for your family and gives you your life back? Those seven steps look like this for MSPs.

  1. Identify and leverage your company’s greatest natural strengths.
  2. Sell, sell, sell.
  3. As your business grows, get rid of all of your C-List clients that don’t have real potential.
  4. Focus, focus, focus. Weed out distractions—so-called “opportunities” that pull you away from what you do best.
  5. As you continue to grow, identify your best clients and remove your least promising ones.
  6. Dedicate your attention to your top clients, the ones you’d want to clone. Nurture them and find out what they want the most, and as long as it aligns with what you do best, give it to them. Then standardize and replicate that service for as many similar clients as you can.
  7. Watch your company grow and grow until it’s time for an exit.

You cannot grow a giant pumpkin without focusing your efforts. You have to plant the right seed, not just any seed. You have to weed the garden. And you must get rid of less promising pumpkins – even perfectly healthy ones.

Many MSP owners don’t get their seed right, and without that, nothing else really matters. The first aspect of getting the right seed for an MSP is selling a fully managed services package, at a profitable price, to clients who will accept your core technical stack and receive your guidance on technology matters. All other roads are a fast-track to the hamster wheel.

But you can’t stop there. This is where organizational self-awareness and having core values that aren’t cookie cutter come into play. It’s not enough to get the business model right. You also have to figure out what will make your MSP stand out from the rest. It could be knowledge of a particular industry vertical. It could be a unique and exceptional way of providing a great customer experience. It could be something else. But you must find it.

We’ll discuss this more in next week’s blog: Differentiation vs. Commoditization.