At Thursday’s CT Business Expo at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Mike Michalowicz, author of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and the forthcoming The Pumpkin Plan, took a page out of a colossal pumpkin farmer’s book and encouraged his attendees to grow colossal pumpkins with their businesses.

“You don’t want to be that guy,” Michalowicz said, referring to that decrepit old guy that spends 50 years working and has nothing to show for it, the guy in the rusty lawn chair with black socks pulled all the way up at the retirement home who regrets the life he lived, trading time for money. That’s where the Pumpkin Plan comes in for entrepreneurs.

One day, Michalowicz was sitting at home, reading the local paper, when he happened on an article about a colossal pumpkin farmer. This was no ordinary pumpkin farmer – he grew one of those giant prize pumpkins. Michalowicz was intrigued, so he interviewed the pumpkin farmer, who said that the strategy he followed was only a little different from other pumpkin farmers. To be “Lord of the Gourd” and grow colossal pumpkins, he only changed 5 percent of what he was doing. That was an “aha!” moment for Michalowicz, who spent the next year of life studying farmers to learn business strategies. Here’s what he learned:

  1. The first thing is seed selection. The ordinary pumpkin farmer buys as many cheap seeds as possible. If you want to grow a large pumpkin farm, plant cheap seeds everywhere. However, Lords of the Gourds are maniacally selective about their seeds. They analyze the soil content, match it, match the climate and cherry-pick seeds.
  2. Next is sprout selection, when the seed germinates. The ordinary pumpkin farmers pay attention to the weakest sprouts and help them grow. Colossal pumpkin farmers rip out those sprouts so that the strong ones can grow even bigger and stronger.
  3. Most pumpkin farmers can only water their farms once a day, and most plants can’t grow explosively with just one watering a day. The system that works for the masses can kill the most extraordinary plants.
  4. Finally, ordinary pumpkin farmers grow as many pumpkins as possible. Colossal pumpkin farmers, on the other hand, identify the explosively-growing pumpkins and nurture them. They find the niche pumpkin and go after it.

It may seem foolhardy for colossal pumpkin farmers to ignore weaker pumpkins, because of the possibility that the colossal pumpkin will die, but colossal pumpkin farmers also know that there is always next season. If it doesn’t pan out this year, they can grow again and learn from their mistakes.

Michalowicz advises just doing an all-in bet, or you’ll never achieve success. “You’ll be the decrepit old guy,” he said. “If you do an all-in bet, yes, you may fail. But most colossal pumpkins make it.”

Now replace “pumpkin” with opportunity, read through that again, and you’re ready to grow your own colossal pumpkins.

Attendees also received copies of The Pumpkin Plan and had the opportunity to meet Michalowicz after the keynote.