Growing your company the best and smartest way

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Ready for colossal growth in your construction business? Sustainable, large-scale growth is possible with the Pumpkin Plan. This episode explains how the Pumpkin Plan works and the main elements you should work to define and strengthen for business success.

Topics we cover in this episode include:

  • Planting the seed of your business strategy
  • How to define your unique offering
  • The importance of identifying your top clients
  • How systemization levels up your business
  • How these elements work together to create colossal growth

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Rob Williams, Profit Strategist |
Wade Carpenter, CPA, CGMA |
Stephen Brown, Bonding Expert |


[00:00:00] Rob Williams: Welcome to the Contractor Success Forum. Today, we’re talking about growing your company the best and smartest way with The Pumpkin Plan for Contractors. 

And with us today on our Contractor Success Forum, we have Stephen Brown, McDaniel Whitley bonding and insurance agency, and Wade Carpenter with Carpenter and Company, CPAs. And I’m Rob Williams with IronGate Entrepreneurial Support Systems. 

And we are here to talk about The Pumpkin Plan for Contractors. All right. So what do–

[00:00:40] Stephen Brown: What are you talking about, Rob? Contractors don’t grow–

[00:00:43] Rob Williams: Don’t all contractors grow pumpkins?

[00:00:45] Stephen Brown: I’ve never met one.

[00:00:47] Rob Williams: You haven’t? Oh my God. I thought that was what we did. So. There’s a concept and an analysis of these great, awesome pumpkin planners. You can study the way they do it. They grow these pumpkins that when I, the book I was reading about it, it said they were like over 1500 pounds.

Now with Google they’re over 2000 pounds. You can grow this colossal pumpkin that’s 2000 pounds plus in a really short time, in just a few days, as opposed to a bunch of little ones that are not very special. And if you have one pumpkin, it can grow colossally, which is like being more profitable in your business.

[00:01:30] Stephen Brown: Ah, so growing big pumpkins, it’s like growing big profits. That’s where you get the name.

[00:01:36] Rob Williams: Yes, that’s right. So yeah, if you have a bunch of little businesses, they will not be as profitable. You find that one colossal pumpkin that is making great profits and perfect for you and perfect for the right clients that you can systematize and you grow that one and you’ll be much more profitable, you’ll have a lot less stress, and everything will go smoothly. 

And the growth of it will be exponential compared to what you do if you do like some of my businesses and you have all these little businesses, because you’re constantly fixing the problems rather than focusing on your best products, your best offerings, the best jobs that you know how to do, and you can grow those and keep the profits and do it with a lot less effort than spreading yourself out really thin and having a bunch of little mushy pumpkins in the garden that are squished. That one big, colossal pumpkin.

[00:02:38] Wade Carpenter: I think it’s an analogy about not necessarily growing pumpkins, but you know, growing the smart way. And one of the things we talk about a lot is the Sweet Spot and getting the right contracts. So, I think Rob was gonna tell us a little more about growing a company smart.

[00:02:55] Rob Williams: Right. Today we’re doing the pumpkin analysis here. So there are five ways that you grow a pumpkin. There are five steps to grow in a colossal amazing pumpkin, rather than just–

[00:03:06] Stephen Brown: –pound pumpkin.

[00:03:07] Rob Williams: 2000 pound plus.

[00:03:10] Stephen Brown: That’s a lot of pumpkin.

Planting the seed: your business strategy

[00:03:11] Rob Williams: You have to start with the seed. You have to pick that right seed that’s exactly right for your business. And I know we don’t have two hours to talk about this, so I’ll kind of go through it a little faster today, but that seed that you have, you’ve gotta pick the perfect one, the right conditions for the right soils. It’s gonna be just that right one. And that’s your business strategy. Like analyzing your business strategy with your seed, you get the right unique business and the right thing that makes you unique. 

I know I tried to look at other businesses and copy them and try to be just like them and just be a little bit better. But if you can do something where you’re unique and do something different, that’s when I’ve seen these contractors really do something. If they’ve got a specialty where they’re the only ones that know how to do that, and it’s amazing, and they can do something that also matches their values and their beliefs and what they wanna do, then you can go much further with that.

Growing the seed: define your unique offering

[00:04:12] Rob Williams: But in growing the seed, we’re actually gonna talk about three parts of that. So that’s one step, that’s one part of that is being unique and having that specialty that you’re doing. Stephen, we’ve talked about that a lot. I don’t guess you’ve ever seen specialty people be successful with–

[00:04:30] Stephen Brown: Oh, yeah. No, absolutely not. Tons of specialty people have been outrageously successful and profitable. I think about this 2000 pound pumpkin, Rob, I can’t get that outta my head. And I did see a documentary once about how obsessive these people are that grow these pumpkins this size. And how just like one monster pumpkin seed or watermelon seed or whatever you’re growing from a giant pumpkin or watermelon can sell for like a couple thousand bucks a piece.

It’s just crazy. It’s an obsession, isn’t it?

[00:05:06] Rob Williams: It’s crazy. And– 

[00:05:08] Stephen Brown: Is that what you’re saying? You need to be obsessive compulsive about growing this?

[00:05:14] Rob Williams: Yeah, well actually you kinda are on your unique thing. You need to be obsessive and focus on that one area and not get distracted by all the other shiny objects. Which I am, I have been guilty of that so many times, but looking back, I wish I had focused on figuring out what my core is. Because 95% of all of our businesses are the same. It’s just that 5%. It’s just a little bit, I mean, everybody has accounting, and you have bookkeeping, you have somebody that’s looking over a job and– you have,

[00:05:44] Stephen Brown: If you have Wade, you’ve got the best accounting, but go ahead.

[00:05:47] Rob Williams: Yeah, that’s right. But you’ve got it, but there’s only 5%. So it’s just some small changes that you can do. And when you do it, it actually makes it easier. I keep stressing that point because we think it’s gonna be harder. I always tend to focus on just trying to please everybody all the time. And so I spent so much effort on all the things that I did badly, and then that kept me from doing the things that I do well do more of it, because I could have done more and more, when I got into, say, for me it was windows. Or got into doing some, just oddball things where if I had put those efforts on that one key unique thing that made me unique, it would’ve been better. But anyway. 

[00:06:34] Stephen Brown: How do you target what that is, Rob?

[00:06:36] Rob Williams: You target that in a lot of different ways. You have to find something and you test it. We’ll talk about three different things. Your unique area, it has to be unique for you. You need to go by something that you’re wanting to do. You have that talent, you wanna grow that because we’re usually talking about profits, but you also wanna enjoy it and be happy. 

But there are three areas to make, and we talked about the Sweet Spot earlier in a different episode. But there are three circles concentric circles that overlap each other. And we’re talking about the unique, so you have unique, but also identify your top ideal clients, and you’ve gotta do an assessment that. 

So when you can overlap, you find what makes you unique. And there’s so many different ways to do that. So you’ve got to identify that. But also you’ve gotta pick something that’s profitable, that you’re gonna sell, that people are gonna want. So you have to identify who those top clients are. 

Your pumpkin’s vine: Identifying your top clients

[00:07:30] Rob Williams: And when we’re identifying those top clients, you’ve gotta do an assessment. You line them up and rate them by revenue, by who is buying the most from you, where are you most profitable? And then sometimes you may not like those guys, you’ve got the cringe or crush theory of that. You know, when they call you, are you dreading the call or are you like, hey man, good to see you, man. When are we going to have a beer? 

So that’s one of the other aspects. So you’ve got your seed. And when we’re talking about the clients, that’s the vine is serving your best customers. So you figure out who those best customers are, and you figure out what you’re unique at.

Growing the pumpkin: Systematization

[00:08:08] Rob Williams: And then that can be a great mix of the two. But there’s a third element to that. You’ve got to also be able to systematize it. And if you can’t systematize it, you’re gonna be trading time for money. You’re gonna have to do all the work yourself. So you’re gonna be limited. You’re not gonna be able to grow the company.

I’ve seen so many things, especially in our industry, you know, in the construction industry, a guy learns a trade and he can’t ever get anybody else to do it. And if that’s what you want to do, you could be building your job, but that’s not gonna be a business. Unless you can systematize it and train other people to do that, where it can be repetitive, where it can go without you, then you’re not gonna be able to do it. 

[00:08:50] Stephen Brown: That makes sense. You systematize things so that everybody in your organization understands what you’re, how to grow this great pumpkin.

[00:09:00] Rob Williams: Right.

[00:09:01] Stephen Brown: And then the vine is your customer base. And in order to grow a giant pumpkin, they gotta have lots of water and fertilizer and Miracle Gro and whatnot.

[00:09:12] Rob Williams: Right. And that’s your systematizing. It grows while you’re sleeping, while you’re not there.

[00:09:17] Stephen Brown: I —

[00:09:17] Rob Williams: Yeah. 

[00:09:18] Stephen Brown: So yeah, they’ve got some pills out there that you can take and just lose tons of weight when you’re sleeping. Of course your bed’s a mess, but well, I dunno, I haven’t–

[00:09:29] Rob Williams: Yeah, because actually I just put a soaker hose in my garden, so my systemization, I’m gonna grow a giant pumpkin, so.

[00:09:36] Stephen Brown: Oh, I’m sure these giant pumpkin vines have like IVs hooked up to them don’t they?

[00:09:39] Rob Williams: Oh, yeah. Yeah. They actually, some people do inject things in these . , but they put up a watering system that will water them constantly. Just like we wanna be constantly in front of our clients. We don’t wanna water them too much. You can soak the things where you’re just drenching them, or you can give them just the right amount of water, all the.

The right amount.

So if you soak them and drench them, then your client’s gonna run away from you. They’re gonna say here he comes again with his business cards. No, don’t get me. So, but you wanna be just, you wanna be where they are. You want to–

[00:10:12] Stephen Brown: If you’re too obnoxious, you can kill the great pumpkin.

[00:10:15] Rob Williams: That’s right. That’s right. So in those three circles, we’re saying if you have a great client, if you have your unique talent, your unique business that you’re doing, your construction, your jobs, and you have that, then you have to have you trade time for money if you’ve got the right clients.

But if you have the right client and you have it systematized, then the problem is you’re not unique and you get too competitive pricing and you’re pricing and you’re not gonna be able to get enough for your product. So those are those circles there. So if you’re missing the uniqueness, then you’re not gonna be able to be as competitive as you might need to be on the pricing.

But if you’re unique and you’re systematized, and I’ve actually seen a lot of people like that. They did find something that they’re obsessed with and then they figured out how to systematize it– and I’m particularly thinking of some engineers, mechanical engineers that invent something, but nobody wants it.

There’s a term for that too. And that’s called you’re screwed. So because nobody likes it and you’re not gonna be able to sell it to anybody. So you’ve got a great, so you don’t wanna be there. So you don’t wanna be where time for money. You don’t wanna be where you have downward pricing pressure, and you don’t wanna be where you’re screwed becuase nobody’s gonna buy it. 

You gotta have all three of those circles. Unique, clients, and systemization.

[00:11:39] Wade Carpenter: It’s tough in construction to systematize. Usually no two construction jobs are the same. So can you give our listeners some ideas of how they might think about systematizing? What they do?

[00:11:51] Rob Williams: Yeah, there’s so many different ways. And you actually said a key thing there, is the so many different jobs. If you can be unique and find something, you can systematize it a lot better. A lot of systemization, we think about scheduling and doing these things, but the systemization of it is often just training the guys how to do something. 

You have certain methods to do it. For me, that’s what I think about the most in construction is finding those people. So defining and having your operating procedures. And a lot of times it’s some kind of equipment that you have, that you can systematize and specialize in something, like wood trusses.

I’m thinking about what we did. We had these saws that were five blades in there, AutoCAD. So the computer would sit it out there and these things could cut thousands of those pieces exactly right every day. And that’s a system, it’s a piece of machinery. Or you might have certain dirt work machinery. 

You might have these pools. I think one of the cool things, my next door, neighbor’s talking about putting one of these things in these green turf things. Now they have a system, they learned how to do it exactly right. They don’t have to explain. They have the aggregates down below where it’ll all drain and you’ve got to figure out those things to do them right the first time. I’m sure the first few jobs that they had were pretty bad. And I’ve thought about installing some of that myself, but I’m sure if I did it myself, I wouldn’t know their systems and we’d have a nightmare. We’d be digging it up. 

We had one of your clients as a guest on our show and he was talking about the way he systematized, even with his jobs, he had them take a certain number of pictures on the job each time. So they’re just procedures. What do you do every time you get there?

I think we talked about another guy that parked his truck exactly the right way in front of the house so the logo would be right on the truck in front of their door when they saw it. There are a lot of things you can systematize, especially, it’s a great example, if you have one type of a job, you can figure out what those systems are. But if you’ve got a million different types and you don’t ever repeat what you do, you’re not gonna have it.

[00:14:03] Wade Carpenter: It’s reinventing the wheel every time.

[00:14:05] Rob Williams: It is. And having the right tools. Gosh, I got so many tools now, because I, I enjoy doing things at the house now that I don’t do it for a living anymore, now that I’m talking about it. So, but I tell you what for me to do one job and this other one, I’ve accumulated so many tools. I’m not giving you my address, because I get so many tools stolen. Nobody go to my shed.

But that’s the systemization of it. And if you can get that right, then you’re gonna be so much more efficient. You’re gonna have that price competitiveness, but if you can be unique, you can also get the best price. So you can get a good margin and be able to repeat it over and over again while you’re not even there.

But then there are two more parts to this. There’s the root analysis. How do you get the more sales? So.

[00:14:53] Stephen Brown: Rude, or root?

[00:14:54] Rob Williams: A root analysis to where literally these pumpkin guys, they wear these goggles, and they look at the roots down there to see whether they’re broken, if they’re healthy, they can tell by the heat. And you analyze that and you keep that going. And that’s just like our sales funnel.

[00:15:11] Stephen Brown: Do these pumpkin growers have any friends? I’m just curious.

[00:15:16] Rob Williams: They have pumpkin seed friends. 

[00:15:17] Stephen Brown: They’re married to women that are really into growing big pumpkins too, I’m sure.

[00:15:22] Rob Williams: Yeah. They could be, they may be at the county fair or something. I’m not sure.

[00:15:28] Stephen Brown: Go ahead. I’m sorry.

[00:15:29] Rob Williams: If you can get to where your vendor well, If you can build other vendors of the people that you’re serving that’s an unlimited supply of sales that’s free. And we find out this by a couple of questions. 

We ask who are your key vendors that are supporting you, your favorite vendors, your best ones that are most valuable? And they’ll probably ask you why. And you gotta tell them you just ask them well, we want to collectively serve you together. If I can talk to them so we can find out what we’re doing that make us not serve you as well and correct that, and then we can serve you well together. 

So you talk to those other vendors, you get an introduction and then you ask them, I want to see how we can serve blank client better. And when you get together with that, you may find that you have a lot of synergies together. 

If you work together, and you’re not like digging up something that they did. And how many times have suppliers or contractors come in? And one of them messes up the other one, heat and air guys, and electricians, and plumbers, all of them in the mechanicals working together. If you never figure that out.

I know we did a lot of that back when we were building the same houses over and over again. Who’s gonna put the blocking in? Who’s not gonna put the blocking in? Who’s gonna have to tear the wire out? When do you do these things? So work with those other vendors. 

[00:16:53] Stephen Brown: I know exactly what you’re talking about. With this supply chain thing. Vendors are feeling more appreciated than ever. And I can just tell you that my customers that treat me like I’m their favorite vendor, or the most important part of their organization, I just go outta my way to help them in any way I can. I think everybody does that.

[00:17:12] Wade Carpenter: Great point.

[00:17:14] Rob Williams: Yeah. If you get that vendor well, so many people have told me that they have more sales than they can do. And so it’s just, it’s almost like a waiting list. And so then they really worry about their efficiency and their systemization, that kind of stuff. And it’s amazing how the profits go up on those companies when they can do that. 

The last thing is pruning. We’ve kind of already implied the pruning, but when you get all these things in place, then you can start identifying who is your bottom, 10% of your clients. And if you can stop serving those ones that make you cringe or that are not paying you, and you have time to do more of the jobs that are paying you and that you are making profits, that are in your sweet spot, the ones that make you wanna go to work again. I think they’re definitely days that, I’d see a job on there and just cringe. Oh God, I gotta go talk to those guys. That superintendent’s an ass or something.

[00:18:11] Wade Carpenter: How do you get around that? It’s easy to say, well, it’s money. And I need to take this and otherwise I’m not gonna make it or whatever. So how do you stop doing the ones probably shouldn’t be doing?

[00:18:23] Rob Williams: You could give them the opportunity to get better. Like maybe just charging them more. What are the things that you don’t like? You usually don’t have to fire them. You can change your pricing, you can change your terms is actually a really big one. And if they don’t accept the terms, then they go away. 

You don’t necessarily have to say, I’m not gonna do your job. You just have to build the job and the terms in your contracts that meet what you need. 

Especially when we’re new, like when I was really young, I’d just do whatever anybody else said and take those and I didn’t stand up for myself. And so I got in these horrible cashflow positions, or the terms of the contracts were just ridiculous. And it may have been something that they didn’t really care about or maybe there was another client. 

And when they do go away, You don’t really worry about that revenue because if you’re unique and you’ve got great customers and you have built this vendor well, you’ve got plenty of customers. They’re gonna come. 

When you quit doing the ones that they’re sucking up all your time– that’s another one of your key worst clients, are the ones that takes the owner or the executives time himself to do. He’s gotta spend all that time where he could have been out finding more jobs.

I think we were actually probably a bad vendor when we were the big boys on there. I keep thinking these stories and I was like, oh, that was us. We were very strict on our purchasing and we were kinda hard to deal with. So I think a lot of the clients, a lot of the subcontractors that we had probably would’ve been better in some different pastures.

Now, there were some that were really good fits that got really wealthy and they did a lot of things, but there were some that we just weren’t good fits and both of us would’ve been better off if they had gone a different direction.

[00:20:10] Stephen Brown: I got a contract for a bond the other day from one of my contractors and the contract was just horrible. And I said to him, why do you keep signing these contracts? It’s like getting back together with a toxic girlfriend, it’s just got to stop. And I think that kind of all leads into this Pumpkin Plan, like to grow a big pumpkin, you got to kill all the smaller pumpkins so they don’t take away from the big pumpkin, what you’re feeding it. Right?

[00:20:39] Rob Williams: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah,

[00:20:42] Stephen Brown: And to me, trying to decide what is that great pumpkin customer are the ones that take your advice and pay your bills on time, respect you.

[00:20:53] Rob Williams: Stephen, Wade, you were asking me a minute ago. How do you know what that unique thing is? Well, there are a couple of questions you can do instead of just figuring out internally. You ask your clients, not all of them. Just ask your good clients once you’ve identified who they are.

So this isn’t just in order, it’s circular. You keep going back and forth and improve in each area. But you can ask them, what am I doing right? And why are you doing business with me? Ask them they’ll probably tell you. And when they answer you don’t take that and say, okay, that’s what we’re doing right. We’re fine there. That’s probably what you need to do even better. So take whatever they say, instead of being satisfied with it, take that unique thing and even go further and work harder and harder.

If they say, oh, it’s because you get to us in two days. Well, see if you can get to them in one day. And you’re gonna be even stronger and stronger. And the second question, instead of don’t ask what’s wrong with us, because these are your good clients. So they’re gonna lie to you. They’re gonna be friendly. Y’all are probably on a good relationship. So when you say, don’t say, what’s wrong with me, say what’s wrong with our industry and that’s where they’re gonna describe your industry. And —

[00:22:05] Stephen Brown: All they know about it is through you. You

[00:22:08] Rob Williams: Yeah. And then when they–

[00:22:09] Stephen Brown: -to 

[00:22:09] Rob Williams: describe 

[00:22:10] Stephen Brown: –take offense, you just go.

[00:22:11] Rob Williams: Yeah, that’s right. And you have a good conversation and–

[00:22:14] Stephen Brown: Or you name your competition, go, I’ve heard that about them.

[00:22:17] Rob Williams: Right, right. And that’s two of the best things to find your unique characterization, that helps you find out what you’re already doing that’s unique. Most of the guys we talk to, they already do a bunch of things and they’re really trying to just narrow down.

They’re already doing something that’s unique. They just have to identify what that is. And it takes somebody else to tell you. That’s the biggest thing in even in our business in services, anything it’s, nobody knows what their unique talent is. Somebody’s gotta tell them because if you have a unique talent that you’re really good at you think everybody else can do it too. And they probably can’t. So you need somebody else to share that with you.

[00:22:56] Wade Carpenter: I keep thinking about what Stephen said about going back to that toxic girlfriend. Well, she’s probably easy and maybe it’s the easy thing to do to go back to that job you’ve been doing. And sometimes it is hard to go after some of those things that you want to get good at. So maybe easy isn’t the best.

[00:23:17] Rob Williams: It is, or it’s squeaky. You might go that loud one that just keeps calling you or something, that may be the other way where the guys are calling the girls. But that one just keeps, okay. They keep calling, I guess I’ll go. The squeaky wheel. Try to not do that squeaky easy wheel.

[00:23:33] Wade Carpenter: Stephen just set me up to say that.

[00:23:36] Stephen Brown: There are lots of things I was gonna say, but.

[00:23:38] Wade Carpenter: So,

[00:23:40] Stephen Brown: But you know, the worst thing is just doing the same stupid thing over and over again. And I love what you’re saying, Rob. Identify these things. And if you don’t know how to identify things, get some help and just do it because I can just tell you, and I mentioned this before, firing customers, they could just cling to your neck.

Oh, Stephen, I’ll never leave you. And yes, you will. Yeah. The party’s over. It’s over, I’m sorry. And that’s the way they are and that’s the way they drain you. And that’s the way they operate. And those are the people you just don’t need to be around. I love this idea, Rob, I’m ready to start growing my own giant pumpkin.

[00:24:19] Rob Williams: All right. All right. We all need to go pumpkin plans, everybody order your seeds today.

[00:24:25] Stephen Brown: Yeah, baby. Well, get started and Rob, I know you’re putting out a book soon that’ll help people.

[00:24:31] Rob Williams: That’s right. We have the Pumpkin Plan for Contractors. Look for that. It’s coming. We’re we’ll be speaking, doing stories. We’ll have mastermind groups and workshops and everything for a while. And we’ll be speaking to the different trade organizations. If you need a speaker at your meeting, let us come talk to you about the Pumpkin Plan.

[00:24:51] Stephen Brown: That’s awesome.

[00:24:52] Rob Williams: For contractors.

[00:24:53] Stephen Brown: For contractors.

[00:24:54] Rob Williams: All right guys. Thank you guys for listening to the Contractor Success Forum today, where we are finding out how to grow your company the best and smartest way with the Pumpkin Plan for Contractors.

Come back and hear our next episode, and find us on LinkedIn and go to ContractorSuccessForum.Com. Ask us your questions, discuss anything with us. We’re here for you. Give us some new topics for the shows and we’ll see you on the next episode. Thanks! 

[00:25:24] Stephen Brown: Thanks for listening.

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