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Episode 53: The Secrets No One Told You About the Pumpkin Plan with Donna Leyens

There’s a secret hiding in plain sight in The Pumpkin Plan and Dr. Sabrina welcomes back popular guest, Donna Leyens, to reveal the impact this secret has on creating explosive, organic growth for those business owners utilizing it. These business owners are head and shoulders above their industry peers as a result of it. Dr. Sabrina shares her own experience implementing this secret. Donna and Dr. Sabrina discuss what they have learned from guiding clients through this process…what works and what doesn’t work, the common pitfalls and missteps … and now you get to benefit from their insights.

PROFIT DESIGNERS: When the podcast ends, go to and COMMENT on this episode!
Give a shout out to Donna, and let her know something you learned from this episode.

This will get you entered into the contest, and if Donna’s episode gets more downloads than Mike’s (Episode 50), then Dr. Sabrina will do a drawing from these comments and 10 people will win either a Profit by Design T-Shirt or a Pumpkin Plan notebook.

There’s also been word that Dr. Sabrina has a bigger prize in store for the contest. She will reveal that within the Profit by Design Podcast Facebook group so be sure you are entered in the contest.

Share the episode with all your friends so they can listen, too! The more downloads this episode gets, the more prizes Dr. Sabrina is giving away.

Donna Leyens began her career as a Wall Street executive, and earned an MBA in Finance from NYU-Stern School of Business. But her dream was to become a business owner and in 2002 she launched her first successful business with a partner. Seven years later, she became a Certified Professional Coach, and melded her business and coaching skills to follow her true passion – helping entrepreneurs create their dream business and their dream life.

Donna is currently the President and co-founder of Provendus Group. She is on a mission to save small businesses from extinction, by providing business tools, strategy, training and support to business professionals who want to make a big impact by becoming small business growth strategists. This mighty team of strategists uses The Pumpkin Plan Action Guide, a business growth program she developed based on the methods in the book The Pumpkin Plan, written by her Co-founder Mike Michalowicz. Pumpkin Plan Strategists help small businesses to not just stay afloat, but to scale and grow in both profitability and size, while allowing the owner to have time for a life as well. At the end of the day Donna believes entrepreneurs make or break the economy. Her goal is to make sure they grow, thrive, and have the opportunity to create their own destiny.

Show Highlights:

  • There’s a secret in The Pumpkin Plan, on Page 136, but so many people miss it!
  • It’s the “gold” of Pumpkin Planning, and it makes such a huge impact.
  • The things a business owner resists the most in The Pumpkin Plan may actually be the most impactful.
  • Having support through this process is important for encouragement and to help interpret the information that you’re getting.
  • The Wishlist interviews is the secret! Interviewing your top clients is the gold!
  • Interacting with your clients on a regular basis is NOT the same. You cannot assume that you know what your clients are thinking.
  • Dr. Sabrina shares how she also put off doing the Wishlist interviews. When she did, one client suggested she start doing the retreats. She discounted the idea at first, then decided to take a closer listen to what her other top clients were saying. She started paying attention to the themes, and that was the inspiration for starting the Breakthroughs on the Bayou Retreat.
  • Dr. Sabrina discloses a scary moment concerning one of the Wishlist questions she asked her clients. They were looking for direction on how to hire great people and other hiring challenges, but she had no solution for them at the time. This was her path to writing How to Hire the Best, and it completely changed the trajectory of her business.
  • Two things that Dr. Sabrina noticed that happened with the Wishlist interviews:

1) “I don’t know how I’ll ever fulfill these dreams, wishes, and needs that the clients have.”

2) “I knew that! I do that all the time, it’s no big deal.”

  • This is actually some of the most powerful content in the Wishlist interviews, because what those clients are talking about are your strengths, and your team’s strengths, that you are doing day in and day out. They’re a byproduct of what you do and how you do life, that your top clients are appreciating.
  • Donna lays out the Wishlist interview process:
  1. In the Pumpkin Plan process, before doing the Wishlist interviews, we do our Top Client Assessment.
  2. List all the clients, and go through a series of questions about those clients, and figure out who the very best 20% are.
  3. The top clients are the ones you want to interview, because the information you get from your worst clients is not helpful to you.
  4. What your clients are telling you is what they notice about you; what is important to them. When you see a pattern, those are the things that are important to your top clients.
  • It’s not what we think, it’s what your top clients think.
  • You can do marketplace analysis, and you can understand what the competition is, but no-one is going to have that deep understanding of your business and your unique area of differentiation like you will, when you’ve done these Wishlist interviews.
  • Seeing the patterns of what your top clients are saying and connecting the pieces is the “gold”.
  • The Wishlist interview questions are not your typical questions. They are interwoven with psychology that helps us get real answers, and not just answers that are socially acceptable, or that they’re saying to be nice to us.
  • Dr. Sabrina’s tell us her favorite question to ask, and why.
  • Donna provides insight into listening between the lines at client feedback.
  • Like attracts like. If we can take the language of our top clients telling us what they appreciate most about us and we incorporate that into our branding, marketing, messaging, now we are speaking the language of the people we want to attract.
  • Dr. Sabrina gives examples of words and phrases that come out during Wishlist interviews, and that gets used over and over on the Profit by Design podcast.
  • Donna shares her favorite question to ask, and why.
  • How the Leadership Bootcamp program evolved.
  • The leader is actually the first follower, who becomes the leader and shows the other team members how to fall in line.
  • The main reason why business owners don’t want to do the Wishlist interviews is because it involves talking to people, and they don’t want it to feel like an imposition. But, it’s all in the phrasing. Donna has tips!
  • There’s another path to business growth besides growing your client base, and that’s  serving your best clients, better.
  • The Pumpkin Plan is a FUN book to read.
  • Your clients are the reason you’re in business in the first place! Build your best clients and find out what you can do to make them happy, and the clients who are making your life miserable can be let go.

Links and Resources:

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When this podcast ends (Episode 53), go to and COMMENT on this episode! Give a shout out to Donna, and let her know something you learned from this episode. This will get you entered into the comments, and if Donna’s episode gets more downloads than Mike’s (Episode 50),  then we will do a drawing from these comments and 10 people will win!!! We have 5 Pumpkin Plan Notebooks, and 5 Profit by Design Podcast T-shirts to give away! Share the episode with all your friends so they can listen, too!

Did You Miss Episode 6 with Donna Leyens, “3 Things You Must Know to Grow Profitably”? Listen to it here!

Dr. Sabrina’s Favorite TED Talk on Leadership:

Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

Virtual Partner Advantage Pumpkin Planned their Business and hosted Dr. Sabrina and the Breakthroughs on the Bayou Retreat Participants for a tour of their company. Catch the behind the scenes in this video:


Download Dr. Sabrina’s 5 Favorite Wish List Interview Questions

Register you’re A-Player team members for Tap the Potential’s Leadership Bootcamp:

Join Dr. Sabrina, Donna Leyens, Mike Michalowicz and more at the Breakthroughs on the Bayou 4 Week Vacation™ Legacy Retreat:

Would YOU Like to Become a Pumpkin Plan Strategist, Yourself?


About The Author

Dr. Sabrina Starling, The Business Psychologist and international best-selling author of the How to Hire the Best series and The 4 Week Vacation™, is the founder of Tap the Potential and host of the Profit by Design podcast. At Tap the Potential, we work to free business owners from the constant demands of a growing business.

We believe work supports life, not the other way around. Clients in our Better Business, Better Life coaching program have more time for what matters most and more money in their bank account than they’ve ever had. Next, we send them off on a 4 Week Vacation™ to celebrate their hard-earned journey to take their life back!

Dr. Sabrina and her team at Tap the Potential are on a mission to change the story of entrepreneurship from one of long hours, grinding it out, to one of sustainably profitable businesses that support and enhance life. The Tap the Potential Solution™ and our Tap the Potential Family of Business Owners are disrupting small business as usual. We are on our way to making the Tap the Potential Solution™ the mainstream model for growing business.

By 2023, 150 Tap the Potential clients will have taken 4 Week Vacations. These are the trailblazers, role modeling what’s possible for entrepreneurs. In many entrepreneurial circles, it is becoming more and more common for one entrepreneur to ask another, “Have you taken a 4 Week Vacation™?” (as opposed to asking “How many employees do you have?” or “What is your annual revenue?”). Taking a fully unplugged 4 Week Vacation is rapidly becoming the recognized symbol of entrepreneurial success.

Never one to accept the status quo or back down from a challenge, Dr. Sabrina’s How to Hire the Best series grew from her desire to solve the toughest hiring challenges interfering with her clients’ growth and profitability. What sprang from her experience working with entrepreneurs in rural areas catapulted her into becoming the world’s leading expert in attracting top talent in small businesses—no matter what hiring challenges those businesses are facing—and earned Tap the Potential’s reputation as the go-to resource for entrepreneurs committed to creating Great Places to Work with thriving coaching cultures and highly engaged team members working from strengths.

As The Business Psychologist, and with her years of driving profit in small businesses, Dr. Sabrina knows what it takes to find, keep, and motivate exceptional performance out of your biggest investment—team members.