That's right, the fruitcake sitting on your counter since December and Bill Gates have more than a few things in common. And, it's not just Bill Gates who shares characteristics with the ubiquitous fruitcake, it's successful entrepreneurs everywhere. What are these mysterious qualities shared by a holiday mainstay and notable entrepreneurs? Let's take a look.
1. A Taste of Tenacity, Anyone?
You can say a lot about fruitcake, and you probably do, but one thing's certain — it has staying power. Fruitcakes have been around forever, but ancient Romans gave them the immortality they enjoy today. Ancient Roman chefs added pomegranate seeds, nuts and raisins to barley mash and the fruitcake as we know it was born.
Even better in the days before refrigeration was the fruitcake's tremendous shelf life. If you wanted to, you could make a one of these morsels and eat it months later. Over time, fruitcakes became part of our holiday traditions. Some families, in fact, don't eat fruitcake, they simply re-gift the same one every year. Can't get more tenacious than that.
Tenacity is one of the defining traits successful entrepreneurs possess in spades. Starting a business, taking the hits, getting back up and staying in it for the long haul takes a whole lot of determination, persistence and a firm grasp on the end game. And that's the very definition of tenacity.
2. It's a Nutty World
From the ancient Roman's favorite pine nut to today's favored walnuts, brazil nuts and pecans, a fruitcake's "nuttiness" is part of its charm. You know what I'm going to say next, don't you? That's right, the great entrepreneurs are also a little bit nuts.
Accomplished entrepreneurs are crazy-confident they have something better than whatever's already out there. They move forward despite detractors. They think out-of-the-box to come up with new ways to accomplish their goals. And, if they seem a little nutty along the way, so be it.
3. Calculated Ingredients
A fruitcake won't appear if you simply throw a handful of nuts, a few ounces of dried fruit and a bit of flour in a pan. What a complete mess! Instead, you have to plan ahead and gather the right ingredients in the proper combinations to get an honest-to-goodness fruitcake. An entrepreneur's ideas are no different.
Before the nuttiness about a new idea sets in, successful entrepreneurs examine the facts. They research market strengths and trends. They work out the numbers. They do their homework. They don't release their crazy beast until they're sure their idea fills a need, has a market and a chance to make it. Then watch out!
4. Flex Those Things
I don't like raisins. I love grapes, but their dried up counterparts -- no, thank you. As luck would have it, raisins show up in nearly every fruitcake ingredient list. Yikes. But, they don't have to become part of my fruitcake! As the chef, I can be flexible with ingredients to suit my own preferences.
Any entrepreneur, from Richard Branson to Susan Wojcicki, will tell you - whatever you thought was the right way to go when you first started your business will drastically change over time. Entrepreneurs have to be ready to respond quickly to changes in markets conditions, tastes, trends and economic fluctuations. Entrepreneurs have to be masters of flexibility and adapt on the fly. Flexible like my fruitcake - that's the road to success.
5. Love It or Leave It
Not many people admit to loving fruitcake but few actually trash the holiday staple. Even if they don't eat it, they love something about it. Maybe it's its long history. Maybe it's the fun people have when they pass the same old fruitcake around every year. If people don't love fruitcake itself, they love the idea.
And the entrepreneur? Successful business people start with an idea. It isn't an "OK, I can do this and make lots of money" idea. It's an "I love doing this. Can I turn it into a successful business?" idea. If the personal enjoyment isn't there from the beginning, the business won't last. To stay with an idea from start to success means loving the concept through thick and thin.
The Takeaway: To achieve success as an entrepreneur, you have to be a little crazy, adapt to conditions, endure over time and love what you do. In other words, you have to be like a holiday fruitcake.
What do you think makes a great entrepreneur? Leave your comments below.