Persistence in Growing Truffles and Being Your Own Boss03 Feb 2015, by Truffle Faves in
Fact: we live in a world that’s driven by instant gratification. We can get information that we desire and send/receive messages across the globe at the speed of light. We can like an article, an image, or YouTube videos and make someone famous overnight. When bored and hungry, we default to a really good number of TV shows and really bad microwave-friendly dinners to speed up entertainment and food preparation.
That said, it’s so easy to be so good at being so bad at waiting! We expect for fast results, when some things actually do require time, hard work, and persistence. And growing truffles and being your own boss sure are among them.
The Hit-and-Miss Affair
Truffles are not for the impatient. Growing them is nothing like growing strawberries, where you plant them one day and know for sure how many number of days later they will fruit. It’s a notoriously tricky feat, which requires very strict and incredibly complex combination of soil, tree species, and climate. And even if every condition is met, there’s no guarantee that truffles will grow. But, hey, there’s also no guarantee that they won’t, right?
Susan Alexander inspecting truffle trees
I liked the challenge of it, I thought. It excited me! Sure, there wasn’t a lot of information when I first started out, but I woke up a beginner every day, tried different things, and experienced a lot of failures along the way. I knew I’d have to wait about 7-9 years for my truffles to grow; then again, who said you can’t do anything in between? I continued learning techniques from farmers, created more truffle products, and ultimately decided to take on the next challenging goal I had set to achieve: being the CEO of my own business.
Jumping the Corporate Ship
I became the CEO of Black Diamond French Truffles, Inc in 2007. The dream was to create a commercial truffle orchard in America consisting of growing the Black Diamond French Perigord truffle native to Europe. I had a clear vision of the journey I want to take and the things I want out of my business; however, I also needed to expand my vision on what’s possible. And what better way to do this than to read books about people you admire and study their success?
So then I turned to one of the world’s most recognized business leaders and the nation’s most effective energy expert, T. Boone Pickens, who himself is inspired by another successful man, the investing powerhouse Warren Buffett. I picked up Pickens’s book, The First Billion is the Hardest, which, by the way, references Buffett extensively throughout—and reading it sure felt a lot like learning from both of them. Starting out in the industry, I knew there were brilliant things to learn from people who, while in their 70s/80s, were (and still are) at the top of their game, kick-starting projects and enterprises that may not even reach completion during their lifetime but did it anyway, not only because they wanted to see them happen but also because they needed to happen. And Pickens’s book? A true reinforcement of my sky-is-the-limit theory. He made and lost billions more than once, and I truly discovered we get more than one chance.
Susan Alexander talking about truffles
With sheer hard work and persistence, my mission to bring truffles to America eventually grabbed international headlines and piqued the interest of such top media publications as USA Today, Fox Business News Prime Time, W Magazine, and Luxury Living. In 2009, I was invited to the San Diego Festival as a special guest, along with with Chef Gary Thompson; and in 2011, I got inducted into the New Hampshire chapter of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs as the Professionnel de la Table. I’m a member of Women Chef & Restaurateurs, a board member of the Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, and I work with State Agriculture departments, European truffle experts, and truffle growers throughout the world. I wanted to create something phenomenal, and so far, the ride has been just that!
Being my own CEO is as exciting and challenging as growing truffles. While the former calls me to venture the unpredictable lands of the corporate world, the latter teaches me the value in braving through and working extra-hard for great rewards. And like being a captain of a ship, you steer and give direction, and the company ends up in a good place! Much confidence and strength is required in being your own boss and growing the diamonds of the gourmet world, and if you persist hard enough, you’ll find yourself standing firm, caring about the people who share your passion, and creating an even stronger foundation for the future.