There is a perception among the general public that entrepreneurs are either gregarious, outspoken go-getters or Type A workaholics who are single-mindedly focused on a goal. In general, these types of people are defined as extroverts, and it’s an unspoken assumption that successful entrepreneurs are extrovert-extraordinaires.
However, what about introverted entrepreneurs? Those who would rather spend their time formulating a business plan in the quiet of their own office instead of conversing around a crowded conference table or networking event? Is it even possible for an introvert to be a successful entrepreneur? The short answer: Yes.
What Is an Introvert?
First, let’s more clearly define the term introvert. Per the Myers & Briggs Foundation, which administers a personality test based on the philosophies of famed psychologist Carl G. Jung, an introvert is someone who prefers to do things alone or with one or two other people; he or she derives energy from thoughts or feelings rather than external stimuli, preferring to have a clear idea in mind of what he or she intends to do before taking any action. An introvert is not simply a shy person; an introvert simply enjoys the company of a select group of people or spending time alone, as opposed to larger social gatherings.
By contrast, an extrovert enjoys working in large groups of people and is often more productive when working as a member of a team. Extroverts also feel they can understand problems and develop better solutions by talking through issues rather than through quiet reflection.
Introverts as Entrepreneurs
Many introverts assert that our world, especially the business world, is designed with extroverts in mind. Attend any networking event, and you’ll see the extroverts breezing through the room, making friends and engaging in small talk that makes many an introvert’s skin crawl. Entrepreneurs are expected to “sell themselves” to investors, to clients or to a wider audience, and this requires feeling comfortable being assertive in large groups.
It would seem on the surface that the quieter and reflective aspects of an introvert’s personality would create a conflict when trying to start a business. However, there are introvert qualities that can and do aid in business success.
How It Helps
Introverts are more reflective.
Spending more time making and ruminating on your business plan isn’t a bad thing, especially when you’re talking about investing your life savings or third-party capital into a business venture. Introverts spend more time thinking through both large and small decisions alike, examining different possible outcomes and determining ways to combat obstacles or objections. They are generally better prepared for deep self-reflection and analysis, and are often less reliant on others for confirmation of their thoughts and ideas.
Introverts are comfortable working alone.
While you may be starting your business with a partner, many new ventures are the vision of one person, and it comes down to a lot of late nights alone in the office. For the introvert, working in isolation is not a negative experience. Many extroverts might find it difficult to buckle down and do the work if they are forced to go at it alone, especially for an extended period of time.
Introverts are good listeners.
Of course, this is a generalization, as many extroverts can be good listeners as well. However, introverts spend a good amount of time listening to and evaluating their own inner thoughts. This often translates into not only better listening skills, but an increased ability to internalize, digest and process the feedback provided by investors, partners or customers before acting on it in a meaningful way.
How It Hurts
Introverts may move slowly.
Since introverts tend to spend more time thinking through an idea, this can lead to taking longer to reach a decision. While it isn’t always necessary to move quickly in the world of entrepreneurship, it is possible that opportunities might slip by if an introvert takes too long to act.
Introverts may like an idea more than the reality.
By thinking through something so thoroughly, an introvert’s idea can become idealized in their mind, making the execution of the idea fall flat. This may cause the introvert to lose interest in the notion once it is no longer just a concept.
Introverts may have a hard time networking.
While introversion is not the same as shyness, introverts tend to lose energy in large groups of people. Naturally, any event solely based on meeting and interacting with as many people as possible can be daunting. Introverts generally look to establish meaningful relationships, taking more time to develop a connection with individuals or smaller groups. Because of this preference, scheduling one-on-one sessions with possible investors or clients may be a better approach. When you do need to attend events, be selective about which ones are worth your time, and be sure to space them out so you have enough time to recharge. Of course, if you have enough resources, you may consider hiring a marketing or sales representative to attend conferences or promote your brand on your behalf.
Understanding Your Type
Chances are that after reading this article you probably have a pretty good idea if you would classify yourself as an introvert or an extrovert. You may even have taken the Myers-Briggs assessment in high school or college. If you haven’t, and you want to better understand your personality type and the positives and negatives associated with it, taking the Myers-Briggs assessment is a good place to start. There are actually four specific personality traits the assessment tests for that can result in 16 different personality types.
An easy-to-understand guide to these different types can be found here at the Huffington Post website. Additionally, there are a handful of books that have been written about the personality test and its results. Some of the more highly recommended titles on Amazon include:
- Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey
- Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs Myers and Peter B. Myers
It might also be beneficial to read books that specifically address being an introvert in the business world. Some of the more highly recommended books on Amazon include:
- Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead by Nancy Ancowitz
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
It is quite possible for introverts to be highly successful in the world of business. It is well documented that people like Larry Page (co-founder of Google), Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) and Warren Buffet are introverts. By labeling your personality, you may gain a deeper understanding of why you act and think the way you do, and that may lead to overcoming some of the challenges you may face. Don’t use your introversion as an excuse to be unsuccessful; embrace it as a reason to excel.