When we’re picturing a successful business person, it can be hard to move away from some well-worn stereotypes – in particular the image of a risk-taking, smooth talking extrovert. Being confident and charismatic may offer some advantages in the business world, but stereotypes can be misleading, and you don’t need to be an extrovert to create a successful startup.
In the public consciousness, perhaps influenced by the TV-friendly (and sometimes cartoonish) entrepreneurs picked in shows like The Apprentice, business acumen is tied up with supreme self-belief – and even a little belligerence.
However, this is only one type of business person. Introverts and introspective individuals are just as capable of rising to the top – they simply have to utilise their particular strengths, just as outgoing people do.
Outgoing personalities tend to be good at singing the praises of their business, and making themselves noticed at networking events. Introverts may find this more difficult, shrinking back a little and feeling uncomfortable drawing attention to themselves – something which could be a stumbling block in promoting their startup.
Overcoming this and taking centre-stage isn’t beyond even the most reticent person, if they are determined to make their startup work. A willingness to put themselves in situations they find uncomfortable is the first step.
By taking the initiative, accepting as many social invites as possible and seizing the chance to run events or speak publicly, frequent exposure will dull the edges of social anxiety.
However, this predisposition to sharing the limelight could have its own benefits for the introvert personality. By not hogging all the attention, and sharing their success (with those who aren’t competitors), they can develop a reputation as a generous and helpful person.
Feeling comfortable with empowering others, introverts will create a network of people who are ready to lend a hand or recommend their startup without a thought.
Being shy and being an introvert aren’t necessarily the same things. In fact, introverts can be very socially capable, they just find social interaction more exhausting and therefore tend to prefer solitude.
By thinking about what they want to say and choosing their words more carefully, introverts can use their personality type to their advantage, communicating more effectively and efficiently than others.
While hesitation or timidity could inhibit decision making and networking, even out-and-out shyness needn’t be that much of a barrier if entrepreneurs spend time building their confidence.
Bill Gates, who describes himself as “quiet and bookish”, can’t be accused of allowing his introversion to hold him back at all. He practises transcendental meditation, a habit which can help business owners improve their confidence, as well as tackling the introvert’s susceptibility for anxious and negative introspection.
Focus and vision
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the introvert personality in creating a successful startup is their ability to lock themselves away and focus on important work for as long as necessary.
Their propensity for balanced and critical thinking means that while they may be less likely to take risks than their extrovert counterparts, their decisions will always be carefully considered and each possible outcome evaluated.
This is an area where they may well have the edge on more exuberant people. The success of a startup can rest on the smallest of details. Being able to happily delve into every aspect of the business and patiently solve issues stops any small problems growing to insurmountable ones.
As much as people may be charmed by someone with the gift of the gab, being too obviously “salesy” and assertive can actually put many potential customers on their guard. This means that very outgoing people sometimes have to tone down their natural exuberance, whereas a knowledgeable and down-to-earth introvert needn’t worry.
Far from being a problem, a quieter personality can work to an entrepreneur’s advantage. Less able to rely on being instinctively gregarious, introverts instead can cultivate an air of expertise which customers find hugely reassuring.
Introverts have to become experience and skillful enough that their work speaks for itself. Knowing how to listen and being considerate of customer concerns is another advantage of the introvert personality.
Those who find sales a genuine challenge due to being more shy and retiring can help themselves by approaching customers as if they aren’t aiming to sell something, but are instead trying to communicate their enthusiasm for their startup. Once their venture is off the ground, they can hire a more natural salesman if needed.
There isn’t one kind of person who’s more likely to make it when launching a startup, whatever the “businessman” stereotype may be. Both introverts and extroverts have unique qualities they bring to the business world, and by recognising their strengths and compensating for their weakness, startup success is open to anyone who works hard enough for it.