It’s a common misconception that in order to succeed at business, a gregarious, extroverted personality is key. But success in entrepreneurship is not exclusive to outgoing people. Consider famous introverts like Oprah, Bill Gates, and Albert Einstein. Each are household names, and each would relish the rejuvenation they got from long periods of solitude.
Introverts vs. Extroverts
What are introverts, exactly?
The biggest difference — and perhaps the easiest way to separate the two — is that while extroverts thrive in large groups of people, introverts feel most comfortable in a more intimate setting. Think loud, large parties with lots of strangers as opposed to smaller gatherings with close friends. An extrovert feeds off the energy of the group, while an introvert is drained by it.
Contrary to popular belief, introverts aren’t necessarily shy or socially awkward. They simply are more selective about their interactions with others.
Introverts aren’t likely to flourish if they try to start a business the same way an extrovert would. They ought to take a different approach. Here are nine things to keep in mind when starting a business as an introvert.
1. Start With Structure
From the ground up, introverts need to structure their business to capitalize on their strengths. For example, introverts in leadership roles tend to listen more to employee concerns and do better with one-on-one meetings or digital communication, unlike less conscientious supervisors.
Introverts are often appreciated as bosses because they:
- Encourage employee initiative
- Respect an employee’s need for downtime
- Know when work is overwhelming
Building these types of feedback structures into the business model from the very beginning can set introverts up for success.
2. Partner With an Extrovert
Partnering with an extrovert transfers the heavy lifting of overwhelming social interactions to someone who actually enjoys it.
Consider Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, the perfect introvert-extrovert pairing. Their partnership launched the Apple dynasty, with Woz being the builder behind the curtain and Jobs the ultimate showman and promoter.
Combining the thoughtful introspection of the introvert with the powerful presentation of the extrovert means a business can cover more ground with less stress on its founding partners.
3. Stay in Your Lane
This is no insult. Although introverts can be exceptionally creative individuals, when starting a business, stick to what you know best in the beginning. Concentrate on that one really good idea for a product or service that’s missing in your community — that thing you do the best. This applies equally to people aiming to start a business at home.
Although being based in a city with a strong culture of entrepreneurship can give you an early advantage, if you know your market, you can find your niche wherever you are.
4. Start Small, and Go Slow
A huge multi-channel launch with extravagant fanfare might not be for you, introverts. Starting small and growing slowly, regardless of what business you’re in, is the recipe for success.
This might mean starting a business that deals specifically with one client at a time, like a business loan broker who connects clients with lending companies, or a bookkeeper offering to maintain others’ business records.
Just understand that diving in too deep and too fast may leave you gasping for breath and desperate for solitude. So give yourself time to adapt and adjust.
5. Play to Your Strengths
No matter which style of personality you are, good leaders delegate. One of the hardest things about starting your own business is the realization that you don’t know everything, and trying to learn it all by yourself takes time away from what you want to focus on.
Consider the baker who has mastered the art of beautiful and delicious gluten-free celebration cakes. They open their own bakery and find that they are consistently pulled out of the kitchen and into conversations with customers and businesses who want to wholesale their products. This is not the natural setting for the introverted baker who finds joy in making delicious treats.
In this example, customer service and sales can be delegated to employees who specialize in front-facing operations. It’s the same as hiring an accountant to file business taxes — they are specialists who can keep you where you want to be in your operation.
6. Go With Who You Know
Introverts tend to develop fewer, closer connections than many extroverted people. If this sounds like you, start with the connections you already have as you begin to build your business.
It’s commonly suggested that introverts should simply get used to dealing with unfamiliar faces in order to network and grow their brand. But in the long run, the better strategy is to tap into the people who already gravitate towards you, your product, and your style of business. Focus on developing these strong relationships first.
7. Find a Mentor
Recognize that you are not the only introvert in history to start a business, so try to find others with similar experiences. Schedule some one-on-one time with a mentor to see how they started, and ask them for tips on how to navigate the extrovert-infested waters of entrepreneurship.
8. Consider the Space Just Outside of Your Comfort Zone
While the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are true to themselves, this doesn’t mean they stayed in their tiny bubble and never took a risk. As an introvert, you’ll need to figure out how to navigate occasional networking functions and pitch meetings for your business. This is important for things like applying for funding or loans, as well as marketing your products or services.
If there is a smaller step that will expand your comfort zone, take that first. Maybe don’t start with an hourlong presentation to a 15-person board of directors.
9. Understand What You’re up Against
It’s always wise to prepare as much as possible before making big moves. Whether you’re a shop owner or a real estate agent, it’s crucial that you understand what reasonable prices look like in your industry. So take some time to analyze the competition in your field before you start your business. This is standard practice for all businesses, but it’s especially important for introverts. You’ll never be able to out-shout an extrovert, so if that’s their model, think differently.
Introverts in Business — the Next Big Thing
If Beyonce, Marissa Mayer, and Shonda Rimes found their way to greatness as introverts, chances are good that starting a business is well within your reach.
Luke Babich is the Co-Founder of Clever Real Estate, a real estate education platform committed to helping home buyers, sellers and investors make smarter financial decisions. Luke is a licensed real estate agent in the State of Missouri and his research and insights have been featured on BiggerPockets, Inman, the LA Times, and more. Education: B.A. with Honors, Political Science — Stanford University