Entrepreneurship is often thought of as a game for the bold and social. Selling an idea, convincing customers to hand over their cash, securing funding, hiring A-players — all these essential steps in building a successful business involve confidently talking to lots and lots of strangers.
Introverts, as a rule, don't love talking to lots and lots of strangers. So are they out of luck when it comes to founding amazing companies? Absolutely not, as both the long list of impressive introvert entrepreneurs and a load of expert opinion on the advantages of introverted leaders can attest.
But just because introverts can make great founders (and great public speakers too, by the way), doesn't mean they go about starting companies the exact same way as their more gregarious peers. Accomplishing impressive things as a quieter type means finding ways to use your personality to your advantage and avoid the sorts of situations that drain and dispirit you.
Just ask entrepreneur Michael Shreeve. A self-confessed introvert, he recently took to Medium to share how he managed to make starting up work despite his social anxiety, offering his fellow founders a few tips.
1. Be kind to yourself.
This isn't bad advice for anyone but it's especially important for introverted entrepreneurs. Should you push yourself? Sure. Should you drive yourself to misery and burnout? Um, no. There are many different kinds of businesses out there. Respect your quirks and your happiness enough to choose the type that plays to your strengths. A miserable founder is not going to be a successful founder.
“If you know that networking events drain you, then don't go. Use Twitter ads to promote your ideas instead. Write a book. Use attraction marketing. Get people to come to you,” Shreeve writes. “If managing people sucks the life force out of your brains, then don't do it. Hire someone who can. Run a business that doesn't require people management (think: Investing, writing, food cart, freelancing, etc.). Hire independent contractors.”
2. Accept help.
There are no bonus points for doing everything yourself. It doesn't make you stronger or more worthy. It just makes you tired and scattered. “You don't have to do everything in your business. You just have to make sure your business does everything it's supposed to. Huge difference,” Shreeve insists.
Does getting the quality help you need sometimes cost money? Yes, of course. But don't be penny wise and pound foolish. “You can have 30% of a $450,000/year pie (with help), or you can have 100% of a $20,000/year pie (doing it all yourself),” Shreeve reminds those entrepreneurs who are inclined to keep a firm hand on the purse strings. The bottom line: if you hate sales, hire someone to do sales already!
3. Be choosy with advice.
There's no shortage of advice out there on how to run a business. Not all of it will be right for you. Don't feel like you have to follow anyone else's script if it's a bad fit for you. “The best way for you to run your business/venture/organization/whatever is the way that keeps you motivated, energized, and focused. Any other advice is just a distraction,” Shreeve cautions, adding “distractions are expensive.”
“There is no such thing as, ‘the best way to X’. If there was, then every business would be the same,” he writes. But every business isn't the same. Why? “Business is personal. It's your ideas put into action... That means it has to come from you,” he concludes.
What other advice would you give introvert entrepreneurs?