Do introverts, especially those who are shy, have what it takes to be entrepreneurs?
Tick off the personality traits you imagine a successful business owner should have, and you’re likely focused on the traditionally extroverted traits. This imagined leader might be charismatic, be a people person (crucial for networking), and already have an impressive list of contacts.
But while having these classic extroverted traits might help make some aspects of entrepreneurship easier, you can’t start a successful business on charm and the ability to dominate at hosting happy hours alone.
There are some staple introverted traits that are actually ideal for entrepreneurial success, and developing them further can help put introverts one step ahead.
Being quiet is often the bane of an introvert’s existence, especially when it’s confused with being shy or afraid to speak up. But many introverts are naturally good listeners and prefer to observe first before chiming in. When they do speak, it’s often thoughtful and contributes to a conversation rather than just filling empty air. Active listening can help entrepreneurs build more meaningful relationships and spot problems before they get out of control.
Would you rather have a great core group of colleagues, or a bunch of acquaintances who will show up for your launch party but rarely offer to help you when you need it? A successful business is all about relationship-building, and that’s where introverts really thrive. To balance things out, work on socializing at a broader level, but remember that building great relationships with your employees, partners, investors, and the like is what will really pay off.
This goes back to listening. The ability to be sensitive and see where another person is coming from is critical for business success. This will let you see what your customers really want, intuitively understand when your investors might be wary of your next move, and understand your employees’ positions better. Empathy is a learned trait, not something people are born with, but introverts tend to empathize a little better than some of their peers.
Call it ambition, drive, Type-A personality, or anything else, but introverts can buckle down when things get tough. They thrive off of recharging alone, which means powering through that last-minute proposal is where they thrive. On the other hand, extroverts may struggle if they’re charged with an item that demands alone time, since they often need others in order to get energized.
None of this means an introvert or extrovert will make a better entrepreneur. But understanding your innate strengths and weaknesses before starting your next venture can make a huge difference.
—Peter Daisyme is the cofounder of Palo Alto-based Hostt.com, a hosting company specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life. He is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs.