I’ve always been the quiet one. You know, the one who is perfectly fine going through life with a few, very close friends and plenty of nights at home alone with a book and glass of wine. The one who prefers long dinners with a small group instead of a night at the club.
So when I announced I was leaving my job to begin life as an entrepreneur, you can imagine more than a few people were surprised and questioned the plan. After all, most people think you have to be overly social – an extrovert’s extrovert – to successfully start a company.
A few years and a few successful companies later and I don’t hear that surprise or doubt anymore.
How did being an introvert work for me as an entrepreneur?
1. I Like To Listen
One of the most important things you need to be able to do in the early days of starting a company is to listen to your prospective clients or customers. Because even if you have the best idea in the world, if you don’t also understand how it can solve a problem for a group of people, you don’t have a viable business. As an introvert I enjoy listening – in fact I prefer to listen instead of talk – so it’s always easy for me to learn a lot, and learn it quickly, from customer conversations.
2. I Also Love To Observe
Another favorite past time of mine is observing. I can people watch at the airport, park or mall for hours on end without getting bored. And in the entrepreneurial world, where you quickly learn people can’t tell you exactly what they want because they don’t know what they don’t know, the ability to observe people and develop a marketable solution from those observations, is invaluable.
3. No Distractions
Let’s face it: as an introvert I like to go deep on any problem in front of me, and the only way I can do that is by using some intense focus. It would be next to impossible to build a company if I only had energy for surface level problem-solving, or could only focus for short periods of time, so I thank my introverted personality for the ability to go deep into my business for days at a time.
4. Creativity Suits Me
As a rule introverts tend to be more creative than extroverts. I’m not sure why this is the case (although I suspect I has something to do with our tendency to observe and focus) but think of all the famous musicians, artists, designers, authors and other creative folks who are painfully introverted. Starting a business requires just as much creativity as those traditional artistic endeavors, and as an introvert I find it easy to tap into my creative strengths.
5. It’s A Lonely Business
Entrepreneurship can be lonely – incredibly lonely – especially when you’re first starting off. At that point you’re still working out of your home by yourself and probably have a lot of your friends and family doubting you. As an introvert I’m already comfortable being by myself, so I’m equipped to deal with the loneliness and it doesn’t throw me off track.
6. Loyalty Counts
I build deep business relationships that go way beyond traditional networking and business card swapping. I’m loyal, I help and I get to know people. And when I’ve then gone to those business friends looking for my first few customers for a new business, or asked them to test a product, provide a testimonial or even referrals into their networks, the depth of our relationships has come through in a way trading surface handshakes with hundreds of contacts never would.
7. Quiet Leader
Let’s face it: I’m pretty sure some entrepreneurs want to be in the spotlight, even at the expense of their company. As an introverted founder I have no such desire – I’m happy to let my company, my product, my team, really anyone or anything, take the spotlight when warranted. And when I play that quiet leader who elevates everyone (and everything) else up, my company profits.
8. I’ve Dealt With Comfort Zones My Whole Life
I may be biased, but as an introvert I’m convinced society puts me in situations where I have to step outside of my comfort zone way more often than it does my extroverted friends. I used to resent that, but now I embrace it. Because being a successful entrepreneur means stepping out of my comfort zone all the time. And while I still don’t love that (who does?) I do have a lifetime of experience that’s gotten me used to it.