Can introverts be successful entrepreneurs?
This question came from a recent Inc. article written by Erik Sherman: http://tinyurl.com/cuj7zy6 where he explained the strengths and limitations of an entrepreneur-introvert, centering around the question: Is shyness truly detrimental in the entrepreneurial world? Curious to hear your thoughts.
Introversion is proven by research to get the most creative work out of an individual. Listen to this TED talk by Susan Cain. http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html
I tend to agree because for all the hype that brainstorming meetings receive, they suffer from one major flaw - group think. So if you are an introvert, get to the drawing board and don't curse yourself for not being an extrovert. The better the Intellectual Property you create, the easier it will be to sell. Don't worry too much about speaking about the product, think about how to make your product speak for itself and hence how to make other people speak about your product.
Forget labels. Remember all of your successes. Recall all of your accomplishments. Then you will see how you can succeed at anything you commit to doing.
I like to think of introvert and extrovert as the way a person focuses and regains energy.
Introverts like to be quiet, have private time to ponder, ask questions, read, watch, etc. to reenergize and grow. Less is more in public.
Extraverts are the opposite, they like interaction, groups, making things happen, figure it out as they go, etc. to reenergize and grow. More is more in public.
My brother and I are introverts, yet people mistake us for being extroverted, because building a large business calls for it sometimes.
Just be yourself, step out of your comfort zone sometimes and you will succeed.
Of course if you have a specific direction and you take constant action towards your goals.
Everyone Succeeds by Being Their True Self
For me it's not being in- or extrovert. A successful and effective entrepreneur is able to translate the client needs into his product or service. Bringing it to the client is maybe easier for an extrovert (selling to the client). On the other hand an introvert could be better in making the client want to buy. It's the combination of client, product/service and entrepreneur what makes business successful.
Being introvert is NOT equal tot shyness, as stated in the article. I know many extroverts who have hard time to meet new people. Successful business is, above all, listening the customer. Many extroverts have a strong need to speak aloud their thinking, taking time and space from the customer's need.
I think it's inappropriate to equate introversion with shyness. An introvert, in my view, is not necessarily "shy", but is simply more selective about when, how and to how many people he expresses himself. But yes, being an introvert may be a roadblock for an entrepreneur wannabe, depending on which stage he is at, in his business venture. Obviously the more successful he is, the less his need may be, to be an extrovert. Being an introvert is one thing, but shutting yourself out completely from the world at large, can spell doom.
Interestingly enough, I heard a definition of an introvert the other day that was different from the normal wisdom. ( I just see that this was covered above) It defined an introvert as a person that is drained of energy by contact with others (but not necessarily shy). An extrovert would be charged up energy wise from contact with other people (although they could also be shy). In that respect it probably helps to be an extrovert, but is not something that cannot be overcome by managing the contact that you have with others carefully.
Introverts prefer alone time, where they can think. This is why they are typically deep thinkers.
Great article Stephen, I enjoyed it as an Introvert with Extrovert tendencies. As a psychologist though I can tell you that shyness is a common misperception and not a trait of Introversion - it is a separate phenomena.
Introversion/Extroversion is a scale of how humans process energy fields around them. Introverts are drained by crowds and juiced by alone time. Extroverts are jazzed by crowds and wilt when alone. I am not at all shy and am very open about nearly every facet of my life. And I do find that the shyness misperception is a distinct disadvantage in business because people will make assumptions based on this misperception that consistently cost me missed opportunities.
As an example, I am a professional speaker and greatly enjoy addressing groups of all sizes. I've been passed over more times than I care to think about to speak to groups or represent groups as a spokesperson because they assume I am shy. Far from it!
Once people actually get to know me they realize I am quite personable and at ease with groups in appropriate context, and such misperceptions fade. But at the cost of how many missed opportunities? In hiring, HR will say "we want a go-getter, a people person, someone who takes charge/takes the initiative and will fire up the team". This is not a description of an Introvert, though often a person with an Introverted tendencies would fit the job description much better.
In short, yes, the Introvert is definitely discriminated against in business. And no, it's not something we can change "if we really want to". It's an inborn tendency, just like blue eyes or curly hair. We can fake the Extrovert for a short time (job interviews, to screw up the courage to talk to a prospective date, etc) when called for, but it's never going to be a for-real, full-time thing.
Businesses need to learn to respect and leverage the talents of the Introvert without expecting them to turn into Extroverts once the employment contract has been signed.
I hope this has been helpful.
I always thought John Lilly (former CEO of Mozilla's) interview with Fast Company was a wonderful look at this topic. The subject of the interview is "How An Introverted Engineer Came Out Of His Shell To Lead Mozilla"
Sure they can. But one needs to be an assertive introvert. As long as one is not passive and can convey clearly the desired outcome/tasks to the people & the world he/she will be fine.