The stereotypical entrepreneur thrives on personal interaction. They’re comfortable walking up to strangers and talking about their business, they have no fear giving presentations to large audiences, and they’re natural-born salespeople who can pitch their products at any time. But what about the introverts of the world, who draw energy from being alone, prefer working in solitude, and aren’t as naturally inclined to socialize with others?
If it seems like all successful entrepreneurs are extraverts, it may be a natural result of seeing how much attention they get. Extraverted entrepreneurs frequently talk to the media and go out of their way to socialize with more people, so of course you see them more than their introverted counterparts.
However, there are many examples of introverts who have become successful business owners. Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, is notoriously shy and introverted, yet is able to lead one of the biggest tech companies on the planet. Bill Gates, too, is open about overcoming the challenges of introversion on his path to becoming one of the richest men on the planet.
And it’s not just the tech world, either—consulting maverick Sam Ovens describes himself as an introvert, having overcome a fear of pitching his business to others at the start of his entrepreneurial journey.
So how are these introverts able to succeed so impressively? What strategies can you use to overcome the additional challenges of entrepreneurship? Consider these success tips for introverted entrepreneurs to start.
Both introverts and extraverts can be exhausted from too much socializing; extraverts enjoy alone time, and introverts can be successful conversationalists. Just because you’re inclined toward one end of the spectrum or the other doesn’t mean that all of your habits and actions are predetermined. Your preferences don’t dictate your behavior, so your first hurdle to overcome is breaking out of the mindset that, because you’re an introvert, you won’t be able to talk to people (or enjoy it when you do). You can maintain your identity, yet still develop the skills you need to succeed.
If you’re not used to communicating with others, or being in the spotlight, that’s okay. Though some people are naturally predisposed to being stronger, more confident communicators, you’re more than capable of developing those skills on your own. Like any other skill, it’s going to take practice and commitment to develop. Start making small talk with strangers, and make an effort to keep conversations with new people going. Eventually, you’ll find yourself becoming more comfortable and more skilled at navigating conversations, and even if it’s not your favorite thing to do, you’ll be good enough at it to build your business.
If you’re struggling to make contacts through conventional forms of socializing, like networking events, or if you aren’t sure where to start, find yourself a strong mentor. Entrepreneurs who have already found success will have a wide network of contacts you can borrow as you start to make your own progress. Most introverts also find it easier to communicate with people they get to know well over time, so as you spend more time with your mentor, you’ll have an easier time communicating and learning.
You may be the visionary and the leader of your business, but that doesn’t mean building the business is squarely on your shoulders. If you aren’t a strong communicator, or if you don’t feel particularly skilled at making sales, hire people who are. Go out of your way to find partners who complement your skillset and natural attributes, so your business has access to the best of both worlds. Businesses need both introverts and extraverts to succeed, but they don’t need every individual to fully exhibit both sets of traits.
Finally, remember that as an entrepreneur, you’re the one setting the tone and creating the culture for your company. You can build the business you want to build. If you don’t want to rely on in-person networking and sales calls to pitch products, consider doing more inbound marketing. If you’d rather avoid the excessive spotlight of the media, create press releases that emphasize your products, rather than your leadership. There’s no single, correct way to build a successful enterprise.
If you follow these strategies, you’ll have no problem succeeding in business as an introvert—even if it seems like extraverts are the ones building the best businesses. The truth is, with enough determination and a genuine desire to succeed, anyone can become a successful business owner.
As an introvert, you’ll face a few extra challenges, but if entrepreneurship is what you truly want, those challenges won’t be able to stop you from achieving your goals.