Can introverts be great entrepreneurs?

Business sometimes appears to be dominated by extrovert go-getters. But is there a place for introvert entrepreneurs?

The entrepreneurs we all know and – sometimes – love all seem to have one thing in common. They are out there. They are visible. They are the stars of the show, and they know it. And what’s more, they want you to know it.

Bold businessmen such as Larry Ellison and Donald Trump have the ability to stand up in front of people, be the face of their brand, give an inspirational talk and thrive as a public personality.

Character traits such as sociability, self-confidence and the ability to motivate are all important and beneficial – especially when starting a business from scratch. But does entrepreneurship and the culture of start-ups limit its participants to one personality type? There’s evident to support both sides of the argument.

Take a look at any number of articles online, containing comments by industry experts or papers by prominent university professors, and you’ll find them telling you that confidence, an outgoing nature, and the ability to market yourself are must-have traits if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur.

In 1997, Tom Byers and Heleen Kist of Stanford University, along with Robert Sutton of the University of California, Berkeley, penned a key chapter for a book called The Handbook of Technology Management.

Entitled ‘Characteristics of the Entrepreneur: Social Creatures, Not Solo Heroes’, their chapter investigated traditional views on the characteristics of entrepreneurs and the notion that entrepreneurship was a social activity, and the key characteristics of entrepreneurs as social creatures. They concluded that successful entrepreneurs needed to be able to build strong relationships with a variety of people inside and outside the firm, suggesting that a high level of sociability, and therefore extroversion was necessary.

During the following 16 years, this conclusion as to the importance of an outgoing nature has been reasserted time and again, placing relationships, leadership, social energy, risk taking, self promotion and marketing high up on countless entrepreneur character profile lists.

In his article ‘25 Common Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs’, James Stephenson writes that an entrepreneur’s skills set “will be for naught if you do not actively ask people to buy what you are selling”, adding that you need to become a shameless self-promoter and that you need to get to know your customers.

In the whitepaper ‘12 Essential Characteristics of an Entrepreneur’ by business coaching company, ActionCOACH, the authors highlight the need to be gregarious, stating that “because business is all about people, entrepreneurs tend to be socially outgoing,” and that they “get excited about sharing ideas, products and services, and that excitement is contagious to their employees, clients, friends and other contacts.”

It’s hard to argue against the notion that being an extrovert can boost your chances in the world of start-ups. The proof is there everywhere you go.

But there is a growing movement which not only asserts that being an introvert should not be a barrier to success, but claims that it can actually bring benefits to your business and your entrepreneurial aspirations.

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Posted by: Brandon

First of all, thank you. This is one of the most helpful articles I've read on career building.

Like you said at the start of this article, most people believe you need to be an extrovert to be successful. Every blog I've read before coming here basically told me that I need to be a completely different person to get anywhere with my career. I was beginning to lose hope, and fear that I would need to always be outside my comfort zone.

I like the idea of finding a wingman to take care of the social side of things. Allowing me more time to focus on what I love, and giving me a chance to unwind after the times that I need to leave my comfort zone.

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