By Jimi T Hardee & Rachel Major
Being an introvert in business can be daunting. When you’re building a startup you need to talk to a lot of new people, over and over again, and you want them to get just as excited as you about your company. This often requires showmanship that comes more naturally to some than to others.
Many people expect an entrepreneur to use flash and charisma to take them where they need to go, but not everyone is a Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban and not everyone needs to be. Our team shares their experience being introverts in business and the strategies they use to turn introversion into a tool for success:
One of the best pieces of advice we can provide to other introverted entrepreneurs is to make preparations, especially when it comes to pitching to groups. If you have slides make sure you know them, practice your pitch to friends or family if you can and take constructive criticism.
“I’ve pitched to some large crowds (sometimes in the thousands) and when you can’t rely on charisma and public speaking skills alone, it makes knowing your pitch - and common questions that get asked - that much more important.” Says Rachel Major, CEO.
Each networking interaction is complete improv, but there are still ways you can prepare so that it isn’t as daunting. You can’t quite make an exact script, but the more networking events you got to and the more rehearsed, and easier, it gets.
“Take some time before a networking event to makes sure you have things like business cards, exec summaries, pens, notebook, etc. Nothing is worse than not sharing or getting that key contact information!” Says Rachel. Jimi T Hardee, VP of Operations, also adds “Get used to talking about your business. Everytime people in your everyday life ask you about your startup it’s like free networking practice, take advantage of these opportunities every chance you get.”
Learn from Failure
Another key aspect to success in business is taking time to examine how and why things go wrong.
“At my first networking event, I was frankly terrible.” Says Jimi “I was just way too nervous and I made hardly any useful connections. But as an introvert, I feel like I self-analyze a lot (perhaps too much) and this helped me to identify mistakes I had made. Figure out what you did wrong and avoid doing it again in the future. It seems like simple advice but it really works wonders.”
“You should be confident in your knowledge of a subject and the potential of your business. So after a bad interaction, it’s also helpful to take a step back and ask yourself ‘was that actually my fault?’ Be honest about learning from these interactions but also be gentle with yourself.”
It’s sometimes said that for women speaking up is a double-edged sword. It can feel like speaking up at all or even being there is a failure. “You should actively work to not feel bad for being vocal. Recognize common situations where people push back - even when they don’t mean to - so you can create responses and boundaries that make sure you keep your voice,”
For Rachel, she’s learned to not only let situations like this go but to also (sometimes) do the exact opposite of what is suggested. “Or at least think about it that way. Whatever you choose, don’t perpetuate the idea that someone else’s misguided opinions are more important than your growth” She also adds “You buck convention as an entrepreneur, and even more so as a woman and an introvert. Learn to leverage your differences as strengths.”
Learn How to Create Strategies To Start a Conversation
We’re all nervous at networking events for different reasons, one of which can be the daunting task of actually starting a conversation. For starters, just remember that chances are that the people are just as excited to talk about their idea or they wouldn’t be at a networking event!
“A good one for me is not to get too concerned with who you are talking to or what you are talking about, you are they to make contacts.” says Jimi “The best connection I ever made at an event was actually with one where we talked about things totally unrelated to our business but I’ve actually met a lot of great people through that contact. I never would have talked to them if I was focused on just talking about my field.”
Mind Your Posture
“Okay this one seems minor but it works.” Says Rachel “If you find yourself getting nervous, just take a moment, take a breath, and correct your posture. Taking a minute to center yourself can relieve some of that tension and help you refocus.”
Know Your Weaknesses
“I feel like a lot of the time entrepreneurs put up a kind of smokescreen of confidence especially when talking to other people. Being okay with not having all the answers can lead to more genuine interactions.” Says Jimi “Knowing your weaknesses also helps you understand what gaps you need to fill.”
“At the same time, be confident in and embrace your strengths.” Adds Rachel “As entrepreneurs you know your company best. You know your market, tech, and company vision better than anyone you’re talking to. Don’t be afraid to let them see how proud and passionate you are to be doing whatever work inspires you. If nothing else, it will help them remember you.”
Build a Good Team
“To build off the last point, being realistic about your weaknesses as a leader allows your team to step in to round them out for you.” Says Rachel “You wanna try to build a team where everyone involved can learn from each other. Then they all have a chance to grow beyond what you originally expected of them”
“This is actually one of the things I enjoy most about working with our team.” Says Jimi. “I feel like my input is taken seriously when I know the subject, but I also feel like our other team members are always willing to step in and help when there is a task I am having trouble with.”
“Once you are in a conversation it’s better to just embrace being introverted. You don’t have to be great at talking to people, authenticity goes a long way,” says Jimi
“It’s also, at least I believe, that people respond better to authenticity. When you’re selling, if people get any whiff that you’re not being truthful you won’t get anything out of the interaction.” Says Rachel. “More than this, it opens up the door for more genuine interactions. Taking the risk of a slightly nerdy joke or sharing advice on your favorite local restaurant goes a long way for people actually remembering you when they’re sorting through their business cards.”