Does Your Personality Match
We've all heard people say, "I'm just not cut out for this job." But it's rare for a business owner to say, "I'm just not cut out for this business." Why don't you hear this more often? Because when owners are not a good fit for the business they start, it usually doesn't last very long.
Before launching any business you need to assess the market potential, the capital requirements, the intensity of the competition, and your cost of operations.
Equally important, you need to evaluate whether your personality is a "good fit" for the business.
How Are You Energized?
A common mismatch is for an extravert to be in a business that is best suited for an introvert. Or vice-versa. When I speak of "extraverts" and "introverts," I have in mind the psychological definition of these terms, not the meaning that we commonly put on them.
In day-to-day conversation, when someone is called an extravert, we immediately picture a personality that is energetic, out-going, perhaps the life of the party. The word "introvert," conversely, conjures up the image of someone who is quiet, more of an observer than a participant, and perhaps even shy.
However, when used psychologically, "extraversion" and "introversion" identify the types of activities which energize us. Extraverts are envigorated when they are interacting energetically with the world around them. They enjoy "working the crowd" at big gatherings of people. They like recreational activities that demand physical exertion and tests of stamina.
This is just the opposite of how introverts are envigorated. They are energized when their focus is inward. They like to reflect on things, to contemplate. They typically prefer hobbies like sailing, fishing, doing woodwork, painting, bicycling, jogging, writing, reading, or other pasttimes that they can carry out in solitude or with a small circle of friends. What is common to these activities is that they allow plenty of unhurried time to be lost in thought.
Recharging Your Batteries
The bottom line, therefore, is that extraverts and introverts react in opposite ways to big gatherings where people are engaged in a lot of give-and-take. For extraverts such occasions are a net energy gain. For introverts, they are a net energy drain. For this reason, extraverts tend to love networking events. Introverts approach them with far less enthusiasm.
When extraverts need to recharge their batteries, they pursue activity and stimulation. When introverts need to recharge their batteries, they choose quieter pursuits and opportunities for reflection.
This does not mean that introverts are not dynamic personalities. Many of the most dynamic people that you see in public life and entertainment are in truth introverts.
To cite just one example, scores of actors known for their bigger-than-life roles in action movies are in fact psychological introverts. And that's altogether logical. Think of how many hours actors spend alone, memorizing lines and rehearsing the nuances of a scene over and over in their minds.
So how do you see yourself? More inclined toward extraversion? Or more inclined toward introversion? We all have both extraverted and introverted aspects of our personality. But when it's time to recharge your batteries, what does your choice of activities say about your preferred way to re-energize yourself?
A Business That's Right for You
Now, let's bring this back to the subject of choosing the right business. If my readers are a true cross-section of encore entrepreneurs, their encore business is likely to employ only the owner and perhaps the owner's spouse, especially early on.
Consultants and coaches fall in this category. So do bookkeeping businesses, most internet-based businesses, people who market crafts which they make — we could build an extensive list of businesses that don't need an employee force much beyond the owner or the owner's family in order to flourish.
Imagine, then, the challenge of an extravert starting an internet-based business. By nature the extravert needs to be interacting with people as a matter of routine to stay energized. Days on end spent writing blogs and newsletters or redesigning web pages, while perhaps interesting, are not particularly energizing to extraverts. These elements of the business are in fact tiring. An introvert, by contrast, could find these activities invigorating.
Now look at it from the other direction. What if an introvert starts a solo-business built on network marketing. Or one which sells insurance or real estate. These businesses require tireless cold-calling, endless lead-generation, and timely follow-up on leads which develop. This fast-paced movement from person to person, conversation to conversation, would keep an extravert's enthusiasm high. The introvert is more likely to find this pace exhausting and dispiriting.
Consider the Full Dynamic of a Business
In assessing your personality alongside the dynamic of a business, be sure to examine every dimension of the enterprise. Some businesses look like they are best suited for one personality type, when in reality the opposite may be true. Take the case of a successful business executive who retires early to start an encore career as a professional speaker.
At first glance you would think that extraverts are true "naturals" for professional speaking. After all, they are up in front of one audience after another, needing to bring energy and enthusiasm to the stage. What could be better for an extravert?
Over the long haul, however, introverts are less likely to burn out as professional speakers than extraverts. This is especially true if the speaker attains such success that he or she travels constantly from engagement to engagement. Why? It's because of what happens off-stage.
While professional speaking does put you in front of diverse audiences, that's only an hour here and an hour there. In between are long hours of solitude: flying to an engagement, sitting in a hotel room, waiting for your time to take the stage, writing and rehearsing presentations, catching another flight or making a long drive to your next gig.
Introverts can put all of this forced "downtime" to good use. But for extraverts this abundance of solitude time can become drudgery. And once it becomes drudgery, burnout is an ever-lurking danger.
So as you consider starting a particular kind of business, look at all of its dynamics. Ask yourself, "If I started a business like this, would I be spending most of my time in activities that energize me? Or drain me?"
Be True to Your Personality
Don't delude yourself by saying, "I know that this business doesn't align well with my personality. But this business can make me a lot of money. And that's enough incentive for me to make the necessary personality changes to succeed."
This kind of reasoning is a precursor to disaster. You may be able to will yourself into working day after day outside of the natural proclivities of your personality type. But in due time — indeed, sooner than you might think — the act will wear thin. Your enthusiasm for the business will start to wane. And once enthusiasm dwindles, you won't bring the energy to the business to secure all of that money you dreamed of.
Your career as an encore entrepreneur should be both financially rewarding and emotionally fulfilling. The goal of financial reward is the reason for evaluating the market prospects of a businesses so thoroughly. The goal of emotional fulfillment is the reason for an honest appraisal of whether your personality is a good fit for the business that you are considering.
This article first appeared in Encore Entrepreneur inbox magazine on March 13, 2014.