The introverted entrepreneur talks business and the struggles she faced to become a successful, female business woman
What first springs to mind when you hear the word introvert? Shy? Reserved? Quiet? No wonder it’s a common assumption that introverts aiming to become entrepreneurs need to be more “extroverted.” Ok, so we don’t have those gregarious, loud personality traits, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of climbing the corporate ladder, starting a successful business and making lots of money; without having to speak up at every given opportunity.
Vicky Fraser, a fellow proud introvert, is a copy writer and a small business mentor. She’s a woman of many talents and works with different businesses to help them use their full potential. As she not so delicately puts it, “I help businesses be more f*cking interesting!”
Taking inspiration from Vicky, we say it’s time to stop looking at the negatives and assess how introvert women can become great entrepreneurs and fantastic leaders, too.
What are your entrepreneurial duties and what do you make of them?
VF: I’m a copywriter and small business mentor who is consistently dismayed by the bland face most businesses present to the world.
Everyone is interesting, and everyone has an interesting story to tell… but business owners are beset on all sides by “experts” telling them they must be “professional” and the customer is always right and you have to bend over backwards to please everyone. All that gets you is a sea of businesses that all look and sound the same.
I pull people’s stories out of them and give them the courage to stick their heads above the parapet, to stand out and — yes — to be okay with pissing some people off. Because it’s the only way you’ll make the right people fall in love with you.
Did being an introvert mainly have a positive/negative effect when starting your business?
VF: It’s a little difficult to say, two reasons. Firstly, I have no idea what it’s like to be an extrovert starting a business…
And secondly, I didn’t make a conscious decision to be a business owner. Nor was it a rational one. I had the job from hell, which sent me into a self-destructive spiral of despair. Eventually, I was hauled into a meeting in which I got to utter the immortal words: “You can’t fire me because I QUIT!”
I had no job to go to. I was not at all well, mentally. And a friend offered me some freelance work.
It was only at that point I realised I could run my own business — I’d always wanted to.
When you first start a business, you do have to be willing to put yourself out there and talk to people and I think perhaps I found it more challenging, because my natural desire is to not talk to lots of people. It’s tiring.
How did you face challenges that come from having an introvert personality?
My motto is JFDI. Just f*cking do it. I really had no choice: if I wanted my business to work,I had to make it work because nobody was going to do it for me. So, while I found it really tough to pick up the phone and call people, or go to meetings, or go to events, I reminded myself what my goal was and just go on with it.
And I made sure I built plenty of time into my days to recharge afterwards.
How do you think being an introvert had a positive influence on your business?
A lot of new business owners — me included when I started — get a lot of advice. Some of it’s good advice… a lot of it is bad advice. I was told, as we all are, to get out there and join networking groups and network the hell out of everything.
For some people, networking works great. I have friends who are killing it in networking. For me? The organised group networking is awful. I hate it. Forced small talk with people who are often only interested in getting something out of you.
So I had to find other ways, and I think my introverted nature allowed me to focus very tightly on getting really bloody good at what I do. I thrive when I have things to learn and projects to focus on, alone. So in that respect, being an introvert has been great.
It’s also allowed me to really dig deep into people’s business problems and get right to the heart of what’s causing trouble. I’m great at pulling stories out of people and giving them permission and courage to really be themselves. In small groups, or one-on-one, I thrive, and that’s been the core of my success really.
What are the negatives of being an introvert entrepreneur?
I find social events extremely tiring. I love meeting new people, and I do enjoy parties and get-togethers with specific people, but there comes a point where a switch flips and I just want to leave. That can get awkward when it’s my own event I’m hosting!
And I love public speaking, but it tends to wipe me out for a couple of days afterwards. I retreat into my little cave and close the door to the world.
I wouldn’t say it’s a negative effect, though. You make your opportunities where you can and work with what you have.
Do you feel at all restricted at all being an introvert? Or has it not made a difference to your entrepreneurial style?
I don’t feel at all restricted. I’ve no idea if it’s made a difference because I have nothing to compare it to really. But I will say this: I don’t believe we can be boxed quite so neatly. I definitely prefer solitude most of the time, and work better alone, and find groups tiring… BUT — I can bring out an extroverted side when I need to, and I enjoy that.
I love holding workshops and talking on a stage. I love meeting new people. But I make sure I build time in later just for myself, to recharge. And I make sure I don’t do that exhausting small talk social butterflies are so good at. It doesn’t interest me. So I get people telling me their stories instead.
That, perhaps, is what’s made the biggest difference, because it’s given me my mission. To help business owners be more frickin’ interesting.
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