How to Overcome Shyness When You're the Boss

by Kevin Casey on August 10, 2012
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Some entrepreneurs just have a way with people. They’re the extroverts with the gift of gab: They can (and will) talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime. My father-in-law, a lifelong salesman, calls it “doing the chin boogie.” It’s a nice knack to have when you run your own business because, like it or not, that makes you a salesperson by default. But what if you’re an introvert?

Being on the quieter side doesn’t have to spell doom for small-business owners. On the contrary, it can be a positive thing. For instance, HR advice columnist Anita Clew suggests that introverts may make the best managers. Using introversion to your advantage is often just a matter of considering where it could have a downside, such as in sales, and adjusting accordingly.

Dorie Clark, in a blog post for the Harvard Business Review, notes that there’s a difference between sales and marketing; if the former makes you uncomfortable, try to master the latter. The extremely shy should enlist help, she advises, because if you cannot sell what your business offers, you’d better hire someone who can — or expect a pretty thin bottom line.

Networking is a critical function for most small-business owners, too. If socializing causes you to break out in a cold sweat, Angely Grecia at Dynamic Business offers these eight tips. One of my favorites: When attending business events, remember that nearly everyone else is there to network, too. That simple reminder should take some of the anxiety out of the situation.

If public speaking is your Achilles’ heel, consider joining a group like Toastmasters. Doing so could help reduce fears around giving presentations, talking to the press, and engaging in similar activities.

Back to that gift of gab — it can certainly put you in good stead as a small-business owner, but it’s far from a guarantee. Or, as Quiet author Susan Cain, herself a Toastmasters alum, says: “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” That’s a quote from her TED series talk, “The Power of Introverts,” which is recommended viewing for quieter entrepreneurs.

Kevin Casey is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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