The Introvert’s Guide to Business Management

Do you love growing plants and raising livestock but dread the idea of selling? Does the following describe you? 

  • You have a strong set of values, which you strive to consistently meet in your life.
  • You need to feel as if you’re living your life in accordance with what you feel is right, and will rebel against anything which conflicts with that goal. 
  • You choose jobs and careers which allow you the freedom of working towards the realization of your value-oriented personal goals.
  • You are quiet and reserved, and difficult to get to know well. 
  • You are interested in contributing to people’s sense of well-being and happiness.. 
  • You are likely to be an animal lover, and to have a true appreciation for the beauties of nature. 
  • You are a “doer”, and are usually uncomfortable with theorizing concepts and ideas, unless they see a practical application. 
  • You learn best in a “hands-on” environment, and consequently may become easily bored with the traditional teaching methods, which emphasize abstract thinking. 
  • You do not like impersonal analysis, and are uncomfortable with the idea of making decisions based strictly on logic.  
  • You genuinely care about people, and are strongly service-oriented. 
  • You have an unusually deep well of caring for those who are close to you, and are likely to show your love through actions, rather than words. 
  • You need space and time alone to evaluate the circumstances of your life against your value system, and are likely to respect other people’s needs for the same.
  • Your strong value systems can lead you to be intensely perfectionist, and cause you to judge yourself with un-neccesary harshness.

The bullets above describe the introvert.  Despite a lot of research and many publications there is still a tendency in our culture to assume that introverts are just shy people who are socially inept. That translates into assumptions that they are somehow less likely to be contributors, assume leadership or be successful. In fact all of these assumptions are false.

Professionally, farmers, artists and tradespeople have a strong tendency to score higher on introversion when compared to the general population. Introverts are also often commonly found in the ranks of inventors, philosophers and creators of social change. But these same character traits do not fit a lot of people that we would consider ‘successful’ business owners, investors and entrepreneurs. So can introverts be successful business owners? Absolutely!

The hardest lesson many farmer-introverts have to learn is that business success is very often about learning to work outside their comfort zone. Particularly in the direct marketing environment there is an emphasis on being vivacious, telling your story, smiling, laughing and making small-talk.  And in the area of record-keeping, introverts often resist the repetitious, standardized work of managing the business. While these behaviors are not generally favorites of introverts but they can be learned.

Survival Tips for the Introvert

  • Think of yourself as a networker rather than a salesperson. Your job is to put the right product into the hands of the right customer. Selling has developed a negative reputation in our culture but in the right situation both the buyer and seller feel good about the transaction.
  • Share your passion. Even shy or introverted people come alive when they are talking about what they are passionate about. Practice making eye contact and smiling. Write up a couple sentences that you could use to greet people. It will get easier as you get some experience.
  • Surround yourself with conversational aids. These can be recipes, photographs of your farm, ideas for using your products. This will provide triggers for customers to ask you questions.
  • Pricing your products fairly means being fair to both yourself and your customer. If you can’t sustain your business no one wins. Balance your desire to give with your need for a liveable wage in return for your labor.
  • Hire employees that are good at the things you are not good at. Smart managers know their employees help to round out the team. Find some enthusiastic extroverts and make them part of your team.
  • Hate the record keeping? Do it anyway. It is a small price to pay for long-term happiness. Good records will help you make good decisions.
  • Ask for the type of training that you need. And ask that it be delivered in ways that suit your learning style.
  • Embrace the person you are! Make no apologies.

If you’d like to explore the importance of introverts, how they contribute best, and why it all matters listen to the Susan Cain’s TED talk or read her book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking


About Mary Peabody

Working with beginning farmers since 1994.
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One Response to The Introvert’s Guide to Business Management

  1. Lynn Clohessy says:

    Wow Mary, I can’t believe I’m the only one who saw myself in the description of an introvert. Maybe everyone else is to busy getting through spring. It is good to know that there are others out there and that success can be achieved despite our natural inclination.

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