Some entrepreneurs are awkward inventors, others are aggressive MBAs. Some start a business to escape corporate life; others dream of their IPO. There are as many paths to business success as there are dreamers blazing their own trail, and yet it is always tempting to read about how someone else got there.
It’s much more challenging (and rewarding) to look in the mirror and figure out, “How will I get there? What’s my unique path?” The short answer: Play to your strengths.
There are many approaches to identifying one’s strengths, including the ever popular DiSC assessment, 360-degree reviews, and typologies such as the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0. All are potentially illuminating and have their advantages. One of the oldest and most widely used methods is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which helps people to identify what behavior comes most naturally. As such, the MBTI makes a great starting point. Even if you took it years ago, it can offer insights into how to play to your strengths if you’re building a business.
Extravert or Introvert? Extraverts are energized by interacting with people and the outside world. Introverts are energized by reflection and interacting with the inner world of their own thoughts.
When it comes to business development, you can play to your strengths no matter which preference you have. If you’re an extravert, take advantage of your natural inclination toward meeting new people and larger social settings. Get out there and network, join an industry group, or offer a workshop. If you’re an introvert, consider developing your expertise in search engine optimization, content marketing and other inbound sales techniques.
Sensing or Intuiting? Sensors prefer concrete information and are good with specific details like remembering names and dates. Intuitors look for larger patterns and enjoy working with abstract concepts and theories.
Both sensors and intuitors can benefit from partnering up for strategic planning. Intuitors naturally focus on the future and envisioning possibilities. Sensors are able to translate those long-range objectives into “here-and-now” priorities. Both types are capable of both skill sets, but finding a sounding board of the opposite type can create those synergies consultants are always talking about.
Thinking or Feeling? Thinkers tend to make decisions based on objective, logical analyses. Feelers tend to make decisions based on values and relationships. Both types can excel at human resources.
Thinkers should leverage their love of fairness and consistency by creating and documenting sound and equitable policies. Establish these ground rules up-front, and reap the benefits with contractors, employees and vendors by communicating clear terms and expectations. Feelers should fully embrace their talent for loyalty and influence by forging those special bonds with business partners. Sometimes one size does not fit all, and feelers fundamentally understand this as an unwritten rule of business in the real world.
Judging or Perceiving? Judgers tend to be planned, organized and like closure. Perceivers tend to be spontaneous, adaptable and optimistic.
To be honest, perceivers also tend to procrastinate until the 11th hour.
As a Qualified Administrator of the MBTI, I have noticed in my years of practice that the majority of entrepreneurs are perceivers. Starting your own venture is generally considered a risky proposition, and perceivers seem to have both a greater tolerance for that risk and, due to their optimistic natures, assess that risk to be smaller.
If you are a judging entrepreneur, your clients will love you for anticipating their needs and being on-time, if not early, when it comes to deadlines. If you are a perceiving entrepreneur, your clients will thank you for adapting easily to their changing requirements, never getting ruffled when they change their mind midstream.
To be clear, every entrepreneur and every person has access to all of these strengths, but the underlying theory of the MBTI is that some strengths are reflexive and others we have to work to develop.
A common mistake is spending too much time on perceived weaknesses and not devoting enough time to using strengths.
Remember to really celebrate your strengths, build your brand on your strengths, and spend as much time as possible using your strengths to take your business to the next level.
Jennie Wong, Ph.D., is a syndicated business writer, executive coach, and the author of "Ask the Mompreneur: Small Business Advice on Starting and Growing Your Own Company," available at www.JennieWong.com. Email your entrepreneurship questions to TheJennieWong@gmail.com.