When we think of entrepreneurs, what comes to mind? We tend to think of somebody who is friendly, fun to be around, quick thinking, brave, creative and a natural leader.

What I’m describing here are the ways in which ENTJs (the Commanders) and ENTPs (the Visionaries) are good at business. There are also a number of other personality types that spring to mind when we think about these energetic entrepreneurial types.

So, what happens if someone who doesn’t fit that mold comes to the table? What would happen, both theoretically and in practice, if somebody who was both introverted and intellectual decided to venture out, go into business for themselves, and skip the corporate 9 to 5? Imagine, for example, an INTJ business owner. Is it shocking to suggest that they might not just survive, but thrive in an entrepreneurial capacity?

Owning a Business is a Blessing

Being quiet and book smart are not qualities we usually associate with entrepreneurship. But consider the following facts before you judge the intrepid INTJ as she steps out into the business world:

  • MBA students (who often include small business owners) and female small business owners are more likely to be INTJs then you would expect. Statistically speaking, they give ENTJs and ESTJs a serious run for their money.
  • INTJs earn more money on average when self-employed -- meaning it might actually be in their best self-interest to do so.
  • Famous INTJs include Bill Gates, arguably one of the richest and most successful entrepreneurs of our time.

So in reality INTJs make great business owners, even though we don’t always think of them like that. And it’s all to do with a series of overlapping strengths that make INTJs stand out from the entrepreneurial crowd.

They are great at strategy

INTJs are all about strategy; it is one of their biggest strengths. How they approach the world, both in terms of problem solving and day-to-day activities, is always strategic. While a typical employee working a nice ‘normal’ career may be involved in some business strategy, his ability to make the big decisions may be fairly limited. INTJs, who have a natural tendency to give strategic advice, may get frustrated if they are unable to influence the plan of a company or the vision given to them by their bosses.

The bottom line is, INTJs desperately want to be involved in the strategic decision-making process. What better way to do that than by being the person in charge of the business?

They are extremely independent

INTJs are arguably the most independent of all the personality types. With that independence, they are also usually very self-confident.

While working for a boss can be nice, an independent person might better enjoy their work when they work for themselves. The main downside is the fear and self-doubt you face from not having a stable source of income, but this is negated by the INTJ’s self-confidence.

Perhaps it’s because they are able to see the logical outcomes of different situations or maybe it’s because they are so secure with their own intelligence that INTJs have a diminished fear of starting a new business. It is through these dual traits of independence and self-confidence that the INTJ business owner makes light of a path that’s usually quite dark.

Difficult problems don’t scare them

INTJs are naturally drawn to solve difficult problems and it’s no secret that doing simple, time-consuming and non-intellectual work bores them. They see problems not as obstacles but as challenges; exciting and fun for the mind.

No matter what type of business they’re in, business owners face a range of difficult problems. Whether it’s a startup trying to create technologically advanced products for consumers or a more traditional business trying to balance its cash flow, you can bet there are going to be numerous challenges for entrepreneurs to solve. If I had to solve some really complex problems, I would want to have an INTJ on my team for sure.

Efficiency is in their blood

When it comes down to the day-to-day work, can INTJs do better for themselves in the comfort of their own business as opposed to working under the supervision of another? For sure they can. That’s because they seek to do things efficiently, and often this can come at odds with what their coworkers are doing.

Say you are working as a waiter at a restaurant and the procedure is that you handle the guests’ orders a certain way. If an INTJ finds the process inefficient, she might come up with her own way to handle orders -- which might not gel with management’s process. But if the INTJ became the restaurant owner, then you can bet that she would devise new procedures that cater to her need for everything to operate efficiently.

It matches their interests

With the rise of technology, we’ve seen a “convergence” of new businesses and innovation in what is commonly known as the startup model. Even for traditional businesses, which are not doing anything particularly innovative relative to their startup counterparts, technology is still at the forefront of where these companies are headed.

While this may not have been the case 50 years ago, it is certainly true today that more and more people with a strong aptitude for science, research, and technology are going into entrepreneurship -- people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. INTJs who are known to excel in science and technology -- often being stereotyped for those kinds of jobs -- fit the role of tech-savvy business owner well.

When Entrepreneurship Is a Curse

So far, we’ve seen why it’s a blessing for INTJs to own a business. But have no doubt; it can also be a curse. Certain INTJ characteristics make parts of the “job” not so much fun and games, and more like a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride.

They are heavy Introverts

The main obstacle to entrepreneurship is that INTJs are Introverts through and through. They are one of the most introverted personality types, stereotypically stuck in their own heads. This can be a major problem when starting a business because one needs to associate with others, secure new clients, and talk to possible customers to successfully run a new business.

Some days, dealing with the customers can feel like the worst part of the job for the Masterminds. Face-to-face meetings (or even phone calls) are dreaded tasks for highly introverted INTJ business owners, but it’s hard to see how they can be avoided. And it may not be something that gets better with time.

When an INTJ first starts their business, they usually don’t have to deal with less logical coworkers, since they’re dealing at most with a few business partners or cofounders. But what about when the business grows and reaches mid or later stages? Then, the business owner needs to hire additional workers and before you know it, the INTJ is back to working in a team environment. But this time around it’s different, because now they’re leading the pack. That is not to say that INTJs don’t make capable leaders, because they do. But they can be weaker in areas of group work, which makes it difficult to collaborate with their teams.

They may not enjoy energizing others

Inspiring and motivating others to work hard for the INTJ’s company can be a challenge -- and not the fun, intellectual type of challenge that INTJs crave. It can be a nightmare for the INTJ to have to elevate the emotions, energy, and mood of others when he doesn’t really connect with those people at an emotional level. The INTJ’s idea of motivation would typically be to implement incentive and reward programs for good work, not offer pats on the back or emotional support which everyone needs from time to time. Words of encouragement can even slip the mind of an INTJ, since they rarely need extrinsic motivation themselves.

The situation isn’t great for the employees, either. Imagine working in a small company for a boss that appears to be cold, methodical, and highly logical, and how that makes you feel in terms of your internal emotional wellbeing. And that’s not even taking into account the high standards and perfectionism that comes with territory when you have an INTJ boss.

Summing It Up

For you INTJs out there, know that you can be great entrepreneurs, but it can be a blessing or a curse. You certainly have the strategy, the independence and the determination to put your company on the map. But will it be a huge source of regret if relationships get out of control or other people impact the direction of your business?

Kenneth Tran
Kenneth Tran is a writer for e27, TechinAsia, Gamasutra, USPA News, and Yahoo! News (syndicated). By day he is a marketer and webmaster for a Fortune 500 company along with owning his own business. As an INTJ, he sees the world as a series of intellectual challenges, with the biggest challenge being figuring out the uniqueness of other people.