For INTJs, Owning a Business Can Be a Blessing—Or a Curse

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on November 26, 2017

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.

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Asif Atar (not verified) says...

Which type of startups are good or more interesting for intj. I am starting a business but I don't think it'll last longer.should I become a writer ? actually I hate writing but my friends like my stories .

backpenther (not verified) says...

I am a very introverted INTJ and inherited the small family business. In short: most of the above is true, but I'd like to add that dealing with customers is something you can actually learn, too. And it shapes your personality a bit being more open and forthcoming, like a talkative introvert. But it is far easier if you sell something technical. Selling fashion is probably problematic, but then, you have personal for that. The motivation problem exists and is a problem I don't have really a solution for. Need to look for an INFJ as co-owner and HR manager. Otherwise, even in times of great crisis or projects being an INTJ is nice, I don't think another personality type has our crisis and management abilities. But I still am looking for other people I am able to really work with, like hand-in-hand on a equal basis. Atm, i have only minions who make small contributions, but the load of the work and decisions remain on me because nobody else is able to jump in and bite through.

Sakr (not verified) says...

It may sound strange, but I believe that whether an INTJ can succeed as a business owner depends on the type of business. As an INTJ, I totally agree with the above-mentioned point related to the difficulty of dealing with clients. I myself have thought a lot of the most suitable business to my personality and found that starting a business where people seek my product without so much sales work would be the best, not the opposite. This can be any type of shop or service, such as a restaurant or a social website. 


INTJ Lady (not verified) says...

One of the best things about the internet and technology is now you don't have to think about being an entrepreneur in the traditional sense. You can start a business and mostly run it online and be successful while minimizing how many people you have to deal with. It would help if you interact with customers via phone, at least, and you might grow such a successful online business that you do need to hire help. But I think an online business is the best idea for an INTJ.

I currently work for a business owner who has a brick and mortar store but who also sells on his web site and Amazon. I run the online side of his business, and he and our customer service employee mostly deal with the customers who come into the store. I do have to talk to customers who call in having trouble ordering on the site or who want to place a phone order (which I just enter into the web site), which I hate, but I'm not bad at talking to them--I just don't want to. I have thought about taking over the entire business when the owner retires, and the brick and mortar store is the part I would dread because of all the customers our owner interacts with (and it's not just interacting with the customers--it's the type of customers he has, i.e. a lot of rednecks and crabby elderly people). I think about shutting it down and only selling online, but that would be unnecessarily cutting off revenue.

Otherwise, dealing with people is not that much of a problem. I talk to people in sales, marketing and advertising on a regular basis to help our business. It's fine, although not preferred, when I'm learning/trading valuable information and when I know someone is not going to be a jerk or an idiot, and you don't get that guarantee with customers like you do with business professionals who basically are looking for a mutual benefit. And if I'm hiring people, then I get to be that jerk who hires and fires for "cultural fit." Honestly, the workers I could see having issues with are millennial and many Gen X extroverts, because we tend to have totally different ideas about what the workplace should be like. I would just let them know in the interview process that I don't believe the workplace is about fun, friendship and socializing--it's about coming and getting high-quality work done--and if they can't handle that my workplace is not for them. There are plenty of workplaces out there catering to people who think their job is supposed to be one big fun social play time (and I hate them all). Mine won't be one of them.

Nann (not verified) says...

Great article! Very accurate observations and points about INTJ entrepreneurship.

That said, I think INTJs should deliberately work on their weak areas by:

-observing very closely people who are more proficient at interpersonal relationships (i.e the ExFPs and ExFJs).

-emulating Extroverts during their learning/formative years (i.e get a part-time/holiday job in retail/hospitality/recreation while studying in Uni, rather than a job in IT or Tech)

I personally chose to become a Secondary education teacher/trainer/tutor which was a triple whammy for me as an INTJ. Dealing with noise, crowds, emotions, change and all sort of unpredictable situations almost turned my into an ENTJ over the decade I spent in the profession. But I knew this was a temporary gig and that sooner or later, I would move on to do set up my own (online) consultancy bureau. 

There is still a lot to learn (i.e marketing, accounting, HR, etc), but having had full-on experience working in team environment in my previous career, I am not only able to read a room, but also pick the best partners/team mates for my own ventures. You only need to trust your intuition when selecting collborators, then you can rest assured that outsourcing the work to them will not endanger your business in the long run.



Assad Zayn (not verified) says...

I am about to start a business, I am 22. I have put all my brain into making spreadsheet with logical reasonings and following the patterns. Having done my home work I have found business secrets and my calculation predicts 500000% returns on investment in 2 years timeline. I have a meeting with one of the manufacturer in 2 hours. Wish me a good luck. ;)

NP-kun (not verified) says...

Please post an update and share your lessons!

Another INTJ who's planning to start a business and is nervous AF!

Share your thoughts


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