If you believe what you read, then running your own business is an option reserved for just a few personalities. ENTPs (Steve Jobs), ENFPs (Arianna Huffington), ENTJs (Warren Buffet) and INTJs (Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg) are hailed as the “street smart” types most likely to do well out of entrepreneurship. The thread here is the bias towards Intuition over Sensing – a tendency to focus on the future and take risks.
Yet these are far from the only permutations that can successfully run businesses. Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have different types than the ones above, but it’s difficult to argue that they lack the personality traits to be successful entrepreneurs!
Here at Truity, we believe that anyone can develop a successful small business regardless of their personality test results. You’ll just have more success if you choose a venture that matches who you are.
With that in kind, let’s take a look at the type of business you might consider running based on your personality type. Up this week, the two temperaments that are theoretically made to go it alone: NT – The Rationals and NF – The Idealists.
It’s said that ENTPs have the “entrepreneurial genius” gene. And there’s no denying that you are the type most likely to generate a ton of attractive business ideas! So, for you, it’s less about what business you should start and more about choosing the one good idea to turn into a business venture. It doesn’t matter if your passion is PR, fitness, market research, software sales or creating a new search engine just for doctors. You just need to pick something. Don’t get too caught up in creating the perfect business idea before you take the leap.
Avoid businesses where you have to act as “general manager.” You won’t find enough freedom in a franchise business built around someone else’s rules. Since focus is an issue (it’s no secret that you get bored easily), consider working with a whip-smart partner who can take care of the details and keep you focused until your idea succeeds, or it fails. The hard part will be giving up control of your “baby.” It’s tough for you to let other people handle tasks which you could probably do better yourself, if you were sufficiently motivated. But it’s necessary.
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are thought to be INTPs, and a creative Thinking type like you definitely might enjoy a tech startup or a business that involves above-average problem-solving skills. You’re likely to find inspiration though poking holes in inventions already on the market, so keep a note of the things you might improve on. INTPs often start an enterprise based on their science, tech or engineering skill after some time in the workforce. Product design, tech repair, tutoring/education, programming, web development and manufacturing businesses are a good fit.
Avoid interpersonal businesses where your chance of success is based around relationships. Leave sales to Extraverted Feelers or hire one to do the marketing for you. You’ll likely find it hard to manage employees, suppliers and customers so partner with someone who fills these deficiencies. Or consider an online business where the majority of interactions take place over email or telephone.
INTJs are wonderful “ideas people” who have the enviable ability to plan, focus and put their ideas into action. This means you probably can start any business you set your mind to. But you’re particularly suited to consultancy roles where you can demonstrate your expertise. Business development, IT consulting, marketing and analytics agency, software development, virtual project management, virtual assistant – like INTPs, you’ll probably start a 9 to 5 job you enjoy, see how poorly it is run, then decide you can do better.
The biggest challenge is reaching out to customers and marketing your business. By nature, you like to observe, research, then quietly get on with doing things. To succeed in the business world, you’ll have to get comfortable with your ideas being exposed for all the world to see. Hire an Extravert if necessary to do the marketing and sales.
Like ENTPs, ENTJs can brainstorm ideas, think big and spot opportunities in the market. Unlike ENTPs, you’re more likely to strike when the iron’s hot with your business idea! So, for you, it’s largely a question of timing. Good industries include the business, finance, technology, medical, legal and consulting fields – anywhere where you can be a rainmaker. You have a super-high risk tolerance and are not intimidated by ventures that require large capital, so of all the types, when you launch a business, you’re capable of going big.
Avoid franchises, agencies or distributorship since these do not allow you to shape things to your liking. Your other challenge is working with people – you are much better leader than manager and need to surround yourself with others who can manage the processes, details and people.
ENFPs are rarely happy in the rat race and, as a bona fide ideas factory, you’re among the best at starting your own business. The key is picking one possible business option out of many and doing it with your whole heart. Businesses that offers plenty of variety and informal relationships are a great fit for you – think small business coaching, training workshops, travel agency, entertainment/nightlife businesses, marketing agency, journalism, anything in the design field, a retail store of some kind or an event planning consultancy. Any business where you already have the contacts, interpersonal skills, networks and are socially confident is a good place to start.
Your biggest stumbling block is getting started, because to start one business is to close off other options. For you, it’s worth maintaining your day job while getting your business idea off the ground. Once the business has taken off and is doing well, hire staff to keep if running. Then you can start something else!
INFPs excel in the areas they really care about, so it’s important to launch a business that means something special to you. Look for business ideas that involve people in a non-confrontational environment. Not-for-profits, tutoring, counselling, publishing, coaching/mentoring, landscape gardening, aesthetician, art and design, and tech businesses are good options for you since they’re about more than just payroll and profit.
Retail (a funky little bookstore, perhaps?) could also be your game since you’re good at nurturing customer relationships and often do well in businesses that involve keeping clients for the long term. But you’ll need to teach yourself some soul-sucking business skills like networking and marketing. Keep visualizing the light at the end of the tunnel – it’s a great way for you to overcome some of your perceived limitations and convince yourself that you can run a business on your terms.
ENFJs are great “people people” who love the spotlight. You will thrive in any business that allows you to put on a show! At the same time, you need to do good in the world or your business will feel empty and meaningless. Try to balance these aspects when brainstorming your options. Anything in the field of counselling, consultancy, web design, ecommerce, marketing, personal branding, and anything involving customer service or giving strategic advice in your specialty area is a good fit for you.
Your ability to win people over is unrivalled, so finding customers shouldn’t be much of a problem. But you might need help organizing the practical end of the business. Having a supportive partner or circle is crucial to ENFJ business owners, since you may need a push when making the tough decisions seems a little too challenging.
The best businesses for INFJs usually have a strong creative element (stylist, aesthetician, wedding photography, anything in the art and design field, selling your homemade products) or a heavy people-development focus (opening a home day care center or tutoring agency). Another option is coaching in whatever you know how to do. These days, it’s possible to coach people in just about anything – marketing, finance, careers, lifestyle, nutrition, relationships, sports. It’s hard for you to feel passionate about a business unless you feel really connected with what you are doing, so coaching is a great fit for you.
Self-confidence is an issue, so start by doing something you know how to do. Having an existing network also makes it easier for you to promote your business. Accept, too, that there is something about the concept of “business” that feels very uncomfortable to you. You need to trust that there is such a thing as healthy competition, and that you don’t have to compromise your principles to find success.
Is Starting Your Own Business the Answer?
There are tons of resources out there to help you choose a conventional career based on your type, but very little guidance for the would-be entrepreneur who wants to choose a business that suits their personality. I hope this article has closed some of that gap – but you’ll likely want some more advice before you hang the “we’re open” sign on the door.
The good news is, you can use existing career resources to understand yourself better from an entrepreneurial standpoint. Instead of looking at the specific job titles that are recommended for you, look at what it takes to succeed in those jobs. Is it an inherent need for structure and systems? An ability to prospect and build relationships? An ability to think outside the box and break the rules? Use these insights to rank yourself against the four major business-ownership models: agency, consulting, small business startup and franchises. The more suitable the model, the better off you'll be!
Tune in next week, when I’ll be taking a look at the type of businesses that will set Artisans (SP) and Guardians (SJ) up for success. And if you’re a Rational or Idealist business owner, we’d love to hear from you. What business have you launched? What obstacles did you come up against? Do you have advice for other would-be entrepreneurs? Let us know in the comments below!