Owning any business can be difficult as an introvert, but it can be especially challenging when the business is a local brick-and-mortar retail venture.
Even if the owner is not physically present at the store much, the thousands of interactions with customers each week can still require a great deal of intervention and therefore energy from the business owner.
For example, even though I only physically work at my cafe a few times a month-- I am still constantly interacting with customers every day. Whether it be via email, social media, or phone-- technology has made it easier for anyone to get in touch with us.
And since our social media and marketing strategies rely so heavily on video and “behind the scenes” peeks-- it can become overwhelming feeling like I am constantly putting myself “out there” and opening myself up to others (and their positive and negative feedback, as well).
Since these tasks can be very draining to me-- I’ve had to learn the hard way that I need firm boundaries to be happy in my role. Before I share my tips with you-- I wanted to first share this definition of “introvert” that I found online.
“Introvert comes from Latin intro-, "inward," and vertere, "turning." It describes a person who tends to turn inward mentally. Introverts sometimes avoid large groups of people, feeling more energized by time alone. The opposite of an introvert is an extrovert, who finds energy in interactions with others.”
This definition is definitely true for me.
When I am lacking energy, the only way to “recharge” my batteries is some alone, unplugged time. Even though I enjoy the interaction with others and being in social settings, I consistently find myself feeling exhausted afterward and needing that “recharge”. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I’d love if you would leave a comment and let me know if you agree with this definition and how it applies to you!
So whether you are a “by the book” introvert or whether you just tend towards introverted when feeling overwhelmed, here are some tips I have learned along the way of my own “introverted business journey”.
I already mentioned boundaries, but what do boundaries actually look like in practice?
For me, I need some physical and mental distance from the constant influx of feedback (both positive and negative) we get.
In addition to feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of feedback and the amount of directions and places it comes from (yelp, google, facebook, instagram, email, our website, Mom’s groups, in-person at our business, on the phone, etc.), I also feel exasperated trying to not only respond to every person, but also appease them.
I have definite people-pleaser tendencies and I always have a running to-do list based on customer feedback, which never seems to get shorter-- which is tough.
Knowing I can’t possibly please every single person who has a suggestion or piece of feedback can often make me feel like a failure as a business owner, and it stifles my energy and creativity, which my business relies on in order to thrive.
So I have most of our feedback sent to either my husband (and business partner) or our cafe supervisor. If we have a review or Facebook message come in, I typically have them review it first and then escalate anything necessary to me.
For example, if someone had a refund request, a small piece of feedback, or an easily-dealt-with complaint, I try to never even see it. Of course, this practice isn’t perfect since much is publicly posted online-- but I do my best.
Our supervisor will typically respond and take any necessary actions and only forward the comment onto me if she feels she needs to, which cuts down the volume of comments I am seeing by about 75%.
The upside is that our supervisor is generally less emotional when it comes to business (because hello, this business is basically like my third child and it is very easy to feel defensive or protective) and often handles these situations with more understanding and grace than I am able to.
Therefore, this process for us is a win-win. Customers are happier, our supervisor is able to feel more intimately involved with our community, and I am able to spend my time and energy doing other things that are more crucial to the business.
Only having to dedicate time to 25% of all customer interactions frees up dozens of hours per week, not to mention a LOT of mental space and energy.
This energy and clarity now helps me come up with fun new events, revenue streams, and other initiatives which is really my “superpower” as a business owner.
I am so thankful that we have these boundaries in place so I can operate more in my “genius zone”.
Responding to comments and feedback isn’t the only task I delegate. I try and delegate any task that isn’t in my “genius zone” (tasks that I am good at & enjoy) to our supervisor or another team member.
For example, our supervisor, who is there in-person most days, takes care of all of our orders and communication with sales reps and ensures they get paid on time.
Since I am not physically present at our cafe often, placing orders used to take several hours because I would have to either go and take inventory OR have several rounds of back-and-forth communication with a team member to figure out what we needed.
It’s much more efficient to have someone who is there take a running list and place the order (and make the payments) themselves.
That way, I can review what we ordered, spent, and made at the end of each month and not at the end of every week, which isn’t a good use of the little time I have for that task.
Our supervisor is also able to have much more productive conversations with sales reps and analyze whether or not we should switch providers, since she is most hands-on with the day-to-day operations within the cafe.
If every decision or conversation would have to go through me-- that would cause a huge bottleneck and my inbox and calendar would definitely start to overwhelm me.
This is a good tip whether or not you have an introverted personality, but is especially important if you do.
Save your energy for interacting with your customers when it matters and when it lights you up-- don’t waste it on these more mundane tasks that can be better accomplished by your team.
This is just one example of a task that I delegate, but any time I am finding myself really dreading a task, putting something off, or dedicating way too much time towards something, I immediately take action steps to get that item off my plate and in the hands of someone better equipped to handle it.
One more task I delegate is anything that needs to be done on the phone. For some reason, phone calls take a LOT of my mental energy. From food orders to follow-ups, our supervisor handles the phone calls.
This is still something I constantly struggle with. As a small local business owner, I WANT to get my face and personality out there.
I want people to feel good about spending money at my facility and feel connected to me based on my core values and beliefs.
However, constantly putting my face out there can feel daunting and overwhelming.
Knowing I scheduled a “Facebook Live” can weigh on me for that entire day. While I love doing things like that occasionally, it definitely takes a lot of my mental and physical energy.
So even though I feel like allowing customers to get a “peek inside” of your life & business is crucial for modern-day marketing success, I want to challenge you to think outside the box.
For example, does it really need to be YOU behind the camera every single time.
What if, instead, you hopped on video once a month to make that connection, and allowed your team to take charge the rest of the time?
Something I am working on is empowering my team to be the “face” of our business more often. Because after all, they’re the ones our customers see when they walk through the doors!
So I have started allowing all of our team members to post to our social media channels and give customers that “behind the scenes” look they crave so that it does not rely entirely on me.
Not only do they LOVE having fun with social media, but our customers have been loving it as well!
Once you have gotten through your first few months of business ownership, I highly recommend owners taking full breaks often.
After reaching a “burn out” phase pretty early on myself, I now try to prevent that same thing happening to other business owners-- and especially my fellow introverts.
And I don’t mean just taking a physical break from working.
There are long-weekends where I will literally put an “out of office” message on my email and social media channels and just completely disconnect from the business, my team, and the customers.
This isn’t to say that I necessarily need or want a break from the people that support my business. After all, I appreciate them and could not make it a single day without them.
However, this “unplugged” time helps me to be a better leader and a better person-- to both my business community and my own family.
The time I spend unplugged also helps my team to have the time and space to learn and make their own decisions, which is crucial for their growth.
I found that early on in my business when I was micromanaging every single task, my employees were constantly frustrated and felt like they weren’t valued as individuals (information I got from conducting “exit interviews”-- which I highly recommend)!
They felt like they didn’t have any control over their day-to-day job and weren’t making a difference.
This actually shocked me because I had assumed that they appreciated how “hands-on” and involved I was-- but it turns out that this behavior ruined the company morale.
So now there are at least a few days a week where I am completely “off”-- and I plan more extended vacations often.
I always come back from these breaks recharged, energized, and with new exciting ideas to implement-- which helps to keep moving the business forward.
In addition to taking time off, I am also cognizant of how I am spending that time. Since I have two young children, we are often “out and about” going to events and amusement parks and doing fun activities.
However, as an introvert, if I do too much of these activities I quickly get exhausted.
Therefore, I try to plan as much as possible in advance so that I can also work in things that restore my energy.
For example, I am sure to keep my exercise time as sacred. I love being along with my headphones and just sweating to the music. It’s something that centers me when I am feeling overwhelmed.
So I don’t treat exercising as a “nice to have” luxury when time allows-- I treat it as a crucial task that is necessary for my overall (physical and mental) health.
Remember-- as the visionary of your business-- you need to be well and you need to be rested.
Taking care of your own needs isn’t selfish, it’s smart and it’s necessary.
What are some things you, likely a fellow introvert, do to recharge? Do you have any other tips? Let me know in the comments!