Five flaws that could be your biggest strength in business

NatWest Business Builder: Self Awareness
© Getty Images
© Getty Images

It takes a certain set of qualities to be a great entrepreneur, but not all of them are what you might expect. Here, we speak to SME owners about the personal ‘flaws’ that have aided their success.

Characteristics that some people might see as flaws could actually serve you and your business well, providing you know how to use them properly. Below are five prime examples of business-friendly flaws and a little insight from those who’ve used them to their advantage.

1. Stubbornness

Stubbornness is a trait most people try to avoid in their personal relationships, but as a business owner it could help to keep you on the right track.

Keith McNiven is the founder of London-based personal training company Right Path Fitness and has no problem admitting his flaw. “I find it hard to accept when I’m wrong and when I make a plan, I want to see it through no matter what,” he says. “Being stubborn isn’t something I’d put at the top of my social profiles, but it has definitely helped me to develop my business.”

In particular, McNiven’s one-track determination led him to take bigger risks when he started out. “Not content with starting a new business, I also decided that I’d move to London and set it up there,” he says. “It was really hard at first because I knew virtually no one and had left all of my useful fitness contacts back in the north, but my stubbornness saw me through. I was absolutely determined that I was going to make the business work and see through my original plan – and in the end I did.”

2. Introversion

You’d be forgiven for assuming that to be successful in business, you need to be confident and outgoing. After all, self-promotion means putting yourself out there and talking to people. But according to entrepreneur Barry Moore, being introverted needn’t be a barrier as long as you play to your own strengths.

Moore’s Guildford-based holiday agency Party Hard Travel recently announced triple-digit growth for the third year in a row, and he’s confident that his own quiet nature has contributed to the company’s success so far.

“When I was younger, I used to hate being introverted,” he says. “My social skills always seemed behind everyone else’s. I was normally the kid in the corner who wouldn’t say a word to anyone. I used to think it was a huge flaw.

“But looking back at it, the experience I had to go through was amazing because it enabled me to accept being different to the crowd. Rather than being a social person it allowed me to develop other skills.

“I read and study a huge amount, and that’s something the extrovert people I know really struggle with. I’d rather sit behind a computer and play around with numbers than be out and about speaking to people. I really enjoy those behind-the-scenes jobs that a lot of people don’t enjoy doing. This enables us to improve Party Hard Travel and continue to grow and expand.”

3. Obsession

In most areas of life, being obsessed could be considered a negative thing, but in business it often translates as determination – a trait that’s synonymous with success.

That’s certainly the case at West Sussex-based IT firm Ingenica Solutions. “I have been described as a perfectionist, obsessive, determined and competitive and while I would sometimes argue about those descriptions, I have been guilty of them all in the process of starting a business,” says the company’s founder and chief operating officer, Nicola Hall.

“Being stubborn isn’t something I’d put at the top of my social profiles, but it has definitely helped me to develop my business”
Keith McNiven, founder, Right Path Fitness

“But I feel those traits are part of why Ingenica Solutions has been successful; I have been obsessed with the business and utterly determined to make it a success – we’ve just had to make sure that’s all tempered with a bit of fun and humour.”

4. Impatience

No entrepreneur wants to wait for their company vision to become reality, but it can take years of hard work to even get close. One business owner who’s found a positive use for his own impatience is Richard Hayes, CEO and co-founder of online broker Mojo Mortgages.

“In some instances, my impatience has had a detrimental effect on my business,” he says, “but it has also driven me to innovate more quickly, because it just wasn’t feasible to wait for the scale of innovation that I wanted when I started and still want now.”

Hayes found a match for his impatience in a product development team that he says has been crucial to the company’s success. “I realised I could turn my flaw to my advantage after I was introduced to product development,” he explains.

“After realising the opportunity that developing our technology would bring, I knew immediately that working with a product development team would suit my impatience, in that I could effectively deliver through them.”

Asked what advice he’d give other flawed entrepreneurs, Hayes says: “It’s important to ensure that your flaws – in my case impatience – never have a negative impact on customer experience.”

5. Cautiousness

Impatience might be conducive to success for some, but a cautious nature serves Sarah Watkinson-Yull – founder and creative director of London-based retailer Yull Shoes – well, especially when it comes to money.

“I am overly cautious with credit,” she says. “I turn down orders from companies I am uneasy about as not being paid, or even being paid late, can have a huge impact on cash flow. I would rather not have the order in the first place.”

Watkinson-Yull’s cautiousness has helped her build a successful brand in an unquestionably busy sector, and it’s not the young entrepreneur’s only useful flaw: “I nag a lot,” she says. “My pet hate is when I ask someone to do something and it doesn’t get done, but me being constantly on top of everything and everyone means nothing gets forgotten.”

Further Reading


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