If you’re reading this, you’re probably an entrepreneur or interested in becoming one. There are many compelling reasons to forge your own work path, and I invite you to take a moment to think about yours. What outcome are you looking for? What strengths do you bring to the table?
My partner and I have built our business around questions like these. We teach the Enneagram, a personality model that describes core motivations—the largely unconscious factors that drive our decision making and determine what we find most fulfilling. We’ve found that taking the time to know yourself better increases your awareness of the value you bring to your market and draw attention to areas where you need to grow. Here are three areas of self-knowledge that are helpful to consider on your business journey.
1: Know what motivates you
You want to spend your time on—and earn your money from—something you care about. If social justice gets you moving, you’d probably be happiest at the helm of a relevant enterprise. If your dream involves speaking to crowds, you might drag your feet if you try to found a one-on-one consulting business. Entrepreneurship requires a lot of energy, so you want to design a business that will meet your needs and feeds your passion. Taking some time to reflect on what motivates you can help you create your best-fit business.
2: Know your strengths
Having a good sense of your strengths can tip you off to the type of work that’s best suited to you. If you’re great at building relationships with people, let that permeate your business, whether through direct client work or B2B marketing. If you’re gifted at working with your hands, you can use that ability even if you’re in a seemingly unrelated field—how about sending beautifully crafted thank-you cards to valued customers? Incorporate your strengths into your marketing and your message. Once you have a good sense of how and where you bring the most value, you can play up those skills to make your business stand out!
3: Know your challenges
Honest self-examination reveals ways we can grow, and also points to our limits. Most businesses require skills beyond what we’re immediately able to provide. It’s in our best interest to develop some of these skills—especially when they represent areas we can grow as a person as well as an entrepreneur. Other times, it’s unrealistic, or simply not worth the time and effort. Knowing our challenges can help in making smart hiring and partnership decisions, and in structuring our business intelligently.
Below is a brief introduction to the nine Enneagram personality types and how they play out in an entrepreneurial context. This list is not meant as a thorough description of the types but as a starting point, a place to get you reflecting on your own motivations, strengths, and challenges in business.
Type One, the Reformer
Motivations: Ones are driven to make things better. Imagining a world more principled and perfect than the one we live in, they take steps to make this vision come true.
Strengths: Ones bring great integrity and commitment to their vision, whether it involves better organization of their clients’ households or justice for refugees. Responsible and conscientious, they excel at making sure the job is done right. At their best, businesses helmed by Ones exemplify the term “mission-driven.”
Challenges: Ones can struggle with perfectionism. We all have an inner critic, and for this personality type it’s extra loud. It can be a challenge for Ones not to expect too much from themselves–or from others.
Type Two, the Helper
Motivations: Twos are driven by interpersonal connection. They want to build close relationships with people and show their caring through acts of help and service.
Strengths: Empathetic Twos excel at bringing a personal touch to their endeavors. Many Twos are gifted at cultivating relationships with clients, partners, and employees. High-functioning Twos go the extra mile to show the people in their life how much they mean to them, and lend a hand when needed.
Challenges: Twos can focus so much on others’ needs that they lose touch with their own. Two entrepreneurs benefit from prioritizing self-care—they have more energy to connect with others when their own needs are met.
Type Three, the Achiever
Motivations: Success and validation are strong motivators for Threes. This personality type finds satisfaction in working toward goals and contributing value.
Strengths: Adaptable Threes are able to quickly assess others’ desires and make changes accordingly, creating a natural affinity for marketing and presentation. Achievers are hard-working, motivated, and efficient. At their best, they bring their true selves to their work and excel at inspiring others with their message.
Challenges: Stressed Threes may be tempted to take shortcuts or overwork to get results. Learning when not to “do” and how to honor their own integrity is important for this type.
Type Four, the Individualist
Motivations: Fours are motivated by self-expression. They want to stand out—to have a clear sense of who they are, distinct from others—and be true to that sense of self in their business.
Strengths: Fours bring a creative touch to their enterprises. They may create unique products or distinctive designs, drawing inspiration from their emotions and imagination. High-functioning Fours can attune to the emotions of their clients and empathize with their deepest challenges.
Challenges: The daily grind of business can be a challenge for Fours to sustain. They benefit from creating structure and regularity in their work.
Type Five, the Investigator
Motivations: Fives want to understand the world in order to contribute from a place of competence. Seeking clarity, they focus closely on specific areas and attempt to master them.
Strengths: Gifted with curiosity and focus, Fives make natural experts. Their analytical minds allow them to take in vast amounts of information, make new connections, and innovate. High-functioning Fives bring an objectivity and eye for detail that allow for perceptive problem solving.
Challenges: Dealing with people does not come naturally to reserved Fives. They benefit from learning how to connect with others without becoming overwhelmed.
Type Six, the Loyalist
Motivations: Sixes seek the security of a sure thing–a venture that will prove stable and reliable. They value loyalty in those they work with and cultivate it in themselves.
Strengths: Naturally collaborative, Sixes lead from within a group, inspiring equality and collegiality. Once committed to a venture, they put in the hard work to see it through. High-functioning Sixes are courageous advocates for people and causes they care about, and gifted troubleshooters.
Challenges: Sixes worry about negative outcomes and focus on how to avoid them. They benefit from thinking about how to optimize their chances of success, rather than minimize their chances of failure.
Type Seven, the Enthusiast
Motivations: Sevens are driven by possibility. Entrepreneurship may attract them with the promise of freedom and novelty, and they’re often drawn to starting new ventures.
Strengths: Sevens bring joy and liveliness to their ventures. Clients may love their sense of fun. Quick-moving and engaging, they may be proficient in several areas, which they’re able to combine in exciting ways. At their best, their positivity keeps them resilient—if one thing doesn’t work out, they’re willing to try another.
Challenges: New possibilities catch Sevens’ attention easily. Their challenge is to learn when to commit to the enterprise at hand rather than pursuing the next big thing.
Type Eight, the Challenger
Motivations: Eight make natural entrepreneurs because they’re drawn to positions of power. They’re driven to make a big impact and ensure their survival in a tough world.
Strengths: Street-smart Eights have an eye for working the market and making things happen. Commanding a room comes naturally to them. High-functioning Eights exhibit courage and leadership, and are able to empower others as well as themselves.
Challenges: Eights don’t always realize how strongly they come off to others, and may unwittingly intimidate people. It helps them to notice how much energy they’re putting into interactions, and learn when to dial it down.
Type Nine, the Peacemaker
Motivations: Nines want to feel a sense of unity and connection with their world. They are driven to create harmony and find common ground.
Strengths: These patient personalities are gifted at seeing both sides of an issue and guiding others toward consensus. Even in fraught situations, high-functioning Nines have a knack for putting others at ease. They can create relaxing business environments in which everyone feels comfortable and included.
Challenges: Nines can struggle to access their own will and make tough decisions. They benefit from practicing assertiveness, and gaining comfort with actions that may rock the boat but move their business ahead.
No matter what your personality type is, your business will benefit from time spent on self-reflection followed by directed action. Are there subtle ways you can restructure your strategy to play to your strengths? Are there small steps you can take to mitigate your challenges? Now that you know a little more about yourself, what can you do to make your business thrive?
Melanie Bell is an Enneagram Institute Authorized Teacher who works with organizations, groups, and individuals to facilitate communication and mindful collaboration. Learn more at BerghoefBell.com.