Welcome to the third of an ongoing interview series where we’ll be meeting other introverts in business who have found their own unique version of success.
Today on the blog we have Rebecca Wheatley, Founder and Managing Director of Five Brand Communication. I first connected with Rebecca on Twitter and was immediately drawn to her dedication to helping others find their voice through authentic communication – something that is hugely important in this world where information is so readily available.
Rebecca has worked in communications for many years now and I’ve really enjoyed learning how she manages her energy in this busy role while using her introvert strengths to develop relationships that are built to last.
1) Can you give a brief intro to you and your business. What do you do day-to-day?
I’ve been running a communications business in Switzerland for 3 years and recently relocated back to the UK. Since returning I’ve been working on taking my comms business online as the UK market is very different. I’m also in the process of launching a new venture with a co-founder which focuses on developing corporate talent to become more customer and business focused.
Day-to-day I switch between meetings, skype calls with my business partners in Switzerland and developing relationships, content and material for my second venture. I spend (far too much) time on e-mails and organisation, as well as trying to keep up with social media and business development. It’s varied, tough and draining at times!
2) When did you know for sure you were an introvert and what does that really mean to you?
After working in the corporate HR environment for a few years I started to understand what introversion was. I had always struggled with managing my energy, particularly in the operational recruitment roles of my early career as they are very demanding on time and you are working with multiple stakeholders – clients, candidates and external partners. I was always tired and I travelled a lot though I enjoyed that for the head space. I often wondered why I was like that.
I really identified as an introvert when I did a team Myers Briggs profile. I came out as INFP – Introvert, Intuition, Feeling and Percieving – the exact opposite to the standard ‘communications’ profile. As I am friendly and can interact well with people, the team didn’t buy into the fact that I was actually an introvert. It opened up the conversation that it’s about where I get my energy and what the drains are. By having more understanding myself, I was more able to communicate to others why it’s important for me to have flexibility. I started working from home one day a week to counteract the travelling and contact time. It was a revelation!
For me it means knowing that I need a lot of time alone to recharge, more maybe than others, to stay mentally and physically fit and perform at my best. I started to do more of the things I know I love. Writing, art, reading and exercise are like breathing to me – my most natural fit. So I started to make time for those, therefore for me.
3) How has being introverted helped you in your business?
The biggest benefit I have seen in my business from being an introvert is my ability to build what I call ‘slow-burn’ relationships. I have always done this, I just didn’t realise what it was. I don’t go all-out on relationship building, I take my time and build them through consistent interactions that suit my personality and that builds trust. I have started to realise, 18 years into my working life, that the relationships I built over 10 years ago are still going strong.
I don’t have a lot of contact with those people, but when it makes sense I can tap into that huge network as somehow they seem to know I am trustworthy and genuine. I really do put this down to being an introvert. It avoids overkill, overpromising and over selling yourself. People instead see your skills through your outcomes and results.
4) What challenges do you face when running a business as an introvert and how do you manage them?
The main one is business development and creating new relationships necessary to fill a sales pipeline. I actually enjoy business development, but my way is so much slower than fellow entrepreneurs. I often look at others and wish I was more like them. They seem to be ‘go-go-go’, always doing; whilst I often feel that I spend a lot of time thinking.
This has made me a great strategist, I take everything in, I reflect, I clarify and when I do finally have something to offer, it makes sense. This means, pricing aside, that when I pitch for business I have a high level of engagement.
The best way to manage this is to accept it. I accept that it will take me a lot longer to build a business, but it will be built on solid foundations if it is an offer that people want. And I accept that I need time to reflect, so I communicate that and find that most, if not all people, find that comforting.
Some days, I don’t want to talk on the phone or answer emails. I have learnt to manage that by prioritising and accepting that on those days I can probably do other things. Managing my time and energy together has been a tough journey but I feel now that I can do it in a way that doesn’t impact my clients, outcomes or myself.
5) How do you care for yourself and maintain your energy levels?
Swimming is a big thing, as is writing a journal. When things seem a bit much, writing them down really helps to get them out of my head and free up my mental energy. Also, managing meeting times. I know I need a couple of hours in the morning to ready myself for the day, so I don’t book any meetings until 10am if I can help it. Then I can be clear and focused before I start interacting and filling my head with more things to think about!
I also try to leave one day a week free from meetings and open to whatever needs to be done. At the moment I’m in a business transition stage so that is easier. When I’m heavily into client interaction, it’s vital.
6) What is your favourite form of self-expression?
Writing and art of all kinds. Also, I learnt German when I lived in Switzerland and found the language helps me to communicate more directly and succinctly. It sounds a bit strange, but that really helps as I don’t think introverts thrive with ambiguity in communication. So for me, that’s also a form of self-expression.
7) What advice would you give someone who is worried that their introversion will hold them back?
You can’t change it so there’s no point, you’d be fighting a losing battle. Understand it, live your life how you want to and the right opportunities in which you will thrive will come. I’m all for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone but it needs to be carefully managed.
I have become much more social and communicative since I accepted my introversion. It frees you from trying and instead you can just do. Being open about it is useful – though using the word introvert isn’t that useful as people associate it with being anti-social, shy or self-absorbed. I’m none of those things. I just don’t have time for meaningless interactions. It’s all about self-confidence, clarity and action.
To find out more about Five Brand Communication and connect with Rebecca, head here.