How the DISC Behavioral Model Can Help Solopreneurs

From the archives: this post originally was published on March 24, 2011.

DISC is a behavioral model based on the work of Dr. William Moulton Marston (1893–1947) to examine the behavior of individuals in their environment or within a specific situation.

I was introduced to this system recently. I haven’t studied it in great depth yet, but I plan to because I think it gives us as solopreneurs a framework for understanding ourselves, our clients, and our collaborators.

DISC also can help us:

• Identify our weaknesses

• Identify growth areas

• Identify our fears

• Explain our motivations

(I would love to know where successful solopreneurs tend to be on this matrix, or do solopreneurs defy behavioral generalizations?)

DISC Details

The DISC assessments classify four aspects of behavior by testing a person’s preferences in word associations. DISC is an acronym for:

Dominance—relating to control, power and assertiveness

Influence—relating to social situations and communication

Steadiness—relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness

Conscientiousness—relating to structure and organization

The DISC Behavioral Model
These four dimensions can be grouped in a grid with “D” and “I” in the top row and representing extroverted aspects of personality, and “C” and “S” below representing introverted aspects.

“D” and “C” share the left column and represent task-focused aspects, and “I” and “S” share the right column and represent social aspects.

In this matrix, the vertical dimension represents a factor of “Assertive” or “Passive”, while the horizontal dimension represents “Open” vs. “Guarded”.

Here are characteristics of the four DISC categories.


People who score high in the intensity of the D styles factor are very active in dealing with problems and challenges. High D people are described as: confident, goal-driven, determined, decisive, results-oriented, makes own rules, assertive, hard-working, focused, controlling, risk-taking, direct, adventuresome, self-assured, forceful. Example: airline pilots.

While analyzing information, a High D may: Ignore potential risks. Not weigh the pros and cons. Not consider others’ opinions. Offer innovative and progressive systems and ideas.

D’s possess these positive characteristics in teams: Great in crisis. Self-reliant. Innovative in getting results. Maintain focus on goals. Specific and direct. Overcome obstacles. Provide direction and leadership. Push group toward decisions. Willing to speak out. Generally optimistic. Welcome challenges without fear. Accept risks. See the big picture. Can handle multiple projects. Function well with heavy work loads.


People with high scores here influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional. They are described as: cheerful, optimistic, talkative, inspiring, interactive, recognition-oriented, enthusiastic, “life of the party,” gregarious, sociable, persuasive, self-promoting.

While analyzing information, a High I may: Lose concentration. Miss important facts and details. Interrupt. Be creative in problem solving.

I’s possess these positive characteristics in teams: Instinctive communicators. Motivate the team. Spontaneous and agreeable. Respond well to the unexpected. Create an atmosphere of well being. Enthusiastic. Provide direction and leadership. Express ideas well. Work well with other people. Make good spokespersons. Will offer opinions. Persuasive. Have a positive attitude. Accomplish goals through people. Good sense of humor. Accepting of others. Strong in brainstorming sessions.


People with high S styles scores want a steady pace, security, and do not like sudden change. High S individuals are described as: quiet, easy-going, dependable, neat, efficient, supportive, submissive, shy, loyal, family oriented, stable, detail-oriented, patient, amiable, predictable, serene, team-player. Example: technical directors for stage productions.

While analyzing information, a High S may: Be openly agreeable but inwardly unyielding. Internalize their concerns and doubts. Hesitate to share feedback during presentation. Slow down the action. Provide valuable support for team goals.

S’s possess these positive characteristics in teams: Instinctive relaters. Participative managers – accomplish goals through personal relationships. Make others feel like they belong. Show sincerity. Can see an easier way of doing things. Focused and intuitive about people and relationships. Full of common sense. Buy into team goals. Dependable. Identify strongly with the team. Strive to build relationships. Provide stability. Consider elements of a total project. Realistic and practical. Even-tempered. Provide specialized skills. Show patience with others. Loyal.


People with high C styles adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High C individuals are described as: orderly, introverted, perfectionist, competent, concerned, careful, critical, analytical, contemplative, detail-oriented, slow to change, accurate, diplomatic, systematic.

While analyzing information, a High C may: Become overly cautious and conservative. Get too bogged down in details. Avoid or postpone decisions, especially if they perceive a risk. Be an effective trouble shooter.

C’s possess these positive characteristics in teams: Instinctive organizers. “Do it yourself” managers – create and maintain systems. Strive for a logical, consistent environment. Control the details. Conscientious. Evaluate the team’s progress. Ask important questions. Maintain focus on tasks. Offer conservative approaches. Emphasize quality. Think logically. Will share risks and responsibilities. Work systematically. Will strive for consensus. Diplomatic. Analyze obstacles.

Have You Used DISC?

What do you think of DISC? There are a lot of DISC resources on the market; are there any you recommend? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sources: DISC Insights; “Emotions of Normal People”

21 Things We Love and Hate About Being Solopreneurs (in GIFs)

In a typical day, how many times do you swing back and forth between loving the stuff you’re working on and hating it? Two times? Ten times? Fifty times? I’ve never kept track, but I know there can be a lot of love/hate for me, even within an hour.

But that’s the nature of the work. And it’s why we love the solopreneur life — it’s never dull and it’s seldom predictable.

With that, let’s look at 21 things we love and hate about being solopreneurs.

1. You LOVE Not Having This Guy As Your Boss


2. You HATE Your Inner Taskmaster


3. You LOVE Coming Up With Brilliant Ideas


4. You HATE When Your Ideas Don’t Work

marketing sucks

5. You LOVE Getting Paid


6. You HATE When an Account Goes Past 60 Days

soprano nobody talk

7. You LOVE Being Productive

carrey productive

8. You HATE When Your Computer Crashes


9. You LOVE Whipping the Competition


10. You HATE Anxiety Attacks

spongebob scared

11. You LOVE Feeling Appreciated For Who You Are


12. You HATE When Nobody’s RT’ing Your Tweets


13. You LOVE Landing a New Client


14. You HATE When Your Biggest Client Dumps You


15. You LOVE Being Your Own Boss


16. You HATE When Your Website Breaks

computer died

17. You LOVE Your Staff

dog paper

18. You HATE Being Bone Tired and Working Against a Deadline


19. You LOVE When Criticism Rolls Off Your Back


20. You HATE When Your Kids Have a Day Off From School


21. You LOVE It When a Plan Comes Together


To Remain Connected to Your Market, Be Like a Parent of Young Children

My wife says our kids make us smart. She means that our daughters make us aware of things in the world that we otherwise would know nothing about.

For example, when our girls were small we became very familiar with a parallel universe of:

Safety: outlet plugs, edge and corner guards, bathtub seats, back-facing car seats, baby monitors, water wings.

Books: When Hippos Go Berserk, Moo Baa La La La, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, We’re Going On a Bear Hunt, Pigs Aplenty Pigs Galore (my favorite).

Entertainment: The Wiggles, Blue’s Clues, Veggie Tales, Dora the Explorer, Teletubbies, Jimmy Neutron, Spongebob (actually, our daughters still watch Spongebob).

Clothing: Gymboree stuff was awesome; it was comfortable, cute, and durable.

If I returned today to the land of little people, I would be clueless about nearly everything. Well, maybe not totally clueless; some things undoubtedly have endured.

Our markets can be similar. When we are immersed in the world of our buyers, we not only know what their needs are, but we can anticipate what they will require in the future.

But if we become detached, or think we know everything there is to know about our niche/market, we lose sight of our buyers and don’t understand their pain. Revenue eventually slides.

As you continue your continue your solopreneurial journey, consider what it’s like to be a parent of young children. Figuratively get on the floor with your market and play, teach, ask questions, listen, learn.

Why Do People Buy?

As solopreneurs, we often focus on customer characteristics but in the process we fail to figure out what’s inside our customers’ heads.

In his book, The Sales Bible: The Ultimate Sales Resource, Jeffrey Gitomer lists reasons why people buy products and services:

• To solve a problem

• They need it

• They think they need it

• To get a competitive edge

• To save money or to be more efficient

• To eliminate mistakes

• To feel good

• To show off

• To change a mood

• To solidify a relationship

• They were talked into it

• It sounded too good to refuse

• They got a great deal (or thought they did)

Gitomer writes: “I’m way more interested in buyers’ philosophies than their characteristics. But I can only get to their philosophy if I recognize and understand their traits. If you’ve uncovered their ‘type’ but you’ve said something that they’re philosophically opposed to, you’re dead.”

What do you think of Gitomer’s list? Would you add anything to it?

The Secret to Success in Negotiating

My 14-year-old daughter is The World’s Toughest Negotiator. (Consider yourself forewarned.) She’s held the title for the past 12 years. I think she’d be a magnificent Hollywood agent, and as of last week she wants to attend UCLA and major in psychology.

What’s the secret to her negotiating success?

It’s simple: she asks for what she wants and doesn’t stop asking until she gets it,.

But it doesn’t always work. On Saturday night, for example, she wanted to stay at the county fair until 11 p.m. — our curfew for the fair is 10 p.m. She sent me multiple texts and called me twice, but I didn’t budge. I picked her up at 10 and on the way home in the Jeep, she continued: “Why couldn’t I stay until 11? All my friends were staying. I wasn’t hanging out with bad kids. Give me a good reason.”

“Nothing good happens after 10 o’clock,” I said.

“Nothing bad happens either,” she said. I laughed.

When we got home, my wife received the same line of questioning.

“You owe me a good reason,” daughter said.

“No I don’t,” my wife said.

Finally, our daughter gave up.

And you’re not always going to get what you want in a negotiation. But you’ll rarely — if ever — get what you want if you accept the first “no.”

The next time you’re in a negotiation, remember my daughter. Let me know how you did.

How Narrow (or Broad) Should a Solopreneur’s Niche Be?

There’s a lot of discussion about how narrow a solopreneur’s niche business should be.

Seth Godin maintains that the secret to being the best in the world is to make the “world” smaller, i.e. to narrow your niche.

He tells the story of Alan Scott, who was the best artisan pizza-oven builder in the world. “It was a niche that didn’t exist before, but it spread, it engaged people, it created a tribe that supported him. Alan was passionate about his craft and wasn’t shy about sharing it. He trained others and turned it into a movement.”

Godin says: “It’s entirely possible that you will choose a niche that’s too small. But it’s much more likely you’ll shoot for something too big and become overwhelmed. When in doubt, overwhelm a small niche.

But your niche must be broad enough to support your business. Your niche is too narrow if there’s not enough potential business for you to meet your revenue goals. Your niche is too broad when you don’t have a clear picture of who your customer is and what they want and need.

What About Your Niche?

I want to know about your niche. How narrow is it? Did you start wide and get narrow, or the other way around, or has your niche stayed the same? How did you find (or create) your niche? If you started over, what would you do differently? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

What About Your Niche Business?

If you need help identifying and building your niche business, complete the form below and I will be in touch soon.

No Solopreneur Ever Went Wrong…

For many years I have enjoyed Matt Kramer’s column in Wine Spectator magazine. In the May 31, 2011 issue he wrote a piece titled “Nobody Ever Went Wrong.” Matt is talking about wine, of course, in this column, and he writes:

It seems a good — indeed, useful — exercise to see what truths might be extracted from this “nobody ever went wrong” formulation.

I think it works for our solopreneur lives, too, so here we go.

No solopreneur ever went wrong…

…Asking for help. The return on investment when we ask for help is extraordinary. If you don’t believe me, just try it and see what happens.

…Being honest.

…Saying they were sorry. We solopreneurs tend to be proud, headstrong perfectionists, so apologizing doesn’t always come easy for us. But when it’s sincere, the three words, “I am sorry,” are the strongest in the English language.

…Starting a blog. I think a blog is the number-one online method for solopreneurs to engage their customers/clients. The truth is that most consumers want to know what you’re thinking, want to hear your “voice,” and want your insight. A blog does that. If you have concerns about the sustainability of a blog, begin with a goal of posting once a month; you can always increase your frequency.

…Taking a day off. Most solopreneurs exist in a state of energy-, creativity-, and idea-deprivation. There’s no better way to refresh than to leave the grid, and free your mind. The work can wait 24 hours.

…Investing in an iPhone (or an equivalent), because smart phones leverage your most important asset: time.

…Tuning out the online advice. Much of the online small-business advice deals with tactics, not strategy. If you listen to too much tactical advice, you will end up chasing your tail. (There’s a golf analogy: players who read instructional articles eventually encounter contradictory advice. At some point you have to work with what you have and ignore the “experts.”)

…Firing a horrible client. The bottom line is bad clients hurt your business, and some can even cause irreperable harm. Cut the cord and don’t look back.

…I asked for help on Twitter and Kimberly Bates (@kimberlybates) said: “Taking action. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Taking action is the hardest part for everyone.”

…Taking a nap. If a daily nap was sacred for Winston Churchill, then it’s a good thing for you and me.

…Marketing locally. Having clients from around the world is cool, but local clients can help your sustainability, get you out of the office, and get you into your community. Face-to-face interaction is a good thing for us solopreneurs.

What Do You Think?

Share your wisdom in the comments below.

How To Decide Whether You Will Enjoy Working With a Prospective Client

These Are the Results of The Solopreneur Life’s
Crowdsourced Question #1

The Solopreneur Life Crowdsourced Question (the name just rolls of the tongue!) is a new, occasional feature for The Solopreneur Life. It’s kind of the like the “Person on the Street” feature that newspapers used to publish.

I’m hedging my bets and saying “occasional.” While I think crowdsourced articles are a great idea, I think their use is going to become very popular and possibly over-used, due to the advent of a tool called We’ll see. Plus, I don’t want to detract from the superb Q&A that Dr. Shannon Reece does on a weekly basis. She was doing this, and she does a superb job.

Onward to the results.

It’s seemingly part of the solopreneur how-to canon: “Work with people you like.” It sounds great and it makes sense; you didn’t beceome a solopreneur to work with clients that you hate, right? But as a solopreneur, how do you know if a prospect is someone you will enjoy? How do you determine that a person will be a good fit for you?

This is an extremely important question for us as solopreneurs, and it isn’t easy to answer. I am grateful to the six solopreneurs who accepted the challenge and shared their experience:

• Revka Stearns

• Nichole Bazemore

• Catherine Morgan

• Howard Ellison

• Becky Blanton

• Jim Sheard

Thank you for your insights! See their answers below.

6. Is There Enthusiasm?

I think the first key is to determine if the project is one you are looking forward to doing with enthusiasm. That enthusiasm should be based on: (1) your own ability to do it well, (2) the work itself is something you will enjoy, and (3) do you like, respect, and enjoy the client.

If you do not know the client well enough to determine if you like, respect, and enjoy them…you may not be ready to begin.

Thanks to Jim Sheard for participating.

How Do You Decide Whether to Work With Someone?

Please share your insight in the comments below.

How Do You Ask For the Sale

Click to answer The Solopreneur Life’s Crowdsourced Question #2: How do you ask for the sale?

How Do You Know Whether You’ll Enjoy Working With Someone?

It’s seemingly part of the solopreneur how-to canon: “Work with people you like.” It sounds great and it makes sense; you didn’t beceome a solopreneur to work with clients that you hate, right? But as a solopreneur, how do you know if a prospect is someone you will enjoy? How do you determine that a person will be a good fit for you?

Join the conversation and share your ideas with your fellow solopreneurs. I will publish the responses next week. It’s great PR for your business and it’s an effective way to network.

The time for responding to this question has ended. Click to read the responses.

(FYI, to collect your responses, I am using an online application called Dr. Shannon Reece told me about; she uses it to create a terrific “Question of the Week” feature on her Web site.)

Would Your Customers Elect You? How to Use Political Campaign Tactics to Connect With Your Customers

This article was written by Laura Petrolino, managing director of Flying Pig Communications, a communications and business consulting firm that focuses on the needs of startups, small businesses, and nonprofits. She also serves as Chief Communications Officer at Ignite Venture Partners, which brings together consulting, capital, and concept incubation to build value in businesses of all sizes and stages, and across industries.

Laura is an expert in the art of relationship management, and she guides entrepreneurs and executives at all levels on how to best cultivate their networks. The idea for this article arose from comments Laura made during this episode of The Solopreneur Life on BlogTalkRadio.

Because I started my career in politics, I am often asked how I made the transition from running campaigns for political candidates to business consulting. My simple answer to that echoes the wise words of Thomas Mann: “Everything is politics.” In fact, the longer I work in the business world, the more truth I discover in every corner of this statement.

Laura Petrolino

When you boil them down to their very essence, political campaigns are all about relationship building. A candidate must connect with his constituency and convince them that he, not only understand their needs but will also represent and lobby for them on a national or state level. To be a successful candidate you need to gain the trust and support of your constituents, reach them on their level, and convince them that their lives will be better with you than without you.

The same holds true for business. The following four “truths” for political campaigning can be applied to your business communication strategy.

Bring It Home

People don’t really care how what you do affects the sheep in Greenland or increases investments in Belize. Sure, maybe these things make good talking points for pundits and phrases for rabid protestors to put on picket signs…but in the end, the deciding point between you and your opponent is going to boil down to what YOU can do for THEM.

Always bring it home. Tell your customer how you are going to improve their lives, what needs you are going to meet, what desires you are going to fulfill.

Shake Hands and Kiss Babies

O.K., so maybe not literally since we don’t want any harassment suits (believe me, you don’t work in politics without seeing a few of those)…but the point here is to reach out and actually talk to your constituency. Communicate with them, listen to what they have to say, show them you care and that you (and your business) are “touchable.” People can’t believe in something they see as distant from themselves. Make them feel that you are there to listen, respond and improve.

Be Consistent

Consistency is everything in politics and business. People don’t trust something that is constantly changing or presenting itself in a different light. How often do you see politicians claiming that their opponents are waffling on the issues? They know that the quickest way to diminish trust in a voter is to show them that they can’t count on a candidate, that he is unpredictable at best and lacking integrity at worst.

Don’t be a waffler! Make sure your positioning and voice is consistent in every communication. Be certain that your theoretical and visual brand back each other up, instead of fight against each other. This is a common problem; don’t “tell” people one thing and “show” them something else. Consistency is key.

Give Ownership

If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that in smart campaigns, the emphasis is never on the word “I,” but on the word “we.”

“This is our country”

“Fighting for our future”

“We must work together to…”

Inclusive language is very important. It gives voters and customers a sense of control and ownership, a feeling that they are part of what you are trying to do and, therefore, their thoughts and insights matter. People are more than willing to support and (most importantly in this competitive landscape) be loyal to an organization they feel part of. In addition, they will spread your message for you, since they ultimately feel a part of your success.

So today the question you need to ask yourself is: would your customers elect you? What are you doing on a daily basis to win their support, trust, and loyalty?

You can Laura Petrolino on Twitter @lkpetrolino and @365startups.