ADHD entrepreneur & business owner; how it works for me | Phil Drinkwater

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ADHD entrepreneur & business owner; my amazing journey, and how I made ADHD work for me.

Hey, I'm Phil, a successful and happy 7-figure online business owner turned business coach, who has ADHD.

My business now mostly runs itself with a fantastic team, and I help and support ADHD entrepreneurs & business owners who want to succeed.

Here's my story.

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Early life and education to degree level in computer science.

In my early years, it was picked up that I was highly creative and numerical, and very academic.

I was the first child at school to real-write. I was the first to be allowed to us a pen, rather than a pencil. And, at 6, I got to 131,072 in a “multiplication by 2” challenge, whereas the class stopped at 256.

However, I didn’t always feel like I fitted in anywhere, which led to me preferring the company of computers.

Communication with other children was somewhat difficult for me, and I wasn’t particularly popular. I felt, even back then, there was something different about me.

I started programming at 8, and I loved the combination of creativity and challenge, both of which are key needs for me. They gave my ADHD brain plenty of stimulation.

My eldest brother was studying computers at uni and my parents bought the family a computer. 

I eventually studied computer science at university. I started strong, but boredom hit me, and I struggled to attend lectures.

I would avoid lectures as much as possible. In fact, I got the notes for an entire subject (parallel processing) the night before the exam, somehow managed to learn it, and got a 2.1 in the subject.

But as programming was important, I got the highest mark for my final year project that the uni had ever offered, though.

My programming project (realistic rendering of trees) had fascinated me, and I worked incredibly hard. I would look at trees in a new way, and developed a set of language extensions to allow me to represent them more effectively.

You can still see some reference to it here.

Free videos – my 5 best ADHD business tips.

Early ADHD struggles with dull programming and project management.

When I finished my computer science degree I couldn’t imagine writing something as boring as databases. 

My brain just couldn’t handle the idea that I’d be writing database statements every day for the rest of my life. When you’re young you don’t always think you’ll progress.

But anyway, I decided that it wasn’t for me.

In reality, this was my ADHD side showing me that it couldn’t cope with the boring repetition that would come from what I saw as unchallenging work.

I didn’t know at the time, but I was recognising how my brain worked, on an intuitive level. I knew even then I wasn’t going to be able to keep going. I’d get too bored.

I decided to work in the computer games industry, because it seemed to offer me all of the challenges and creativity that I craved.

I loved programming games, and would hyper-focus late into the night, working on a new system. It was a very happy time, although I over-worked myself ridiculously. 

You can see the first game I worked on – Deathtrap Dungeon – on YouTube.

But after a very successful programming career, I moved into project management, which my ADHD brain totally hated … basically, it was admin with zero creativity.

Initially I was excited to be managing projects, but I quickly realised that mostly it was admin. I wasn’t creative any more. I was incredibly bored. 

I needed challenge and creativity again. 

It was then I decided to start a business…

Starting my online business as an undiagnosed ADHD founder.

So! I decided to move into the online world, which was just getting going, along with my brother. We setup a website in the online market. I handled tech and marketing, he handled sales and commercial.

ADHD individuals often love something new – something novel – above everything else, and I was captivated by the opportunities offered by SEO, HTML and Perl (a popular programming language).

We both had a fair amount of experience, but neither of us had run our own businesses. 

Starting a business isn’t easy. Typically, you bounce around looking for something that works – especially if what you’re producing has never been done before.

We did discover what the market wanted, and we found significant success. The company grew, along with the amount of people we employed.

My ADHD brain thrived on the constant challenge. I felt like I could go in any direction with a business, and that appealed.

It was exciting every day to work on our own business. We solved and conquered challenges and our success continued to grow.

Some ADHD entrepreneurship and business articles that might help you

Business growth with ADHD focus challenges and impulsivity.

But there were hard times too. My ADHD brain craved constant new challenges and I couldn’t always focus on what the business needed.

It’s very common for ADHD individuals to be amazing at the start of a project, but to struggle as it moves into the mid and end phases. I’d found the same with programming and project management. 

Even the extra “motivation” of increased financial success wasn’t enough to push me to work on boring and repetitive tasks.

I tended to shift around from task to task, but fortunately by that time the business was profitable and well staffed, and I was able to work mostly on the top level without needing to deal with the detail.

Having achieved a level of success, I could choose what I wanted to do. We had a team of developers and some online marketers by that point, so I could lead the direction from the front.

That’s an ideal place for an ADHD founder to find themselves in, and how I suggest many run their businesses.

It was then I realised how I was as a person. I didn’t know it was called ADHD, but I did know what my brain thrived on, and what it disliked.

Sometime around this time, I started to become more aware of my traits. I knew there were some tasks that I loved, and others I didn’t. However, others didn’t have the same likes and dislikes.

I was different.

At the time I remember feeling bad giving tasks I would dislike to others, thinking they were just masking their dislike. But in reality their minds worked differently. They didn’t hate these tasks at all.

Within the business and its needs, I started to feel somewhat constricted, and I fell into something of a mild depression.

While I had something of a free reign to do whatever I wanted, they still had to be within the confines of the business, and that began to weigh heavily on me.

There's little more satisfying than growing a business, in my opinion.

And ADHD makes it both easier and harder at the same time.

The difficult and plateau years.

Over the coming years, I found myself struggling between what I needed and what the business needed. I felt maybe there was something wrong with me, and I lacked motivation, or was lazy.

Having reconised there was something different about me, I wondered if I was an unmotivated person, but when I looked back I found times I was incredibly motivated.

I was starting to question what was really going on in my mind.

I found myself looking for stimulation in other areas of my life, and I discovered travel.

I became somewhat hooked on discovering new countries and experiencing different cultures. I was very happy.

Sadly, a recession happened and we had a significant hit from Google, and the next three years were a financial struggle. But I still struggled to complete dull tasks.

Even with everything we’d worked for on the line, my mind would still reject repetitive and unchallenging tasks.

I now realise that many ADHD people are wholly motivated by stimulation.

From there, the business entered something of a plateau phase. Even though we tried to move it forward, it felt like we were treading water.

After the worst has passed, the business somewhat stagnated, and I did too.

A new challenge was needed and I made a switch to running an online marketing agency ... which I hated.

I recognised at that time I needed change. I had stagnated as a person and I was tired of working on tasks I didn’t find challenging or interesting.

I had been working in the business for 15 years at this stage, and nothing was new any more. It felt like we were creeping forward. It was becoming dull.

Given I had a huge amount of SEO and website knowledge, I decided to move toward running an agency for myself.

So I decided to move on and leave the business in good hands, and try my hand at running an online marketing agency.

But I hated it. My poor working memory made it hard to switch projects, and I disliked writing notes. My unique ADHD brain was making this difficult.

I’m very grateful that I tried this. I love to work with marketing agencies as a business coach today. However, I also learned that ADHD made this role challenging for me too.

This isn’t the case with all ADHD people. We’re all unique.

So I moved to business coaching, which my ADHD totally loves!

It was then I worked with my own business coach on who I was, and what I wanted. While they missed that I was ADHD, it was clear that I had interest in their role.

I’m incredibly grateful that my own business coach spent time with me and allowed me to understand more of who I was and what I needed.

I made a somewhat impulsive decision to switch, but this time it felt OK. I’d always been interested in psychology and I had huge amounts of business experience.

The very quick shift to yet another idea was not supported by some of my friends. They felt I was just moving for the sake of it again. 

But I knew they were wrong this time.

The training was difficult, because I don’t do well with reading, but I finally became a certified coach, and started working on my own marketing. 

At nearly 50, and ADHD, sitting down and reading very dull books is a struggle for me. I’ve always preferred to discover rather than learn. But the course was effective and I passed with flying colours.

Within 6 months, I was ranking highly in Google for some of the most competitive phrases, and bringing on customers.

I realised that I needed customers and decided that SEO made the most sense to me, since it can provide customers with no requirement to post on social media every day, which my ADHD side dislikes.

Discovering I'm ADHD.

It was around this time that I was exposed to ADHD as a concept, and I realised I wasn’t lazy, just neurodiverse. 

I’m incredibly grateful that my own business coach spent time with me and allowed me to understand more of who I was and what I needed.

Suddenly my whole life made sense.

I realised there were so many events in my life which were partly or completely dictated by my ADHD, and particularly so in my business interests.

Looking back, I wish I’d found out about my neurodiversity earlier. I would have been kinder to myself through the years.

It’s very common for ADHD people to be hard on themselves. This creates personality adaptations like avoidance and perfectionism.

But I’m grateful too, since I’m now one of the worlds leading business and entrepreneur coaches for ADHD individuals.

I wake up and I love what I do. I have a programme that I’m developing to offer neurodiverse individuals even more support and help.

Is ADHD holding you back from business and entrepreneurial success?

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