ADHD Entrepreneurs: Make money from your unique mind

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ADHD & entrepreneurship fit together.
But why? And how can you benefit most from it?

ADHD Entrepreneurs: How to get the most from your amazing brain

ADHD is a popular topic today among Entrepreneurs. But why?

Stats suggest around 50% of entrepreneurs are ADHD

I know; I coach many of them in how to improve their businesses in an ADHD friendly manner. 

My own business has made $20Million sales, so I really know what it can do.

When you understand the key components of ADHD and entrepreneurship, you’ll understand why they’re such a great fit. Let’s examine the two and see how and why they match. 

Who are examples of famous and successful ADHD entrepreneurs?

Well, I’ve been fairly successful, but I’m certainly not famous. Alex Partridge, creator of Unilad, is ADHD, has been been successful and is better known than I am.

On the more famous end, Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Walt Disney are well know. Paris Hilton is also ADHD and has been a successful entrepreneur in her own right.

Is ADHD really a superpower?

Some people love to label ADHD as an entrepreneurial superpower. However, others don’t experience it that way.

Why is there such a difference of opinion in this?

It’s because ADHD can be both, and we are all unique in our personalities, our live experiences and our ADHD.

For me, I consider ADHD to be my superpower – overall. It propels me on with huge passion. I am incredibly innovative. However, it can be challenging when I inevitably become overwhelmed.

I’ve learned to handle all of this more successfully over the years since my diagnosis. 

But many people don’t like the superpower label, and that’s OK.

From their perspective, it may bring more challenges, especially where they are today.

 

There's never been an easier and yet more challenging time to be an Entrepreneur than right now, ADHD or not.

Let’s look at both sides of the equation, and particularly how these benefits and challenges might impact someone who is ADHD.

Benefit 1: You have access to learning and information that are vastly improved

When I started my business I remember buying a document about SEO that came from America (I’m UK based). It was a tatty printed document. 

Today you have quick access to all of the information you could ever want! 

But for ADHD people, remaining focused with all of this around us can be hard. Plus, we might become overwhelmed with the choices available, leading to indecision.

Benefit 2: Technology and tools are incredibly helpful!​

Entrepreneurs have access to a variety of advanced SAAS tools to help them manage themselves and their processes, and even AI to help them write and access information.

I personally use plenty of these – particularly AI which I find so useful as someone who is ADHD.

 

Benefit 3: Remote work is a genuine option today​

Entrepreneurs can work from anywhere today; from their bedrooms, or half way around the world as a digital nomad. 

This provides a clear benefit to startups who don’t have to take on additional costs, and ADHD entrepreneurs will have the ability to control their environment – such as lighting and sound. I personally struggle hugely with sound sensitivity.

 

Challenge 1: You're working in a saturated and increasingly global market​

There’s no doubt about it – globalisation and the internet is making it harder to get your voice heard. It used to be that marketing was to a much smaller set of people. Now it’s increasingly important to niche.

ADHD individuals are more often “glass half full” people, and the competition can be a challenge, especially if they’re poor at sales and marketing.

 

Challenge 2: Information overload is increasingly common​

With so much being thrown at us, handling the volume can be difficult for neurotypical people, never mind ADHD people who struggle with organising themselves and storing information in a useful manner to make retrieval simple.

 

Challenge 3: Rapid technology changes make it difficult to keep up​

As of writing this, ChatGPT has been out for over a year, but many people have still never used it.

This causes people to be further and further behind, and many ADHD entrepreneurs will struggle with anxiety due to this.

Our ADHD brains are often wired for Interest rather than Importance, so we find it difficult to work on what's really essential, today.

Why do ADHD and entrepreneurship fit together?

Let’s answer this question from the perspective of what is important to be a successful entrepreneur, and what are the needs and skills of ADHD individuals.

What makes a successful entrepreneur?

Key trait: Resilience

Above everything else, entrepreneurs need to be resilient. That means, when the going gets tough, we don’t give up.

ADHD people have typically experienced a significant amount of adversity in their lives. 

We have “failed” more times than we’d like to count, and yet we keep going back for more because we need these dopamine hit. While setbacks impact us heavily, emotionally, we still keep getting up and trying again. 

It’s in our DNA. 

Other important traits: Innovation, Passion, Optimism, Risk Taking.

What else? Entrepreneurs benefit from innovation and adaptability. We are incredibly creative – the phrase “out of the box thinking” might just have been written for us. We also love novel ideas, so we’re constantly seeking something new and that makes us incredibly adaptable.

Passion and optimism are additional key ingredients of entrepreneurship. It’s another element that ADHD people have in abundance. We hyper-focus on what we’re really interested in, so if we love the subject, we’re the most excited and passionate people around.

Risk taking is important too, and the impulsivity and resilience that many ADHD individuals possess can be incredibly useful in allowing us to see the future through the lens of “it will be successful”. In some ways we’re incredibly “glass half full”.

Are you starting to see why ADHD people make amazing Entrepreneurs?

What are the most common needs of ADHD individuals?

Let’s have a look at the fit the other way around, by considering what entrepreneurship gives back to us as people who are ADHD.

What is a need?

A need is something that’s desperately important to us; something we almost can’t live without.

You have needs like water and food, but also more complicated and psychological needs, like meaning, purpose, connection and freedom.

What are the needs of Entrepreneurs?

From discussions with hundreds of ADHD entrepreneurs I’ve found a clear pattern in the needs of the typical ADHD individual.

These typically include:

  • Freedom to choose; we desire the ability to make our own decisions, so we don’t get stuck doing mundane tasks. Also, we want to be with other people when we’re in the mood for us, but we might want time away too.
  • Community; many of us love to talk to people – although we often need our own space too.
  • Creativity; most of us love to be innovative and use our incredibly sparky brains to find new ways to achieve tasks.
  • Financial security; we desire security at some point, but we’re usually willing to do without it in the early days, in the optimistic desire to become financially independent.
  • Meaning; plenty of ADHD entrepreneurs are not motivated purely by money. We’d like a nice life, but challenge, contribution, learning, discovery, participation and purpose can be more important to us.
  • Stimulation; and now we get to the crux of it. We constantly need dopamine hits, and being our own boss allows us to get this however and whenever we want to. At least that’s the theory…
Entrepreneurship offers pretty much all of these, except for financial security in the early days.

So is this a match made in heaven, then? Yes... kind of.

Like any good relationship there are a few hiccups along the way. ADHD might come with many of the elements that entrepreneurship needs to thrive, but there are a few problems too. 

ADHD people can struggle with productivity, organisation, decision making, overwhelm, time management, low levels of focus, impulsivity .. and more besides. 

But if we can work differently, ADHD will be a winner.

Our brains don't track time well, so it can be difficult for us to be on time for meetings and deadlines.

How does ADHD impact your Entrepreneurial journey?

ADHD is unique to each of us; we each experience it differently

Your life experiences, and your unique brain wiring, changes how ADHD impacts you. We’ve already talked about the two different types of adhd. However, there are 12 known executive functioning challenges.

I’ve put them into a wheel. It signifies that your ADHD is different to everyone elses.

This wheel shows a “mythical ADHD entrepreneur” who finds planning / prioritising and time management most challenging, but also has significant challenge around attention / focus and goal-directed action.

This wheel allows you to plot your own ADHD challenges, to help you with decision making on which challenge to work on first.

Common ways that ADHD negatively impacts entrepreneurship

  1. You might generate a huge amount of business ideas and projects, but not take action on them.
  2. You might consistently underestimate the amount of time it takes to do tasks. 
  3. You could struggle to prioritise the tasks that you do have on your list.
  4. You might interrupt others when they’re talking, leading to difficultly in communication.
  5. You might overcommit to projects for customers or for your own teams.
  6. You could find it difficult to be consistent with your work speed or regular tasks that need actioning.
  7. You could find dull admin like expense claims a struggle to complete, leading to anxiety and avoidance.
  8. You might struggle with criticism and feedback, even when its in well meant or in your own best interests.
  9. You might find it hard to work toward long-term goals.
  10. You could regularly forget where you stored information, leading to a lack of organisation.

But let's be fair ... here's how ADHD positively impacts your path and achievement

  1. You might be are prone to sparks of genius and invent new things.
  2. When you love something, you have massive productivity and tend to hyper-focus.
  3. When you feel deeply passionate, you’re deeply motivational for yourself and your team.
  4. You’re might be able to pivot and think differently in challenging situations.
  5. You might be able see unique solutions to problems which seem simple to you, but lead others to amazement.
  6. You might be incredibly fun to work with, and your relentless energy might be contagious.
  7. You could be willing to take risks that others would not be willing to, due to your self-belief.
  8. You might find it easy to switch to new business ideas when the market changes.
  9. You might excel at networking, leading to industry connections others might struggle to achieve.
  10. Your natural intuition might lead you to effectiveness in marketing and sales. 

Our brains don't track time well, so it can be difficult for us to be on time.

Productivity & procrastination - the Achiles Heel for ADHD entrepreneurs

Why are you procrastinating?

If you read the quote earlier, you’ll understand that interest is key to most ADHD people, rather than importance.

Maybe this rings true for you?

“I need to do my expenses, but I want to research that new piece of software … so I’ll do my expenses another day.”

This would be a very common situation for ADHD individuals. Expenses are IMPORTANT but the new software is INTERESTING.

In the strictest sense, I'm procrastinating writing this article!

Looking through the list of my tasks, there are more important projects which need my attention than this one. 

However, I use writing as a chance for my brain to take a little break. It’s not very mentally taxing, so it gives me a little space from what is most important, but likely to be more of struggle for my executive functions.

What type of ADHD do you have, and why does it matter to your procrastination?

There are three main types of ADHD:

  • Predominantly Inattentive.
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive.
  • Combined – where there is an element of both.

Most people are combined type.

Procrastination in Inattentive type ADHD

People who are more Inattentive type might procrastinate more because:

  1. They find it hard to maintain focus on tasks that are mundane
  2. They might find it harder to break down and plan tasks
  3. They could struggle with starting tasks.

Procrastination in Hyperative-Impulsive type ADHD

Individuals who are more Hyperative-Impulsive type (the so-called naughty boys at school!) might procrastinate because:

  1. Their impulsiveness means they prefer tasks which have an immediate reward
  2. Their hyperactive nature leads to them having a tendency to jump from one task to another
  3. They find it hard to self-regulate, making it hard to stick to tasks that need sustained effort.

TLDR; ADHD people are natural procrastinators.

Moving from task to task can be a challenge for us since we may forget where we're up to, leading to procrastination.

Stop trying to be neurotypical! It doesn't work.

Nearly all ADHD entrepreneurs who arrive at my door are aiming to become more "neurotypically productive" somehow.

Procrastination is a word that we hear regularly today. Since we started to research it significantly in the 1970’s, we’ve understood it more.

The key questions to ask about procrastination is actually WHY.

WHY is this person choosing not to do some work that will have benefit to them. The reasons are broad and include elements such as indecision, fear, avoidance, discomfort … and ADHD. 

ADHD people are massive procrastinators due to the way their brains are wired. On the whole, we chase what’s interesting to us, and move away from what’s dull and mundane.

The desire to become more productive comes from seeing our Neurotypical Neighbours

If the world was made up of ADHD people, two things would happen:

  1. We’d have millions of ideas and nothing would get done.
  2. We’d have no one to compare our productivity with.

During our lives, those of us who are late diagnosed, particularly, find it hard to push back against this desire to be able to work for “more minutes in a day”, like neurotypical individuals can.

We noticed at some point that we’re different, and we didn’t like it.

What does all this have to do with Entrepreneurship?

That’s the key question! I’m glad we got to this point.

The route to success as an ADHD entrepreneur is using your ADHD in a natural way, rather than fighting and being cruel to yourself about your lack of progress.

ADHD people are different, and the question to ask yourself when considering how you’ll become successful is actually simple…

"How can I make the most of me?"

And the answer to that question won’t be in aiming to fit in with neurotypical styles of working.

The same is true for them too; their success doesn’t lie in aiming to be ADHD. We’re different to them. They are different to us. Neither us is wrong. Neither of us is right.

We have unique paths to success and that’s what we need to understand and work toward.

We may miss small details because our minds are so busy, leading to lacking trust in ourselves with detailed oriented tasks like contracts or plans.

Turning ADHD into Entrepreneurial success

Let's finish on the most important element; how can you benefit most as an entrepreneur from ADHD

It’s very common for ADHD entrepreneurs to see these well known entrepreneurs and think “if it works for them, it must work for me”.

Then they spend years trying to emulate people who literally have a different type of mind.

And it leads to frustration and worsening self-confidence. We start to lack belief in ourselves and our abilities and we don’t think we’ll make it.

So if that’s not the answer, what is?

Use your strengths and avoid your weaknesses

The answer has to be to focus on what you’re good at.

Everyone will find success within their strengths – not within their weaknesses. This is doubly so for ADHD people who have minds that work differently.

There may come a time when you work more on your weaknesses, but it’s likely further down the line. And by the time you’re making money you can just hire people to make up for what you’re not amazing at achieving.

 

So, the two key questions you have to be asking yourself are these: 

  1. What are you really strong in, and how can you use those natural talents to grow your business?
  2. What are you really weak in, and how can you avoid relying on those natural weaknesses, to reduce their negative impact on your business?
This is your “working on the business” homework for this month.

But if you’re still sat there thinking “I can’t work that out”, it might be time to spend a little time together in coaching, to understand how you can use your natural ADHD abilities for the benefit of your business.