Dyslexia, which is often called a hidden disability, is coming into the mainstream in terms of understanding what makes people with dyslexia such amazing entrepreneurs. It has been known for some time that dyslexic business owners were more likely to succeed, but new research is beginning to show us exactly why this is the case.
In 2001 and 2007, Professor Julie Logan conducted studies into how many entrepreneurs have dyslexia. She also determined during these studies which characteristics dyslexic entrepreneurs display that are stronger than non-dyslexic entrepreneurs. The study in 2001 took place in the UK, where 20 percent of successful entrepreneurs identified themselves as dyslexic. In 2007, Professor Logan extended her research to the United States where it was determined that more than one third of successful entrepreneurs claimed to be dyslexic. The numbers are staggering, but they reveal something vitally important: Dyslexia is more than reading difficulties and struggle. It has positive aspects as well. In fact, it might be argued that dyslexia offers these entrepreneurs exactly what they need to succeed. Far from being a hindrance, it is the key to their success. Perhaps it sounds cliché, but the studies conducted seem to prove this is the case.
Dyslexic entrepreneurs are more likely to become self-made millionaires when compared to their non-dyslexic counterparts. They are also more likely to own multiple businesses as opposed to focusing all of their efforts on a single source. It is their ability to see the big picture, without getting bogged down in the details, that allows the dyslexic entrepreneur to succeed where others might fail. These business owners have the drive and determination to keep going when others would give up. During childhood, those with dyslexia were forced to come up with creative solutions to problems. They often had to work harder than their non-dyslexic peers to achieve academically, and grew use to failure. It is because of these struggles that they are able to see problems in a business and overcome them. The failure of standardized tests and other academic adventures, has given them the determination required to create and manage a successful business.
Dyslexia may hinder reading, but it strengthens other necessary skills. Dyslexic children learn to read people, and are good at choosing the best person to help them. In a business setting, they are able to pick the best person for a job, and then delegate responsibilities based on skill set. Non-dyslexic business owners often stick to the old cliché, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” They quickly become overwhelmed and are unable to maintain the standards they began with. The dyslexic business person has overcome this need for control, and it shows in both business and employee relations where the turn over rate is lower than businesses run by those without dyslexia.
Another important factor in their success is the ability to communicate effectively. Through years of trying to understand information in school, and other heavy reader-friendly areas of life, they have learned to look for the important facts first. The ability to know what is important information and what isn’t gives them the ability to get straight to the point. They are able to condense complex ideas and thoughts into simplified, easy to understand ideas and concepts. In the business world, this helps them better communicate with employees, business partners and investors. They leave no room for questions about what they expect, their vision for their company or the goals they have set. Communication is a vital component of business practices, and the dyslexic business owner has been found to communicate more effectively than their counterparts.
A business sinks or swims not because of the money that is put into it, but the ideas behind it. The study by Professor Logan revealed that those who have dyslexia are more creative than those who don’t have dyslexia. They have perfected the skill of creative thinking in order to cope with their own personal struggles, and this skill transfers easily into the business arena. Another study by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a Professor at Yale University, confirms this finding. It doesn’t matter how much money you put into a business if you are unable to creatively problem-solve, come up with new business ideas, such as products and services or give an effective presentation to increase sales. The dyslexic entrepreneur is creative by instinct in many different ways. They don’t have to think for hours to come up with the best solution to a problem, the next great product idea, or the right words to say to customers and investors. It has become a part of who they are, and it serves them well when it comes to managing their businesses.
Dyslexia is too often seen as a burden to bear. Society as a whole is not good at finding the positives in the struggle, and they assume that any learning disability or difference can only be negative. Famous business owners Charles Schawb of Charles Schawb brokerage; Paul Orfalea, who created Kinkos and John Chambers, CEO of Cisco are living proof that this is not the case. There are many more who could be listed here as successful entrepreneurs who also have dyslexia, and it is almost certain that they will tell you that having dyslexia is the reason they were able to create such business empires when non-dyslexic run businesses failed.
Dr. Shaywitz continues studying dyslexia. The scope of her research has expanded beyond the entrepreneur, but continues to show that those with dyslexia have powerful and unique abilities enabling them to contribute meaningfully to society. If 35 percent of all successful entrepreneurs never began their businesses, we would have missed out on a good number of new technologies and ideas. Without them, the conveniences and services we enjoy today would not have been possible.