December 10, 2007

Why dyslexics become entrepreneurs.

Fascinating!
It has long been known that dyslexics are drawn to running their own businesses, where they can get around their weaknesses in reading and writing and play on their strengths. But a new study of entrepreneurs in the United States suggests that dyslexia is much more common among small-business owners than even the experts had thought.

The report, compiled by Julie Logan, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London, found that more than a third of the entrepreneurs she had surveyed — 35 percent — identified themselves as dyslexic. The study also concluded that dyslexics were more likely than nondyslexics to delegate authority, to excel in oral communication and problem solving and were twice as likely to own two or more businesses.

“We found that dyslexics who succeed had overcome an awful lot in their lives by developing compensatory skills,” Professor Logan said in an interview. “If you tell your friends and acquaintances that you plan to start a business, you’ll hear over and over, ‘It won’t work. It can’t be done.’ But dyslexics are extraordinarily creative about maneuvering their way around problems.”
Mentioned in the article is Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko's:
“I get bored easily, and that is a great motivator,” [Orfalea] said. “I think everybody should have dyslexia and A.D.D.”

He attributes his success to his difficulty with reading and writing because it forced him to master verbal communication.

“I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence as a kid,” he said. “And that is for the good. If you have a healthy dose of rejection in your life, you are going to have to figure out how to do it your way.”...

“I told myself I would never be a lawyer or a doctor,” he said. “But I wanted to make a lot of money. And I knew business was the only way I was going to do it.”
I wrote about Orfalea back in May:
I adore Orfalea, who wrote a memoir called "Copy This! How I turned Dyslexia, ADHD, and 100 square feet into a company called Kinko's." He got me through the loneliest segment of that 1235 mile drive from Austin to Madison last month as I clicked the satellite radio over to C-Span and heard him giving a talk based on that memoir. What a wonderful, inspiring guy!
I love these stories of how people find special powers in their mental deficiencies. (Oliver Sacks is a master at presenting material of this kind.)

Bonus topic: What are the mental deficiencies that prevail in the world of blogging?

31 comments:

George said...

Ozzy!

Daryl said...

What are the mental deficiencies prevalent in the world of blog-commenters?

For a start, try peeking in on the next thread (about the woman who stopped the shooter at New Life Church)

Ron said...

1.) Bloggers don't want to accept what Learned Authorities tell them.

2.) They want to communicate what they see to others without an intermediary.

3.) They want their observations discussed and shared, not kept to themselves.

amba said...

"Talks in class."

David said...

"dyslexics were more likely than nondyslexics to delegate authority"...but yet many entrepreneurs are lousy at delegating, and this is one reason why outside management is often needed once a company gets beyond a certain size.

amba said...

I once got not one, but twelve check marks in that box on my report card.

christopher said...

Wow, this is fascinating.

I can't wait for tomorrow's big post...

50,000 words by Ann on the history of house plants.

With black and white snapshots of a bagel she had in 1976...

peter hoh said...

for bloggers, and commentors:

mania
obsessive-compulsive disorder
Aspergers

-Peder said...

Ann, have you read 'The Verger' by Somerset Maugham? It fits into this category.

former law student said...

Having worked for many small business owners, my sister noted they tended to be substance abusers who presumably could not have passed the drug tests that many employers require.

former law student said...

Having worked for many small business owners, my sister noted they tended to be substance abusers who presumably could not have passed the drug tests that many employers require.

Cedarford said...

Absolutely true in my experience where 3 dyslexics I knew went on to found their own excavation company, small and marine engine repair and upgrade company, and the last did 3 restaurants. Two of the 3 are multimillionaires - one is the excavator who got his 1st million in worth at age 32, 4 years before he actually knew it from an accountant that calculated his business assets for a gov't contract he wanted to tear down old army housing. "I got good news and bad news. The government contract is likely to go to a woman or minority business. The good news is you are now worth 6.5 million counting goodwill, and you were a millionaire by these books in 1996. Oh, you didn't know?"

And others have noticed the pattern and also hire dyslexics - not because they will be around forever because we expect many will leave and become entrepreneurs - but because their actual intelligence, initiative, and work skillset far exceeds others of higher educational attainment.

Not too hard to spot on resume's. Look for mediocre grades, but also past notable feats that the grades and maybe lack of college completely fail to predict. I helped hire a guy like that who was in the bottom 20% of HS but who had an AF achievement medal for "outstanding contributions and leadership of base non-aviation facilities and leader of the base snow response team involving 35-55 base service personnel. As an E-5 acting as an E-8. He is now at a different firm as a 36-year old manager now running all support aspects of a 350 million dollar research facility employing 220-240 people.
Who still needs an assistant to help him read and figure out what some of the stuff in his in-basket means...

john said...

David,

What you say may be true, but that may not be the most important reason entrepreneurs lose the company to size. They are also a breed that will become bored of the administrating and will then seek other and more exciting outlets, essentially leaving their first success to languish. I have worked on the ground for two startups and am now sole proprietor, and this is what I see.

Kirk Parker said...

Ann,

I don't know if I'd call it a "mental deficiency" precisely, but the ability to create a powerful vortex sure doesn't hurt! :-)

john said...

Jees, Daryl, I looked, you are so right, major derangement there. And, so far past his bedtime, Christopher goes totally off topic on this thread too.

AllenS said...

I tried to answer the question: "What are the mental deficiencies that prevail in the world of blogging?"

And, came up with a way to end the writers strike, so we could have fresh new programing. Mimes!

hdhouse said...

A.D.D. and dyslexia are two different things and sometimes concurrent but not related. How can anyone buy into this article with that contains that fundemental misunderstanding.

rhhardin said...

Handicaps defeat the Peter Principle. You're less likely to get promoted past your area of competence.

Or you could just wear Bermudas to work and avoid the handicap route completely.

Pogo said...

It may in fact be a case of success by learning to get around obstacles. Or it may be that dyslexia is a marker for persons with those innate abilities, and even a reflection of that capacity.

That is, a useful trait, except for reading.

jawats said...

Dyslexia is often a marker for AD(H)D. I wonder if these people are also ADHD. One who was interviewed identified as such.

In my own family there are many entrepreneurs, and ADHD-like symptoms run down both sides of my father's lineage.

The book Driven to Distraction makes a point of discussing careers, and entrepreneur certainly is among the top considerations.

TexasPatrick said...

As to the delegating, I think there are deeper issues: They may be great at delegating, but NOT great at building a bureacracy (i.e. middle management) needed to support further growth.

The businesses tend to grow organically, and then wham, you actually NEED a cfo type person, and need to pay for those skills, perhaps not commensurate with a fortune 500 but similarly.

So would it gall an accounant to have to work for someone who can't read very well? I mean, we lawyers do it all the time. The richest client at my former firm was the most unlikely rich guy you might see. Very large man. So big he couldn't get into a regular car, so my fussy dandy of a boss had to ride with him in his pickup truck . . . which had a busted seat, which caused everyone to slide to the middle . . . . but he sold plants to Wal-Mart and made a medium fortune. But he wasn't educated at all beyond high school.

Charlie said...

Mental deficiencies!? Maybe from the point of view of educrats.

If a longitudinal study were ever performed, it would show those with a history of dyslexia and ADD ending up out of proportion not only in retail ownership but also brokerage, law, engineering and venture entrepreneurship.

Conventional learners tend to end up as the employees in these businesses. That's why I was pleased when each of my three sons was diagnosed dyslexic.

DonSurber said...

Oh come on. They are only in it for the Yenom!

Kevin said...

From what I've seen, bloggers tend heavily toward the INTJ quadrant of the Meyers-Briggs personality test. INTJ personalities run about 1% of the population as a whole but are very over-represented in the Blogosphere.

Pogo said...

INTJ

Me.

Biggus said...

I would trade my dyslexia and ADD away in a heartbeat. It's not all fun and million-dollar businesses.

Yes, I've noticed that I'm a little more resourceful than those around me. In stressful situations that require a lot of fast thinking and pulling together large amounts of disorganized information, I do well. But I'd trade it for being able to read a technical white paper easily or have the attention to detail needed to finish things properly. Maybe it would be different if my diagnosis was made when I was 18 instead of my mid-30s.

I'm happy for the gifts I do have. Since I learned how my brain was set up, I can work with this state of being instead of trying to force myself to work against it. That's improved my marriage, parenting, and job performance. And if being a little extra creative means I can make my wife laugh more, then it's all worth it. But it's not all fun and million-dollar businesses, folks. I wish it were.

comatus said...

Surber made me laugh out loud. I feel so used...

My late uncle did pretty well for himself, and he was illiterate. That's got to be the ultimate in dyslexia.

Perhaps this success rate accounts for the number of business signs that read "Sail 2-day," "Antique's," and "Employees must wash there hands."

Hucbald said...

Mental abilities versus disabilities comprise my favorites among topics of interest, because I score in the fortieth percentile in numerical ability, but the ninety-ninth in abstract reasoning and all that other weird stuff. Until I found that out as a sophomore in high school, I thought I was retarded (And I guess technically I am!). LOL!

So, I write and play music. Perfect fit.

Wacky Hermit said...

Bloggers (and other geeks in general) have Asperger's syndrome.

OK, I'm half joking.

TMink said...

Interesting thoughts and comments.

I think there is a bit of narcissism in the world of blogging as well.

Trey

Pogo said...

"I think there is a bit of narcissism in the world of blogging as well."
Are you talking about me?

Heh.