Updated: Oct 31
The Statistics on ADHD and entrepreneurship are mind-blowing.
Data shows that just by having ADHD, you're 300% more likely to start a business. But why are there so many ADHD entrepreneurs, and how can you harness your ADHD as your entrepreneur superpower?
Why are ADHD entrepreneurs 300% more likely to start a business?
ADHD: The entrepreneur's superpower 🦸♀️
When listing the qualities that make a successful entrepreneur, some non-negotiables will always make the list:
Low concern about risk
Intense focus on their passions
Innovative thinking and ideas
Resilience and adaptability
But what's fascinating about this list is that those traits for business success go hand-in-hand with the characteristics of an ADHD diagnosis.
ADHD brains are the change-makers, the big thinkers, and ADHD entrepreneurs and inventors are to thank for some of the most successful businesses and products globally today:
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group - ADHD.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft - ADHD.
Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx - ADHD
Ingvar Kamprad, Founder of Ikea- ADHD.
Walt Disney - ADHD.
Thomas Edison, you guessed it - ADHD.
This does well to explain that ADHD brains are 300% more likely to start a business - as well as make sense of various similar ADHD entrepreneur statistics that find ADHD to be a dominant force in business leadership.
But ADHD brains having an in-built talent for business only partially explains why there are so many ADHD entrepreneurs. The reasons why ADHD brains are so drawn to business run much deeper.
ADHD brains often struggle with employment 💼
The harsh reality is that many components of society are not set up to work for those with ADHD. Traditional employment is a major example of this. In fact, 30% of people with ADHD are likely to have chronic unemployment issues.
There are many reasons for this, but the most significant here is how the ADHD nervous system differs from the nervous systems of Neurotypical's.
The Neurotypical nervous system is importance-based, meaning that motivation is born from how important the completion of an activity is. The ADHD nervous system, however, is interest-based. Meaning that motivation is driven by interest, , novelty or challenge.
In employment, this difference in motivators is often glaringly obvious to anyone with ADHD. For the first 3-6 months of a job role, ADHD brains often thrive.
New roles demand new skills - challenge.
Newness speaks for itself - novelty.
Interest is also likely present depending on the role, as it will supplement your drive to apply for that position in the first place.
The problem is, once that role becomes easy, the challenge goes. Once the challenge goes, the interest dwindles, and novelty, by default, fades over time.
Entrepreneurship offers a departure from the mundane realities of a 9-5 wherein challenge, interest and novelty are a constant in their day-to-day.
Entrepreneurship: The freedom ADHD brains crave 😍
Individuals with ADHD frequently strive for autonomy as it grants them a sense of control and independence.
Autonomy empowers them to make choices and decisions without external influence or limitations, which can be especially demanding for those with ADHD who may encounter difficulties with executive functioning skills. When leading a life in which they are making their own choices, individuals with ADHD often experience a greater sense of mastery over their lives. Plus, they have a heightened ability to manage their symptoms confidently.
This highlights the ADHD desire to 'be your own boss'. Entrepreneurship offers the key to unlocking the shackles of rigid rules on 'how' they should work. It offers the opportunity to align how they operate to work with their unique brand of ADHD neural wiring.
So why are there so many ADHD entrepreneurs? 🧐
Individuals with ADHD possess a distinctive perspective and a penchant for creative thinking, making them a valuable asset when embarking on entrepreneurial ventures.
Moreover, ADHD is a catalyst, providing the motivation and determination to take bold risks and pursue groundbreaking concepts.
Lastly, the inherent flexibility and adaptability commonly associated with ADHD prove advantageous in dynamic business environments characterised by rapid change.
Therefore, while ADHD may present its fair share of challenges, it undeniably bestows entrepreneurs with a valuable asset that aligns with a pursuit in which they are naturally strong, giving them the freedom to live and act entirely on their own terms.
How to Harness ADHD as an entrepreneur 💪
Now you understand why ADHD brains are such a dominant force in business, let's unpack how you can leverage your ADHD traits to find business success.
The entrepreneurial journey consists of 3 notable stages in total. In each, ADHD creates undeniable strengths to access if you want to cross the finish line of each and advance to the next.
💡 Stage 1 - Idea Development
The idea development stage is where ADHD entrepreneurs often thrive.
The goal in this stage is to identify opportunities, discover problems that need solving, or find unmet needs in the market. The interest-based nervous system I mentioned earlier becomes fully activated because ideating for a business incorporates all of the core elements that define it.
Interest, passion, challenge and novelty sweep your ADHD brain into a tornado of creativity, destroying any obstacle in simple terms. You’ve got motivation to spare, and your brain looks like the salsa-dancing emoji throughout the process.
Stage 1 -Strengths:
Creativity - ADHD brains are idea-generating machines.
Hyperfocus - High activation of the ADHD interest-based nervous system kicks the ADHD brain into laser-focus
Stage 1 - Challenges:
Perfectionism - ADHD brains are often perfectionists. Keep accountable by committing to launching before you're ready.
Skipping foundational steps - Nothing turns an ADHD brain off like making a plan. Often, this means ADHD brains will skip out on vital business planning steps, leading to huge consequences later in their business-building journey.
💸 Stage 2 - Launching: Marketing and Sales
Launching a business is a tantalisingly thrilling yet terrifically terror-inducing experience for anyone. It’s like when you sit down on a rollercoaster. You sit down, full of excitement for it to start. But at the same time, there’s a voice in the back of your mind asking you whether you’re strapped in properly and, ultimately, if you’re going to survive the ride.
The early stage of launching and growing any business needs two simple things. Acquisition - getting customers, and Delivery - providing those customers with whatever product or service you sold them.
Acquisition = Marketing and Sales.
Marketing: ADHD Challenges
marketing demands consistency, motivation, and actively exposing yourself in the most vulnerable ways.
These things make marketing difficult for anyone. But for ADHD brains, struggles with consistency, motivation and a fear of vulnerability (due to a heightened sensitivity to rejection) are present in almost every aspect of everyday existence. This means that those struggles are amplified tenfold when tackling a task like marketing, which encapsulates these things by design.
Overcoming these struggles requires creating a marketing strategy that works WITH your ADHD brain - this is a core focus of my work with clients as an ADHD Entrepreneur Coach, so if you're looking for support in doing just that - you can find out more here.
Marketing: ADHD Strengths
ADHD brings some immeasurable advantages to marketing. Successful marketers possess the ability to put themselves into the shoes of their customers. To know them understand their struggles, goals, dreams and desires. Recognising their challenges and relating to them to build a genuine trusting relationship, ultimately leading to an investment.
In a word - empathy - which ADHD brains have in abundance.
On top of this, marketing is a creativity game. The innate creativity allows ADHD brains to delve beyond mundane advertising tactics, crafting compelling stories and experiences that resonate with customers' emotions and values. It sparks curiosity, ignites conversation, and fosters a connection between your business and its audience.
This allows ADHD brains tackling marketing to create remarkable campaigns that capture attention and inspire loyalty and advocacy, ultimately transforming marketing into a powerful force for positive change.
Sales: ADHD Challenges
When you think ‘salesman’, your mind likely jumps to an image of a man in a tightly fitting 3 piece suit selling cars and manipulating you into upgrading from the car you wanted to a sport-turbo-bluetooth-mega sound system-chick-magnet-spaceship that's 3 times the price and way beyond your budget.
Not to say that some sales aren't like that, because it is.
The problem becomes that when we see all sales like that as ADHD brains, that trailblazing empathy that was one of our greatest strengths in marketing quickly becomes our biggest obstacle. The irony, however, is that, in reality, empathy is misguided.
The problem with this narrative is not sales but the salesperson. Sales is not about manipulation but creating meaningful connections by understanding customers' needs, actively listening, and consistently delivering personalised value. Building trust and fostering long-term relationships are crucial for successful sales.
However, many associate sales with uncomfortable interactions and imaginary value, leading to a negative perception. Sales is about explaining your value and fulfilling the needs of actively seeking individuals. Add in that same sensitivity to rejection and struggles with self-worth born from a lifetime of negative messaging, and easy to see why even the mention of the word sales makes many ADHD entrepreneurs want to transform into an armadillo and roll up into their protective shell.
Sales: ADHD Strengths
The good news is that once you can reframe that negative narrative and see sales as the communication of value, which is what it is, your ADHD offers major pros when navigating sales. Every ADHD brain I've had the pleasure of coming into contact with seems to possess an in-built charismatic enthusiasm, a huge asset in a sales environment.
Furthermore, the social sensitivity that makes ADHD brains anxious about sales can be harnessed to create genuine connections, removing the ‘sale-sy’ feeling altogether. Plus, let’s not forget the energy, resilience, drive and purpose-driven passion that circulate the minds of those with ADHD in abundance.
📈 Stage 3 - Scaling The Business
Scaling in business is growing to handle more work, customers, or operations.
It aims to accelerate growth and improve performance. For entrepreneurs with ADHD, scaling presents a major challenge.
Growth often requires a team, and hiring and outsourcing can be difficult for ADHD brains, as they tend to struggle to let go of control and often feel it's faster to do things themselves. Plus, they often make impulsive hiring decisions based on likability rather than skills - leading to problems.
To overcome this, it's important to take note of repeatable processes within your business operations before you outsource - preferably as you build them. These are checklists, templates and tech instructions. This means the roles' tasks are documented for easy communication when outsourcing. Furthermore, having clarity on how these tasks are carried out allows you to identify the skillset to look for when hiring.
The Key Takeaways
🧠 ADHD traits such as creativity, low concern about risk, intense focus, innovative thinking, resilience, and high energy align with qualities of successful entrepreneurs.
🧠 Traditional employment may not be suitable for individuals with ADHD due to differences in motivation.
🧠 Entrepreneurship offers autonomy and the ability to work in alignment with ADHD traits.
🧠 ADHD entrepreneurs possess a distinctive perspective, creative thinking, bold risk-taking, and adaptability, contributing to their success.
🧠 ADHD individuals can leverage their strengths in idea development, marketing (empathy, creativity), and sales (enthusiasm, ability to create connections).
🧠 Scaling a business can be challenging for ADHD entrepreneurs due to difficulties in letting go of control and hiring decisions based on likability rather than skills.
🚀 Embrace your ADHD traits and recognise them as strengths that can contribute to your success as an entrepreneur.
🚀 Focus on idea development by identifying opportunities, solving problems, and finding unmet needs in the market.
🚀 Create a marketing strategy that works with your ADHD brain, leveraging empathy, creativity, and the ability to tell compelling stories.
🚀 Reframe sales as the communication of value and utilise your enthusiasm, social sensitivity, and passion to create genuine customer connections.
🚀 When scaling your business, document repeatable processes, develop checklists and templates, and identify the skillset required for hiring and outsourcing.
👋 Hi, I’m Ari || The ADHD Entrepreneur
ADHD Business Coach and Consultant
If you're looking to build your business in alignment with your ADHD brain to grow it 10X faster and without burnout, you need to check out the ADHD In Biz 1:1 Program!