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Neurodiversity and Running a Business with Amanda Perry 

Traders- Hints & Tips | Mental Health

An insight on managing a business and neurodiversity.

Pedddle Founder Nicki recently hosted an IG Live all about neurodiversity and running a business with Amanda Perry, a business founder. They spoke about Amanda’s ADHD diagnosis, stats on ADHD diagnosis, and what it can mean for a business owner.

Read the IG Live highlights below, or scroll down to watch/ listen to the chat on Instagram.

Neurodiversity and Running a Business

Amanda has started around 20 businesses (with starting but not finishing things a common ADHD trait!), but scaled and successfully sold 4 businesses. Having been in business for over 15 years and diagnosed with ADHD in 2020, she encourages discussion around all mental health issues, as well as paving the way for small business owners and people to look differently at neurodiversity for people within business, and holding space for further discussion around these topics.

As mentioned in our chat, Pedddle Founder Nicki was previously a high school teacher, and wishes she’d understood more particularly with teaching neurodiverse students. It’s great that the condition is now being recognised in adults too, and more is being discovered all the time.

ADHD diagnosis has really helped Amanda these past 3 years, and can help others significantly too. Although it’s been a long process of clarifying and cultivating what works for her, it’s never too late to start – and discussing the common symptoms and outcome of diagnoses can help others too.

What you should know about ADHD

  • ADHD has always been most commonly diagnosed in childhood, and symptoms of ADHD in adults weren’t actually recognised until 2009! We didn’t even know it was an adult condition. It’s been long stereotyped as a thing ‘naughty boys’ have, and even now, most research on autism and ADHD is based on men and boys. Girls are conditioned to be ‘good girls’ from a young age, perform more ‘maturely’ and do more ‘adult ‘ things, so women learn to internalise any hyperactivity and it often manifests as perfectionism and anxiety.
  • In fact, boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed than girls!
  • There has been a 42% increase of people getting diagnosed with ADHD in recent years. As with many such things, this is not a reflection of a ‘rise in mental health conditions’, but better diagnoses of conditions which have always existed within society – which hopefully can now receive further research and treatment.  
  • 15-20% of the entire population has ADHD – and note that these are rough estimates, it could be much higher were we all tested for neurodiverse conditions. These statistics are also higher in the entrepreneurial community.
  • Click here to find out more about the symptoms of ADHD.

Amanda, how did your ADHD diagnosis help you?

I often compare neurodiversity to biodiversity in plants. All brains are different, and just like plants, need to be cared for differently! We don’t all respond to the same care and treatment, and therefore shouldn’t be conditioned to perform to neurotypical expectations and business models.

When it came to neurodiversity and running a business, ADHD diagnosis was my trigger point for understanding what an unhelpful situation I was in; I hadn’t built a business for myself, I’d build a prison, and needed a more flexible working model.

RSD was a key thing for me – Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria. It’s a physical reaction (most commonly chest pain) to rejection or perceived rejection, so dealing with people every day is the worst thing for people who deal with this condition. It resulted in daily burnout for me. We went from a team of 5 to a team of 40 very quickly, which was too much for me, being surrounded by people all the time. I found many things overwhelming, and I needed a plan to exit the business.

Rejection in business is one of the hardest things for anyone to deal with, and can be triggering for anyone – so for people with RSD, this is especially dangerous.

I always say you need to build a ‘brain-first business’ – play to your strengths, do what is best for your mental health and your brain to function.

Will a diagnosis benefit me?

If you want to be tested for ADHD (or any other neurodiverse / mental health condition), you can of course go through the NHS in the UK, or pay privately.

However, the real benefit of a diagnosis is access to medication (particularly as an entrepreneur – if you need to tell your employed, a diagnosis could also be beneficial in this instance). If you don’t want to take medication as a result, an official diagnosis is perhaps not necessary, as there are plenty of other ways you can adapt and make life easier without a diagnosis – see our tips below for more on this.

Should you ask your employer to accommodate your neurodiversity better? 

If you are employed, it is always advisable to be as open as possible about your working needs, so that your employer can assist wherever possible.

Neurodivergent people are quick-thinking, creative and efficient, so can be a great asset to any businesses. Flexible working and things such as working from home can help, but these things are not possible with all business models.

Having your own business allows you to tailor the workplace to your own strengths, which is why many independent business owners are neurodiverse – as they’ve built systems around them naturally. 

We owe it to both ourselves and others to utilise this information and build a business around the things that we’re good at. Particularly for entrepreneurs (but also in general life), it’s absolutely ok to outsource the parts you’re not as good at (such as accounting or even cleaning), and work around how your brain works, and the qualities you’re best at. It’s important to find systems and support to help with the parts you’re not good at, both for the sake of your own mental health and the people closest to you.

Top tips from our chat

  • Understanding yourself is important for many reasons, but particularly to discover what truly brings you joy. There is so much joy in giving yourself permission to be happy, to build your business around your strengths, and to work with the things that bring you most satisfaction in life.
  • Write a list of changes you can make, to make life easier for yourself. Whether that’s building or re-building your own business, or setting smaller goals, what can you do to help yourself? Get an accountant? Hire a cleaner? Build a separate office space to help you concentrate? What things can you outsource, to spend more time doing the things you’re best at?
  • It’s all about energy. If you don’t make changes, and you’re struggling, your mental health will suffer, sooner or later. Your mental health is your ultimate priority, and you must do whatever is kindest to your mind!
  • Particularly with ADHD, we associate negative traits with the condition. ‘Laziness’, ‘distraction’, ‘lack of attention’ etc are common connotations. However, as with all neurodiversity, your brain simply functions in a different way – some things you will be better at, some you may be worse at, than others. Don’t focus on what you should be, celebrate what you are

What other resources can help?

Nicki: I recently listened to the High Performance Podcast with Molly McCann – click here to listen. She discusses how adversity creates winners – it’s definitely worth a listen!

One of our makers, Needle Felting Gem, has written a blog on coping with neurodiversity in her business. You can read it here.

Amanda: I find focussing your mind helps – I recently did a strengths assessment, which highlighted that Strategy and Ideation are key strengths for me. It helped me to define the areas I excel in, so I can play to my strengths in future and see who I really am.

Human Design is also useful. It’s a spiritual school of thought, essentially a New Age technique taking in things such as astrology, Kabbalah, the Myers-Briggs test and more, to help you assess how you respond to the world, your role in it, and the things that can help you best function. You can do a free test online – just google it!

Watch the full IG Live chat on Neurodiversity and Running a Business with Amanda Perry