Business owners with ADHD: How to embrace your neurodiversity

Business owners with ADHD: How to embrace your neurodiversity
Amanda Perry
Amanda PerryAmanda Perry

Posted: Wed 27th Mar 2024

Running a business can be challenging, especially for people who have ADHD. Do you find it difficult to stay focused, prioritise tasks or manage your time effectively?

While these may be common struggles for business owners with ADHD, it's important to keep in mind that neurodiversity can be a valuable asset in the business world.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can sometimes be seen as a hindrance in business, where organisation and attention to detail are crucial. But many successful entrepreneurs and business owners have ADHD, and have found ways to embrace their unique strengths and abilities.

If you're a business owner with ADHD, learning how to take advantage of your strengths and manage your challenges will help you not only to succeed in business, but thrive.

In this blog, entrepreneur and coach Amanda Perry talks through her experiences as a business owner with ADHD, and shares expert tips and practical strategies that can help you grow your own business and make your neurodiversity work for you.

My story

I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020, but it took me a long time – around 12 months – before I could talk about it publicly. At the time, I was running a digital marketing agency and managing a team of 40 people.

In the months after my diagnosis, as I understood more about how my brain works, I started to realise that I hadn't built a business for myself, but a prison.

So I went about the painful, slow and very meticulous process of exiting that business and selling it. And that's how I've ended up where I am today. Working by myself and finding strategies and systems that give me the flexibility to harness my brain's strengths rather than its weaknesses.

Common challenges for business owners with ADHD

It's important to remember that we're all unique people and all have our own experiences. However, there are certain challenges that any business owner with ADHD is likely to encounter at some point.

Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD)

This condition causes a person to feel overwhelming levels of emotional pain when they're rejected, criticised or made to feel that they've failed.

When you run a business, you're open to rejection pretty much 24/7. You're almost a glutton for punishment. And although not everyone with ADHD experiences RSD, many business owners who do say it's the biggest issue they face.

Time collapse

If you experience this, it's such a vivid feeling. It's the sense of needing to do everything at once. There's no ordering of tasks – "I'll do this, then this, then this" – but instead the overwhelming feeling that you must get everything done immediately.

The ADHD brain generally processes time in two different ways – either "now" or "not now". There's no concept of doing something in the future. People with ADHD don't experience time in a linear way, as neurotypical people do, so it can be a really difficult – and really common – thing to deal with.

When running a business, it means struggling with planning, to-do lists and any kind of forward thinking.

Executive dysfunction

Executive dysfunction is a term used to describe the difficulties people with ADHD have with managing their time, organising tasks, paying attention and making decisions. It can also cause them to be impulsive or struggle to regulate their emotions.

Ultimately, it's knowing exactly what you need to do and what you want to do. But even though you really want to do it, you're just not quite able to.


In this webinar, Amanda shares more about embracing ADHD as a valuable asset in your business and unlocking your unique strengths:


Building a "brain-first business"

There are specific strategies you can put in place in your business to cater to your strengths and needs as someone with ADHD.

I talk a lot about building a "brain-first business". This is actually something you should do, whether you're neurotypical or neurodivergent. But especially if you're neurodivergent.

What is a brain-first business?

To me, there are four different areas to a brain-first business.

  • Your lifestyle: What are the demands on your life? Do you have young kids that mean you're only able to work a certain number of hours each week? Perhaps you only have 20 hours available to you, but you're packing out 40 hours in your calendar. That's never going to work – it will cause you stress and lead you to burn out.

    Maybe you really want to travel. So there are some weeks where you can cram loads into your schedule and others where you have to leave it empty. Think about your specific lifestyle at the moment and identify all the things that matter most.

  • Your goals: What are you aiming to do? List your goals, but really challenge yourself – are they your goals or someone else's goals that have filtered into your brain through the magic of social media or through admiring someone else's lifestyle?

    Do you really want those £100,000 months? Do you really even want those £10,000 months? Or, is it more important to you right now that you make just enough money to live the lifestyle you want?

  • Your strengths: What are the big things you know you're really good at? If you were sitting with a potential investor and they asked about your strengths, what would you tell them?

  • Your values: What are your real key values, in life and in business? Do you value having fun? Do you place a lot of value on making money? Do you want to be philanthropic and pay it forward? List all of those values personal to you.

Your non-negotiables

Understanding these four areas is vital in helping you build out your personal "non-negotiables". Once you know what you're unwilling to negotiate on, every decision, commitment and opportunity goes through those filters and lets you focus on what you should be doing.

For me, getting to the heart of those non-negotiables was the key to me recognising:

  • that I had to sell my current business

  • what I want my new business to look like

  • how that new business has to fit with my lifestyle and wellbeing

With ADHD, you're likely not someone who starts work at 9am and checks out at 5pm. You have to consider your life as a whole, and you don't have the constant energy supply that a neurotypical person might have.

There will be days when you want to work but just can't. So you need that flexibility in your approach to work to be able to account for those times. It's why so many people with ADHD end up as entrepreneurs and business founders – that level of control and flexibility.

How the brain-first model differs to traditional approaches

As a coach, one of the things I always tell business owners with ADHD is "Don't do business someone else's way, do it your way".

As people with ADHD, when we understand our way – our personal way, not our "ADHD way", because I don't believe that's a thing – it allows us to find the path to our own version of success.

A traditional neurotypical business would focus on things like:

  • how much money they want to make

  • how many staff they want

  • how many people sit on the board

  • what the C-suite looks like

  • what the organisational chart looks like

  • when the owners want to sell and exit, and how they engineer that

It's a very hard, masculine way of doing business. It's numbers first, profit first. That's not to say that as someone with ADHD you won't achieve that. But you'll only reach your goals and targets in a healthy and sustainable way if you do it in your own brain-first way.

If you go into business with the output first – the figures, the profit, the metrics, the KPIs – you'll end up burnt out before you ever get there. Whatever success means to you, you'll only get there if you understand those four key areas mentioned above, and honour them.


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Amanda Perry
Amanda PerryAmanda Perry
Having been in business over 15 years and started, scaled and sold 4 businesses, I now help founders find their own path to success that feels as good on the inside as it looks on the outside.

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