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learning-difficulty
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Running my business with a learning difficulty

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My name is Oli and I run a digital marketing agency called Oli Baise Digital (super creative name right?) and I have dyspraxia.

My dyspraxia became apparent during early years at school, largely because teachers could never read my handwriting, and because when I used scissors…well I was banned from using them very quickly (no malicious intent of my own).

As an adult the main symptoms that I have include taking longer to master skills that require fine motor skills (safe to say I’ll never be very good at pool), being disorganised, especially when it comes to the management of paper and other physical records. I also have poor spatial awareness (I can never anticipate how much stuff you can fit into a bag for example).

My decision to start a business

The first thing to note is that my dyspraxia had no impact on my decision to become an entrepreneur. My main drivers behind setting up a business were originally a desire for money and the ability to control my time.

I had read The Four Hour Work Week and thought that I had to at least give creating a digital-based business a try. I’d say that now, my main drivers are being considered one of the best in the world at what I do, and creating a service that delivers results to clients but can essentially run without me, as freedom is still a key driver.

Although my dyspraxia had little impact on my “career” decision, I do believe that it held me back when I was a typical employee. In particular, my difficulty when it came to keeping physical paperwork organised, or smaller things like often having an untidy desk, never looked good in front of higher-ups.

Furthermore, I felt like I could never explain that I had a learning difficulty which made maintaining this type of organisation more difficult than most. Rather it was dismissed as carelessness, which often cast me out as someone who didn’t take their work as seriously as others.

Running a business with dyspraxia

As one of my biggest challenges is keeping paperwork organised, having the freedom to manage almost all vital documents in my business digitally has made that side of things a lot easier compared to previous jobs.

That being said, even when all files are digital, I am still not the best at keeping all of that organised (if you look at my desktop you can see more files than the background image).

I tend to develop systems for organisation that make sense to me but might not to others. When I was an employee my boss would try to get me to explain how I kept things organised, and when they could not understand my system I would be forced to change to a more standard procedure which would not work for me.

As a business owner, I enjoy having the freedom to organise everything how I want, although being able to keep things in a more standardised way probably would make things easier.

My strengths and strategies

I do worry sometimes if my lack of organisation will cause issues as I begin to work at scale. This problem is made only more complex when there are employees and contractors involved. Fortunately, as I begin to work at scale I can afford to invest in project management software that may alleviate this problem to some extent.

When you own your own business you have to be willing to experiment with processes and strategies and be willing to fail. You need to adapt to what’s working.

Growing up with dyspraxia has given me the mindset that allows me to both try new things with abandon, and not to feel failure as I know it’s just a matter of experimenting again until I find something that works.

Of course, the extent to which dyspraxia can help or hinder your work depends on what your work is. I work in digital PR which is quite a creative industry. Dyspraxia has been associated with an increased ability to think and (in particular) write creatively. Often the necessary creative element of my work happens without much effort on my part (stuff just “pops” into my head), which is very useful!

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