Entrepreneurs Who Overcame Dyslexia

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There have been more entrepreneurs overcome the problems of dyslexia to make not only a very healthy and wealthy lifestyle for themselves but also to have added attributes throughout the world which we would all like to have achieved and stand proud of.

It may come as a surprise to hear some of the names on the list; big players in all industries achieving way above what was ever expected of them personally or of anyone else in their own individual fields.

Steven Spielberg, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill, Walt Disney, Henry Ford of Ford Motors, Tommy Hilfiger, Peter Stringfellow, Ted Turner the founder of CNN, Bill Hewlett of Hewlett-Packard, John Reed chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, Jamie Oliver the celebrity chef… the list goes on and on and on, and these are just some of those that you will have heard of that have succeeded in overcoming barriers to learning with great success. 

The CEO list of the less well-known business giants is just as impressive and ever growing too. A recent survey has suggested up to 35% of the worlds most prominent and successful entrepreneurs are affected by this reading disorder.

Here are the success stories of five of the more famous names, how they arrived at their achievements and an insight to some of the challenges they faced.

Sir Richard Branson

Branson has done as much as anyone to highlight that dyslexia doesn’t have to hold you back. Now the 212th richest person in the world his Virgin Group is running three hundred companies under its umbrella brand.

He struggled through school and left early at fifteen-years-old. He cited his reason as being a hopeless case, that nobody had heard of the condition in those days and that he was always bottom of the class. What he soon learned was that business was soon to become his calling; it just made sense to him from the different way he would look at things. He has spoken of his dyslexia being a big part of what helped him achieve so much, the ability to see things clearer because of the way he needed to simplify things to see them properly.

He has talked about it on his own website; “I see my condition as a gift, not a disability. It has helped me learn the art of delegation, focus my skills and work with incredible people.”

One of the more famous lines from his past was when his old headmaster told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. It’s nice to see he ended up on the better side of those options!

Dame Anita Roddick

Anita Roddick opened her first Body Shop in 1976. She had seven hundred stores by 1991.

When she founded the Body Shop she had no business experience but a drive simply to make an income. She described her livelihood as her goal stating that we shouldn’t obsess about making everything we do into a means to make money but to create an honourable livelihood from taking our own skills and using them to earn a living from them, that it would then provide you a sense of freedom and balance to live your life the way you want.

With this in mind and the ethics of running a business being about responsibility, the public good and not some private greed, about training, education and support, what followed was the growth of her brand from strength to strength, helping her collect countless awards along the way for being one of the most renowned businesswomen of her time as well as a philanthropist.

“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito,” she said.

Lord Alan Sugar

The British entrepreneur is now worth £1.15bn and hailed as the ninety-fifth richest man in the UK.

His business empire started in 1968 founding the company Amstrad, based on his initials and the word trading, with his first ventures being in import/export and wholesale. The real growth began when he started to specialise in consumer electronics – starting with audio equipment and soon moving into personal computing.

In 1980 Amstrad was introduced on the stock market. Each year it doubled in value until it peaked at £1.2bn in the late 1980s.

Since then he has become a media personality with his own television show ‘The Apprentice’, he is a politician, a political advisor, a previous part owner and chairman of Tottenham Hotspur football club, he owns his own private charter airline and countless other business ventures.

In 2016 he was hammered by the masses of Twitter and the press for his misspelling of the word Halloween as ‘Holowein’ in one of his tweets; an obvious kickback from his disorder where letters and words often appear in the wrong order. In the grand scheme of things it shouldn’t bother him too much. It certainly hasn’t affected his earning capacity…

Ingvar Kamprad

Kamprad founded the Swedish furniture chain Ikea. According to Forbes he is currently worth $46.8bn.

He began by selling matches as a child, then selling fish, Christmas tree decorations, seeds, ballpoint pens and eventually after selling replicas of his uncle’s kitchen table he grew that idea into selling other types of furniture.

One point of interest was that Kamprad didn’t just succeed despite suffering from dyslexia but he used it to help him understand and overcome a part of the business he struggled with. Initially as a mail order business each piece was identified with a number that Kamprad had problems remembering. Instead of delegating that part of the process to another member of staff he decided to organise his product list with a unique naming system that he could remember. The larger items were titled with Swedish place names, chairs and desks were given men’s names, and garden furniture was named after various Swedish islands. These were all familiar things to him and the associations he could make made remembering the stock a much more simple process. Certainly that was one solution that came from understanding the disorder and working with it instead of against it.

Theo Paphitis

Dragon’s Den regular and former Millwall Football Club Chairman Paphitis made his fortune of £286 million by starting as a filing clerk with a London insurance broker.

He saw his strength in retail and selling while working in finance, mortgages and property through the 1980s. However, it was when he bought out the bankrupt Ryman stationery chain and went to work rebuilding it into the highly successful outlet it is today that he made not only his mark, but also his millions.

Talking about dyslexia Paphitis has spoken out about his challenges saying he was labelled lazy at school and separated from his ‘intelligent’ friends by his teachers. Just like Branson he spoke about how it wasn’t understood as well as it is today when he was a child, that the support sufferers can now receive wasn’t so easily available back then.

He is now a regular supporter of the group Dyslexia Action where advanced research into the disorder is being carried out. His donations are partly responsible for the continuing work they achieve through their exploration.

He has three sons, who also suffer from the condition, as it is widely accepted that dyslexia is a hereditary condition.

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