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New Research Reveals Many Entrepreneurs Are Dyslexic

A staggering 35% of U.S. entrepreneurs suffer from dyslexia, compared to 20% in the UK, according to a new study by Julie Logan, Professor of Entrepreneurship at London’s Cass Business School.

The U.S. study follows up earlier research that revealed that UK entrepreneurs are five times more likely to suffer from dyslexia than the average UK citizen (4% of the general UK population is dyslexic). In the U.S., dyslexia is grouped under a “learning disabled” umbrella, which includes 15% of the population.

Some examples of dyslexic entrepreneurs are: Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea, Jupiter Media CEO Alan Meckler, and legendary investor Charles Schwab.

Many entrepreneurs cite good communication as a key factor in their success. “Entrepreneurs are masters at communicating with their team, their customers and the media. They have a clear, uncomplicated style of communication that wins hearts and minds," says Professor Logan. Her study showed that while dyslexic entrepreneurs seemed on a par with their non-dyslexic counterparts in terms of attributes such as vision and determination, “There was a trend for dyslexics to perceive themselves as being better at communication.”

Key findings from Professor Logan’s research showed that dyslexics are more likely than nondyslexics to:

  • Own more than one business
  • Run their businesses for a shorter time (although grow them more quickly)
  • Start their businesses right after school
  • Excel in oral communications, problem solving, delegation, and spatial awareness
  • Be influenced by a mentor (vs. nondyslexics, who are more influenced by educational experiences)
  • Manage more staff (25 as mean vs. 17 for nondyslexics) because of increased ability to delegate (an example of a coping strategy employed to overcome difficulties)

Professor Logan says the primary reason why the U.S. has a greater number of dyslexic entrepreneurs than the UK is because America has better systems for identification, intervention, and support of those with dyslexia at a young age, giving them a much better chance of success. She states, “The UK system fails to identify dyslexics at a young age, meaning that many of those with potential to be successful entrepreneurs never get the chance. We should be producing more Richard Bransons, but the system is failing our children.”

The study reveals that while both U.S. and UK school systems fail dyslexics in helping them to achieve academically, dyslexic entrepreneurs in the U.S. say they enjoyed their academic experience. Their UK counterparts report having had a generally negative experience. Professor Logan said a major contributing reason for this difference in attitude is that the general teaching styles adopted in the UK—ectures and case studies—are a struggle for dyslexics. Other major problems in the UK are the absence of a standard system for identifying dyslexic pupils and a lack of awareness of the condition by teachers.

Additional findings

  • Those studied in the U.S. had a high degree of self-confidence compared with low self-confidence amongst their UK counterparts.
  • The education systems in the UK and U.S. are set up in such a way that they discourage achievement among the most innovative students.
  • The U.S. has better systems in place to identify innovative students and provide support to help them succeed.
  • In the U.S. dyslexics are teamed up with mentors at a young age—a very effective way of helping them achieve.
  • The U.S. has better programs and greater resources to aid dyslexic children.

For further information about Professor Logan’s study, visit: www.cass.city.ac.uk