Driven by Difference

by Eric McGehearty, an EO Dallas member and Founder and CEO of Globe Runner

When I was a kid, I never imagined I would be in business. In fact, I spent the majority of my young life thinking that I should avoid going into the corporate world altogether. It wasn’t the hard work, risk or logistics that scared me. I didn’t think about pursuing a business path because I’m dyslexic.

I joined EO in 2012, and the more I network with peers, the more I discover a large number of them are dyslexic, ADD or hyperactive. What’s more, through research, I’ve learned that an estimated 35% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic, compared to just 10% of the overall population. Equally as interesting, dyslexics are more likely than non-dyslexics to delegate authority and excel in oral communication and problem-solving. Looking back at my own journey, I can attest that dyslexia has helped me learn, grow and lead in several key ways.

I Exploit My Weaknesses
Even though I’m dyslexic, I built a business around words. One of our company’s core competencies is understanding search keywords and selecting the right terms that will lead more customers to our clients. With that said, I’ve spent a great deal of my life learning how to be a great listener. Lacking the ability to take notes, I had to focus my attention on understanding the “big idea” behind a complicated lecture so that I could retain the information. This helps me quickly identify my clients’ challenges and better communicate solutions back to them.

I Delegate My Weaknesses
Many entrepreneurs I know spend a majority of their time on administrative tasks, and the rest on truly high-value activities. The dyslexic advantage is that I’ve spent a lifetime avoiding administrative tasks. For me, reading and writing are slow and laborious processes. Because I always had to ask for help in school, I was naturally encouraged to gather others around me in order to be successful. As a result, I’ve become great at delegating my weaknesses and focusing my time on more important activities. For example, my first hire was an intern to help me with written communication and administrative tasks, which freed me up to focus on the business decisions that mattered.

I Seek Talent in Unexpected Places
Another advantage of being dyslexic at an early age is that you need to evaluate whether or not someone has the right skills to help you. For instance, I dictated a lot of papers in high school and college. I quickly learned to recognize people who could take dictation well. Ironically, as a dyslexic, one of the key factors I look for when hiring is strong written-communication skills. I find there is a big connection between the way people write and the way they think. Employees that can communicate clearly on paper also tend to bring good ideas to work. In fact, I have an administrative assistant and office manager on staff whose work history was almost entirely limited to being a literature professor. Hiring for useful talent instead of relying solely on a resume has made us a stronger company.

I Use Backdoor Problem-Solving
Over the years, I’ve become a great problem-solver despite my dyslexia, coming up with solutions that others don’t often see. Whether this is a result of the creativity common to people with learning differences, or a byproduct of adversity, is irrelevant; it’s useful for anyone in a position like mine. For example, I once needed to spell the word “curious,” but found the word very difficult to spell on my own. No matter how hard I tried to search Google for the correct spelling, I kept coming up short. I even tried “George,” but that got me nowhere. I finally realized that I could find it with a simple, alternate answer: “The Man with the Yellow Hat.” By tearing down preconceived notions of problem-solving, I’m able to stop beating problems to death and simply reinvent them.

My journey hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding. By letting my differences drive me, surrounding myself with the right people and being open to alternate solutions, I’ve discovered how to excel both in business and beyond. I hope you can use my experiences to do the same.

Eric McGehearty (pictured) is an EO Dallas member, as well as an artist, motivational speaker, proud husband and father of four. Contact Eric at eric@globerunner.com.

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