Running a Business as an Autistic Adult

Running a business as an autistic adult

Running a business as an autistic adult can be challenging and rewarding all at the same time. I once read a stat that claimed ‘1 in 3 self-made millionaires is neurodiverse’. This was before I knew about my own particular flavour of autism but well after we found out about our sons.

It’s a statistic I can well believe, based on my own desire to start a business and grow it into something people will remember.

But whilst being autistic has its advantages (obsessive attention to detail being one of them), There are a number of challenges that almost every business owner on the ASD spectrum will face. 

Autistic people struggle to compromise. 

Obviously, I can only speak for myself here but one of the greatest challenges for an autistic adult running a business can be the constant need for compromise. This is not something we are typically known for and in many cases, it can be the difference between success and failure. 

Compromising is essential, especially when the business is new because your brand name is not yet established. As a new business owner trying to stand out amongst fierce competition, you must be adaptable based on client/customer demands. Very few of them will work the same way you do. 

As an autistic adult, this has been a major challenge for me because my default is to always think my way is right. This is something I’ve become very aware of over the last 2 years and with the help of my wife, adjustments have been made. 

Autistic people struggle with chaos

As much as I would love my business to run on my terms at all times, it really doesn’t work that way. I’d love people to only email me at certain times of the day and leave me alone when I’m in writing or creative mode but again… Never going to happen.

As an autistic business owner, there is always another task to do and the work is never complete so limiting the opportunities for task overwhelm is essential. If you start the day with 10 tasks, and because of the reactive nature of business, 10 becomes 20, it can become a hugely stressful place to be. 

To combat this, I am rigid with my task list and calendar, blocking out every part of my day for set tasks and then a block of time for things that have dropped that day. When I am in writing or video mode, everything else is switched off and out of my world for that period. 

Adhoc time MUST be allocated each day and I also have to accept that catching up in the evening is a regular thing. Not completing the day’s tasks will cause me a sleepless night, even if it can easily be done tomorrow.

Autistic people are often very self-obsessed. 

We don’t mean to be, but autistic people are often so focused on what they are trying to achieve, that anything else falls to the wayside. This can cause challenges in relationships both personally and professionally. 

As a business owner, it is essential to ALWAYS place the needs of your clients before anything else. Yes, the business must stick to its values and no, you should not be selling your soul to clinch a deal but in general… The customer is always right. 

Especially early on. 

For me, this transition has been challenging, but enlightening at the same time. At first, I did the typical autistic thing of becoming obsessed with the structure of the business and ‘fun stuff’ and not paying enough attention to the people paying the bills and keeping a roof over our heads. 

That mindset shifted the moment I realised how much I was learning from the people choosing us for their social media management. 

Intelligent business leaders who knew so much more than I did about running a business were, without even knowing it, shaping the way I began to run my own. It was indeed the moment my selfish outlook on life and business started to shift completely. 

From that very early moment in 2022, I started to soak up the knowledge like a sponge. I was seeing clients as more than just transactional and began to truly value them as inspirational figures who would teach me so much about my business.   

So what about the good stuff…

Autistic people are obsessed with the details

My wife will often say to me: 

“No one else is going to pick up on that.”

Usually, about something I’ve spotted on my car, or a minor detail I’ve tweaked in our business strategy. Of course, she is usually right but in the mind of an autistic adult, the smallest details matter. 

Being this obsessed with the things ALMOST no one else sees ensures we build strategies that tick all the boxes, rather than just some of them. It means we get more done in a day, distribute more content in a day and leave nothing to chance when it comes to the perception of our brand.

Being obsessed with the details means our business stands apart from others in our field because we have thought of something they haven’t. We have spotted something they may have missed. 

Autistic people say what they see

For those of you who like to please, this may sound a bit odd. Autistic adults are very often straight talkers, shooting from the hip with no real consideration for the fluff that often gets attached to feedback or potential confrontation. 

In the world of business, where you can easily fall victim to a more experienced player taking advantage of your relative naivety as a business owner, this is a huge advantage. Of course, there is a fine line between direct and rude but the ability to be straight with people ensures everyone in the relationship knows exactly where they stand at all times. 

Will it lose you a few clients? Probably. 

Does that mean they weren’t right for you in the first place? Definitely.

To Conclude…

Running a business as an autistic adult is certainly not without its challenges. Our minds work in a different way to our neurotypical comrades so if it’s an easy life you’re looking for, don’t bother. 

The stat I mentioned at the start of this article however suggests that a very large percentage of successful business leaders are autistic. If this doesn’t tell you something about the obvious link between a neurodiverse adult and the demands of running a successful company…

I don’t know what does. 

Stay Unconventionall.