Tips for Budding Entrepreneurs with Autism

Handy suggestions for entrepreneurs and managers with autism

There is no doubt that people with autism face different challenges when starting a company. A report recently revealed, for instance, that less than 10% of people with autism are employed. However, many people with autism disorders are showing that they can shine in their chosen field and as entrepreneurs. Satoshi Tajiri (creator of Pokémon), Andreas Souvaliotis (Carrot Rewards), and Bonnie Arnwine (National Autism Resources Inc.) are all running important organizations while having autism. If you have autism and you have been working for a few years in an area you are passionate about, it is time to branch out and start your own business. Without a doubt, your ability to focus and work hard to achieve your goals will help you progress as a budding entrepreneur.

Keeping It Honest

Some people with autism prefer to keep their diagnosis to themselves but others feel that honesty is the best policy. Often, being honest about your challenges helps other people understand your particular social skills. If you do decide to share your story, accompanying it with a small list of your strengths and weaknesses will help your employees avoid taking things ‘personally’ if, for instance, you happen to say something a little bluntly. If you have interacted with other employees and managers in the past, you will know to phrase things in the most optimal way. Sharing your diagnosis is an important way to let your employees know who you are, but also to show that it truly is possible to achieve your dreams, regardless of the obstacles that may stand in your way.

Valuing Flexibility

People with autism can sometimes find it challenging to adapt to new demands or circumstances, yet this is a key quality that CEOs or business owners need to have to succeed. In children, one of the symptoms of ASD is having highly focused interests and difficulty adapting to new scenarios or activities. Thus, a child may have a preferred game or toy they enjoy, paying little attention to new items brought in by their parents. In fact, paying attention to new stimuli is key for children as much as it is for professional adults. Today’s business environment is rapidly changing, with social media, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity continually demanding that businesses respond to change. You can fill this gap by hiring visionary, creative employees, and having frequent meetings to reassess key strategies and tactics.

The Unspoken Rules of Company Culture

Autism UK recommends that people with autism observe the unwritten rules that create a company’s culture. Speak with your partners or your mentor about a few rules that will work in the type of office you are setting up. These can include everything from having a coffee break to celebrating employees’ birthdays with an in-office party, considering flex-time or home working part of the week, or having feedback meetings. Think about the culture at your last place of work, and jot down the routines and work set-ups that were most appreciated by the team. You can start out by establishing these habits at your new business, asking employees for feedback on new traditions you can start together.

Because many people with autism develop a strong interest in specific fields, they can utilize this passion to start a successful, thriving business. Obstacles such as social skills can be ironed out by being open about your condition, or by asking your mentors for ideas on how to create a positive corporate culture.