(Photo credit: Jennifer Walker)
Lara Wellman is an Ottawa-based business coach and decade-long entrepreneur. She loves her work and gets extremely excited by it. When she starts something new, she focuses intensely on it but she’s also not afraid to take risks or change it up when things start to wane. These are all important traits for small business owners to have, and they are also in line with symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Wellman was diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago when she was going through the process of getting her son assessed. “If a child has it, in most cases, one of the parents does, too. It was a conversation with a phycologist that sparked me getting tested,” she said.
Heidi Bernhardt, president and executive director at the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada confirms that ADHD has the same rate of hereditary as height.
For Wellman, this diagnoses was a game changer in her entrepreneurial life. Being chronically late, the inability to be detail oriented, or just not being able to execute on long-term plans were no longer character faults to her — they were the reality of someone with ADHD.
Bernhardt explains that people with ADHD lack “executive function.” These are the mental skills that help us with organization, time management, problem solving, hindsight and foresight, and working memory. For example, “people with ADHD are constantly late for things because they are not able to estimate how long something is going to take, they often lose things — their keys, their glasses — all things that impact their daily life,” she said.
All of the things that sat on my back as shame for years became more understandable.
And this rang true for Wellam. “I misjudge things and I’m often late because of it. It’s good to know that there is a reason for it, and that I’m not just a bad person,” she said. “[Getting assessed] was one of the best things I ever did because all of the things that sat on my back as shame for years, became more understandable. It wasn’t because I was lazy or that I wasn’t able to do something, it was because my brain processes things differently. When I understood that, I saw where my strengths lie and started focusing on that.”
Clearly, the negative aspects about ADHD — like being late and unorganized — can hinder someone who owns their own business, but the positives and the nature of entrepreneurship are well suited, like the willingness to take risks, the ability to hyperfocus and being open to change. “If I enjoy something I can dive in deep and do an amazing job. As an entrepreneur you have the ability to create the job that speaks to your strengths.”
As a business coach, Wellman draws on what she’s learned through her own experiences and helps guide others to get them to where they want to be.
(Photo credit: unposed)
“I am very good at listening to people, helping them figure out what they need to do next. I’m not good at executing,” she explained. “My planning is more, ‘What are my big goals?’ Break it down into sections but then get support from the team — my assistant, part of her job is a professional nagger.”
Being diagnosed with ADHD and educating herself on what that means, has done two things for Wellman — it’s made her kinder to herself and more successful.
“As a business coach, it plays out and forward. People are their worst critics. Knowing how to have compassion for myself and accepting that I am not great at all things and that I don’t have to be, I can pass that on to other people. Everybody needs a different solution for things,” she said. “My business has tripled in the last couple of years because I’ve let go of these things and just owned it.”