ADHD and the Business Owner: Is It a Gift?

ADHD and the Business Owner: Is It a Gift?

Thinking Entrepreneur

Is it the gift that keeps on giving? Or the gift that keeps on taking?

That is the question I was asking myself after a recent conversation with a woman named Nancy Snell. She approached me and introduced herself after I participated in a panel discussion in New York. She said she coaches businesspeople who have ADHD, the shorthand for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The condition is frequently mentioned in reference to kids, but people don’t necessarily outgrow it when they become adults. My first thought was, Who sent you? Is this is an intervention?

It has been recognized that many successful people have ADHD. In many cases, it is a critical ingredient to their success. A lesser known fact is that it can also be a cause of stress, self-loathing, embarrassment, and lack of productivity. Like many things, ADHD takes many forms. It can be mild to crippling. It can be a great source of energy, or a great source of grief. I asked Ms. Snell what questions business owners should ask themselves to determine whether they have some form of ADHD. Here are her five questions:

1. Do you struggle with day-to-day planning, project management, and follow-up?
2. Do you lack the systems, discipline and focus to manage your workload?
3. Do you procrastinate too much and fail to accomplish things that need to get done?
4. Do you feel you’re not as effective and productive as you would like to be?
5. Are you easily distracted?

Interesting. While I would say that I can relate (to some degree) to all five of those issues, I have concluded that Ms. Snell was not sent on a mission to save me. I was, however, intrigued that someone could make a living being an ADHD coach. I wanted to know more, for two reasons. I realized that if I could improve on any of the five issues, it could be very helpful. I was also intrigued to learn that ADHD is a serious problem in business — that she has clients who are really in pain. I asked her to give me examples and to give us a primer on how she coaches people for better performance. Here are her examples:

1. A vice president of an advertising agency who was having a hard time focusing. The stress from being chronically late to meetings, from procrastinating and from constantly having to make excuses was getting to him. He didn’t like his job but couldn’t get organized to look around. Ms. Snell helped him put systems in place and identify habits that were counter-productive. She found he frequently forgot to return phone calls because he called his voicemail from his car where he couldn’t write down a message. She worked with him to find a different approach. My reaction? Part of me thinks a grown man shouldn’t need to be told how to take phone messages, but another part of me understands that we all do things that we know aren’t smart, including me. According to Ms. Snell, he applied what he learned to every aspect of his working life and has greatly reduced his stress. He also found a better job.

2. A chief executive of a 70-person hedge fund who was bothered that he was constantly getting distracted in meetings — even meetings that he was running. Ms. Snell found that these “distractions” were often, in fact, very important ideas or revelations that could be valuable but needed to be managed. She developed a system where he would have two pads of paper with him at every meeting: one for meeting notes and one for everything else that came to mind. This simple solution allowed him to be more focused and productive without worrying about what he might miss.

3. A chief executive of a $25 million company who felt challenged in his abilities to execute consistently and to communicate productively. The company was in financial distress, he knew that he was the problem, and the stress was taking a toll. One issue Ms. Snell observed was that he was constantly checking e-mails. He tried to commit to checking them only at specific times every day but found that discipline impossible to maintain. She suggested that he commit to checking his e-mail everyday before leaving the office, a solution that was both specific and flexible. It worked, and with the help of some other planning devices he became more effective and his stress declined.

There is obviously far more to each story than I can include in these short examples. To me, the point is this: When most people think of ADHD, they think of school-age boys jumping on sofas. For adults, the reality is that ADHD is about having more ideas than you can process or manage. Having a lot of ideas is the gift; having them distract you from what needs to get done causes stress. The opportunity is to manage the ADHD so that it is an asset instead of a liability. Whether you hire someone to help with this process or make some adjustments on your own, I think it is a topic that has been largely ignored. But then again, I wasn’t paying that much attention.

Jay Goltz owns five small businesses in Chicago.



Compulsory pensions contributions for all employers from 2012

Compulsory pensions contributions for all employers from 2012

The Pension Act 2008 has slipped under the radar of many employers but is has the potential of adding significantly to costs. It introduces compulsory pension provision which means that from 2012, employers will need to automatically enrol most of their staff in a pension scheme and pay a contribution by 2014 of at least 3%. Unless a company has in place an occupational scheme that meets the Act’s requirements (known as a “qualifying Workplace Pension Scheme”) it will fall under the umbrella of a national scheme known as ‘Personal Accounts’. The key new responsibilities are:

  • Employers must auto-enrol all jobholders in a pension scheme from 2012 if they are aged between 22 and state pension age and earn more than a minimum level of (‘band’) earnings
  • Band earnings on which contributions are based are those between £5,035 and £33,540 (although these bands will be revised upwards by 2012)
  • A contribution of 8% of band earnings must be paid, with the employer paying at least 3% (this can be phased-in over a period of three years from 2012) – it is made up to 8% by adding 4% from the employee and 1% from the government in the form of tax relief
  • Employees can opt-out of the scheme and, if they do, no contributions need to be made on their behalf – fines will be in place for those who coerce employees into opting out
  • Employers need to re-enrol employees who opt-out, at least once every three years – so the employee will again be presented with the option of joining the scheme or remaining outside of it
Period for contributions
Year Company Employee Tax relief
2012 1% 0.8% 0.2%
2013 2% 2.4% 0.6%
2014 3% 4% 1%

Source: UK Pension Service

For further advise call Richard Terhorst on 0845 009 5360


Equality Act 2010 sets new traps

Equality Act 2010 sets new traps

Posted by in In practice, In business on Mon, 04/10/2010 – 10:54
• Equality Act 2010 consolidates nine human rights acts into one law
• Introduces principle of discrimination & harassment by association
• Employers now liable for actions of third parties
• Tribunal powers increased and new clauses on pay transparency

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October. editor Charlie Duff highlights a few of the new danger spots for employers.

The new Equality Act is designed to consolidate nine separate discrimination laws such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 into a single act, but includes several changes that could come as an ugly surprise to unwary employers down the line.

Equality Act preparations
1. Review existing policies in all areas of discrimination to ensure they are still relevant.
2. Ensure employees with line manager and interviewing responsibilities are trained to recognise discrimination and ensure compliance with the law.
3. Ensure staff are trained so that they know what to do if they experience harassment or discrimination.
4. Depending on the nature of your activities, make clients, customers and commercial contacts that inappropriate behaviour towards staff will not be tolerated.
Source: ACAS

With many employers looking at cost cutting, job applicants and employees may be more willing to take advantage new protections provided by the act. Employment law specialists alerted HRzone to some of the key points to consider to minimise the risk of successful discrimination claims.

Discrimination & harassment by association

Among its various provisions, the act imposes new restrictions on what questions employers can ask about job candidates’ health and includes clauses that pave the way for discrimination and harassment claims based on association and perception.

The new provisions are intended to cover situations where discrimination or harassment is based on the victim’s association with someone who has a protected characteristic (such as a disabled child) or because the victim is wrongly thought to have a protected characteristic (eg a particular religious belief). “This change substantially widens the class of people able to bring a claim and is likely to result in a significant increase in the number of claims brought,” warned Lisa Mayhew, a partner with law firm Jones Day.

Employers now liable for actions of third parties

The Act will also allow an employee to bring a claim against their employer for the acts of a third party, such as a client, customer or colleague, where the employee has been harassed on at least two occasions and their employer is aware that it has taken place and has not taken reasonable steps to prevent it from happening again. “These new provisions may, depending on how widely they are interpreted by the tribunals, have the potential to bring about a major change in the claims which can be brought under the banner of ‘harassment’,” warned Mayhew.

Increased tribunal powers

The Equality Act has handed broader powers to Employment Tribunals to advise employers on their practices and procedures following successful claims. “The net result of these measures is to create traps for the unwary,” said Rachel Dineley, employment partner at law firm Beachcroft LLP. “Employers should take the opportunity to audit their current practices now to minimise their risks in this area. With many organisations undertaking some form of restructuring, the scope for expensive errors will increase. Ironically, employers could incur, rather than save, costs if they are not compliant with the new law.”

Pay, transparency and secrecy clauses

The act also renders unenforceable secrecy clauses that prevent employees from discussing their pay if the restriction is seen as an attempt to conceal pay discrimination. “The Act does not ban the inclusion of such clauses in employees’ contracts – it only makes them unenforceable and protects employees against victimisation following a relevant pay disclosure,” said Mayhew. “Employers will continue to be able to require employees to keep their pay rates confidential, for example from competitor organisations.” The equal pay provisions within the act will make it easier for employees to bring claims.

Transitional arrangements

With the advent of the new act, discrimination that straddles 1 October 2010 can now form the basis of a claim under the 2010 regulations covering the whole period of discrimination, without having to rely on the old law. But the transitional provisions do not apply to discriminatory acts taking place wholly before 1 October 2010. Employees may still bring claims in respect of such acts under the outgoing legislation, even if their claim is lodged after the Act has taken effect.
Not all of the draft provisions of the Equality Act have into force. Pending further consultation on public sector equality and socio-economic duties, additional measures under the act will follow in 2011.
The Equality Act 2010 provoked a critical response on’s Any Answers page. Leading the opposition was Cymraeg_draig, who warned, “As this new law stands employers could be sued if a staff member makes a joke which another staff member (who doesn’t even have to overhear the joke) feels offended by it.”
Looking on the bright side, he added: “Under the wording of this act, it would appear that if HMRC write a letter to your client and you consider it to be ‘offensive’ or ‘distressing’ then you could sue HMRC.”
This article is based on an extract from the HRzone article Equality Act comes into force: overview.