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Co-founders of InventiveLabs Tom Bergeron and Rick Fiery discuss their stories of meandering through the world of entrepreneurship to arrive where they are today: operating a business incubator specifically focused on those adults with ADHD, dyslexia, and other disorders who are looking to propel their ideas and businesses to their next professional level. The pair address topics ranging from disruptive ideas to risk-taking, their interplay with ADHD, and more.
[Eric his hosting a free webinar on Hi-Tech & Low-Tech Solutions to Supercharge Your Productivity on December 30, 2015 at 1:30 PM (GMT-6) Central Time (US/Can).]
Co-founded by Tom Bergeron and Rick Fiery, InventiveLabs is a business incubator with a focus on adults with ADHD, dyslexia, and other related challenges.
InventiveLabs conducts a program designed to help foster creativity and teach business skills necessary to develop a product or start a business.
Rick Fiery calls himself a “serial entrepreneur”. He began work as a civil engineer, but found “designing roads” a bit boring and so switched to the computer aided design (CAD) side of the industry. Later, he would return to school, earning an MBA from Wharton where he won a business plan competition, and went on to successfully build out a company selling products around the world. Following an acquisition by a larger company, he started managing finances but became bored after he “figured it out”. After moving, running another startup, and leaving that, Rick began looking for his next project.
Tom similarly began work in the CAD field, then switched over to working with customers directly to help solve their problems. Down the line, after Tom’s company was acquired by Autodesk, he left and later met Rick who was looking to introduce and launch his own product.
Tom mentions his background was primarily in bringing disruptive products into a market – products the design or implementation of which run contrary to what is traditionally done, but that later may be accepted as being better than what existed before.
Eric makes a parallel between how those with ADHD are sometimes described by others during their childhood and disruptive ideas and technology.
Rick notes that, looking back, “disrupting things” was what he enjoyed doing. That’s part of the fun of being an entrepreneur: being a disruptor.
Eric: For some children, when they don’t accept “no” for an answer, they’re diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder; for adults, not accepting “no” for an answer can be seen as the admirable quality of persistence in some contexts.
A Different Incubator:
Tom and Rick both knew they liked working in startup environments. They mused about beginning a business incubator, which is a place for individuals or small groups to discuss ideas, form business plans, and work to gain funding for their ideas and companies to move forward.
There were a bunch of regular business incubators in their area, which drove Tom and Rick to try a different approach.
Starting with perspective gained through seeing family members with ADHD, dyslexia, and other challenges struggle to maximize their potential, the pair entertained the idea of making an incubator specifically tailored to them.
The focus at InventiveLabs is trying to create opportunities for those they work with based on their passions. Moving toward making money doing what one loves increases their chances of success.
ADHD, Risk-taking, and Entrepreneurship:
While neither Tom nor Rick have been formally diagnosed with ADHD, they both, through looking at the paths their lives have taken, surmise that there’s a decent chance they have it.
As a young child, Tom remembers having academic difficulties, problems reading, and more. In college it was only through partnering with others in a community and later focusing in on interpreting subjects that he succeeded.
Tom’s son was diagnosed with verbal dyspraxia; as his son has progressed through school, he’s noticed struggles in much the same ways and places as he remembers.
Rick points to his winding career path, a need to always have new and exciting projects to work on, risk-taking nature, and hobbies as a roadmap alongside that of one with ADHD.
“Some things don’t always go the way you plan, but if you’re willing to pivot and adjust and not let impending doom scare you off, then you can find other ways.”
Tom: Entrepreneurs tend to attempt riskier ventures and aim for more disruptive products and ideas compared with regular small business owners who are still passionate in their own right.
Rick: “Being successful for us is getting to do what you love, waking up every day excited about doing that, and making enough money to forge a living. […] For me as an entrepreneur, I like the thrill of creating things.”
For those looking to make their own work, For people with ADHD, dyslexia, and other challenges, having that “bright light” of doing what is exciting, interesting, and engaging for them every day is that much more important.
Eric mentions he virtual necessity of delegating tasks for those with ADHD and how challenging building a team in an entrepreneurial setting. Specifically, Eric has been studying up, listening to 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker, and E-Myth by Michael Gerber.
In E-Myth Eric remembers the sentiment of “sometimes people don’t own a business – they own a job”.
Tom and Rick found that often, those with ADHD, dyslexia, and the like are, because of those challenges, more used to reaching out to others for help. That can end up being a positive attribute in terms of task delegation and collaboration. Others who have been more consistently successful in life will sometimes tend to micro-manage others to their detriment.
Eric points out how often, despite those with ADHD wanting to avoid certain tasks – namely those related to the financial side of their business – that they also do need to know enough to make smart decisions.
InventiveLabs will work with people on forming their profit–loss statements. Tom describes the process as where every number on that statement should have a story behind it – an idea of what elements contribute to each cost.
With one client who was having trouble, they honed in on which parts of their training were being best understood and created a workflow involving those parts, as well as a specifically tailored Excel spreadsheet, so their client could better understand the process.
Most people will begin to prioritize tasks they’re unfamiliar with only as they become necessary during the process of building their businesses; a client of InventiveLabs realized they would need to contract work for computer programming and subsequently became very interested and motivated concerning forming good contracts.
Friends and Business:
Tom and Rick agree that “you do business in a business-like way with people, even if it’s friends.”
Despite being good friends for years, Tom and Rick still had to deal with legal and structural questions about their business when it formed. They had all of the professional business-level conversations beforehand so that they wouldn’t obstruct them going forward.
“Always do it professionally.” If you don’t understand a legal document, hire a good lawyer to help out.
Documentation is important. In the case of a client working with a friend to help produce a product, Tom recommended to him that he document his business relationship with that friend in their correspondence so that they both understood their roles and positions in the project.
Document who had the idea, the nature of the business relationship, whatever financial component may exist, etc.
Failure and Success:
InventiveLabs recently hosted a group session to discuss failure.
One guest they had speak was an entrepreneur inventor with over two thousand listed products in stores across major retailers. He said, despite his success, he had about four million dollars’ worth of failed products in his basement.
Treating failure as a learning opportunity and maintaining a mindset of building on what you’ve learned is recommended.
Some see the grades they earned in school as indicators of their future success or failure, but Rick and Eric both point out their struggles with college, receiving poor grades, and ultimately being successful.
Rick mentions the idea of a fear of success – that people will not have a plan for succeeding in their endeavors or being fearful of the spotlight that comes with success.
Eric remembers in college progressing from earning a 1.8 GPA in his second semester to, after being diagnosed with ADHD and beginning his medication, a 3.75 GPA. Upon earning the 3.75, Eric became nervous of whether or not he would be able to keep that up. After succeeding a second semester, the fear only grew.
In episode 92, Eric talked to Alan Brown about climbing a ladder of success while having a fear of heights.
Products, Services, and Other Links:
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
ADHD reWired Episode 92: Brain Hacks and Worthiness with Alan Brown
Find and Contact InventiveLabs:
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