Inspiration Entre­pre­neur des­pi­te, with or thanks to dys­le­xia?


Hi, I’m Phil­ipp. I am co-foun­der and mana­ging part­ner of SAPE­RED. A few years ago, many peop­le would­n’t have belie­ved I would be able to do that, mys­elf inclu­ded. Why? Read on to find out…


He can’t even wri­te pro­per­ly

Child­ren paint pic­tures by num­bers. The­re, the respec­ti­ve shape, size, and arran­ge­ment wit­hin the over­all con­text is pre­cise­ly given. The situa­ti­on is simi­lar for me with wri­ting. Howe­ver, my tem­pla­tes are less colour­ful and the over­all con­text not so buco­lic” in many respects. I paint by num­bers” words and ent­i­re sen­ten­ces. I use this method to try to find a work­around for a dis­or­der” or weak­ness”: dys­le­xia. Or rather: I app­ly my own approach. This, howe­ver, has its limits. Street names are the final boss for me becau­se I can’t see the begin­ning and the end of indi­vi­du­al words. Tha­t’s ok, just super annoy­ing.

So tha­t’s whe­re I’ve been stan­ding with my com­pa­n­ion sin­ce the first days of school. Today we get along qui­te well. Howe­ver, the stress­ful ever­y­day life in a suc­cess­ful start-up some­ti­mes ensu­res that no sen­tence seems to fit tog­e­ther. But that does­n’t mat­ter. My dys­le­xia is no secret in our team, it just means that, someo­ne else always has to check important emails and cor­rect spel­ling and grammar.

My tip: talk about it!

Today I can talk open­ly about the topic. This was not pos­si­ble less than 10 years ago. My fears, my shame and my anger at my fail­u­re to wri­te quick­ly made me aggres­si­ve and vul­nerable. Ever­ything chan­ged in my pre­vious employ­ment. From the first moment, the­re was enough trust to say open­ly and honest­ly that I have to face this chal­len­ge and need help. I was able to exp­lain how I wan­ted to be sup­por­ted, what makes me feel good and what does­n’t help based on my expe­ri­ence. Rare­ly has anything chan­ged my pro­fes­sio­nal life as much as working tog­e­ther in this team.


Con­cen­tra­te on your strengths

I belie­ve that every per­son has skills that, when used cor­rect­ly, can have an enor­mous impact on an orga­ni­sa­ti­on. This app­lies to all of us, mys­elf inclu­ded. If I can’t sol­ve a pro­blem, I always have to ask mys­elf whe­re and when it will beco­me a pro­blem in the first place. Aren’t my other skills much more valu­able and don’t they bring me, the team and the orga­ni­sa­ti­on for­wards? Dys­le­xics need to learn to think dif­fer­ent­ly and sol­ve tasks dif­fer­ent­ly and with added dif­fi­cul­ty. This results in uncon­ven­tio­nal thin­king and inno­va­ti­on.

I learn fas­ter (e.g., to under­stand sys­tems), ask ques­ti­ons and con­nect the ans­wers. In com­bi­na­ti­on with my Excel skills and an inte­rest in the big­ger pic­tu­re”, this means that I can now be respon­si­ble for the finan­ces at SAPE­RED. I have lear­ned to build tools (e-mail tem­pla­tes, mne­mo­nic tech­ni­ques, etc.) that help me in the long term. It is bet­ter to invest 4 hours today with a lot of care and logic and to have more plan­ning secu­ri­ty tomor­row.


What does this mean for SAPE­RED?

SAPE­RED offers solu­ti­ons in the big play­ing field of Lear­ning & Deve­lo­p­ment. My sto­ry at school, my fears during my fur­ther edu­ca­ti­on, my embarr­ass­ment in front of col­leagues regar­ding e-mails or texts have shaped my view of this topic. L&D must help lear­ners to do their tasks bet­ter. Not only in terms of out­put, but espe­cial­ly in terms of out­co­me. The indi­vi­du­al will then feel bet­ter.

From our pur­po­se (“We dri­ve peop­le to grow”) and our visi­on (“We give lear­ning the effect by which chan­ge in the com­pa­ny beco­mes an oppor­tu­ni­ty and the future turns into ever­y­day life”) lead me to think that we faci­li­ta­te other peop­le with sup­po­sed weak­nes­ses” to flou­rish. This does not always requi­re a big solu­ti­on. On the con­tra­ry: often it is the small, easi­ly app­li­ca­ble and simp­le ans­wer.


Skills are more important than roles

My expe­ri­ence has also hel­ped to build up our orga­ni­sa­tio­nal struc­tu­re. Only we hand­le strengths, weak­nes­ses, dif­fe­ren­tia­ted and com­ple­men­ta­ry skills open­ly can and will we be suc­cess­ful. For me, suc­cess is not only mea­su­red through eco­no­mic KPIs. The team­’s well-being is much more important. Can ever­yo­ne deve­lop and dri­ve the things that make them strong? Does ever­yo­ne get the help they need?

Skill-based work in an orga­ni­sa­ti­on with the cou­ra­ge to inclu­de a diver­si­ty of per­spec­ti­ves gives us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to deve­lop fur­ther as a com­pa­ny. Let’s take recrui­t­ing as an examp­le. The values must coin­ci­de to a lar­ge extent, the new team mem­bers must be able to iden­ti­fy with our pur­po­se and visi­on. Howe­ver, the skills should not be the same. We are not loo­king for peop­le to beco­me our Mini-Me”, rather for peop­le who bring other skills to enrich our team and from whom we can learn.


Last but not least…

I would like to con­clu­de with an appeal to par­ents. If you find out that your child­ren have a dif­fe­rent level of strengths and weak­nes­ses than the norm, sup­port them. As an examp­le, just look at the big names of our time (Bill Gates, Ste­ven Spiel­berg, etc.) who have a rea­ding and wri­ting dis­or­der” and are abso­lute­ly suc­cess­ful in their field.

To all employ­ers: spel­ling mista­kes in an app­li­ca­ti­on suck, yes, I know. But they say not­hing about skills in other are­as. Ask open­ly about weak­nes­ses, offer help and you will get pas­si­on, loyal­ty and inno­va­ti­on in return.

This might sound unusu­al in a busi­ness con­text, but, is the­re anything nor­mal about this blog post? I dedi­ca­te this small post to Wil­helm, Cars­ten and Car­men for their pati­ence with the many texts, e-mails and ever­ything else. To Pas­cal, who asked me to wri­te this blog post and invi­ted me to talk about it open­ly, also out­side of our com­pa­ny.


Dis­c­lai­mer: the ori­gi­nal Ger­man ver­si­on of this blog post inclu­des grammar and spel­ling mista­kes.

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