You likely know someone who is neurodivergent, but you may not know what that means or how to accommodate a client that is.
In this episode, I have the pleasure of talking with Megan Dowd, who shares ways to support our neurodivergent clients.
As a neurodivergent entrepreneur, Megan takes steps in her business to ensure she accommodates all walks of life.
Brand therapist, Megan Dowd is a neurodiverse entrepreneur, business strategist, coach, and storyteller. With her Human First, Biz Second approach, she is helping new and seasoned business owners build a better human connection with themselves and their clients—leaning into who they are and what they stand for.
After nearly a decade as a professional actress and a Jill of all trades in that industry, Megan decided to go into business for herself. There she learned that the skills she acquired in acting reciprocated into business. She started MD&Co in 2018 and celebrates leveraging her client's strengths, transparency, values, and building a connection. She also built Hello, CEO in 2020 to help support neurodiverse entrepreneurs build where they can thrive in a business world that isn’t one size fits all.
💝 Key Takeaways
🔗 Where You Can Find Megan
🌹 Rose's Resources
Ep#29 - 3 Ways You Should Be Supporting Your Neurodivergent Clients - Megan Dowd
Rose: Hey, it's Rose and welcome to another episode of the Sensitive CEO Show. And in today's episode, it's my pleasure to introduce you to Megan Dowd. Megan is a brand therapist. She's a neurodiverse entrepreneur, a business strategist, a coach and storyteller. Welcome, Megan. It's lovely to talk with you today..
Megan: Thank you so much for having me, Rose. I'm very excited about this conversation.
Rose: Oh, so am I. And as you're a storyteller, I would love you to share your story with our audience today, please.
Megan: Oh, my, my story of neurodivergence or my story of being a sensitive CEO?
Rose: Whichever story you would like to share, I'd love to know how you got into what you are doing now, the work that you do with clients.
Megan: It started because my, my dear sweet husband and I moved cross country in the States. and I needed work, and I'd just gotten my Pilate certification. So I decided to start an online Pilates business, and in my first, I like how to build an online business course that I took because we all have that beginner course.
I realised that there was this incredible parallel between everything I had learned in my previous career as a professional actress for building a theatrical production and selling seats. The actual performance of like the psychological connections between characters and between the audience. Like this is branding, this is marketing; this is design, this is a copy.
Like, I, I can do this. This is very easy for me. And so instead of building my Pilates business, I just helped everyone that I was in the class with build theirs. . . I love it. And it, and it came to a bit of a come to Jesus talk with my dear sweet husband, where he very sweetly was like, I do not care what you do for a career.
If Pilates is where your heart is, go for it. But I don't think it's occurred to you that this is a full-time job that other people pay money for. So if you wanna keep giving your time away for free, I am okay with that. But has it occurred to you that this is a job and it had not? So from there, I started. I started my business as it would become what it is today. It started as a branding copy, web design, and a small little freelance business called Megan has good words. And anew into what it is right now. What it is now where I work with folks.
I tend to work with folks who are really sick of the online business industry, who like, love their businesses and love the impact and the good that can come from small businesses. Really good intentional work and are also a little bit disillusioned by all the big buzzwords. . . and we work to find a clarity of language, clarity of messaging so that they can sell with ease. Talk about their work with ease, talk about their work in five paragraphs or less, which for many of us, especially when you do something that's a little bit different, you've got, you've got a method to your madness. It can be really hard to communicate that clearly to someone else because it all lives in your head.
And especially as a highly sensitive person, as someone who has ADHD, anxiety, and clinical depression for, especially for myself, like I know how hard it is to try to sift through the information and prioritise what is it other people need to know? Because it's all important to me. I don't know how to, I don't know how to silo this, and you know, make it into a pithy one-sentence.
And it's almost impossible for us to do that for ourselves. We always need an outside perspective. We always need someone outside our brain listening to us ramble and go, wait, right there, what you just said right there. That's the thing. And typically, at least a lot of times with my clients, it's like a drive-by.
They're like, what? What did I say?? Yes. And so I, I repeat it back, and we dig into the language. We dig into the nuance, we dig into the context, and we find this really beautiful confluence of the internal language so that they understand in their gut, what am I doing? Why am I doing it? How am I doing? why does it matter?
And then translating that into the external language, the marketing, the narrative strategy, the launch strategy, the whatever, so that people understand it on the same level, that they understand it in their gut.
Rose: I love that. And. I mean, it sounds like you've got an amazing gift that you can really draw out the messaging from people.
You can draw, draw that out from people that, yeah, I know I struggle to find words even when I speak, what I actually do and what I offer. So what a wonderful gift to have. And do you think being highly sensitive helps with that? You know, the deep listening that you can really dive into?
Megan: Oh, definitely, it really, for me at least, language lives in our bodies. It was, I mean, it was a huge part of what I loved in my theatrical training was how we say words like where they live, where the consonants and vowels live in our mouth, changes how we hear them and how they're interpreted, which changes the emotion with which they're both delivered and received.
Now, that's like getting perhaps a little technical in the theatre, but I found the same to be true for small business owners, and so being able. To cue into that. And I do think a lot of that comes from being a highly sensitive person where you're very, you're heightened, your awareness of it is heightened.
And, whether or not you've had, had training or are interested or whatever, I think all of us have a version of that heightened sense. And for me, that heightened sense comes in really queuing into language. And understanding not just what the word is but how someone is saying it and the context that they're using it and in in many ways, I prefer to do work on Zoom because then I can also cue into their physical cues.
Yeah. Because that says so much about language as well.
Rose: I love that. Love that. So Megan, you. You talk about Neurodivergency, but I'd love you to share your definition of Neurodivergency, please.
Megan: For me, neurodivergence is or being neurodivergent, my brain works a little bit differently than the rest of what we understand to be typical.
We, you, we. If you wanna, if anyone listening, wants to get in the weeds with me about how we define neurotypical, feel free. Let's have a discussion. I love, I, I love a good dialogue of, like, what is the nuance, but very broad strokes. Neurodivergent, for me, is my brain structured a little bit differently than what we anticipate as typical than what we categorise as typical and frankly for how the world has been built to operate.
My brain doesn't slot into that norm. Heavy air quotes of operation. And so as a result, I need to find my own workarounds. I need to, and in many ways, it's been, I need to do a lot of introspection and really question what is useful to me. When I was diagnosed with clinical depression, I realised that up until that point in my life, I had just always thought that like, if I was not dead, it can't be a problem.
Right? Like those, that was like the bar for being okay. I'm not dead, so it must be fine. And I think I've had a very similar, from, at least from my journey with understanding my own neuro divergence, has been like, okay, just because I'm not failing at every turn doesn't mean that it could be easier, that maybe I didn't have to struggle this hard.
A dear, dear friend of mine. Does. A lot of deep work with trauma responses and, and pleasure and how we like as humans, we are meant to feel pleasure, and that's been revolutionary as well, of like I could, it's not that I absolutely cannot operate in the system as it. , but it's so much work.
And it's so hard, and it takes all of my, if you're familiar with the spoon theory metaphor, it takes all my spoons just to get through a day. What if I had some spoons left over for joy? What if I had some spoons left over for pleasure, delight, hobbies, and really understanding that, like I deserve that.
Yeah. A huge part of, of, of, of my, of my definition of neuro divergence has evolved into the worthiness of finding pleasure, of finding ease. . . Just because the system isn't set up for how my brain works, doesn't mean I don't deserve to have ease. I don't deserve to find pleasure. Yeah. I deserve to find my work around to have those things.
Rose: So what sort of workarounds have you honed in your business as a neuro divergent and HSP entrepreneur?
Megan: It's taken me years of every task management system you could imagine, to, to set up my own task management, which I. I, I mean, I don't, I don't do project management. I don't teach it, so I, forgive me for stumbling and trying to describe it.
But it really, it's one of those things where someday, like someday when I bring a VA on, it'll be a learning curve for them because it doesn't, I don't know how well it makes sense to anyone who isn't in my brain. , let me tell you, it makes sense to my brain. . , because I've got the, I've got the repeat tasks for certain things.
I've siloed my days so that, cuz I'm, I, I admire those who can task switch really well. I do not , I do not at all. And so re allowing myself not to, I used to try to force myself into like the batch content days and batching days. In theory, it's the same thing in practice. For me, it's not . , because the batching requires so much, so many switching of tasks to get, like to using the example of content to get it all through the pipeline and ready to go.
But if I just have a writing day, That's, I'm gonna batch my writing. Not batching my content, but I'm batching my writing. . I'm gonna batch my design. I'm gonna batch my client admin days where I know that, that, or for, you know, for that day or for that half day, for that morning, all I'm doing is I'm gonna be in Dubsado I'm be cleaning things up.
I'll be answering emails, but in my brain that all still lives in client admin. So it's not task switching. . Yeah. But if I tried to say, well, I'm just gonna do emails in the morning. Well, if I'm going from Dubsado to Gmail to that Google Doc and then back, like technically that's all answering my emails.
But it doesn't, those don't live in the same place of my brain . . And so it, it, it's a long example. Thank you for coming on that long walk for a short drink of water. But it's, it's, for me, it's perhaps the most potent example of, of one of those systems of understanding, oh, I, this is how my brain categorises these things.
So I can, and because I have my own business as so many of us who are HSP Neurodivergent, turn to, I can structure it how I need it to run, not how I'm told. A good business runs.
Rose: Exactly, and I guess that's how you teach your clients as well, who are Neurodivergent,. Yeah. I love that.
Megan: A hundred percent.
It's, and, and it really, it extends to language, again, language as well, but like, I don't, the, when we're, when we go through internal language for a business, it doesn't matter what the definition is for me. What's the definition for you? It doesn't matter what everyone else thinks about a certain word.
I had a client a couple of years ago who we were digging into their, into their core values and they like we're, they'd given me their, their notes, their homework, we're chatting about it. And at one point I said, can I, do you mind if I, if I push back on something? And they were like, absolutely, let me know.
And I said, it feels like you really want ambition to be one of your core values. You're just not saying it. Is that something you're aware of? Is that like, are you just dancing around it? And they were like, well, that feels a little like, that feels too big. That feels like it's, it's too much. It feels like bro marketing, da da da da da.
And it was like, but do you like that word? , does it work for you? And they're like, I love it. I, I am ambitious. I want to be ambitious. I deeply value ambition. And I was like, great. It has to be one of your core values. . , it has to be, it doesn't matter what I think of the word. It doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks of the word.
If it's the internal language of your business, yeah. That's gonna inform the strategy. We can find different work. We can massage that language all day, all night so that it lands with the right people, but for the internal language, it's gotta land with you. So have a guest where ambition is gonna be on that list.
Rose: I love that. I love that. So as a business owner, what steps do you take Megan in your business to ensure inclusiveness and not just in the neuro divergent sense?
Megan: I. Well, I, I mean, on the one hand I just went through formal coaching and leadership certifications through the Institute for Equity Centered Coaching, and that's been incredibly, incredibly helpful, especially for me to.
I'm just gonna talk about language for this entire podcast episode, , to have language for things that I've felt in my gut about the inequities of, of the various systems and, and the power dynamics that happen between a service provider and a client. And it's given me the language to be able to talk about that and to be able to better identify it rather than like, I don't like this.
I don't know why I don't like this. Like, I could tell you why, but I'm not good with it. I also, I mean, pPurely, especially in the states, finances are all over the place for now. That's kind of true for everyone right now. .But we have a notable wealth gap in the States and for a long time it was really popular to offer paying full bonuses to offer, paying full discounts, and then it can, it's hiked up as much as 50% if you're paying in installments and financial acessibility and equitable financial accessibility, I should say, is really important to me. So at any work I do, you have the option for a payment plan at zero interest. The pay in full is the same as the payment plan. I, if I wanna give bonuses, I wanna give bonuses because I wanna do it. Because I wanna be generous because I, because it feels expansive and it feels like it's the right thing for everyone involved.
For me, offering a painful bonus doesn't feel like the right thing for everyone involved.
Rose: Yeah, that's a really good example. I love that. I do the same. I, I think mine slightly, I think might be $10 more or $20 more for a payment plan, which just covers those admin costs from, of course, Stripe and PayPal, but that's negligible.
Megan: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. When it's hundreds and hundreds of dollars, absolutely. What, no. It's, it's just benefiting, like that's just profiting. Yeah. For, for your example, like that's covering your costs. Yeah. That's a cost of doing business, but you're not profiting off of it.
Rose: No, exactly. It's a fee. So are your clients mainly neuro divergent? What? Types of clients do you work with? I'm, I'm really curious. Megan.
Megan: They tend to be neuro divergent. Whether or not they know it, actually I shouldn't say whether or not they know it because I don't know if they are or not. It's not my place to say that you are neuro divergent or you aren't if you haven't interacted that identity for yourself.
And I tend to work with folks who see things differently. I work with folks who have. Such a deep, strong sense of who they are and what they want to do, how they want to affect change in their industry, how they view their industry. It's all just a little bit off kilter in a really good way.
They've got these ideas of like, I think it could be done a little differently. I think it could be done like, and I think it could be a little bit better. and being neuro divergent tends to follow, and, and by and large, they are experts at what they do, whether or not they are revered and have the notoriety of expert status.
They are incredibly skilled and talented at what they do. And, and my work is to help them communicate that and help them make sure that other folks know exactly what it is that they do. It's never about notoriety necessarily. It's not about building a cult of personality. It's just about like, if only the right people could see this. It's like gangbusters.
Rose: It's, it's like it's similar to highly sensitive. It was, yeah. The same really highly sensitive people who are too shy or too. You know, they lack confidence to actually get them put themselves out there. . , but they've got such amazing gifts to share and there's so many people out there that need them and miss out on, on their gifts because they don't wanna be visible, they don't wanna put themselves out there, they don't have the right messaging and confidence to share their message.
Megan: Yeah. And I think it's, especially in the. In the online business industrial complex, as I like to call it, we associate confidence with volume. And so us I've, I've definitely found with, with clients who are neuro divergent, that. We encourage you can be so quiet and confident.
Confidence does not mean volume. Confidence does not mean you're on reels every day and creating 30 stories on Instagram. Confidence is not you post a new essay to LinkedIn every two weeks if you want to, if that makes sense to you. Rock on. Live your best life. I'm. , but that's not the prerequisite for confidence.
That's not the bellwether for confidence.The confidence is, comes with being able to speak clearly and concisely. The confidence comes with, I'm really excited to talk about this. The confidence can be quiet. The confidence doesn't have to be coercive. It frequently feels coercive. In online spaces, especially on social media.
And, and our confidence doesn't need to be coercive. Our confidence can be an invitation. Yes. And when you, when you marry that invitation with that clear core messaging,
Rose: The right people will find you. Yeah.
Megan: Oh yeah. They've been waiting for you. Yes. They've been waiting for someone to say those words in that order. In that context, they've been waiting to hear that. They've been waiting because they've felt it in their gut, but they haven't had the right words for it. It's, I'm kind of similar to my, my coaching experience where I was like, okay, finally I have the language for these things that I felt in my gut.
That's what your clients feel when they finally hear those words and they go, my gosh, you finally, that's the thing. I have been feeling that, and I didn't know how to say that, but that's the thing I've been looking for. That's the thing. . And, that confidence is all part of it.
Rose: Yeah. It's like, as you say, quiet confidence.
I love that. You don't have to be out there on reels and, yeah.
Megan: Oh heck no.
Rose: Can you share a bit about energetic boundaries please?
Megan: Energetic boundaries are one of my favorite things to talk about. Thank you. Energetic boundaries are really understanding. where where you gather your energy and where you spend your energy.
And I mean, again, if you're familiar with Spoon Theory, that's a great way to conceptualize it. In general, it's understanding the work, not just the the work that gives you energy and lights you up, but also the work that's necessary. That you have to do no matter what. . and, and, and, and, and finding a balance so that you, or not even a balance, finding an ebb and flow so that you always have more of that energy giving work coming in than you do flowing out.
And, and, and it is understanding, okay, industry, say industry norm is that for coaching packages, they get Voxer access, access via the app Voxer, which is like a little walkie-talkie voice messaging. For me personally, I struggle with Voxer, I struggle with, with, with audio processing.
Rose: Yeah. I'm the same.
Megan: So, so for me that's an energetic boundary that there are very few packages working with me where Voxer access is included because I, I gotta keep that tight. . for just, just a certain, like, basically just like at a certain price point, where're like, yep, that's, I've got enough money coming in that I can take care of other things that this time cuz it takes me more time and more energy than you might think it again, air quotes should, . On the flip side, I love copy editing. No, no surprise there. I love email. I like, give me the written word, let's chat about it. And so, so many of my offers to work with me come with copy editing, come with unlimited email access because that does not take the same amount of energy.
Even if it takes the same amount of time, even if I'm taking longer to reply to an email than to reply to a quick Voxer message. It's a, it's a fraction of the energy, a fraction of the brain space, which I know about myself. It's my own idiosyncrasy, but, but that's, that's one of those energetic boundaries I've learned that I need to draw for myself.
So in, in many ways, it's evaluating. , all the things that you do on a regular basis, from the most mundane of admin to the most fantastic of client experiences, and figuring out what works for me, because especially if you, if you start from the default that I am offering value, my time is valuable, my expertise is valuable.
If you move from a default of when I give of myself, it is valuable to those that I work with, then it doesn't matter what the rest of the industry is doing. Yeah. And it doesn't matter what the norm is because again, the norm is Voxer. Voxer messaging for, you know, Monday through Thursday. That doesn't work for me.
But, and, and, and going back to like, Ensuring accessibility. If somebody, I always leave the option of, of saying like, if Voxer is the, is the only way that you're able to make sense of things, let me know because I'm willing, like if, if you can't do the written word , if giving me your word vomit for four and a half minutes is the, is the best way that we're gonna be able to exchange ideas and communicate we'll, work it out.
Rose: I just have a workaround for that. I'm, I'm very similar. I'm very visual. I prefer the written word. . with Voxer or even friends message me using the voice app on my phone. Even with that, I find it really difficult or not. Do I just energetically it doesn't sit right. yeah. But what I was gonna suggest with Voxer, if you have clients that want to do Voxer, you can use something like Otta and get it transcribed, and then you can just stick it in a Google Doc and you can just read it and then,
Megan: Mm. Rose just revolutionized my business. Everyone. Thank you so much, Rose. That is brilliant. Thank you. I'm, I'm, I'm gonna set that up.
Rose: Good I'm a bit geeky. I love, I love, figuring things out like that, but, We are coming up for time already. It's gone far too quickly. I know. and I have to ask you this last question that I ask all of my guests. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do, Megan?
Megan: I take a bath. Mm, beautiful. I take a bath. I love a bath it. Ever since I can remember, even as a kid, I've been happy. I take a bath, I'm sad. Take a bath. Things don't feel. Take a bath. Love it. My parents used to joke that when I first learned to swim, I went to like baby, you know, toddler, baby swimming classes.
Cuz my parents were very much like, you will have water safety. You couldn't get me outta the water. I lo they called me a little mermaid. I would not willingly get out. . I remember one family vacation, there was a big family reunion. I think it was in. One of the Dakotas in the states. Big, big, all my mom's side of the family.
And so there, there, there are so many cousins and second cousins and third cousins, and we all descended on this one hotel. And my, I remember it vaguely, but my folks love to tell the story that they had to pull us out for meals, for snacks, for dinner, because my brother and my cousin and I were just like, why would we ever get out?
I love the water too. Yeah. It just, it feels so good and for me, especially when I'm really overwhelmed, it feels like a really, a lovely physical reset. Yeah. It's not just a mental reset, but it's having that physical. Transformation is too strong of a word, but we'll use it. Having that transformation of like, I was dry, I'm going to be in the wet and I'm going to let myself luxuriate there and just let it all go and I'm gonna get out and dry myself off and put on different clothes.
There's a really lovely transition that happens. Where it feels like you can just kinda let go. Yeah. Let it wash down the tub. Let it drain with the rest of the water. and it's not that I suddenly like to understand and it's cured everything, but like, okay, I can give it a new go.
Rose: Love it. Well, thank you so much, Megan.
It's been wonderful talking with you today. And I'm gonna pop all your details in the show notes, where people can find you. And I know before we hit record, you shared with me that you are due to have a baby very soon. So yes, when this episode is, you are gonna be on maternity leave, but people can still contact you because you'll have systems in place and an auto-responder.
Megan: It's if you, I, I would love to talk with you. You will hear a reply from me in late May.
Rose: Wonderful. Well, all the best and thank you. Lovely to meet with you today,
Megan: Megan. So good to chat with you. Thank you so much, Rose.