Paul Orfalea founded the American copy store Kinko’s, and remained the company’s CEO for 30 years. He built Kinko’s into a copy store chain that created over two billion dollars in revenue a year. Orfalea didn’t follow the traditional rules to success though. His knowledge of how to develop and run a successful business didn’t come from textbooks or statistics- but from first hand experiences and sharp judgement of character. Orfalea has dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which have shaped his mind to think differently when it comes to achieving success.

Orfalea calls his learning disabilities “the blessings” of his youth even though they prevented him from reading or sitting still. School systems were unaware of dyslexia and ADHD while he was going through school in the fifties and sixties so Orfalea was often seen as a problem student who refused to learn. He couldn’t take notes in school because he couldn’t spell, and even if he managed to do that he wouldn’t be able to read the notes later on. Instead, Orfalea trained himself to intensely listen to lessons and lectures, absorbing the meaning and big picture rather than memorizing rigid facts.

Undiagnosed and untreated for most of his life, Orfalea took to building Kinko’s based on the skills he had learned in order to get through school. He valued an employee’s good character over a resume he couldn’t read and always preferred a trusting handshake over a written agreement. Instead of reading books on how to run a successful business, he visited them himself and carefully observed what did and didn’t work. Orfalea said in an interview in the New York Times that he gets “bored easily” because of his ADHD, which he turned into “a great motivator” for his work. He would always be interested in doing more with the business, willing to undertake a new challenge. When he finally left Kinko’s in 2000, it was the most successful copy store chain in America.

Read an interview with Paul Orfalea here at, or check out an article written in Ability Magazine about the retired CEO and his road to success.