No Barriers to Success

Colin Campbell, 31, is director at property investment and development company Bellair, owner of Falkirk Business Hub. Here he tells how he overcame dyslexia to achieve academic success and forge a highly successful career.


‘An assessment of his intellectual ability shows that he is an individual with a superior to high average intellectual ability’

This is not the opening line of a recent dyslexia assessment that I was expecting.  But why was it not?  I am a double masters graduate, director of my own property company and have acted on over £700m worth of real estate deals. The rest of the report is more along the lines of my understanding of dyslexia: significant weaknesses in short term auditory and working memories, mild but still significant difficulty with reading, weakness in fine motor coordination and the rapid procession of visual information.

This all makes sense now but back at school I couldn’t understand why my classmates were getting better results than me, even though I knew I was just as intelligent as them. Even now after having achieved what I have, I can still remember how much it hurt when my Primary 3 teacher dismissed me as “thick”. I was struggling to read, write and spell; she informed my parents that I’d be lucky to leave school with any qualifications.

Thankfully my parents and the school stepped in and pushed hard to find out what was going wrong. It turned out I had dyslexia.

At first I was extremely upset, I was different to everyone else in my class and was being sent to learning support. But this was the life changing step that happened, learning support was where I learnt how to study and overcome my dyslexia. Rather than being written off, I had learning support teachers telling me that I could achieve if I put the hard work in.

I ended up leaving school with six Highers and two advanced Highers plus a place at St Andrews University to study Medieval History. So much for leaving with nothing!

I graduated with an MA (Hons) from St Andrews but could have chosen something less challenging for someone with dyslexia; the constant volume of reading and absorption of information was difficult. I find it a lot easier to work with numbers, but I wanted to study a subject that really interested me. I truly believe the study techniques I learnt at school helped as I could break down a difficult subject and process the information.

Once I finished at St Andrews I completed a MSc in Real Estate that enabled me to get into the Real Estate industry, my long-term goal. After finishing my education I joined the graduate programme at JLL, a professional services firm specialising in property.  Working in the Capital Markets team as a Chartered Surveyor was ultimately what I wanted to do and I thrived on the challenges the role provided.  I was in an environment where I could succeed and by the time I left, I’d been involved in over £700m worth of property deals.

I can look back now and take a lot of pride in what I have achieved so far, especially when others had written me off at such a young age.  They weren’t prepared to take the time to invest in me and I’d simply been written off.  All too often dyslexia is undiagnosed for many years yet it’s not intellect that’s the barrier.  For instance, my father only recently discovered he has dyslexia, he left school with a few qualifications, never went to university, but was recently awarded an OBE for services to the economy and town centre regeneration.

My advice to anyone with dyslexia is simple: use those who have put you down to motivate you, find the right study method that suits you – this is where Dyslexia Scotland can help – and follow the degree or career that interests you, it makes the challenges a lot easier to overcome. Finally, don’t expect anyone to do the hard work for you.

People are often surprised when I say dyslexia has been a positive influence in my life, but I’m who I am today because of it.  Dyslexia gave me the drive and determination.

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Cathy Magee, Chief Executive of Dyslexia Scotland added:

“Colin’s success story is really inspiring and his words of advice are very wise. As Colin has outlined, all too often young people with dyslexia are written off at school if their teachers fail to understand what is needed to help support them to overcome their difficulties and build on their strengths.

“As tenants in Wallace House one of Bellair’s properties, Dyslexia Scotland has witnessed Colin’s considerable skills and strengths in property management.

“We provide help, advice and information to anyone with dyslexia and those who support them including teachers, parents and employers, in order to inspire and enable people of all ages to reach their potential.  For further information, you can contact our Helpline, visit our new Dyslexia Unwrapped website for dyslexic young people or, look at our new online training modules or Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit for teachers.”