Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business coaching but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Joe Friedman, owner of Zehren-Friedman Associates, Ltd., located in Chicago, Illinois, United States.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

For nearly 30 years, we have specialized in the Persuasive Arts of selling, presenting, negotiating, and influence. We are a B2B training provider, delivering both virtual and in-person courses. We've taught on six continents, any industry; any level within the organization; our target market is any businessperson " with a pulse!"

Tell us about yourself

I started my work career as part-time faculty and Northeastern Illinois University. Midway through my first class (in what became a six-year tenure), I realized I loved to teach—haunted by the thought that "those who can do; those who can't teach." I took a job in banking only to find that I also loved selling.

I wondered where I could do both and that led to 30+ years selling and delivering training, the last 28 in a firm that bears my name! What motivates me each day is simple - I love what I do! Yes, COVID has moved our business from 90% in-person to 90%+ virtual, and we have so much experience doing both that the "pivot" has been simple.

Our mantra is: "We live to serve...we serve to bill!" I enjoy working with clients to understand the challenges they face. It's great when we have a solution for them. The classroom environment has not gotten old for me in any way, shape, or form. And the best part? Every time we teach a class, I learn something new.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

We've been doing this for a long time. Our biggest accomplishment? Staying in business for decades through good times and bad. Booms, busts, recessions, and, of course, COVID. Although we're small, we've always had employees who depended upon the company as their source of income, including myself. I'm proud to have been able (and continue) to support our people and clients in ways that benefit us all.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

A lot of decisions that aren't fun. Off the top of my head, laying off or terminating people. We're a sales organization, so the metrics for many folks in our firm are simple. That still doesn't make separation easy. Yet through the good and bad, I wouldn't trade the control I have as a business owner for an easy way around tough decisions.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Find a way to turn what you love into something that can support you (and anyone else in your sphere). By leaving the corporate world, I left countless dollars (real and intangible) behind and I'd do it again in a heartbeat to have the joy I've experienced as a business owner over the years.
  2. Surround yourself (officially or unofficially) with people you trust to tell you the truth. I've managed with my gut for years, but both the cheerleaders and naysayers have been incredibly valuable to me.
  3. Don't spend all your time "doing" the work. You need to step back on occasion to be strategic. Many business owners get so entrenched in the day-to-day, they believe growth and profitability will happen magically. It happens by plan, not by chance.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I'll be a bit self-serving here! In our virtual world, or whatever the hybrid looks like going forward, interpersonal skills are even more critical. How we relate to one another, communicate with one another, and manage our way through matrixed organizations makes the difference between success and something less than success. As a business owner, this skill set is key whether it's used internally (with peers or employees) or externally (with clients, customers, suppliers, or other stakeholders).

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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