Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mark Zinder, Owner of Mark Zinder & Associates, located in Nashville, TN, USA.

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

I own a consulting business and am also a public speaker. And what's the #1 fear in America? Speaking in front of hundreds of strangers. By the way, the #2 fear in America is the fear of death. That means if you are going to a funeral tomorrow, you would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy!

Whenever I tell a new acquaintance that I'm a public speaker, their next question always is, "Are you a motivational speaker?" No, that's not me. But it is my sincere desire that you'll be motivated by what I say—and learn something that you'll remember. My topic is finance and economics—a subject that will suck the wind out of a festive dinner party.

For the most part, my audience is made up of investment advisors, CPAs, money managers, and anyone else who wants to know what in the world is going on in our economy. Today, not surprisingly, I'm very busy. Additionally, I write marketing material for organizations and train individuals in sales.

Tell us about yourself

I started my own business after spending a couple of decades working for corporate America. It was time to leave the steady paycheck behind and venture out on my own. Instead of relying on just one income source, I added a lineup of merchandise and developed several products I thought many people needed. Along with physical products, I added a sales course that I sell on Teachable for what is often referred to as "mailbox money." My hunch was correct, and it paid off handsomely. "Find a need and fill it," is what Norman Vincent Peale once said. And I did just that.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment? Speaking in front of 10,000 people in Bangkok, Thailand, at one of the world's largest conferences. Absent that, as stated above, to have created a variety of products from scratch that have sold very well over the years. Building a successful business from the ground up is not just my biggest accomplishment—it's the one that's good for the long game.

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

Being a business owner!

There may be a thing or two you are really good at, but you can't do it all. I quickly learned that there were many things I was terrible at bookkeeping, paperwork, legal requirements, sales and marketing, hiring, and firing. And—don't forget—you have to build your brand. At first, you try to do it all yourself, thinking, "I'm a fairly intelligent person. I can figure this out." Maybe. But my advice is to do the things you are really, really good at, and sub out the work you are not!

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

I know what readers want to hear: passion, drive, and ambition. That's what gets you going. My question to you is: "What keeps you going?" You've got to "want it." You've got to have the intestinal fortitude to never say quit. Until I worked for myself, I felt like my back was against the wall—I couldn't work for "Mr. Thumb" at the corporate office anymore.

Moving to another organization was not an option. I had already done that—many times. And I'd learned that corporate America is chock full of "Mr. Thumbs," and they all feel the need to apply their pressure. When I first began my speaking career, I incorrectly thought, "If I had an agent, they would do all the work for me, and all I would have to do is show up and deliver a compelling speech." Wrong. I got an agent, and I discovered that no one worked for me as hard as I did. I began to represent myself. I made the calls, and I did the follow-up. I paid my dues. My three tips:

  1. Know what your clients know and know it well. Know what they don't know and know that as well!
  2. Never give up. You will be climbing a metaphorical ladder and will get knocked down a time or two. You should consistently be asking yourself, "I wonder what's up there—at the top?" After you get knocked off the ladder five, six, or seven times, you still have to keep getting back on—again, and again, and again. President Calvin Coolidge said that "persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." Initially, there will be other individuals on the ladder with you—above you—looking down at you. When you reach the top, those same people will be below you, looking up at you. That is when you know you have accomplished something! The secret to success? Your curiosity has got to be one degree greater than your fear. Keep climbing. Never give up.
  3. Make sure your customer is extremely satisfied. Unhappy customers tell their friends and family. Happy customers keep coming back.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Yes—the words I live by. Be good so they have to like you!

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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