Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Joseph Folkman, Co-Founder of Zenger Folkman, located in Orem, UT, USA.

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

Our customers are, for the most part, large successful Fortune 500 companies across the globe. With our 25 international partners, we have collected over a million assessments on hundreds of thousands of managers and executives.

Tell us about yourself

When I was in graduate school, I assisted a few of my professors in collecting 360-degree feedback where managers ask their boss, peers, direct reports, and others to assess their effectiveness. I was amazed at how surprised the leaders were who received feedback. They had no clue if they were one of the most or least effective leaders, but those who rated them were very consistent in their ratings. Moreover, the raters knew the difference between great and poor leaders. So I went on a quest to develop more valid and predictive assessments and, over 40 years, gained insights about leaders, what it takes to help them change and how accurate data is the key to improvement.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

The pandemic was very difficult for our business. 90% of the work we did was in-person training sessions which ended abruptly. We quickly pivoted to live-online sessions. I was glad we could keep all our staff except one employee working from home during the pandemic. The owners took a 50% pay cut. We asked employees for six months to take a 10% pay cut, but we made it through the pandemic and improved our products on the journey.

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

The vast majority of our employees are high performers, but we have had a few that struggled. It is very difficult when an employee is not working well in your organization. Often it's not their fault. They are in the wrong job or location, or perhaps I could not support and motivate them. Asking an employee to leave the company is always a challenging task.

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

You need a great, high-quality product that will make a difference in the lives of others. A product where you can say, "I helped someone, and my product had a real positive impact." You do not need a million customers to start a business, but most people believe their product will sell itself. Not true. To grow a company, you need sales and marketing. In our research on leaders, we discovered that if a leader had only one profound strength, it would double their overall perceived effectiveness. With three strengths, they would be in the 80th percentile of leaders. Your product does not need to be perfect, but it must stand out on a few key characteristics. Figure out what your product does substantially better than other products. That will lead to success.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Work ought to be fun. You need joy and a sense of fulfillment in what you do.

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.

Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.