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Wendy O’Donovan Phillips: “Work on my marriage”

We can see who really loves us. It’s been neat to get to know my husband and daughter on whole new levels. I’ve had incredible conversations lately with my friends. Too, we have befriended a few fabulous neighbors we never even knew we had. “2020 sucks!” exclaimed a neighborhood girl as I rode past on my […]

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We can see who really loves us. It’s been neat to get to know my husband and daughter on whole new levels. I’ve had incredible conversations lately with my friends. Too, we have befriended a few fabulous neighbors we never even knew we had.

“2020 sucks!” exclaimed a neighborhood girl as I rode past on my bicycle. I said the first thing that came to mind, “Look for the bright spots!”


The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of my series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy O’Donovan Phillips, CEO of Big Buzz, an agency delivering strategy and consultation to drive focused marketing efforts for executives and teams nationwide. Wendy is the author of two books available on Amazon, and she has been published in many healthcare journals. She is a member of the Women’s President Organization, has been honored by the American Marketing Association for excellence in her field, has been hired by the American Dental Association as an expert consultant in marketing, regularly lectures for healthcare organizations and associations in front of audiences ranging from 25 to 3,000 attendees and sits on the Forbes Agency Council.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I started my career as a copywriter, worked my way up the ranks at a marketing agency, then broke off and started my own firm 13 years ago. I wouldn’t trade the journey for anything. It’s been a wild ride, but I have learned so much about myself, business, marketing, sales, and, most importantly, about being a leader, which is really just about showing up for others.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

Hands down, this year is the most interesting thing that’s happened to me as a business owner. I’m grateful to be on the frontlines helping other business owners through this time. I regularly talk with business owners who have lost 25%, 50%, or even 100% of their revenue in 2020. It’s incredible to see people’s resiliency in the face of adversity, to watch them get back in touch with their passion and why they became business owners in the first place, to see them reinvent themselves and their organizations.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are diving deeper into our own Strategic Planning Model, which helps us and our clients hyper-focus all marketing, operations and financial projects quarter by quarter by uncovering our greatest assets. In our case, these include our database of 12,000 readers of our content, the thousands of people who have heard my lectures or read my books and the hundreds of clients we have served over the years. We are now communicating with these folks who already know and love us in a much more concentrated, relevant way. Our leads and sales are up despite the economic climate. We recommend that our clients, mainly dental practices and senior living communities, take a similar approach to finishing 2020 strong.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My business coach Alicia Marie from PeopleBiz, Inc. told me 12 years ago, “Congratulations, Wendy. You have built a strong little company. Now it’s time to hire employees.” She has guided me through growing my team, my professional self and my personal horizons beyond my wildest dreams. I live my best life everyday thanks to the seeds she planted with me.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

Even before COVID-19, society implored me to “work on being a great parent,” “work on my marriage,” “work on the business not just in the business,” “work on my body,” even “work on booking that next family road trip to the mountains.” In tackling life that way now, I feel exhausted most days. My 10-year-old daughter is home all day, my husband works from home, I work from home managing my team, my projects and my clients with fewer people than we currently need. There’s no reprieve unless I grant it to myself.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

My coach recently suggested that I think of life as play. This encourages me to play more often with my kiddo, find play in my interactions with my husband, play around with new business ideas, go outside and play, and even take staycations for longer play times. Play stokes my creativity, which Amy Poehler famously wrote is a more fulfilling way to approach career: “Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love.” And as my coach convinced me, this is how the most successful entrepreneurs work. Of course, not everything in fun and playful in this new world. When the tough stuff comes up, I practice the three A’s: awareness, acceptance, action. I pause, identify and become aware of the negative emotion, identity the memory or fantasy attached to the emotion in order to accept it on a deep level, then breathe and let it go, which is usually the most action needed around it. These two tools, thinking of life as play and using the three A’s, make most of my days fairly simple and fulfilling. When I focus on one thing at a time with these tools in hand, I get more done and am mostly happy despite the trying circumstances.

Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

Focusing. Women are wired to be gatherers: we scan the horizon looking for berries, or in modern times, opportunities. In this time, we don’t need more.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

What we need now are not additional new ideas; rather, focus on those that have brought us the most success in past years. That level of focus is what will see us through this year and to our long-term goal.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

Set up an executive office at home: a room dedicated only to work with only work things in it. Set office hours. My family knows I work uninterrupted 8–11am and noon-4pm. If I’m still working outside those hours, they are welcome to visit. When I’m done working, I turn off my computer and lights, shutting the office door behind me. Sometimes I even take a short drive as “commuting time” to unwind. When I’m with my family, I am 100% focused on them.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

I like to go for long walks, lift weights or do yoga outside. Wednesdays are Momma’s Night Out, and I typically meet friends for social distancing visits while my husband and daughter have Daddy-Daughter Date Night. Too, we embrace the together time. We have Family Movie Night, play games, and go to our mountain cabin. We have created great memories together this year: the simple kind.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons to Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. We can seek out good news from reputable sources. It’s not going to land in our inbox, we have to search for it. For example, I dug up this article this morning and found it uplifting. Think of all the medical geniuses in the world dedicating every waking hour to finding a vaccine. Amazing!
  2. We can see who really loves us. It’s been neat to get to know my husband and daughter on whole new levels. I’ve had incredible conversations lately with my friends. Too, we have befriended a few fabulous neighbors we never even knew we had.
  3. We can enjoy nature. Most national parks are open, our sidewalks are free reign, many waterways still permit swimming and boating. I’m loving seeing everyone’s outside photos on social. I’m also loving my SPF 30 tan.
  4. We can go anywhere. I have joined meetups in New York and Hollywood. I have joined video conferences with extended family as far as Panama. I have gotten together with my favorite cousin 2,000 miles away every Sunday morning for the last 4 months. Joy!
  5. “2020 sucks!” exclaimed a neighborhood girl as I rode past on my bicycle. I said the first thing that came to mind, “Look for the bright spots!”

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I’m a big believer in seeking outside help: 12-step programs, therapy, counseling. It’s all happening online now and is more accessible than ever. Especially in this day and age, reaching out for the hand of help is a true act of heroism to be celebrated and honored.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Let go. That’s nearly always the answer to any challenge. The more I can relax around it, the more apt I am to get an intuitive thought or inspiration that readily solves it. Even more, often when I let it go for a day or two it resolves itself.

How can our readers follow you online?

We are on the web at www.bigbuzzinc.com. Follow us on social here:

www.twitter.com/BigBuzzInc

www.linkedin.com/in/bigbuzzbrands/

www.facebook.com/BigBuzzBrands

www.instagram.com/bigbuzzinc/

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Back at you!


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