Wendy O’Donovan Phillips

There is a finite set of challenges that every small business owner faces, and you will face each one of them over time with courage, grace and support to get through them…You got this, and the universe has got you.


Wendy O’Donovan Phillips is 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, and she has been published in many healthcare journals. She is a member of the Women’s President Organization, having reached $1 million in revenues the last two years. She lives in Denver with her husband, daughter and 24-year-old cat.

Where did the idea for Big Buzz come from?

In 2000, I started a freelance writing business, writing for marketing agencies and news outlets including The Hollywood Reporter. In 2003, I took a full-time job with a marketing agency for which I had been freelancing. While there, I learned about marketing strategy – the art of supporting teams in gathering research and thinking about marketing before doing marketing. The firm was fraught with organizational issues, namely in having hired the wrong talent and retained bad employees. My basic thought was, I think I can do this better. My vision was a focused healthcare marketing firm that was good to its team and thereby good to its clients. Everyone thrives. Today, my vision is a reality. We wake up wanting to come to work! Too, we have the financial success to prove it works. In 2018, we hit $1 million in revenues. In 2019, we did it again. Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) reported only 1.7% of U.S. women-owned businesses hit that mark. Totally couldn’t have done it without my amazing, talented, driven team. Love ya’ll!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My day starts at 5:00 a.m. with prayer, spiritual reading, a healthy breakfast, a rigorous workout and meditation. Only when I take good care of myself can I take good care of others and my business. I make it a point to connect, if even briefly, with my husband, daughter and 24-year-old cat before leaving the house. Being good to my family is the training ground needed to be good to the rest of the world. At work, I organize my daily tasks into three buckets: Quick, Collaborate, and Strategize. This helps ensure I will be productive, connect in meaningful ways with my team, clients and stakeholders, and have time to think and create. I am almost always home by 5:30 p.m., and my evenings are sacred family time. No email, no social, no calls. I have to rest and recoup to be fresh the next day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’ve learned over the years my ideas need structure. I’m an ideas gal, no shortage of ideas here. I used to bring them to the team all the time, not realizing I was peppering them with distractions that totally didn’t serve their purpose in a particular moment. “I have an idea!” I’d exclaim, and they’d think, “We’re all filled up with your ideas. We’ve been working for weeks to execute on all of them.” Today, we funnel ideas through our General Manager and Project Manager who vet them against our strategic plan before approving execution of them. We encourage clients to do the same. If the idea does not serve a strategy that is going to help get to your big financial goal or realize your vision, scrap or table it – it’s only a distraction.

What’s one trend that excites you?

As a writer and marketing strategist, I’m stoked about the evolvement of content marketing into dynamic content. When done well (which it rarely is), content marketing already has the power to build relationships and establish trust long before a potential client buys a service or product. Dynamic content takes that to a whole new level. As Syed Balkhi with Entrepreneur Magazine explains, “In 2020, consumers want next-level personalization. Enter dynamic content. Dynamic content, also known as adaptive content, refers to web content that changes based on the user’s demographics, behaviors, preferences, and interests. For instance, the content on a webpage can change based on the weather of the [user’s] location… ” Content marketing strategy is the most complex, time-intensive strategy for any marketing team. When correctly produced, particularly with dynamic elements, great content positions the organization as a thought leader and expert and, over time, attracts extremely high-quality leads.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

The habit that serves me best as an entrepreneur is being ruthlessly protective of my time. I’m not shy about asking if I really need to be a meeting, about reminding clients when I’m available and when I’m not, and about being rigorous in adhering to my own time management principles. This way I am sure to be working in my purpose and making impact.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Chill out, sister. By the grace of God, you were born into a first world country in which women are permitted to start and grow their own businesses. You are keenly aware of your talents, where they end and how to find people smarter than you in other areas of business. There is a finite set of challenges that every small business owner faces, and you will face each one of them over time with courage, grace and support to get through them. After that, they just sort of repeat, and you will be able to draw on experience to face them over and over again with the same decorum. You got this, and the universe has got you. Enjoy the ride!

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Life is more fun without alcohol. I put down the drink about 5 years ago, and have since then enjoyed a more vibrant, calm and fulfilling life than I ever did in my 25 years of drinking. And trust me, I had a pretty damn good time in those 25 years. Nothing holds a candle to living the sober life.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

The one thing I do over and over is adhere to my strict schedule. It’s a little like Groundhog’s Day, but for the most part every day has the same structure: wake, read, eat, move my body, meditate, connect with family, work through quick tasks/collaboration/strategy, connect with family, read, sleep 8 hours. Repeat. Thanks to this rigor, I and the people who depend upon me can deeply rely on my consistency, loyalty and focus. It’s very rewarding.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I’m a total geek for the strategic planning model, which is what would be born if the classic marketing OGSM and the Covey Wildly Important Goal and the standard vision statement all had a baby together. We use it for our company and with client companies. It’s a one-page document shared once weekly with the entire marketing team and any involved executives to show: the vision and highest financial goal that all marketing efforts are meant to produce; no more than three objectives, or destinations, that the marketing department has yet to reach and that, when reached, will have them achieve the vision and highest financial goal; no more than five strategies, or actions, that the marketing team can take to achieve each objective; and, the corresponding measure (quantifiable short-term micro-action) and goal (quantifiable desired long-term outcome) for each strategy. It’s marketing focus at its very best.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Oh geez, which one? There have been so many. One big one was years ago we ran out of cash due to my inexperience with managing business cash flow, and I ended up having to lay off a couple of team members. At the time, I was so ashamed of having let it happen. Now I can see more clearly that I did the best I could with the tools I had at the time. Thanks to that mistake, I took great measures to learn to be an expert manager of money within my business, and it’s given me confidence in achieving overall financial freedom. The two employees are still thriving in their careers, too, and I hear from both of them from time to time. That’s the cherry on top.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A proper Content Marketing Strategy requires, at a minimum, these facets expertly delegated by a strong project manager:
• The strategic development of a target persona, which is far narrower than a target audience.
• Every writer and contributor’s clear viewpoint on the purpose of each piece of content.
• An editorial calendar created fresh each quarter which weaves together the content pillars with content topic examples that speak to the target persona’s common challenges.
• Every piece of content adheres to the marketing department’s predetermined content policies checklist. As an example:
o All content represents our brand promise
o Non-gated pieces should be about 1,000 words
o All content needs to be polarizing, offer a lightbulb moment or otherwise illuminate something consumers never thought about or knew
o All content pieces shall include at least 3 sources
o All content shall have SEO implementations before publishing.
o We always write to people never for industries
o Content shall forever be non-promotional in order to preserve thought leadership
Regularly creating truly engaging and actionable content is a massive undertaking, often consuming 60% or more of the internal marketing team’s time and effort. So make it fun!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 I recently spent was on water treatment supplies for my backyard hot tub. It’s my favorite place to relax, look at the stars and let go of the day. I love when my 10-year-old daughter comes in with me and my husband is nearby grilling something yummy for our dinner. (He doesn’t like to get wet.) We have had some of our best conversations out there in the fresh air.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Our team uses Slack to keep the whole team apprised of progress and challenges on projects. We also use it to regularly share hilarious memes, which keeps our culture light and fun. (One from yesterday featured a little girl in a tiara hysterically crying and read, “When the client wants to do the call after hours.”) Light and fun is the way to go. No one ever died of a marketing emergency, after all.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill. Skip all the other “make a lot of money” books. This one has it all. Similarly, skip all the business books and just read 7 Habits. I once read 25 wealth and business books in one year. They were all the same! These two are the only ones you need.

What is your favorite quote?

“I did it my way.” – Frank Sinatra

Key Learnings:

  • I have a great life for which I have worked very hard.
  • I love my family very much.
  • I also love my work team.