Season 2, Episode 32

Surviving and Thriving, 40 years strong


Terrilynn Phillips


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Today’s Guest


In today’s episode I am speaking with Terrilynn Phillips.

Terrilynn is a mother of three, grandmother of 14 and is the Chief Fortitude Offier (CEO) of SWF Consulting (Success with Fortitude).

SWF provides services that bridge the administrative gap of entrepreneurial growing pains. The company provides  Virtual assistance, bookkeeping, business consulting and life coaching. With 40 years of experience she has built a phenomenal network. If she cannot do it for you, she can definitely find you someone who can.

Terrilynn is also the host of C.H.A.O.S podacst. (Create Habits and Outstanding Success). She has a successful Virtual Assistance course and is also a frequent speaker.

If you love the show please leave a rating or a review here.

If you have a comment or question please reach out to me at or on Instagram @gladiatrixpodcast


TerriLynn Phillips

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Malini Sarma 0:01

Hey, Terrilyn, thank you so much. Thank you so much for joining the show today, I'm really excited to talk to you about your journey girl, you've done so many things. I'm really, really excited for the audience to listen to your story.

Terrilynn 0:16

Thank you so much. I am honored to be here. And yes, I've been a busy bee, but I've had 16 years to do it. So yeah, I would love to share and inspire people to continue to do the hard stuff.

Malini Sarma 0:35

Oh, that's awesome. So tell me a little bit more about yourself. So the idea is to, you know, so people know where you started and where you are today. So what was it like for you growing up, you know, where we, you know, How were your siblings, you know, what did you want to do when you grew up? You know, how did how did that how did all that happen?

Terrilynn 0:55

Fortunately, I was an only child. Unfortunately, I was an only child. Because as an only child, you're supposed to get all of the attention and all of the benefits of being a kid. But I was born to child parents, who were not yet finished sewing their oats, as they say, a lot of time alone. But I learned to rely on myself. I grew up a Washingtonian, and I couldn't go outside and play unless I had family at home. And since they weren't home, I did a lot of reading a lot of writing. I had ballet dance, every Saturday and piano dance, the piano class every Wednesday, I had quite a few hobbies to keep me busy, and learn to enjoy being alone. That that was the best part is that as I've grown through the years, I have to learn how to manage the hard stuff, mostly alone. Unfortunately, it was it was hard for me for many, many years to ask for help. Once I did learn to ask for help my whole world opened up?

Malini Sarma 2:21

Yeah, I don't think I don't think we realized the the power of of asking for help, right? We all assume that we can do it all. And it's a sign of weakness for asking for help, when actually, it's a sign of strength.

Terrilynn 2:34

I just didn't know how I didn't know that. That was a thing. You know what I mean? I was blessed with a bonus Sister 18 years later, and my kids grew up with my bonus sister, because I was a child parent. Also. Because my stepmother was just a few years older than me. I gained a best friend helped me raised my kids better, as well as watch my bonus sister to grow better. You know, it kind of all turns and all the benefits kind of gain. They they kind of joined together as you grow.

Malini Sarma 3:13

Mm hmm. Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. So So growing up, I mean, you did piano lessons, and you did ballet. And so was there like an expectation of you know, that you need to be somebody when you grow up? Or did you have anything like that or you just kind of went with the flow?

Terrilynn 3:28

I think my mom wanted me to be a prima ballerina. concert pianist. Mm hmm. But uh,

I turned into a virtual assistant instead.

Malini Sarma 3:39

The next best thing? Yeah, I

Terrilynn 3:42

mean, I got into I went to a training school and got into becoming an administrative assistant over 40 years ago. Yeah, that has been a following. For me a place that I've always landed very easily. natural instinct of being OCD perfectionist. And an analyst has helped me with being a virtual assistant and leveling my clients up to another level.

Malini Sarma 4:13

So you So growing up you were by yourself for the most part. So did you have like grandparents or who role models or you didn't even know what they were until much later when you're you know, you had your stepmother and your bonus sister, is that when things started to open up and you know, you got to see a little bit more of the world and understand a lot more things.

Terrilynn 4:34

Absolutely. My grandparents were not instrumental in my life. I knew I knew them. I lost the lost my grandmother who was my favorite early that early age. But my bonus mother, she became my best friend. Like I said, we were close in age. She lives a very authentic life. As a mother, a wife and an occupational therapist, you can imagine she has become an angel from heaven for many people. So lucky my father pursued her, even though they have a large, large age gap and married her. So yeah, my role model is my bonus mother.

Malini Sarma 5:24

That's really that's really cool that, you know, somebody came into your life when you needed it. And she was able to help you through the hard stuff, right?

Terrilynn 5:32

All the time. She never tried to be my mother, but she was always a friend, a real friend for me.

Malini Sarma 5:43

So you, you mentioned it, you know, you went to school so that you could become an administrative assistant. And so you're currently a business owner, you do you do you know, your virtual assistant, and you decide how much time you want to spend on you know, so. So, tell me a little bit more about that journey. I mean, what was the hardest thing? What was the easiest thing for you going into being a virtual assistant, or me coming?

Terrilynn 6:11

For me the trial, the trial and tribulation that threw me into business as a virtual assistant law administrative assistant at the time? Because like I say, I've been doing, I've had my business since 1979. Wow. Girl,

Malini Sarma 6:28

yeah, yeah, you're a legend.

Terrilynn 6:33

Yeah, in 1983, I suddenly lost my husband, it was left with teenage children. And I had to figure out how to manage my teenage children, which at that time, I knew I could not leave alone, and still put food on the table clothes on their back and a roof over their head. I had been introduced to what was a new term for me, which was networking. My mother introduced me to BNI and I do have to say my mother is one of my best friends that came at a later time in my life that we became really good friends. She introduced me to BNI and I got a few people that I was doing tasks for on the side. When I suddenly lost my husband, I decided I needed to do that full time. So

Malini Sarma 7:29

What is BNI

Terrilynn 7:30

it is a networking group that meets like seven in the morning. Okay, once a week, and they exchange referrals.

Malini Sarma 7:41

Mm hmm.

Terrilynn 7:43

They are still around. They're probably virtual now. But they're still around. They've been around for decades. But I decided I needed to make money fast. So I opened up the business 24 hours, seven days a week. I have a book that has the diagram of what my business looked like in my living room, which was half for the kids and half of my office, you know, who kind of figured fit it in when you're a parent? Mm hmm. And people actually became clients. I went to their office clean their office organized, their office did chores, I even ended up with a Councilwoman Helen Hilton in Baltimore, city hall that I went to her office in City Hall, and cleaned her office assistant, her assistant and then went to her home office and cleaned her accounting office. And that's how my business got built back then. Because it was emergency and you know, I had to kick in and I did that was a hardest thing to go from a stay at home mom to a full time business owner.

Malini Sarma 8:55

I guess it was just a question of survival. Right?

Terrilynn 8:58

It was and it wasn't a question. You have to survive, you know, you have to do the hard stuff. Mm hmm.

Malini Sarma 9:08

So the easiest thing for you is, was because of your OCD. Did you say like the just the organization part just came naturally to you? It was just a natural thing for you to just go into that? Or did your mom kind of tell you, you know, maybe this is good for you? Did you have to think about what you were going to do? Or this is something that just like, like, I think this is the best thing. You know, how did how did that decision come about as to what you were going to do?

Terrilynn 9:34

That was easy. I became an Amway distributor and at our meetings, I had created a system where all of my paperwork was ready to go when I got there. So I got to enjoy the social part of our meetings, or have it the most people and they noticed that, you know, how do you get your paperwork, so organized? How do you get a system in place. And that's when I learned my gift of organization. And I got, I got clients as the Amway distributor doing their paperwork. And so they got to socialize. And it just becomes natural. One of my favorite things to do is file, which, you know, most people

Malini Sarma 10:21


Terrilynn 10:24

that while filing is a quiet time for me. It because I need to organize, I have a craving to organize. Mm hmm. That is a calming thing for me to do. I recall, spending the night at a friend's house, and we were organizing her new home. She went to bed, he went to bed and like she went to bed at like 530 in the morning. And when she woke up, later on that morning, I had organized her pantry, which is like five levels. Oh, my goodness, I was it was so breathtaking.

Malini Sarma 11:14

like washing dishes for some people, you know, the sound of the water and then in a continuous motion. It's like, it's just like, you don't have to think you just do right.

Terrilynn 11:24

I mean, she was she was crazy excited. She didn't know whether the curse me out. Hugging kissing. But she's learned since then that that's something that I really, really enjoy. And she really enjoy having it done. So she had me do her office from time to time, even now. She lives off the water, she lives off of a lake, facing a golf course. And there's birds and fish and you know, what can be better? Right, right?

Malini Sarma 11:57

Yeah, actually, this is a skill. And I and I think there are lots of people who are really good at organizing and there, there are lots of people like me, who are terrible, who can't even think he can't, I can't see in lines. And you know, it's but I love planning. You know, I love putting things in an Excel spreadsheet, but trying to ask me to organize a closet or I'm like, I'm like a total disaster. I can, I could totally see the value, you know, of somebody who's like, super organized, because that really does help just, you know, thinking and doing things. So you save a lot of time looking for things, right?

Terrilynn 12:30

I Yeah, you do. And I love to create systems. My problem is, it's hard for me to do one system for everyone because I'm not general. Specific, okay, oh, I do systems creative for individuals that help them function better. I'm better at that than I am just doing one whole system and saying here, this works for everybody, when I don't really believe that. One of the reasons why I fell in love with being a KEAP certified partner, because their system is so customizable, and it's so user friendly, that when I put the system together for an individual, it really fits their characteristics.

Malini Sarma 13:17

Okay. So what is that? Can you talk a little bit more about that? What is that?

Terrilynn 13:21

Keap is a customer relations management, okay? also does campaigns and sequences and Okay, helps you with your funnels, okay, it helps you market and sell your business, okay? as well as keep you organized. Okay? Because it has a mobile app that connects to the desktop app, for your tasks, your appointments, it manages your contact. So you know, when you send a text from your mobile app, then it keeps track of your text, you send the email, it keeps track of your emails. So when you open that person's contact, all the communication, all the automation that you've applied to that one contact is there, and it does it in the background for you. Gotcha. Okay. And it spelled t ke aap ke. Okay. Yeah. Okay.

Malini Sarma 14:23

So So you've been doing this for a while, but I also saw that you are very heavily engaged in Toastmasters. So how did that start? How did that come about?

Terrilynn 14:36

I actually grew up with Toastmasters. My mother was a Toastmaster for many, many, many, many years. I don't even know how long I want to say 20 years. And when I decided I wanted to share my lifelong knowledge and experience. I wasn't sure how to come from behind the curtain as a virtual assistant at Toastmasters, is a phenomenal company. They create paths for speaking. And you choose your path. I chose leadership and presentation. And so you speak along that path as well as having mentors that help you along the path. They also give you a chance to use your skills by becoming officers and utilizing roles within the meetings. I was even president and currently club secretary, I was one of the first Triple Crown communicators in the organization means that you had to meet a certain amount of levels in your past in order to become a triple crown communication permit a triple crown communicator.

Malini Sarma 15:57


Terrilynn 15:58

I won my first I want to first place Club International speaking contest. That's awesome. And as you know, I'm now a seasoned speaker, and I have my own pack and right. podcast is 16. Other podcast directories is exciting.

Malini Sarma 16:14

Oh my gosh, I know. I love the name I love. It's called chaos. But it actually stands for create habits and outstanding success. Right?

Terrilynn 16:22

Exactly. It talks about. It's like your podcast, talks about the trials and tribulations. But I also have them talk about the habits that they created that contribute to their outstanding success.

Malini Sarma 16:40

That is awesome. So how did so was it was it was this the podcast come about because of your engagement with Toastmasters? or How did? How did you decide that this is something you wanted to do? How did that start?

Terrilynn 16:52

I've been following Pat Flynn for about 10 years. And he's a podcaster.

Malini Sarma 16:58

Just like me, that's how we connected if I remember correctly,

Terrilynn 17:02

right. From that course, was wonderful. Yeah. Now didn't know how to become a podcaster. So when he offered the the lesson, the course I took the course and found out how easy it was to become a podcaster. And I wanted to get more resources to business owners that they could relate to show them how we all have challenges that contribute to our success.

Malini Sarma 17:32

So you started that this year? Is that when you started?

Terrilynn 17:35

I did I started in May. Okay. And I love being International. How about you? I love meat.

Malini Sarma 17:43

I love the fact there are people from all over the world that are listening to the show. It's like,

Terrilynn 17:49

yes, it's

Malini Sarma 17:50

like it's you know, it's it's like having your own radio show. But not radio, but it's a podcast, this is awesome. And people can listen to anytime, anywhere on any device, you know, anywhere in the world. I think it's phenomenal. It's just the power of technology, right? And the power of this voice and being able to communicate and influence other people. I think it's absolutely phenomenal. I love it. I absolutely love it. So, so going back to your because you said you've been in business for almost

Terrilynn 18:21

40 years, yeah,

Malini Sarma 18:23

40 years . So you have kind of you know, morphed along with however, the changes in the times before you was more, you know, administrative assistant where you would go to their offices and help out Now, of course, virtual assistant, because that's what you know, that's a lot of what most people do. And you don't even have to be there. And you can help them out with a lot of things. So for somebody who wants to become a virtual assistant in this day and age, what advice would you give them?

Terrilynn 18:56

I would tell them to go to my website, sign up for the free course to get started. Okay? Because you need to know if you have the mindset, you need to know what the tools and equipment are. You need to know what the challenges are. And taking that free course will help you understand whether you are virtual assistant material because everybody can be a virtual assistant. Right? Right. But that course will help you is a quiz that you take and a course and it's free.

Malini Sarma 19:30

Cool. We'll put a link to that in the show notes so people can go right there and check it out. Okay. If they do have the mindset, and they decide, you know, and they think that yes, they're qualified, they have the right frame of mind for it. What are the some of the other things that you would tell them, you know,

Terrilynn 19:50

what they need to have their system set up, they need to have all their contracts set up. They need to have their branding. They need to Let people know that they're offering services. They need to know what their specializations are, because all virtual assistants don't do all things. important, very important, right? their marketing sales virtual assistants like I am, then there are research assistants, the gamut of assistance are out there. So you need to know what you'd like to do. Because you're there are going to be some clients that you're going to have to say no to. And that's the hardest thing to do. But you need to know what you're really good at. Because your reputation precedes you as a virtual assistant. Yeah, my business is 90% referral.

Malini Sarma 20:50

Mm hmm.

Terrilynn 20:51

So your reputation is what's going to carry you and what's going to get your clients.

Malini Sarma 20:57

Yeah, I do hear stories about they just, you know, like, Oh, I'm just going to get a VA and I was like, okay, they just assume that a VA is just going to do everything for you, you know, it's like, no, there are certain people willing to do certain things because you want a certain particular task to be completed. And if you don't have the time, then you need to get somebody who knows exactly what to do versus just hand it over to somebody else to take care of it. That doesn't always that that's not how it's gonna work. Right?

Terrilynn 21:22

One of the great things about being in the business, as long as I haven't been in the business, is I have a plethora of resources. So if I'm not going to do it, I can find someone who can do it. And I usually ask you what your budget is for it. Like and find you the right person for the right price.

Malini Sarma 21:44

That's awesome. I think that's, that's very key, because people don't realize, you know, what's good, what's bad, what's high, what's low, you know, what's acceptable? So know that that's really good asking about the budget, because I don't think people think about it.

Terrilynn 21:58

Well, again, you have to know the right resources, because your reputation is in is, you know, a part of that if someone a resource, and it's a disaster, then it, you know, puts a stain on your reputation. So you really have to know your resources.

Malini Sarma 22:20

Yeah, I think that's super, super important. So now, you've been in business for a very long time. I mean, you know, that's commendable. You're, you're a minority business owner, you know, you've had your share of challenges. So thinking about that, you know, as a minority, a woman, business owner, what would you tell other women of color about getting into business? What kind of what kind of advice would you give them?

Terrilynn 22:45

networking as as a minority is harder to get noticed as an expert, without people getting to know you, but you need to network and help people become successful. And that's the way you become an expert that is now loved and trusted. And we all know those are the keys mean, when you need a plumber, you think of someone who can tell you a good plumber, right? Well, you need an electrician, you think of someone who can tell you, I mean, you will go to other resources. But if you have someone who can refer a good electrician, you'll go with that person all the time, right? So as a minority, it's even more important to network and have people get to know you, right? And the best way for them to get to know you is to work with you, either as a client, or as a partner.

Malini Sarma 23:48

That's very important. You need to work with people as a partner or client before you get to get to know them, right?

Terrilynn 23:57

Yeah, yes. You got to know love and trust. That's right.

Malini Sarma 24:02

Like they'll address this, right. So looking back, you know, knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have changed about yourself? Or was there anything you would have told you younger self?

Terrilynn 24:19

I am proud of my journey, because it has had its trials and tribulations. I'm very proud of my journey. But I think I want to tell my younger self to be less fearful of what might happen and understand that we are a community that loves to work together. A lot of times that fear would stifle my movement. And it wasn't until later in life that I learned that when my movement stifled I stifle my clients progress.

Malini Sarma 25:03


Terrilynn 25:04

that's interesting. So you just have to keep moving forward and don't look back. When those opportunities knock Dont Ignore them. Yeah, slam that door open and go for it.

Malini Sarma 25:18

Yeah, grab with both hands and run. That is great. I and I think that resonates a lot with me too, because, you know, I'm in perpetual state of fears like what if, what if? What if I think learning to not listen to that voice? And just, you know, you see the opportunity grab with both hands. And one, I think that is a great, that is a great piece of advice. I think a lot of people can resonate with that. So thank you, Terrilynn. I really, really appreciate your, you know, coming on the show and giving your expert advice. I know there are a lot of people who are looking for virtual assistance. So I know I know where to point them because you can if you don't, if you don't do it, you know who to give them to right or get to. So that is really, really cool. So thank you so much for being on the show and I will talk to you soon.

Terrilynn 26:09

Thank you so much for having me. I've really enjoyed it. We'll talk soon.

Transcribed by

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This podcast showcases women, predominantly women of color, who in spite of their fear, are forging ahead, chasing their dreams and becoming stronger.

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Malini Sarma

Malini Sarma

Your Host

Hello. I am Malini. I am a dancer, world traveler and storyteller. I am a hard core fan of chai and anything hot. I am always looking for new adventures and would rather be outside than inside.

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