“Playing For Keeps” In The Business World


Savvy. Wise. Funny. Competitive — This is what resonated with me about author Therese Allison in reading her powerful book “Playing For Keeps: How A 21st Century Business Woman Beats The Boys.” 

On International Women’s Day 2021, we are pleased to share this feature interview about Therese on her discoveries in business and life. Here’s what she had to say:

Let’s start with you offering us a brief overview of your life journey? 

Sure. I learned to win early while playing sports in high school (tennis, volleyball, and more). This made me somewhat fearless in business and life. Throughout my career, I focused on winning versus the money, and the money followed. I was really lucky and paid my dues. I learned how to make everyone look good to build relationships and the stars lined up. In fact, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity,” is one of my favorite mantras and a central theme in my career success.

What prompted you to write this book? 

HA! Great question. When my son was a junior in high school, he asked me to write my story. I did. At the end, I listed 16 lessons learned (aka “Pearls of Wisdom” in the book) as a cheat sheet for success.  He posted this list above his desk in college at UCLA and asked me to mentor him. A few years later, he became one of the youngest Principals in a multi-billion corporation headquartered in New York.  That was my “ah-ha moment” when I knew it was time to mentor others and write a book to help others succeed.

What’s the main message you’re hoping to convey to readers?  

Don’t be afraid.  Focus on winning in a way that makes everyone win. Business is a team sport, you win together and lose together.  You can win fans much faster if you make your boss look good, help your co-workers shine, and build success stories for clients. As soon as you recognize that your business success is not all about “you,” the world will fall in sync to meet you.

In reading your book, I was struck by how “mentorship” was such a recurring theme. Can you elaborate a bit more about the significance of this?  

One of the reasons I wrote the book was to give back in order to make others successful.  For example, I was so excited to learn that a woman who read the book found her dream job following the “Pearls of Wisdom.” After competing against hundreds of applicants for two District Attorney’s positions, she was offered both positions! She said that my success tips helped her with the interview process. When she was in a room full of men…she kept thinking, “people hire people they like, so be likable!” This outcome is exactly why I wrote the book — to help others. I was so grateful that she shared that with me. 

As a single mother, I also give mentoring tips for parents with children. There isn’t a rulebook for raising kids. Since my two older kids are now 30 and 27, it is important for me to share what worked to help them succeed. And with the pandemic, everyone is playing multiple roles, so it was even more important for me to release this book now.

We are coming off a tough year in 2020 with the pandemic, racial justice protests, and political climate exacting such a huge toll on so many of us. Given these times, what advice do you have for aspiring women who are trying to find their sea legs in today’s business world?

It’s been reported that 275,000 women dropped out of the workforce in January 2021 (NBC News). This news is really upsetting to me.  It makes me want to help women even more with finding creative ways to make money more easily from home during the pandemic.

Another one of the “Pearls of Wisdom” I’ve listed in the book is “Where there is chaos, there is opportunity.” This ties to my belief that despite the current job market chaos, there are endless opportunities to make money without having a traditional job. For example, think about your passions and how you can turn them into moneymakers. Whenever I’ve been truly passionate about something, my “I never thought I couldn’t” attitude kicks in.

So what do you hope to accomplish moving forward in sharing this message? 

My top goal is to encourage women in 2021 to take more control of their lives by finding time for both self-care and making more money by following their passions. For example, if you are a mother, you could hire college students taking a “gap year” to babysit part of the day for an economical rate. You could then use this quality time to go on a walk for self-care and find ways to turn hobbies into revenue drivers. 

For example, if you love to bake apple pies, start baking and sell to your neighbors first before launching a website. Another example may be to start making and selling jewelry. You can also take a continuing education class, such as a real estate class that helps you pass your license test, and then work part-time as a real estate agent to make money.

Finally, what is your greatest hope in terms of what readers walk away with from your book? 

My greatest hope is that my readers will walk away with a roadmap for how to be successful in life and business. Teaching others how to win in business using the “16 Pearls of Wisdom” that worked for my son and others is just one small way I believe that I can give back and make a difference during these turbulent times. I’m always striving to be a cheerleader for others in the same way that my father was always for me.