Lisa Falzone is the 29 year old CEO and co-founder of iPad POS company Revel Systems. As a Stanford grad, this female entrepreneur has led her Silicon Valley startup to profitability in just a year and transformed the "old school" POS ways. The iPad point-of-sale system that Lisa co-created is beating out competitors such as Micros, Aloha and NCR and winning over customers by showcasing its success through hundreds of millions in sales since coming out of beta in August 2011. Lisa's achievements as a young female entrepreneur have been recognized through numerous awards such as Forbes '30 Under 30', Business Insiders "30 Most Important Women Under 30 In Tech" and San Francisco Business Times '40 Under 40.'
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was a competitive swimmer at Stanford, and it is my firm belief that the hard work and commitment required as an athlete also helps you succeed as an entrepreneur. I turned the drive and determination I developed as a swimmer into my endeavors as an entrepreneur, and have since been able to develop an innovative and powerful iPad POS platform in a competitive space. Being part of swimming also taught me to be a team player in the business world - to listen to the needs and concerns of others, and incorporate their input into my decisions.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Revel Systems?
College internships exposed me to different roles in an array of fields, and served as excellent preparation for my tenure at Revel. These experiences exposed me to the variety of roles that exist in an organization, and gave me a sense of how they all work together to produce a cohesive, high-functioning whole. Some of these experiences included work in finance, PR, marketing, human resources, and venture capital. Gaining first-hand experience of this wide range of roles gave me an overview of the way a business worked as a whole, and prepared for a lot of the things I deal with today. These experiences provided great training and gave me a taste of what different departments deal with day to day. I didn't seek out these experiences with the idea that I would be preparing for my role as CEO - as Steve Jobs said, "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you an only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future." And that's what I did.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Revel Systems?
Making the right hires has been both a highlight and challenge during my tenure here at Revel. In the past two years, we've grown from 30 to 160 people, and consequently I have had to find managers that were both in-line with our vision and adept at leading. Our biggest successes have come from promoting from within - promoting employees who started in entry-level positions and worked their way up, and who in turn proved themselves to be skilled leaders who are knowledgeable of our product. For example, our current Director of Support started out as an entry-level support specialist, and now leads a team of 50.
What advice can you offer women who are looking to start their own business?
Have confidence in yourself, and your abilities as a leader. While gender can seem like a barrier to entry to some, I believe that women possess the insight and sensitivity to be excellent leaders. They listen to others - taking their opinions into account - and factor those opinions into the decision-making process. Furthermore, you can't be afraid to fail. That is, you can't be so afraid of failing that you never start in the first place. A little bit of failure is healthy in any entrepreneurial endeavor, and you have to keep that in mind. Essentially, if you're not failing, you're not doing it right.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
When I first started Revel, I worked around the clock - Revel was, in essence, my life, and I put all my time and effort into helping it grow. Now, as Revel is maturing, I'm working towards achieving more of a work/life balance. I'm at the point where I'm seeing my company grow, and my co-founder and I now have the ability to step back and take real vacations once in awhile.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Self-doubt is a huge issue. Be confident of your strengths, but also don't be afraid to speak up when you're uncertain. Having the ability to know your strengths and recognize your weaknesses is essential for any role, leadership or otherwise. Women in the workplace need to advocate for themselves - don't rely solely on someone else to push you forward and encourage your success. Although this may not be universally true, I believe men are strongly encouraged to advocate for themselves - more so than women - and as a result there are more men in leadership roles than women.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship through family and friends gave me the confidence to take risks, and subsequently gave me the encouragement and support I needed to succeed. I receive inspiration from different areas of my life - including swimming - as well as from well-known entrepreneurs who I've come to view as role models, such as Steve Jobs and Richard Branson. Through their inspiring examples and the support of friends and family, I was able to grow and thrive both personally and professionally. I now have a passion for mentoring young students on entrepreneurship - I want to provide others with the same opportunities and support I had.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Sheryl Sandberg, who has done an amazing job creating a balance between monetizing Facebook and keeping its users happy. She's juggling a variety of tasks while maintaining an essential balance within her organization. I also think highly of Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, for creating a multi-billion dollar business from scratch, and for making a product that really spoke to a need in the market. Another female leader I admire is Amelia Earhart for attempting an undertaking that was previously a "male only" pursuit.
What do you want Revel Systems to accomplish in the next year?
I want to fulfill my dream of empowering businesses everywhere, and continue working with my team to create an intuitive and powerful iPad POS platform. Specifically, I'd like to achieve market penetration in the verticals that we're already in, and amp up our sales and marketing efforts to reach those verticals, showing them that Revel's platform is a quick, intuitive, and powerful solution that will help empower their business. Additionally, I'd like to see Revel Systems meeting the needs of enterprises, and helping them grow and thrive as never before with our robust platform and enterprise-level analytics.