5 Ways Swimming Competitively Helped Me as an Entrepreneur and CEO

by SwimSwam 4

March 20th, 2015 College, Lifestyle, Opinion, Pac-12

Courtesy of Lisa Falzone, a former varsity swimmer and graduate of Stanford University, who is the co-founder and CEO of iPad point of sale platform Revel Systems. Lisa’s achievements as a young entrepreneur have been recognized through prestigious awards such as Forbes ’30 Under 30’, Business Insider’s ‘30 Most Important Women Under 30 In Tech’ and San Francisco Business Times ’40 Under 40.’

Lisa Falzone, Stanford alum, CEO of Revel Systems  (courtesy of Revel Systems)Being a successful competitive swimmer requires laser-sharp focus, hard work and unwavering discipline, which can also be said of running a multi-million dollar company. This is why, even though my days as a swimmer at Stanford University are behind me, I’m able to continue applying the skills I learned then on a daily basis as the CEO of the company I co-founded, Revel Systems.

The same principles playing out on the court, on the field or in the ring apply to business strategy whether you participate in sports or prefer to watch them on TV . If you're looking to win in the business world, make the following characteristics of a standout athlete part of your game plan:

1 - Adrenaline junkie

Every day presents tough challenges for entrepreneurs. To succeed in an intense business environment, excelling at what you do is not enough. In order to continue rising to the challenges and setting the bar higher, passion is critical.

Being passionate means having a strong work ethic and a consistent supply of adrenaline. Both of these have helped me through long work days spent creating a product from scratch, bringing the product to market and growing the company exponentially to meet customer demand.

This adrenaline rush isn't anything new for former athletes. I’ve compared swimming competitively to seeing life on steroids in the figurative sense, with so much happening at intense levels in small amounts of time. Every small step forward at Revel Systems brings me back to the sound of my swimming teammates cheering me along, the rush of adrenaline from the pistol sound and the feel of those winning strokes slicing through the water.

2 - Tough competitor

Stanford’s swim team was headed by a four-time Olympic swim coach. Four Olympians competed on our team. Needless to say, expectations were high, and the competition was intense. I needed to consistently push myself to outperform the best of the best.

Similarly, standing out in the highly competitive tech industry is tantamount to being a profitable company. By differentiating my product from that of my competitors with a point of sale system that easily integrates into whatever the next-generation mobile payment option might be, I established myself as an industry leader.

3 - Workhorse

With swimming, or with any competitive sport, results are black and white: You either meet your goal time or you don’t. Business, too, is results-driven. Though I’ve earned my place as a young, female CEO in a space dominated by men and execs with twice my experience, I refuse to encourage gimmicks surrounding my image. I stand behind the values of skill, merit and hard work.

Within Revel Systems, I aim to foster a results-oriented environment with minimal politics. I reward hard work and like to promote from within. Regardless of the position an employee starts in, they have the potential to move up if they exhibit a strong work ethic that fosters a team spirit and produces the desired results.

4 - Team player

Competitive athletes understand the value of working as a team, where each person plays an important role. Few people reach the top alone. During one race, I remember focusing intensely in order to accomplish my independent goals, while also keeping mindful about when to depend on my teammates.

As an entrepreneur, a hands-on approach is critical and I need to understand how every aspect of my business runs. I take pride in being able to enter any department in the company -- whether it’s sales, finance or customer support -- and perform any task firsthand. But a good leader must also know when to hand off the baton. I’m well aware of my team’s strengths, and I delegate projects that challenge them to excel and improve. Revel Systems’s unparalleled growth over the past four years has only been possible because of this high level of collaboration.

5 - Cool head

As a competitive swimmer, training never ends, spending five hours a day in the pool -- all for a two-minute race. In spite of all that hard work, I never knew what would happen when race day came. Swimming prepared me to deal with uncertainty.

If you need to see the future in a crystal ball, running a business may not be for you. No matter how hard I work, I operate Revel Systems with the knowledge that there are no guarantees. But I’ve learned that working hard and with passion, channeling your adrenaline and managing your emotions in the face of stress and uncertainty are all important and critical tools -- both in business and in life.

See Lisa's HQ, Revel Systems, here. 

Follow Lisa on Twitter here.

See Lisa on Linkedin here.

See Lisa on Facebook here.

More About Lisa Falzone 

Lisa Falzone is the 30-year-old CEO and co-founder of iPad point of sale (POS) company Revel Systems. A graduate of Stanford University, Lisa has been pivotal in turning the often “old school” perception of POS on its head. She has raised over $115 million in funding for Revel and the company currently has more than 250 employees worldwide. The iPad POS system that Lisa co-created regularly beats out established competitors such as MICROS Systems/Oracle and Aloha POS/NCR, and Revel’s iPad POS systems have been deployed at 10,000 terminals across the world. Lisa’s achievements as a young female entrepreneur have been recognized through numerous prestigious awards such as Forbes ’30 Under 30’, Business Insider’s ‘30 Most Important Women Under 30 In Tech’ and San Francisco Business Times ’40 Under 40.’

See Revel POS and why Lisa has been honored by so many industry insiders: 

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6 years ago

Great article and, as someone in my second entrepreneurial venture, I wholeheartedly agree. The other point to add – maybe it’s obvious – is that swimming provided me with a healthy foundation and continues to provide me with both a meditative break from the daily grind of work and an energy boost. I have proven to myself over and over again that, if I want to perform well in a day / week / month / year professionally, I need to hit the water 4-5x per week. Even on days when my biz travel only allows me a quick 1,000 or 1,500, I feel better, think better and perform better on the job than days when I don’t swim.

Kathy Bell
6 years ago

Lisa, I enjoyed this article very much. As the mother of a competitive swimmer I can agree wholeheartedly with what you wrote. The benefits of all that time in the water are endless on down the road. You are to be congratulated on your hard work and success. I wish you and Revel Systems continued success and a bright future.

Brandon Seider
6 years ago

Way to go Lisa! What a pleasure it is to see your success in business.

Larry Liebowitx
6 years ago

great to hear about your success and thanks for pointing out how swimming helped you. Great Article!