Lisa Falzone, CEO Revel Systems: How to Create an App for your Business
The NextWomen ‘How-to’ Theme
Lisa Falzone is the Co-Founder & CEO/President of Revel Systems which offers a fully functional Point of Sale system to manage every task that retail and restaurant workers encounter on a daily basis.
Resulting in one of our most popular articles of all time, we last interviewed Lisa in 2012, after Revel Systems raised $3.7 million in a series "A" funding round and was officially announced as the winner of the Best iPad Business App of the Year Award at the Macworld – iWorld event.
We spoke to Lisa about what she’s been up to since we last spoke; how to decide whether your business needs an app; and her recommended step-by-step guide for app building.
TNW: What have you been up to since our last interview in February last year?
Since last year, Revel Systems has become profitable, hired a total of 90 people, raised 10 million dollars last month to further expand our iPad POS Systems, and brought on over one thousand clients.
TNW: How should entrepreneurs decide if building an app is right for their business?
LF: How I decide to build something is if I can sell it first. Once I know there is demand, then I build it. If you want a successful product, the first question you should ask yourself is: What problem are you trying to fix?
TNW: Is building an app something an entrepreneur can do themselves or would they need to outsource parts of the process?
LF: Yes of course!
An entrepreneur can do anything if she puts her mind to it, but it does depend on where her skillset lies. If you really want to be a good leader, do not do everything yourself.
Think about it: you are the inventor, the idea maker and that’s what you need to focus on. The number one reason why entrepreneurs fail is because they are too busy trying to do too much themselves. You need to learn to delegate!
TNW: Can you talk us through the basic app building process, step by step?
LF: 1. Map your product out on mind mapping software like MindMeister.
2. Build the UI (user interface): Draw a storyboard with the UI example. Make it like a movie on the storyboard: screen one; screen two, etc. will have examples of your UI that tells a story.
3. Ask yourself if you need a database. If you need to store information, then you need a database.
4. Lay out the fields in your database (for point of sale you have to map out every field in the database, i.e. menu items, modifiers, products, orders, payments, discounts, taxes, etc.). I suggest getting a database admin for this or a consultant for less than $1,000 to consult with you. For simple apps you can use SQL Lite a free software library.
5. After you’ve followed these steps, you can give your app to a programmer, or code it yourself. Any programmer can build your app if you give them a UI, storyboard, and database.
TNW: What are the biggest challenges you encountered whilst building your app and how did you overcome these?
LF: Wi-Fi was our biggest challenge, but we overcame this when we designed our software.
Not every problem you run into has to do with software, but the software can always be adjusted to fix and overcome almost any problem out there.
TNW: Once you have an app, how can you make sure it stays up to date with changing technology?
LF: Talk to your customers. The best thing you can do is talk to your customers and see what they want. Keep your product up to date by assigning your product manager to go onsite at least once a month to find out issues and how to resolve them. At first you will be doing this yourself, but when you get to 90 people you will have a product manager to do this for you.
TNW: Can you give us three examples of apps which you admire?
LF: Uber, Tripit, HopStop
TNW: Which three golden rules of app building should entrepreneurs take away with them after reading this interview?
LF: 1. Listen. Listen to your customers
2. Spend a lot of time architecting your product before you start programming
3. Prototype quickly and see it in the market as fast as possible.
TNW: Can you give us three resources for entrepreneurs looking to build an app for their business?
LF: 1. For quick prototyping go to freelancer.com and build an account to find a person to build your app, once you have done your UI and design.
2. Go to MindMeister to start mind mapping
3. Go to 99 apps to get your UI built
TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you’d like to share with our community?
LF: Trust yourself because everyone will tell you they know best. Of course that is tricky, as you can't be an expert in everything. Always try to find a co-founder who knows everything you don't know, and vice versa. If you are successful in doing the above, you might still not be clear on everything, but that is another story to be told. REVELUP!
To read Lisa’s 2012 guest post for us about the benefits of partnering in business, click here.
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