Paul Hadfield is proof that you don’t need to follow the traditional career path to realize success. Paul dropped out of college before completing his first year. He found himself searching for a fullfilling career path, scanning the want-ads, and desperate to pay his bills.
We talk with a lot of people about ‘taking the leap’ but being certain not to jump without a net. You definitely didn’t follow that advice. You dropped out of college during the first semester of your freshman year to work for what ended being a typical pyramid scheme. At the time, you thought this was your fast track to becoming a millionaire.
What’s the most important thing you learned as a result of that pivotal life choice? How are you grateful that this is the path you ultimately chose?
I learned that risks don’t always pay off, but that if you want to do something amazing and if you aspire for great things, you can’t play it safe. You have to do things that others aren’t willing to do. And, you can’t expect to just take one chance and hope it will work. After dropping out of college, I went from one businesses opportunity to the next – failing at 5 or 6 businesses with none lasting more than 12 months. It took a long time before something actually “worked”.
So at this point, you’re still barely 20-years-old, without a college degree, and no job prospects. ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures,’ as they say. What was your next career move? What about your mindset during that time – how did you maintain a focus on continuing your unique path?
I remember sitting in my car, in the parking lot of a grocery store, looking for jobs in the classifieds section of the newspaper (which is what you did in 2002). I called the number for the company that listed the highest possible income potential – for that reason alone. The meeting took place in the basement of a dentist office. It was 30 miles from where I lived. There were no windows, nobody greeted me when I walked in. I walked out to my car and I was ready to drive away. I remember thinking about how broke I was at the time and that I had to borrow money for gas to get to the meeting. So, I went back in, and was introduced to an industry that had a lot of potential. Fifteen years later and I’m in the same industry; trying to make it better every day.
Always go in the door. Always take the risk. Don’t think, just do. If you want something, have blind faith in your mission and don’t let the opinions of others steer you off course.
A very important skill I find in many successful entrepreneurs is the ability to fail, to recognize one’s errors, and to adeptly adjust in order to right the ship. What are some of the big mistakes or miscalculations you made early on?
I made countless mistakes, I still do. I probably make more mistakes than I get things right. That’s the thing most people don’t realize about entrepreneurship. You only need to be right on one out of every ten ideas. The key is to know what isn’t working – whether that’s a new product, hire, or strategy. Pivot quickly when your gut is telling you something isn’t right.
That said, the biggest mistakes I have made tend to have happened from moving too quickly – hiring, expanding, trying to scale too fast. Because I believe in our mission, I want to keep the gas pedal down so that we continue to grow and help as many businesses as possible. I don’t look at these miscalculations as negative things. When you move quickly, you’re going to break things, but anything can be put back together.
What did you learn from these failures that has made you more successful today? Have you developed a mindset or company DNA that you feel was influenced by these early stumbles?
The best thing about failure is what you can learn from it. Everything our company does well today was the result of previous failures. We have developed a set of company values that we believe in as a team. The most important one, in my opinion, is “Positivity Wins”. Nothing positive ever comes from a negative mindset. We have no room for negativity in our offices and we’ve tried to make it a pillar of our culture.
Tell us about Revzi – it’s a company and an idea that you created without any real peers operating similarly in your industry. How did the idea for this business come about?
In the payments industry, I had always been trying to find the best way to provide value to our clients. The industry is mostly price-driven and commoditized, and with so much competition it’s become hard to stand out. Out of the blue, I got a call from the marketing director of a local restaurant, who happened to be a client of mine. She asked me if I was familiar with any sort of system that would help them know who their customers are and where they live. I remember her saying “there is so much data on our credit cards, there has to be a way to capture it”. The light bulb went off, and I realized how valuable it would be if I could find a way to get that information to restaurants and other small businesses. After finding the right technology partners, we were off to the races.
Today, we provide multiple platforms that connect with businesses point-of-sale systems to tell them who their customers are, what’s bringing them in the door, and how to keep them coming back. We work with more than 1,500 restaurants, retail, healthcare, service, and other businesses and help them make more informed decisions on $1.5 billion in annual sales.
Successful entrepreneurship is about taking your various past experiences and stitching them together to build a brand. Did you have a similar experience drawing on accumulated knowledge to form and grow your company?
Absolutely. I’ve learned from experiences, individuals, other companies, books, and even employees. The key for me has been continuing to always invest in learning.
What’s your growth plan for your business? I would imagine that you have seen competitors enter the market as digital and social integration for restaurants/retail continues. How do you stay current while focusing on what made you successful to this point?
That’s just it, we have to focus on what got us here, which has been staying true to our model and not overcomplicating it. We continue to see competitors in our local markets that aren’t necessarily trying to compete with our products; they are more so just lowering their costs. That hasn’t had any effect on us, as we will continue to provide value-based payment processing services. Our fees are extremely competitive, but if your only goal is to pay the lowest fees per transaction, we’re probably not speaking the same language. We’re built to help small businesses grow by leaps and bounds, not shave some decimal dust off their bottom line.
Have you had any significant mentorship along the way – whether a personal connection, a speaker/author you follow, or otherwise? What are some significant pieces of advice they have imparted? Have you found an importance of mentoring your own team or others who may look to build on your achievements?
My Grandfather was an extremely successful entrepreneur who I look up to in many ways. I enjoy listening to business podcasts and reading books on occasion, but I don’t know if I’ve necessarily had a consistent mentor. Depending on where I’ve been in my professional career, I’ve sought out different resources to help me through those times and situations.
I try to give my all to my team every day and lead by example. I don’t know if anyone on our team would consider me a mentor, but I certainly try to be. The two things I want to happen at Revzi are a) our employees say that we are the best company they’ve worked for, and b) our customers tell us we’re the best payments company they’ve ever had. If we can accomplish those, I know we’ll win in the long run.
Remaining ‘present’ and finding a method to mitigate stress are incredibly important tools for any entrepreneur. Do you have any daily practices or mindsets that help you navigate the day-to-day rollercoaster of operating your own business?
My family is my rock. My wife Cassie and daughter Scarlett (and another daughter on the way) are my motivation and happiness. I am also an avid weightlifter which helps fire me up every morning and almost eliminates all stress. Also, after relocating to Newport Beach, California last year, I’ve found that going to the beach and looking out at the ocean – even if just for a moment, is a great way to clear my mind.
Thank you so much for your time, Paul. Last question – I love a great conversation over a well-made cocktail. If you could sit down with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and what are you drinking?
A conversation with either Elon Musk (Tesla) or Jeff Bezos (Amazon) would be incredible. I believe they are both the best entrepreneurs of our time.
I’m drinking an Old Fashioned – and, doing 1% of the talking.