The Silicon Review
“There is no “typical day” in People Operations. Not only does every day have its unique set of challenges, but so does each and every client.”
Lisa-Maree Blumenfeld, Founder and CEO is an accomplished HR professional who has held various leadership roles for clients in a wide array of industries. Her vast experience spans from fast-moving startups to Fortune 500 companies. Lisa's passion for early to mid-stage startups encouraged the start of Retain, and her deep network of experienced HR professionals makes up the team. Founded in 2016, Retain is empowering change and providing on-demand HR for startups and small businesses that need access to core Human Resources services without having to hire full-time HR staff.
If you asked those who have worked with Lisa to describe her, you'd hear words like expert, trusted advisor, level-headed, forward-thinking, solution-oriented, purposeful, dedicated, and authentic. Lisa treats her team members as humans, not just employees. She understands the complexity of work-life balance and is incredibly supportive of the varying needs of her team. Retain was started and continues to be 100% bootstrapped and self-run.
As a leader and company, Lisa understands one has to be outspoken about the rights of women, the rights of families, and the rights of employees to safety and fair wages and benefits, and have contributed either as a volunteer or financially to organizations that support these initiatives. We have also partnered with our clients who wanted to be outspoken about the rights of their employees by creating policies to help support their team and organizing days to protest or vote or get some necessary headspace to reset from the stress.
"Lisa has the ability to really meet leaders where they are and then run alongside them to support and challenge them to where they want and should be. She doesn't shy away from having tough conversations and giving feedback along the way to help companies mitigate risk and grow successfully. This mindset, along with the best in class service and expertise provided by Retain, really resonates with clients." - Laurie (Retain Consultant)
"Lisa builds a solid foundation of trust backed by her expansive knowledge, sound intentions, and strategic thinking; she will roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty when things are messy, and clients are receptive to this. The business has grown by word of mouth and continues to scale and thrive as a result of Lisa's leadership, passion, and drive." - Kristina (Retain Consultant)
Lisa-Maree Blumenfeld spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review on how her vast experience as an HR Professional has enabled her to take the company to new heights.
Q. Have you always been entrepreneurial? What led you to take that first step and setting up your own business?
Starting Retain was a bit of a haphazard experiment. I knew that small startups needed HR support but didn't set out to build a consulting firm. Originally I was asked to be an advisor to two startups and a VC fund, and quickly I realized the huge need for part-time HR support for growing businesses. From there, I was lucky enough to bring on more clients than I could handle alone and decided to build Retain and bring on more experienced HR professionals that were interested in this model.
Q. What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
Honestly, there is no "typical day" in People Operations. Not only does every day have its unique set of challenges, but so does each and every client. We are constantly context shifting from one drastically different situation to another, in completely different industries, with different teams and People Operations goals and roadmaps. I love to look at my calendar each morning and think, "that's cute," because I know by the end of the day, the reality of how it is mapped out will be so different from the plan. And yet, that is one of the best parts of what we have the opportunity to do- nothing is ever stagnant.
Q. Keeping in mind the social and cultural bondages that generally trim down the freedom, confidence, and boldness of women, what steps/programs/policies you would like to suggest for the women who want to be successful like you?
Throughout my career, I have watched women (including myself, at times) be discredited or have their abilities or loyalty questioned due to their responsibilities outside of the workplace. But female leaders that juggle the demands of work as well as being parents/guardians, coaches, volunteers, etc., are the underrated powerhouse of the workplace. Not only do they have to work exponentially harder to pull their own seat up to the table, but they also have other full-time "life roles" outside of that table- and it is that balance that can make for the best leaders- they are unflappable and unwavering. When interviewing people for my team (and for our clients), it is this balance that is the most important and worthwhile to dig into- not to find out if they can balance but to uncover where their tenacity and grit to succeed come from. And if you are lucky enough to work with them- get out of their way. The path we carve out is often unique, and there is a lot to learn from the thoughtful strategy.
Q. As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Have an outlet. Find something or multiple things that are away from your product that can help you reset. Being an entrepreneur can be all-consuming and can (and will) cause burnout and health issues, and interpersonal drought. Being able to understand that the company is really important but not the only element of you that is important is critical. Finding time away is challenging, but I find that when I am able to step away for a bit and reset, I come back with clarity and a renewed drive and focus.
Q. What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
My all-time favorite business (adjacent) book is Bossypants by Tina Fey. While not a traditional business book, it is an incredible example of a female who entered a male-dominated workplace and crushed it by just being better than everyone else around her and remaining focused. I love giving a copy of this book to other females who are carving out their lanes in workplaces where the odds are stacked against us.
Q. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out as an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Don't overthink it. I have seen so many people with great ideas become quickly paralyzed by how daunting it can be to start something that they can't move forward. The second piece of advice is to surround yourself with smart and experienced people that can help with the areas that are not your area of expertise rather than trying to learn and own each part. As a leader, we aren't required to be all things to all people; we just need to know how to identify and utilize resources to ensure your team has the support they need so you all can keep things moving forward.
The Dynamic Leader at the Helm of Retain
Lisa-Maree Blumenfeld is the Founder and CEO of Retain. Prior to this, she was VP of People at a San Francisco-based accelerator. There she led a centralized HR and Recruiting team that worked on behalf of 20+ startups and solidified her passion for partnering with small startups. Her career has included working with fast-moving startups (Lyft, NinthDecimal, Aria Systems) as well as with larger Fortune 500 companies (PG&E, Blue Shield of California). Her passion for early to mid-stage startups encouraged the start of Retain, and her deep network of experienced HR professionals makes up the team.
Today, Retain has grown to a powerhouse team of 8 female consultants all over the US with a combined experience that spans decades. The clients they serve range from startups and established small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.