Making Connections – Lovallo Big on Community Stewardship
13 Jun 2014 by BizDESIGN in Entrepreneurs & Leaders, SUMMER 2014
By Sheryl Kornman –
Lisa Lovallo’s success as an entrepreneur, along with her high energy and ability to communicate and connect, are what help her succeed as market VP for Cox Communications Southern Arizona.
The University of Arizona graduate’s reach extends from Tucson to Douglas, Sierra Vista, Benson, Tombstone and Huachuca City. Lovallo serves on the boards of 10 nonprofits and is committed to the success and well-being of Southern Arizonans, especially children.
In 2013, Cox provided grants to Arizona Special Olympics, Arizona Theatre Company, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona and Boys & Girls Clubs in Phoenix, Casa Grande and Scottsdale. The company’s Connect2Compete program provides broadband access to Arizona families whose schoolchildren are on free or reduced-price lunch programs.
When Lovallo joined the company in 2008 after working for Procter & Gamble in Los Angeles, she had already started an import-export food business composed of more than 20 European manufacturers and 80 food service and grocery distributors throughout the U.S.
After North American Enterprises was sold in 2004, she taught as an adjunct professor in the UA Eller College of Management and was director of student advancement and development in the UA Division of Student Affairs.
In 2008 Cox hired her, though she had no background in the cable and communications industry. What she did have was an entrepreneur’s daring, international business success, intellectual curiosity and many deep relationships in Southern Arizona.
Lovallo credits Steve Rizley, Cox’s senior VP and GM for the Southwest Region, for bringing her to the company from academia and allowing her room to flourish.
“Steve Rizley had the foresight to put those pieces together. I was the right person at the right time for the company,” she said. “I had to learn the business quickly – but my boss realized it was easier to teach me the business than teach me the community. Now I know enough to be dangerous about a lot of things – fiber optics, broadband. I can pinpoint a problem and help solve the problem quickly.”
Lovallo is a former UA basketball player and student body VP. She came to Cox with leadership skills and the knowledge of how to grow a business and found a place where she could thrive.
“One of the reasons my leadership has been effective at Cox is that Cox has a corporate culture committed to diversity and to supporting and helping people,” Lovallo said. “At my core, I’m very entrepreneurial. When I came back to corporate, I felt very comfortable here because of Cox’s commitment to the diversity piece – gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation.
“Fifty percent of the team here in the Southwest region is female, and at Cox Communications corporate, the No. 2 is a female and a good role model. I never found it to be a barrier here.”
When she came to Cox, “the die was cast,” Lovallo said. “The company values creativity and looks for unique ways to solve problems. For me that was very motivating. It’s a good fit for me – my personality, background and experience.”
As a steward of the community for Cox, Lovallo is 2013-14 co-chair of the United Way campaign and serves on boards of directors that include Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Tucson Airport Authority, Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Tucson Metro Chamber, UA Cancer Center and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Community Advisory Panel. She also is on the advisory board of the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
In 2010 Lovallo was named Woman of the Year by Tucson Metro Chamber and has been honored as a Woman on the Move by the YWCA Tucson.
Lovallo said she chooses a high level of community involvement with a variety of organizations to be an effective steward for Cox.
“It’s tough to find the time to do all these things well,” she said, but “as an executive it’s important to keep yourself sharp and growing. You have to learn new things. I have a high level of intellectual curiosity. And I’m fortunate that I am in a company that expects you to engage the community. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of that?”
Among Cox’s charitable efforts, she takes “a great amount of pride and personal satisfaction in the company’s commitment to and my engagement in the Connect2Compete program that gives families of children who are on reduced or free lunch the tools that can be life changing.”
In November 2013, Lovallo was named the first female chair of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council. She said she would very much like to be the first woman member of the Tucson Conquistadores.
“I think I’d be a great contributor. I’ve never been asked, but I would be happy to accept,” she said.
Outside of work, her sporting life continues. For a time, she played in a men’s basketball league with local leaders Mike Hein, Larry Hecker and others at Green Fields Country Day School – but now she plays golf instead “to keep my knees” and avoid broken bones.
It is true she trained, tried out and skated for the Furious Truckstop Waitresses, a roller derby team, under the name Ace Benedict for a year in 2009. She did it on a dare from Congressman Ron Barber. It was fun, but she was “black and blue all the time” and her boss worried she might get some teeth knocked out so she quit.
Now she’s in the air, learning to fly a Cessna 172 four-seater prop plane at Ryan Airfield. “My landings are pretty good,” she said, so she’s taken her mother and two nieces, 12 and 14, for a ride.
Her work continues to be challenging as Cox invests millions in broadband infrastructure in schools, adds and reinforces fiber optics for downtown businesses to allow for more economic growth with the coming of the new streetcar, invests significant capital at the UA Medical Center bringing its infrastructure forward to meet the present-day demands of healthcare, and is working with Carondelet Health Network and with physicians who want to integrate with hospitals.
Residential telecommunications expansion is growing at the rate of the local economies, she said, and Cox continues to help small businesses expand. Upgrades are coming, along with faster internet speeds and faster broadband connections. A newer product, Cox Home Security, helps customers secure and manage their homes remotely from their mobile devices.