Exclusive Interview with Sterling Hawkins
Mr. Hawkins, you speak all over the world now, what inspired you to start doing speaking engagements?
There’re countless quotes on how powerful language can be. Our future is literally created through the conversations we’re having now, which is why I felt I had to speak. I was scared in the beginning; to start speaking meant to be vulnerable and be willing to embrace the unknown in myself. Yet it has ultimately led to more fun than I could have imagined, impacting more businesses than I would have ever believed, and giving me more fulfillment than I ever thought possible.
Mr. Hawkins, innovation means that something is new, something has changed. How can businesses overcome resistance to change within their company?
It’s a great question and something we spend a lot of time on. The key is to start to shift how the world occurs — there isn’t a resistance to change itself — there’s a resistance to stepping into the unknown and a resistance to potential failure. As the business culture can both support or even reward taking risks and develop tool-sets for team members to embrace the unknown, an eagerness for change starts to emerge.
Mr. Hawkins, you come from a family with 5 generations of retail experience. What are some lessons about innovation that you’ve learned from your family business that are still important for today?
Business has always been and always will be about the customer and their experience. It was true back when my great-great grandmother started my family’s store as a roadside produce stand, and it’s just as true today. Many businesses get caught up in innovation — the latest in AI, the newest mobile technology, what’s happening with crypto currency — especially with the increasing pace of innovation and new technology constantly in the news. You don’t need technology for technology’s sake. Done right, technology works for people. Right now there’s an incredible opportunity to use all these emerging technologies to further real customer relationships at scale.
Mr. Hawkins, what is your advice for people who are thinking about starting a business? Or for those that aren’t involved with innovation?
Start with your customer. Understand who they are and what need you’re fulfilling for them better than anyone else. Understand the experience that the customer wants and how you can create that for them. And understand the tech, operations and necessary financing to do so. There’s always opportunity — in fact more opportunity now than literally ever before in human history. Just make sure you’re improving the customer experience rather than simply adding something else.
Sterling Hawkins has become a master of innovation through massive changes and obstacles he has overcome in his own life. From selling the first company he founded in 2004 to flat broke, from a broken family business to a successful one, and from fear of public speaking to keynoting at conferences around the world, Sterling’s story is a perfect example of how anyone can take any situation and create anything from it.
As a business leader, entrepreneur investor and futurist, Sterling is an internationally renowned keynote speaker. As a 5th generation retailer and still very active in retail innovation, he has worked with the likes of Stanford, Cornell and the University of Texas to create the future of commerce, and today evaluates over 1,000 innovative technologies annually which are looking to dynamically transform retail and how people fulfill on their wants and needs. He has worked with countless startups, investment groups, retailers, brands and Fortune 500 companies including P&G, Mitsubishi, Zebra Technologies, Stater Bros. and more to ignite innovation and innovation thinking inside their organizations.
Sterling has been seen in Inc. Magazine, The New York Times, ABC Money, AlleyWatch, Yahoo Finance, Forbes and other major media outlets. Living at the intersection of in-store, online and the 4th Industrial Revolution, Sterling is actively shaping the future of commerce by helping others create and respond to innovation in a way that betters businesses, communities and the human condition. Visit: http://www.sterlinghawkins.com