Sterling Hawkins

Co-founder, CART
Sterling Hawkins is out to break the status quo to create what’s actually possible for humanity in our time. He has spent his career igniting new views and inspiring people to act on them. His journey has been non-traditional right from the beginning. Sterling grew up a fifth-generation retailer, having to master the intersection of human behavior and technology under extreme competition. In 2004, Sterling co-founded, launched and sold his first technology company, Convena, where he developed innovative approaches to beat competition, handle high-growth and achieve performance no matter the obstacles. He went on to be involved with the launch, growth or investment in over 50 companies. Today, Sterling reviews over 1,000 new technology companies every year further refining the keys to realizing breakthrough innovation and giving back that experience as a mentor to leading entrepreneurs working through exponential growth. He is the co-founder of CART, a platform to drive adoption of emerging technologies at fortune 500 companies. And he speaks and runs workshops around the world for clients such as Samsung, Criteo, Synchrony Financial and the United Nations. Sterling is an internationally-recognized thought leader and top-rated keynote speaker on innovation, transformational leadership and exponential growth. His keynotes share meaningful strategies to drive change delivered with the inspiration to leave attendees in action. Sterling is a certified yoga teacher and adventure seeker regularly pushing his own boundaries of what’s possible by skydiving, century bike riding, shark diving, and even camping in the Sahara. He brings that energy of maximizing human potential and breaking past limiting beliefs to everything he does. Currently living in Los Angeles, he has been seen in Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, The New York Times and Forbes. Sterling is inspiring a network of entrepreneurs, investors and fortune 500 companies, actively shaping the future for the betterment of business, communities and the human condition. Of course, he’s still regularly found on adventures.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2020

    Nov. 2021: How should retail plan for a return to normal?

    The obvious thing for retailers to do is to plan for multiple scenarios. The smart thing would be to shift their culture to be ready for any scenario. What’s going to win tomorrow is being able to move quickly, take risks and be nimble enough to adjust for anything. The bonus is those same things will yield outsize growth over time.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2020

    Retailers need to reorganize like a 21st century business

    It's easy to recommend that companies reorganize around the consumer and probably pretty straightforward for retailers to do, but it will make incremental differences at best. Legacy thinking and legacy culture inside a new structure is still legacy thinking and legacy culture. Any gains brought by the re-org would almost certainly be washed away like a sandcastle built too close to the beach. Structure is important, but more important is the culture itself. Are people defensive of their roles, or are they focused on doing what's best? Do people embrace different opinions, or does majority rule? Does something have to be perfect, or is a culture aimed at getting things done. The cultural speed of most retailers has remained stagnant while the pace of technology and change is only accelerating. To keep up, cultural changes are the only answer.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2020

    Is there a path to profitable grocery delivery?

    Eliminating silos is not just critical to profitability, but to the operations themselves. With siloed data it's hard (if not impossible) to get the right product to the right person at the right time on any sort of consistent basis. Scott Taylor, the data whisperer, really has the keys to this kingdom. But I also see another aspect of this conversation: automation. There are today countless robots, autonomous tools and drones from the warehouse to the last mile that are going to be a huge piece of delivery profitability. I've heard that one of the biggest ecommerce delivery companies has contracted for quite a few automated fulfillment centers specifically for home delivery. Reducing data silos is just a necessary starting point to a much bigger game.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2020

    Did Amazon just put its Go technology in a shopping cart?

    This is one of the rare times Amazon is a follower. There are at least a few other smart carts in operation by various startups (Caper and Veeve come to mind) that have much more real customer usage they've learned from. Amazon will only be successful with the program if the UI is top notch and doesn't add time or frustration in getting setup. It's a logical step to take the Just Walk Out promise of Amazon Go into a larger format location. Living in LA I'll be one of the first people over there to check it out.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2020

    Starbucks becomes latest retailer to make masks mandatory

    I always remember this sign I would see at my favorite beach diner as a kid on vacation in FL: no shirt, no shoes, no service. I didn't fight it. Nobody did. Businesses are entitled to create the rules for their business. It makes it easier to respect the rule, even if some customers don't agree, by making it a universal standard. If the mask rules are the same at every Starbucks, they've already taken the first step to reduce conflict. There is another bigger picture consideration here. I'm pro-mask, but as we create businesses (or societal) cultures that only look for the safe approach, an approach that won't ruffle any feathers or hurt anyone's feelings, we're essentially closing the door to any breakthrough results. I'm not suggesting this is necessarily the case with Starbucks and masks, but it's worth noting the culture in the background that's driving decision making and inevitably translating to other parts of the business as well.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2020

    Will Walmart’s best shoppers ditch Amazon Prime for Walmart+?

    The focus should be on the Walmart customer and providing more value to them (vs. a concern about whether they're also part of Amazon Prime or not). As an Amazon Prime member myself, considering joining Walmart+ would be in addition, since I'm already so integrated with Echo, Amazon video etc., which I imagine is the case for many. Amazon has done a very good job adding a lot of value around Prime that has made it very sticky. Walmart is headed in the right direction, they just have a long way to go. As they come up with more, better and different ways to add value to Walmart+, it will become a massively important program for them.
  • Posted on: 07/06/2020

    Walmart debuts virtual summer camp and drive-in movie programs

    Very smart move and a perfect example of how a company can take existing assets (and constraints) and create something new from them.
  • Posted on: 07/03/2020

    Do Americans want retailers to keep their social distance after COVID-19 is gone?

    I don't think there's any question that coronavirus has reshaped American (and global) commerce forever. Many of the technologies that were over the horizon on the roadmap are front and center today like contactless parents, enhanced BOPIS and even robotics in-store and for delivery. The entire pandemic has created a huge opportunity to bring retailers/brands even closer together with the consumer. However, if there's a misstep, the risk of losing a customer forever is even higher.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2020

    Does Microsoft need stores?

    The sales through stores are secondary; stores are a place to create an experience with customers and bring them closer to the brand. I imagine that Microsoft's hardware sales will continue to do just fine online (especially these days). I'd spend the time considering and working on how to create incredible customer experiences via a different physical venue or online to continue to create and build that connection.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2020

    Who will come to J.C. Penney’s rescue?

    JCP needs a complete and total overhaul of their store design, current offers, even their culture. Personally, I think sometimes it's better to start fresh than trying to revive a dinosaur. It would be a massive commitment for one of these groups to take it on, but not impossible.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2020

    Will personalization work for produce?

    It's definitely a higher-end niche with their offer and pricing; if they can reach the right customers they have a play. As an LA local, I definitely see a market for the convenience and personalization they're planning to offer. Regardless, more automation in vertical farming is a "when" not an "if" question. It just might take some higher priced product to get us there.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2020

    Is it safe to bring back food sampling?

    The details matter and obviously we can't just be passing out open samples to lines of people anymore. Samples are such a key piece of the culture and experience at many of these stores though. I don't think the question is "if" they should bring them back but "how" they can bring them back, safely.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2020

    Is Walmart about to become the king of online resale retailing?

    Walmart has really transformed itself into a company that can dream up new and valuable ideas and then execute on them; their partnership with thredUP is just the latest example of that. It seems to be a valuable connection for both brands and together they bring a lot of extra value to the customer. Looks like a win and I wouldn't be surprised to see rivals attempt something similar.
  • Posted on: 05/19/2020

    Has the pandemic transformed Walmart into an unstoppable force?

    It shouldn't be a surprise for any retailer in the grocery space that their sales are up in Q1. It's not a validation of their strategy, but it's not an invalidation of their strategy either. It's a pandemic. Walmart has been on a path of innovation for years and they are especially well positioned to not just post gains while the pandemic continues, but to hold on to a good portion of it from the technology and experience they've created (and more importantly, continue to create). Some retailers in the grocery space may be seeing gains now only to understand they've lost many of their core customers since habits and behaviors have changed.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2020

    Is it time to move beyond ‘now more than ever’ COVID-19 commercials?

    The American public is ready for authentic messages, which is and has always been the key. The listening of the general public has changed from a few weeks ago when it seemed the world was ending, to the slow reopening and emergence of new ways (perhaps permeant new ways) to do business. As advertisers can capture that sentiment I can't imagine it would land as tone-deaf.

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