Sterling Hawkins Profile

  • Keynote speaker Sterling Hawkins has experience growing over 50 companies and helps organizations push past comfort zones to create growth, #NoMatterWhat!

  • Entrepreneur, Master of Innovation, Tech Entrepreneur & Transformational Leadership Expert

  • Author of Hunting Discomfort and CEO of the Sterling Hawkins Group, a growth and development company

  • Entrepreneur and 5th generation retailer, Sterling Hawkins works with start-ups, legacy retailers, and Fortune 500 companies to close the innovation gap in retail. Hawkins heads operations and venture relations for CART (Center for Advancing Retail & Technology), a leading edge platform and consultancy that allows brands and wholesalers to research and connect with their target customers and find the best solutions to business problems.

    Passionate about connecting online environments to the real world, Hawkins has consulted for P&G, Mitsubishi, Zebra Technologies, Stater Bros., and many other companies. In the academic sector, he’s collaborated with Stanford, Cornell, and the University of Texas in crafting curricula that better equips future business leaders and creators for the 4th Industrial Revolution. As part of his work, Hawkins evaluates over 1,000 emerging technologies each year from a retail perspective first, asking himself how they can reinvent and improve the way we do retail.

    Hawkins’ mission to re-envision commerce and create a better experience for customers has been featured in Inc. Magazine, The New York Times, ABC Money, AlleyWatch, Yahoo Finance, Forbes and other major media outlets.

    Sterling co-founded, launched and sold his first retail technology company, Convena in 2004. He grew up working in his family’s New York state-based supermarket, Green Hills Farms, which evolved from his great-great grandmother’s roadside produce stand.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      Sterling Hawkins is out to break the status quo. He believes that we can all unlock incredible potential within ourselves, and he’s on a mission to support people, businesses and communities to realize that potential regardless of the circumstances.

      From a multi-billion dollar startup to collapse and coming back to launch, invest in and grow over 50 companies, Sterling takes that experience to work with C-level teams from some of the largest organizations on the planet and speaks on stages around the world.

      Today, Sterling serves as CEO and founder of the Sterling Hawkins Group, a research, training and development company focused on human and organizational growth. He has been seen in publications like Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, The New York Times and Forbes.

      Based in Colorado, Sterling is a proud uncle of four and a passionate adventurer that can often be found skydiving, climbing mountains, shark diving or even trekking the Sahara. Maybe you’ll even join him for the next adventure – and discover the breakthrough results you’re looking for. He’ll have your back, #NoMatterWhat.

    Sterling Hawkins Speaking Videos

    Bring Sterling Hawkins to Speak Live at Your Event


    Check Speaker Availability

    Sterling Hawkins's Speech Descriptions


    5 practices to unlock your potential, unleash unstoppable growth and produce breakthrough results in an increasingly uncertain world

    The world today is permanently transformed with pandemic fallout, tech disruption, talent shortages and global instability leaving massive and debilitating uncertainty in its wake. Change has always been inevitable for leaders to contend with, but the sheer scale and accelerating pace of change has become overwhelming for even the most diligent leaders. Unchecked, it can unconsciously leave people and companies fearful to take risk, resistant to growth and fatigued, fighting to keep up.

    The world of predictability is dead. This defining moment is requiring leaders to get uncomfortable and radically reorientate their relationship to change. Hunting discomfort is the critical new competency required to effectively navigate post-pandemic disruption and thrive in this forever changed world. There are 5 mission-critical practices that have been used to create everything from billion dollar business wins to Olympic gold medalists, that anyone can grab onto and use to build the necessary courage to take intelligent risks, declare big visions and unlock their potential, regardless of the circumstances.

    From multi-billion dollar startup collapse and coming back to launch, invest in and grow over 50 companies, Sterling has very personal experience confronting the unknown himself. Combined with research, psychology, the latest brain science discoveries and transformation work with leadership teams around the world, this unique perspective will forever change how you approach both business and life. You’ll discover through heart-wrenching stories, hilarious anecdotes and compelling data an undeniable truth: that during even the most difficult times, we can all realize the most audacious growth, #NoMatterWhat.

    Attendee Results:

    - Mobilize your team into change agents with the 5 #NoMatterWhat practices to create meaningful growth regardless of the circumstances.
    - Lean into the transformation illuminated by the latest brain science behind this radical new approach.
    - See how to avoid the pitfalls of growth and how to use the unknown, uncertain and unexpected to advance your objectives.
    - Find the presence, peace and authentic connection behind the fear of the unknown
    - Be inspired to take and implement the necessary tools to create breakthroughs in every aspect of your business and life.

    Hunting Discomfort

    Leading courageous organizations to be resilience ready and built for breakthrough growth

    Discomfort is inevitable as we all contend with a world disrupted by technology, changed by the pandemic, and fraught with risk, talent shortages and incredible uncertainty. Growth has always been outside our comfort zone, but today it’s forced upon companies and teams in a way that’s unparalleled throughout history. It can quickly become debilitating and exhausting, negatively impacting productivity, morale and ultimately, results.

    If discomfort of the unknown is inevitable and growing – leadership necessitates a critical new competency for competitive advantage, hunting discomfort and building their capacity to effectively handle it. Reorienting leaders to the fact that what many may see as the risky move, is less risky than not pursuing it in the long run. Opening executives, teams and cultures to the discomfort of the unknown will ironically leave peace, presence and breakthrough results in its wake – regardless of what’s happening in the world. But it takes the courage of acceptance, the willingness to make mistakes and the vulnerability to let go.

    Sterling has been through massive discomfort himself having come back from the brink to sell companies, finish ultra-marathons and get results no matter what it took. Using that experience to work with leaders to hunt their own discomfort and bolstered by cutting edge research, you’ll be equipped with 5 practices to build your discomfort muscle, your capacity to deal with discomfort in any flavor it comes in, to make your team ready for anything and poised to create breakthrough growth.

    Attendee Results:

    - Radical reframing of discomfort as a necessary and inspiring path to growth (and how avoiding it is holding you back).
    - Learn from the latest psychology and brain research on how to use discomfort to learn up to 4x faster.
    - See how to access the profound peace on the other side of discomfort to be able to act faster, more effectively and with less stress.
    - Understand from case studies and best practices how you can build yourself, your team and your culture to be ready for the unexpected.
    - Be lit up and excited to grab onto and use the 5 key practices to create immediate breakthrough results.

    Creating the Future of Commerce

    Sterling was raised in his family’s supermarket, where his Dad created one of the first digital loyalty programs in the US, and together they created the first personalized marketing system for retailers.

    Retail today is changing faster than ever before. Venture dollars have accelerated startups flooding the market and COVID-19 has forever changed the face of modern retailing. Taking what he learned in his family’s organization about the creation of value and the importance of people and connection, then combining it with unique, completely new abilities of countless technologies, Sterling explores how we arrived at this point, the surprising future in-store for us and how we can create a future which fulfills on our business essentials and delivers on our customers' wants, desires, and needs.

    Sterling’s leadership and vision has enabled retailers and their teams to step past the hype that traditional retail is dead. He has empowered organizations to use technology to unify experiences and redefine retail as a flourishing force to be reckoned with, now and in the future.

    Attendee Results:

    - Look at the power shift in the supply chain. Hint, customers are now in charge.
    - Open up new possibilities for a retail group can be based on case studies and real results.
    - Examine the latest case studies of what’s working and what’s not in the industry.
    - Learn how to use the 4 steps of retail innovation.
    - Create new possibilities and potential for your retail and brand operations.
    - Humanize technology in the workplace. Confronting and overcoming fears employees may have in the workplace related to technology (taking their jobs, feeling threatened, etc).

    How Leaders Innovate

    Capture the potential of your human experience

    We live in a world today of exponential growth and accelerating change. Changing ourselves and our businesses is more necessary than ever. But how? Delivered to global rave reviews in his TEDx talk, Sterling’s background in working with hundreds of startups and Fortune 500 companies has led to the discovery that leading innovation is about embracing our human experience.He’ll illuminate how personal discomfort gives access to breakthrough growth of any type and how to find the courage to not just accept it but to get out ahead of it to be able to lead change as the only competitive advantage.

    In this provocative talk, you can step back and see your leadership potential and how it's directly tied to putting yourself on the line for the benefit of those you lead. The talk is a motivational and eye-opening experience where Sterling shares how leaders of companies of any size can embrace the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution such as robots, IoT and AI and create something completely new without losing who they are in the process.

    Attendee Results:

    - The critical role our own discomfort plays in our business success (or lack thereof)
    - How using discomfort can lead to innovative thinking and breakthrough ideas
    - Experience what the human experience is with a moving and powerful example
    - Learn the methodology behind using constraints, hardships or problems as circumstances to be embraced as our access to innovation
    - Develop an ecology of people who create big goals allows for and even forces actions that were previously unthinkable

    Sterling Hawkins on Speaking

    I get to make a difference for people and that’s the number one reason why I do it. Inside of a keynote I’m able to create entirely new possibilities for an audience that light up actions for them to take in their businesses.

    SPEAKING.COM: What do you want people to learn/take away from your presentations and why do you do it?

    HAWKINS: I get to make a difference for people and that’s the number one reason why I do it. Inside of a keynote I’m able to create entirely new possibilities for an audience that light up actions for them to take in their businesses. It has a ripple effect inside of conferences that really leaves the event and attendees with tangible results.

    There is so much technology out there that not only works, but is also economically viable and can entirely change what retail (and the world) looks like. Inside of a keynote, we start to create that change and give people the tools and knowledge so they can start making that difference as well.

    SPEAKING.COM: What kind of special prep work do you do prior to an event? How do you prepare for your speaking engagements?

    HAWKINS: It’s funny — I often hear I’m such a natural speaker, but that has only come with practice, practice and more practice.

    I have a lot of material to draw from so I spend time understanding who event attendees are and what they’re currently dealing with. Then I orient my message, stories, and content in a way that’s not only relatable, but furthermore, inspires action.

    SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements / unusual situations arise while on the road?

    HAWKINS: There have been bomb scares in Melbourne, flight cancelations in New York, and countless adventures in and around speaking engagements like diving with great white sharks or sailing the Galapagos.

    One of my favorite stories though is about a speech I gave in Japan years ago. It was to a larger audience and one of my first keynotes so I was overly prepared. Since I don’t speak Japanese, there was consecutive translation set up, which I loved since it afforded me a few seconds between each thought for the translator to translate. I got up there after a big applause, delivered my first sentence and the translator started right on queue.

    30 seconds went by. 60 seconds. 90 seconds.

    A full two minutes later the translator started to wrap up and the entire audience broke out laughing. I was confused; I hadn’t told a joke. I stumbled through the rest of the presentation, found the translator afterwards, and asked him what he had said out there that had everyone laughing. “Oh,” he replied, “don’t worry — I told them you were here to talk about the future of commerce, but that you were really here to find a Japanese wife.”

    SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?

    HAWKINS: Audiences that want to make a difference themselves. We have the toolsets to unlock innovation thinking and unleash action to produce measurable results.

    Of course, it’s particularly relevant to crowds that have to do with retail and commerce; however, it’s a message that resonates with entrepreneurial groups, business managers, and even more traditional companies that want to start taking steps toward change.

    What I love most is talking about innovation thinking because it opens people and businesses up to so much potential.

    SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote speaking topics are your favorites and why?

    HAWKINS: I love everything that I get to speak about. What I love most is talking about innovation thinking because it opens people and businesses up to so much potential. Not only is it a blast to share — it’s something that people take with them and put into use. I continually get updates from past attendees on how take-aways from my programs are impacting their businesses and lives.

    SPEAKING.COM: What inspired you to start doing speaking engagements?

    HAWKINS: 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.

    There’s a difference between speaking to an audience and speaking with an audience. My audiences are engaged because I’m talking with them, not just talking at them.

    SPEAKING.COM: How do you keep your audience engaged and actively listening during your keynotes? Do you use case studies, personal stories and/or in your speeches?

    HAWKINS: Yes, yes, and yes. There’s a difference between speaking to an audience and speaking with an audience. My audiences are engaged because I’m talking with them, not just talking at them. Of course there’s interaction, vivid stories, case studies, and take-aways, but they’re delivered in a way that gets up under the audience where they know that I know that I’m talking with each of them, be it 10 people or 1,000 people.

    SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the successes you’ve helped clients achieve?

    HAWKINS: We’ve kicked off successful corporate meetings by shaking up the conversation. We’ve launched conferences with record-breaking attendance and engagement. We’ve even shifted corporate cultures from resistant to change to a culture that actually creates change.

    One of the things I’m most proud of is a success at a business event relatively recently. We kicked off the program and lit up a very traditional crowd with more energy, more excitement, more possibility than they’ve ever seen at this conference, which has been running for about 50 years. The keynote spurred more engagement than they’ve ever logged throughout the program – such as record early registrations for the following year’s event and the most positive feedback they’ve seen so far. Exclusive Interview with Sterling Hawkins
    Driving Retail Innovation, with Sterling Hawkins
    In this interview, innovation speaker Sterling Hawkins discusses:
    • Why retail hasn't changed as much as we think it has.
    • The coming revolution in retail and why customers will be the big winners.
    • Building a culture geared for innovation.
    Read the Full Interview

    "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."
    - Sterling Hawkins

    What People are Saying about Seeing Sterling Speak

    Rating Entries

    Sterling’s Tedx Chula Vista speech was excellent. His admonition for us to find our MacGyver moment was a perfect way to end a wonderful event. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Hawkins’ telling how he pushed through his fears and started to tell his story. And, it was his ability to tell that story that totally connected with his audience. Well done!


    “Sterling delivered the best keynote we’ve had in our company’s history! His messages were inspiring, but also actionable in a way that people could grab onto and use immediately. I can clearly see how Sterling’s message has sustainably impacted all of us as we continue to grow into the future.”
    – John Glaze, Chief Commercial Officer, LK Packaging

    “The consideration and effort exhibited by Sterling and team to understand our opportunities and what we needed to address was exceptional. The inspiration and impact Sterling brings to his keynote are not only a testament to his dynamic style, but a clear understanding of his audience which he actively seeks and prepares for with each organization.”
    – Stephanie Taylor, Senior Manager, PepsiCo

    “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the Keynote Speaker who goes above and beyond in the delivery of your presentation to our organization! Because you worked so diligently in understanding our business, our people and our culture you were able to wrap your awesome storytelling skills into something relatable, useable and motivational. The entire organization appreciated your vision and mission. #NoMatterWhat is so refreshing, inspiring and truly moving. Would gladly and happily recommend you to any and all individuals and organizations.”
    – Analisa Dominic, Vice President / Chief Marketing Officer, Opengear

    “Your keynote presentation on the #NoMatterWhat System was very inspirational and had provided us with the insight and tools needed to be effective leaders at the command. Your knowledge, insight and motivation is invaluable and we look forward to incorporating your system into our everyday actions as leaders.”
    – A.J. Hoffman, Commander, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division

    “He was an incredible speaker and all of our attendees enjoyed the content he delivered focused around living in the information age and what that means for brands. It was a captivating presentation and I look forward to working with Sterling again in the future!”
    – Jorey Rekoon, Senior Conference Producer at WBR Connect

    “Sterling combines powerful storytelling with meaningful information and tools leaving listeners excited and empowered to take action. He’s one of only a few speakers I’ve seen that actually makes a real difference. We’ll definitely have him back!”
    – Michael Mikyska, Managing Director at Innerworkings, Inc.

    “Sterling was not only a delight to work with, but had rave reviews from our audience of executives! His energy was contagious, and he provided real strategies for success and inspiration, to send us out with a bang after three full days of content. Highly recommend Sterling as your next keynote!”
    – Maddie Rollason, Senior Manager of Production at Winsight LLC

    Have You Seen this Speaker? Leave a Star Rating.

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Books by Sterling Hawkins:

    Hunting Discomfort: How to Get Breakthrough Results in Life and Business No Matter What

    Entrepreneur, motivational leader, and internationally recognized public speaker Sterling Hawkins shows readers how to get comfortable with discomfort to create breakthrough results in life and business using his #NoMatterWhat system for transformative change.

    If you’re like most people, you probably shy away from discomfort. But the uber-successful—from elite athletes to billionaire founders and famous entrepreneurs—do the exact opposite. They know that discomfort can be high-octane fuel for performance or the most direct path to their goals. And they’ve learned how to turn rock bottom into one of life’s greatest gifts. You can, too.

    Entrepreneur Sterling Hawkins has spent his life coming back from the brink to sell companies, finish ultramarathons, and realize goals through his #NoMatterWhat system for achieving larger-than-life results.

    Now it’s your turn.

    This book will show you how to:

    – Expand your reality
    – Commit so deeply that there’s no going back
    – Surround yourself with those who hold you to your potential and nothing less
    – Use roadblocks to your advantage
    – Flow, flex, and pivot to the best possible outcome—no matter what
    – The journey you are invited to embark upon will not be comfortable. But it will be extraordinary. Welcome to the hunt.

    Related Speakers


    Need help filling the seats at your next meeting / event?

    Call us / email us / check availability and fee for your favorite speaker.

    Get in touch
    Call us: (760) 656-8770
    Toll free in the US: (877) 717-5327