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Heroes Among Us: “The strong sense of commitment and loyalty that I developed went a long way in the private sector.” with Scott Sterling and Marco Dehry

I absolutely think the military helped prepare me for the business world. The leadership skills alone have been instrumental in my success. I also think that the strong sense of commitment and loyalty that I developed went a long way in the private sector. Making people believe that they are part of an important mission […]


I absolutely think the military helped prepare me for the business world. The leadership skills alone have been instrumental in my success. I also think that the strong sense of commitment and loyalty that I developed went a long way in the private sector. Making people believe that they are part of an important mission and part of a team is critical. I have always made sure that I am in the trenches with my staff — again, another important lesson from the military. I never ask someone to do something that I would not do myself. Early in my military career, I would think of my grandfather when times were tough. Today when times are tough, I think back to some the extremely difficult things I had to endure in the military and I remember that things could always be much worse.

I had the pleasure to interview Scott Sterling, the President of OnPoint Systems LLC, where he is responsible for the overall design, development and introduction of the SpotOn Virtual Smart Fence. Prior to working in the consumer electronics and pet industry, Scott had a successful career in the private defense industry and military operations, that spanned more than 25 years. Most recently in the defense industry, he provided developmental and leadership expertise as vice president of business development at L3, Warrior Systems, Insight and as vice president of new concept development at Gentex/Ops-Core. Scott began his career serving in the U.S. Army as an infantryman with the 1st Battalion — 75th Ranger Regiment, the 75th Ranger Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment and a Special Mission Unit in the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC).


Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I am the son of a Massachusetts State trooper who spent 37 years on the force and the grandson of an Army Ranger who served in World War II. I always wanted adventure and to be part of an elite organization and was drawn to law enforcement and the military from a young age.

And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?

I left the military to work in business development for Insight Technology, a technology company that provides night vision and targeting solutions to the units I was previously assigned to in the United States Army Special Operations Command. In 2015, the previous owner of Insight reached out and asked if I wanted to be the president of a startup company. I accepted and originally thought we would get back into the defense industry, but instead discovered a unique market opportunity for the SpotOn Virtual Smart Fence, the first and only dog containment and tracking system that lets users take their dog and fence wherever they go. Consumer electronics was an area that neither of us had ever ventured before, but I was open to the challenge and that’s where I am today.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

I originally wanted to be a military pilot, but my eyesight precluded me from fulfilling that dream. Instead, I enlisted in the Army with the goal of being an Airborne Ranger in the 75th Ranger Regiment. I served as an Infantryman in the 1st Ranger Battalion, and in the 75th Ranger Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment. I then served as an operational member in a Special Mission Unit within the United States Army Special Operations Command.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

This is a tough question. I was privileged to have had so many incredible, life altering experiences in the military, many of which would not be appropriate to share. Having said that, I think that overall, each of those experiences left me with one important takeaway — stay in the fight and never give up. That has always served me well.

I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

Frankly, my grandfather exemplifies a true hero. He was a member of the 5th Ranger Battalion on D-Day and landed on the beach in Normandy. His few stories, which he rarely shared, were heroic in ways that many cannot begin to imagine. He only shared his experiences with me once I began serving with the Rangers and it was something that I have always carried with me — reminding myself of how selfless heroism really is. During the few times he would speak to me about it, he would begin or end with; “I have no idea how any of us got off of that beach alive.” Many times, throughout my life, when times were really tough, I would recall the memories he shared and realize I didn’t have it so bad.

Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?

For me, a hero is anyone who thinks of themselves and their own safety last. I think that’s what made my military experiences most rewarding — working with soldiers who I knew would lay down their own life for me and knowing I would lay down mine for them.

Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?

Absolutely not. Over the years, I have witnessed heroism in unconventional ways. Soldiers being kind to civilians in enemy territory, organizations helping veterans, doctors, nurses, first responders, etc. Heroism, in my opinion, comes in many forms.

In 1991, I was involved in a terrible parachute accident. I was knocked unconscious on landing as the winds were very high that day. We should not have jumped due to the winds, but dignitaries were on the ground observing and it was important to some that they see us jump. Upon landing, my parachute inflated and I was about to be dragged into runway lighting and other hazards where I would have been hurt even worse. A fellow Ranger ran and dove on my canopy to collapse it before it happened. I suffered a broken back and a severe head injury which almost got me medically discharged from the Army after only serving ten months. I begged the medical staff to put me in rehabilitation so I could stay in the Army. Fortunately, I was able to stay in. My heroes are the Ranger that dove on my canopy and the medical staff who placed me in rehabilitation and worked with me, so that I could eventually rejoin the ranks nine months later.

Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers a Leadership or Life Lesson that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example.)

Train hard and make your training as realistic as possible. I am a firm believer that when under a stressful situation, people do not rise to the occasion, they default to their highest level of training. Though there were countless times where this type of training protected me while in the military, I will share a recent story. I was involved in a serious traffic accident a few years ago. I was accidently cut off of the freeway in my Jeep Wrangler and it rolled a minimum of five times into the median strip. While I was rolling, I defaulted to airborne and crash training and remembered to keep my feet and knees together and arms in tight to my sides. I did not reach out or flail around. This absolutely saved me from serious injury. When I came to a stop, I unbuckled upside down, landed on my head (on the grass thankfully) and crawled out of the wreckage. I had a scratch on my foot and hand, and a bump on my head from something flying around the Jeep while rolling. I could not believe how quickly people were on the scene and on top of me. There were everyday people — an off-duty first responder, a nurse, undercover and regular police. They were on top of me in what seemed like a few minutes. It was absolutely amazing. They are all heroes in my mind.

Do you think your time in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?

I absolutely think the military helped prepare me for the business world. The leadership skills alone have been instrumental in my success. I also think that the strong sense of commitment and loyalty that I developed went a long way in the private sector. Making people believe that they are part of an important mission and part of a team is critical. I have always made sure that I am in the trenches with my staff — again, another important lesson from the military. I never ask someone to do something that I would not do myself. Early in my military career, I would think of my grandfather when times were tough. Today when times are tough, I think back to some the extremely difficult things I had to endure in the military and I remember that things could always be much worse.

As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. How did you struggle after you transitioned back to civilian life? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?

I wouldn’t call it a struggle — I would call it an adjustment. I treated the adjustment as a challenge that needed to be overcome — much like I did many times in the military. Failure was not an option. I did need to gain an appreciation for the fact that civilian life is different and had to learn to accept it. Rather than dwell on how difficult it was, I adapted and looked for ways to work around those differences. In the beginning, one of the biggest challenges was dealing with personalities that were, at times, radically different than mine. It is important to have a mutual respect with everyone you work closely with. My colleagues appreciated my prior military service, the experience I brought for new product development and my overall commitment. I certainly appreciated them for their talent, commitment and varied backgrounds, regardless of how different they may have been than mine.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?

Put your team first. Make every member feel like an equal. Pitch in — no task is beneath you. Let everyone know that you’re in the fight together. Lead by example.

What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Communication is key — keep an open-door policy. It’s also important to let people know that their contributions are equally as important as your own. I listen to everyone’s point of view because, even if I disagree, there is always something there for me to learn. Do not micromanage — if you truly trust someone, there is no need to verify. Surround yourself with good people that you can trust.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am grateful to my wife of 24 years for her unwavering help and support. She supported all of my decisions with the different military organizations I “tried out” for and was selected to; my transition to civilian life in the defense industry, and my latest jump into the consumer electronics market. She has always been there to help me during the good times and the very bad.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I would like to think that I have used my success to bring goodness to the world. The work I did at Insight, L-3 and Gentex really meant a lot to me. I was helping protect our nation’s warriors. The advances in the equipment we were creating was going to great friends of mine who were still serving. In fact, towards the end of my career in the defense industry, the equipment was going to their children who made it to the 75th Ranger Regiment. The equipment is used worldwide by our nation’s armed forces, law enforcement and allied nations, and it protects their lives. And now, after transitioning to consumer electronics, I still believe we’re bringing goodness to people — specifically dog owners. Today, pets are viewed as family members and we want our pets to come with us to work, on vacation and everywhere in between. With SpotOn, owners enjoy all the benefits of a traditional invisible fence but can now create perimeters at up to 10 different favorite locations, enabling their dog to come with them everywhere they go without the need for professional installation, buried wires or base stations. It makes me feel accomplished that I can give dog owners peace of mind knowing they can bring their dog with them at the drop of a hat, and the dog will be safe once they get there using our system.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Patriotism and loyalty to this great nation is what comes to mind first. Respect for this country, and those that serve it — from soldiers to local law enforcement — is something that I fear is dwindling. Anyone who has been to other regions of this world, particularly war-torn nations, has an appreciation for how truly great our country is. As Americans, we are free to worship, live and speak as we please thanks to our soldiers, past and present included. Our state, local and federal law enforcement officers are charged with ensuring that those rights are enforced. I think many people take those rights, and the sacrifices of others, for granted.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“By leaving your comfort zone behind and taking a leap of faith into something new, you find out who you are truly capable of becoming.”

During my military career, in order to graduate the schools I attended, be selected by the organizations I was assigned to and function in some of the environments I was asked to serve, I had to be extremely comfortable working outside of my comfort zone. It is every bit as true in civilian life. Following my work in the defense industry, I chose to take another leap of faith and enter the consumer electronics market in the pet industry — both of which I had zero experience with when I took the leap. Bringing SpotOn to market has been such an accomplishment for me and my team and it has made me see what I am capable of doing for others in a different way but still applying similar principles as I did in the military and my work with the defense industry.

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