7 Bad-ass security startup maneuvers for extreme growth

Kailey Theroux CMT LEO Startup Leaders Show

7 Bad-ass Security Startup Maneuvers for Extreme Growth

U.S. Marine’s approach to building a thriving security and surveillance business

Brent Canfield, CEO, Smart Digital
Brent Canfield
CEO, Smart Digital LLC

Security isn’t something the U.S. Marine Corps takes for granted. The Marines embody traditions and values that run deep. These values create an amazing launchpad for entrepreneurship. That’s exactly the path Brent Canfield, Smart Digital and SentryPODS Founder and CEO, has taken. A U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, Canfield uses the training and values he learned while a Marine to grow his innovative security company.

The lessons he shares are very relevant to the civilian business world. Entrepreneurship requires a level of fortitude, adaptability, inventiveness and commitment to overcoming challenges. Canfield sat down with me to share his insights after building his security services and solutions company over the last five years.

“Going into the business, I preprogramed my mind to accept the challenges and make them part of my daily work.” – Brent Canfield, CEO, Smart Digital LLC

Lesson 1:  Listen to the silence

Canfield was a career Marine sitting in a tower in Baghdad. In the silence of the early morning, he woke up and suddenly knew what he needed to do. He made a conscious decision to make a difference in keeping people safe at home. The quiet of that early morning in Baghdad was the birth of a new career path, and the beginning of Smart Digital.

“After more than 12 years as a Marine heading up security force teams, I had planned to continue on that career path indefinitely. However, that morning, in the silence, it was as plain as the sun rising over the horizon what my next career move had to be,” shares Canfield. “My new mission became focusing on the safety of families back in the States. Had I not embraced that moment of calm, I may have missed the idea that came to me so clearly. Taking time to listen to your heart is a powerful thing.”

Lesson 2:  Preprogram your mind

Once Canfield made the decision to move forward with his new dream, he knew it wouldn’t be an easy transition. Everyone knows starting a company from nothing is an uphill battle filled with landmines. Canfield had the additional challenge of getting accustomed to civilian life again, but his Marine Corps training turned out to be highly beneficial.

“Going into the business, I preprogramed my mind to accept the challenges and make them part of my daily work,” explains Canfield. “Things come up that will try to take you off your game. I transferred the ideals of the Marines into developing my new business. It’s all about planting your feet and standing your ground.”

Lesson 3:  Have well-aimed shots

Starting a business requires focusing on the right things at the right time. Canfield started Smart Digital as a security company focused on commercial and home security services and systems. When the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, Canfield immediately got the idea for SentryPODS. He wanted a surveillance solution that could be deployed quickly and provide 360 degree high-definition video.

Deploying SentryPODS in the field
Deploying SentryPODS in the field.

“You need to have well-aimed shots. You only have so much ammo and you need to be very efficient in what you do every day, says Canfield. “You can’t let your guard down and get distracted, or you will be compromised. When the Boston Marathon bombing happened, I knew I could develop a solution that would provide a virtual presence. In a crowd, you can’t easily identify the bad guys, but with eyes everywhere we can get a better view of what is happening on the ground and step in to disrupt those with bad intentions. I’m hyper-focused on SentryPods.”

Lesson 4:  Trust, but verify

Marines are trained to adapt to every environment and never let their guard down. When you have an innovative technology, people get excited about it. Everyone wants a piece of the action. Unfortunately, not everyone has the best of intentions.

“I use a ‘trust but verify’ approach to business,” explains Canfield. “When you have a disruptive security technology, like SentryPODS, it’s crucial to protect your business and your employees. We use nondisclosure agreements (NDAs). People who are serious will sign an NDA without blinking an eye,” continues Canfield.



Smart Digital SentryPODS Use Case Examples Infographic

Lesson 5:  Everyone wins

As Canfield continues to build his disruptive security and surveillance solutions business, he is developing a partner channel to further extend the growth of his business. There are a couple of important distinctions in the way he is creating his partner ecosystem. Namely, he wants to make sure everyone in the ecosystem from Smart Digital to the end user wins.

“We started signing on partners last October. I want to open the opportunity to other veteran-owned security businesses to become resellers for SentryPods,” says Canfield. Though we won’t have exclusive arrangements, I’m not going to stack partners on top of partners. It’s important to me that everyone wins.”

Lesson 6:  There’s no “I” in leader

There are some lessons Canfield has learned the hard way. Canfield was very dedicated and hardworking Marine. He felt he could coerce the Marines under his leadership to behave the way he expected if he simply laid into them harder.

“I was the guy that would go crazy on Marines to get them to do what I wanted,” relates Canfield. “I soon realized you get better results when you honor and respect the people that work for you. My belief soon became that the Marines under my leadership didn’t work for me, but I worked for them. I’ve carried this belief over to Smart Digital. I respect my team. We are a small, but powerful team. It’s amazing because I know my team is always out there fighting for our combined success. They are taking care of things out of mutual respect, not because I’m forcing them to do it.”

Lesson 7:  Tear the lid off the norm

Being successful in business means doing something different. It can be delivering a different customer experience that stands out from the rest. It can be providing a unique product that is extraordinarily innovative. Canfield has a simple vision when it comes to standing out.

“We want to disrupt the security and surveillance industry. We want to tear the lid off the norm,” exclaims Canfield. “I don’t like being mediocre. I’m passionate about what I do. Every uphill fight I’ve come up against, I have found a way forward. My strength comes from who I have become through all of my experiences and through my faith.”


Let’s Review the Lessons

  1. Listen in the Silence
  2. Preprogram Your Mind
  3. Have Well-Aimed Shots
  4. Trust, But Verify
  5. Everyone Wins
  6. There’s No I in Leader
  7. Tear the Lid Off the Norm

Smart Digital and SentryPODS are headquartered in Ashland, Ohio. Visit http://www.smartdigital.net/ and https://sentrypods.com to learn more.

Also, watch this inspiring interview with Brent Canfield.

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