As part of our ongoing quest to get you meaningful and powerful stories from around the world, we invited seasoned entrepreneur Scott Schober for an exclusive interview with BrilliantRead Media. He is a Leader, Mentor, Cybersecurity Expert, Author and Consultant. Scott is the President and CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems. Let’s learn more about his incredible journey, his background and his advice for our growing community!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Scott:
We are aware of your contribution to the ecosystem, talk us through your background and your journey as an entrepreneur, please;
I have had the privilege to grow up working in a family business that I now run as CEO and President.
Back in 1972 in Berkeley Heights, NJ, (Berkeley Varitronics Systems) BVS founder and current CTO, Gary Schober, began to assemble a team of expert RF hardware and software engineers.”
This team has led BVS to many innovations including the first wireless link used to monitor artificial hearts, remote monitoring systems for Pepsi vending machines and even the design (over 30 unique instruments) and delivery (over 6,000 units) of cellular test devices used in the U.S. cellular network buildout in the late 80s.
Back in the sixth grade, I began my career at BVS by learning how to solder and repair circuits after school. When I was appointed as the president of the computer club in seventh-grade class, I knew I wanted to surround myself with computers and technology as I enjoyed the challenges.”
I naturally gravitated towards working in the family business since I was always comfortable being surrounded by cutting edge technology growing up. I continued to work part-time in the business and received a B.S. in computer science at Kean University and attended NYU for graduate studies.
By the early 90s, I was working full time at BVS where we have been designing, manufacturing and shipping our own branded products all from our headquarters in Metuchen, NJ. Over the years, the entire catalogue has grown to some 200 unique products consisting of wireless test, security, safety and cybersecurity solutions including stimulus transmitters, cell phone detection solutions and cybersecurity training and education.
This vast array of products and categories allows BVS to serve government, corporate, military, law enforcement, correctional, telecom and transportation industries by leveraging decades of wireless and manufacturing expertise into every project and product we ship.”
Back when the cellular industry was poised to transition its networks from analogue to digital, BVS responded with the Gator™ stimulus transmitter. Gator became the top-selling transmitter in the world due to its ruggedness, lightweight and reliability and established BVS as a world-class innovator of wireless test products. The Tortoise™ multi-band transmitter followed soon after, bringing Gator’s industry-leading build quality along with new custom digital modulation schemes to meet the demands of the expanding telecom industry.
Over the past ten years, I have observed a tremendous uptick in cybercrime and decided to pivot our company to focus on cybersecurity through wireless threat detection tools to combat this growing problem. Some specific cybercrimes had no viable solutions so I decided BVS should design and manufacture solutions so we can make a difference.
Cybercriminals are stealing our credit and debit card data which amounts to billions of dollars in theft at the gas pump and ATMs. BVS developed skimmer detection solutions and training modules to educate National Weights & Measurement field technicians and law enforcement.”
With the ever-changing world of cybersecurity, I have come to appreciate it is imperative to continually read and research the latest threats that are emerging so I can stay informed and educate my customers to keep them and their businesses safe.
What attracts you towards entrepreneurship instead of a corporate career?
Being your own boss is exciting and challenging especially when you realize your employees and their families are dependent upon the company’s success under your direction. This is something I take very seriously and it has been my only job for my entire life.
I am not sure what it would be like having a corporate career and I have no desire to work anywhere but BVS.”
I am thrilled that we are approaching our 50th anniversary as a privately held, family-run business which not many people can say.
‘BVSystems’ is such a unique name; talk us through more about it, please. Our audience would also love to know what kind of problem you are solving with the help of your startup?
Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc. (BVS) can be a mouthful when speaking over the phone to customers daily. This was shortened to BVS decades ago to make conversations easier but that acronym was already taken by another company back in the mid-90s when we first established a website on the internet. So we decided upon bvsystems.com as our internet homepage. We still have customers reaching all the way back to our original name as well as newer customers that only know us as bvsystems through the internet.
In the telecom and security industries, we are known as an engineering thinktank because aside from our own successful product line, we continue to deliver custom wireless security, safety, test and cybersecurity products and solutions.”
BVS clients range from NASA to many Fortune 500 companies all the way down to small entrepreneurs looking for rapid development and prototyping of an idea. Our word of mouth and repeat business is fueled by our reputation of treating the customers the way we would like to be treated ourselves and delivering every engineering specification as promised.
During this COVID-19 crisis, what are the measures you have undertaken to continue your business without disruption?
During the COVID-19 crisis, BVS has responded by requiring temperature testing for all employees and visitors every day. In fact, we liked the automated temperature screening kiosk so much, we decided to resell them to some of our partner companies, vendors and customers.
Of course, we also require masks, regular disinfecting of the building and social distancing protocols. In the same way, we’ve adapted to many technological standards in a short time over the years, we’ve also embraced these changes quickly and have been deemed an essential business by the federal government since we supply life-saving equipment used on over 16,000 locomotives throughout the United States.
A few years back BVS developed a cellular detection system for mass transit in order to detect and curb smartphone use by distracted operators. To date, TransitHound™ has been deployed in over 16,000 locomotives by some of the railway industry’s largest companies and saving lives by preventing derailments and accidents caused by distracted operators.
In addition to essential physical security and safety products, we also supply the U.S. DoD facilities with our wireless threat detection tools used to protect facilities from classified data theft by hackers, thieves and spies.
How do you manage yourself and keep on going despite the challenges? What drives you?
Over the past decade, I have seen steady growth in our company but we still serve so many different industries that it is sometimes difficult to turn off my CEO brain and relax. In an effort to help clear my head, I have begun pouring myself into writing.
In response to the massive data breaches and cyber-attacks against small businesses and consumers, I decided to embark on a campaign to educate everyone including myself on how to stay safe from cybercriminals. In 2016, alongside my younger brother and VP of BVS, Craig, we authored and published ‘Hacked Again’. We followed that book up with Cybersecurity is ‘Everybody’s Business’ in 2019.”
Both books have been strongly embraced by the cybersecurity community and have even become part of the academic security curriculum in universities. Hacked Again and Cybersecurity is Everybody’s Business have sold thousands of copies and receive critical acclaim from cybersecurity experts and regular readers alike.
Now with the recent launch of Senior Cyber, we are addressing the problem of hackers targeting our senior citizen population. I am confident that Senior Cyber will aid the elderly not just in the usefulness of computers, technology, and the internet but also remove some of the fears and insecurities associated with new technology.
What are the three most important lessons you have learned building your startup?
1 – In a company, it takes a team to succeed so build your team up and challenge them continually.
2 – Be thankful for what you have and do not be distracted by your competition.
3 – Be patient, as building and growing a company takes a tremendous amount of mental discipline and perseverance.
Given the rapid pace at which the world is changing, what are the leadership traits that are necessary for success?
Effective leaders need to lead by example. I ask myself when is the last time I swept the floor, used a soldering iron, packed a box, etc. When I appreciate what my employees do each day, I have more appreciation for their contributions.
What are the business mantras you have embraced as you sought to establish your success story?
Success is not measured by how others perceive you, but rather by how you feel at the end of the day.
Please share with us – what has worked well for you so far?
Be a great listener to your customer. It is more important to listen to their criticism than their praise. For example, if they complain about a product’s limited runtime, it is likely that other customers are facing the same challenges.
Being customer-centric in your thinking allows a company to design, build, support great products.
In your opinion, what is more necessary: An idea or a good team for a successful startup?
My father taught me at an early age that ideas are free and everyone has one. Very few people have the ability to take a great idea and turn it into a solution or product. Over the decades, I have had the full range of ideas – some stupid, some good, and some incredible.
It was only when I was able to funnel these ideas through the great engineering team I have curated at BVS that we could develop and test these ideas to see if they stick. Not only do I have to make sure every idea is sound and what the customer wants, but I need to make sure it helps solve their specific problem and it meets their budget.”
When all of these variables align, I get excited at the possibility of transforming that little idea in the back of my head 5 years ago into a sale. The journey requires endless perseverance through many challenges you face along the way.
You are always positive and motivated, what keeps you going?
I always felt if I am challenged and have to work hard to accomplish what I truly believe in, I will wake up the next day to welcome and greet whatever comes at me.
I can’t say I love every aspect of being a CEO, but the majority of things I deal with on a daily basis give me joy and satisfaction. As long as those challenges present themselves, I will continue to stay motivated to keep running the company.
We would love to know your advice for all those starting out as an aspiring entrepreneur?
Surround yourself with a great team that have gifts and abilities that exceed yours. Learn from them and empower them to make sound decisions that will benefit the company. When they tell you something can’t be done, don’t give up, but rather, share your perspective and work with them towards a viable solution.