This week, Starkey Founder Bill Austin celebrates his 60th anniversary in the hearing industry.
After acquiring Starkey Labs in 1967, a small earmold company that specialized in industrial-grade hearing protection, he ultimately transformed the organization into one of the leading hearing aid manufacturers globally. Today, Starkey is the largest American-owned hearing aid company in the world.
HHTM President and CEO, Kevin Liebe, recently had the opportunity to catch up with Bill Austin to discuss this milestone and reflect on lessons he’s learned along the way.
KL: How would you describe the hearing industry when you first started compared with how it looks today?
BA: In 1961, I choose hearing care as my life work. The reason for my choice is still the same: that is the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to life.
Thanks to the advancements of technology we are able to help more people better than ever before. I can’t imagine a better job today than working with the Starkey team to be part of tomorrow.
KL: Over the years, we’ve witnessed a number of major companies attempt and fail to find success in the hearing industry. What are some key business lessons you’ve learned over the past six decades that you would attribute to your success?
BA: The only hearing industry companies that have succeeded over time are the well-known few that have long served.
What I learned is that it is easier to conceive than achieve. If you are looking for a quick reward then our profession is not a good place to look.
KL: What advice might you offer to those who are early in their careers or perhaps might be considering a career in hearing healthcare?
BA: There has never been a better time to be involved in hearing health care. In addition to having a growing base of the population that needs us, we now have technology that makes our patients smile like never before.
If you like helping people this is the profession for you.
KL: What excites you most about where hearing technology is headed today?
BA: Our coming devices will not only help provide better hearing than ever before; they will also become indispensable personal assistants. Being a small part of the realization of this long-held dream is very exciting.
KL: The Starkey Hearing Foundation has grown to become the largest hearing charity in the world. How has being so involved and active in philanthropy over the years shaped your perspective on life and business?
BA: As Founder, the work of Starkey and Starkey Hearing Foundation has continued to reinforce the life philosophy that I have attempted to share over the years. We live through what we give and our life expands in proportion to that caring gift.
KL: What does the next decade look like for Bill Austin? Do you still plan to remain as active in the industry?
BA: As long as I have the physical and mental ability to contribute I plan to remain active on the team to try to give what I can to an industry that has been so good to me.
William F. Austin — or Bill Austin, as most know him — is the Founder, Principal Owner and Chairman of Starkey. Starkey is a privately held, global hearing technology company with more than 5,000 employees, operates 26+ facilities and does business in more than 100 markets worldwide.
Kevin Liebe, AuD, is President and CEO of Hearing Health & Technology Matters (HHTM). He also serves as a Scientific Advisor to Neosensory, a Silicon Valley based startup pioneering experiences in sensory augmentation. He is a past president and board member of the Washington State Academy of Audiology.