“Business starts with how you treat people.”
I was recently asked what was one of the best pieces of business advice I’ve ever received, and that was my answer.
In my role at Starkey, I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of great leaders: presidents, accomplished entrepreneurs, thought leaders and trailblazers. Whenever I get the privilege of speaking with one of these great minds, I ask them for their best piece of advice. I’ve received a lot of interesting answers over the years, but I continue to come back to one: “Business starts with how you treat people.”
The distinguished leader who shared this advice with me? My grandmother Pat.
Pat Manhart started her own hearing practice in 1959. It takes courage for anyone to start their own business, but for a woman in the ‘50s and ‘60s, it was pretty much unheard of. Women didn’t own businesses back then; they couldn’t get a business loan or even open a bank account. But Pat was determined. She saw a way she could help people with hearing loss, and so she ignored the doubters and did what she knew was right. She did it with grit and determination while always showing she cared. While blazing her own trail, Pat has inspired so many leaders in the hearing industry, myself included.
It’s no surprise Pat’s, Mimi as I call her, daughter, my mother, Tani Austin, has the same passion, dedication and drive to never give up on something she truly believed in. Anyone who has ever met Tani knows she works hard, and nothing brings her more joy than helping others. Growing up, Tani taught me to do the job well and never take shortcuts. Doing what’s right isn’t always the easiest choice, but it’s the most important one. Treating others with respect, dignity and kindness must always come first.
Many people say you have to see success to achieve it. Growing up, I had a front row seat. I was raised by strong women. They taught me the importance of determination and hard work, but above anything else, they taught me that kindness must drive every decision you make. Our role in this world is to help others. Whether helping their families, their friends or their communities through service or business, Pat and Tani are servant leaders. As a kid, they were my role models. They shaped the person I am today.
While I’m lucky I got to learn from an amazing entrepreneur like my grandmother and a small business owner turned determined philanthropist like my mother, I’m even more grateful that, as a father, I get to see my daughter, Amelia, inspired by the same lessons that inspired, and continue to inspire, me.
Just like me, Amelia has been raised by strong women. My wife, Stacy Sawalich, is one of the most selfless people I know. She gave up her own career to be 100% there for our kids. She is their biggest cheerleader, coach and inspiration. She’s taught Amelia you can do anything you want to if you put your mind to it. There will always be people who want to minimize your talents, but if you believe in yourself and you work hard, no one can limit you but you. Everything you want to achieve can be accomplished through hard work and a positive attitude, and the strong women in her life have all been great examples of this.
From her great-grandmother to her grandmother to her mother, and so many other women who are her role models, Amelia has soaked up all of their lessons and exemplifies what it means to put people before business. The one lesson Amelia has truly embodied from these strong female leaders is everything in life starts with caring. Amelia is using this lesson to blaze her own trail as a servant leader, helping others and making the world a better place. As a father, I can’t imagine a legacy greater than that.