It is always an honor to interview great people who are making a difference in the world. The mission of Bill Austin, CEO of Starkey Hearing Technologies, is nothing short of heroic.
At the start of our interview for Twin Cities Business magazine, Bill told me, “As a young man, I felt I belonged to the world, but I didn’t know what that meant.” More than a million disadvantaged, hearing-impaired men, women and children around the world are thankful that it didn’t take him long to gain clarity about his destiny.
BILL AUSTIN: STARKEY HEARING TECHNOLOGIES
INTERNATIONAL CORPORATE AWARD
Inspired by Albert Schweitzer’s work in Africa, eighteen-year-old Bill Austin decided to become a missionary doctor. Leaving his family in Oregon, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1960. To earn tuition money, he worked as an ear-mold technician at his uncle’s downtown Minneapolis hearing aid company. “As I was doing that work, I thought about how hearing aids could be manufactured more efficiently so people might hear better,” Austin recalls. “And I kept saying to myself, ‘Don’t think about those things; you’re going to be a doctor.’”
One day he was called in to help fit an elderly man with a hearing aid and was deeply moved by the man’s joyous reaction. That night, Austin laid on a single bed in his rented room at 2770 Dean Boulevard in Minneapolis and stared at the ceiling. “I said to myself out loud, ‘Bill, the reason you want to be a doctor is so you can help people. If you do this work, you’ll be able to help people and you won’t kill anyone; as a doctor, you’re sure to kill many.’”
Realizing that a business employing teams of people could accomplish more than even the most well-intentioned of doctors, Austin abandoned his medical plans. “I changed the course of my life instantly from that one looking-at-the-ceiling (more…)