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Highlights of the Hearing Innovation Expo 2014

Brandon Sawalich

February 3, 2014
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Interview with Brandon Sawalich, Senior Vice President, Starkey Hearing Technologies


Carolyn Smaka:  Thanks for your time today, Brandon.  It was great to participate in the Hearing Innovation Expo 2014, and I thought we could do a brief recap.  What was the purpose of the Expo?

Brandon Sawalich:  The Expo was designed for our customers to help them to continue to be relevant and successful in their businesses, both now and in the future.  The purpose was to inspire them to new ways of thinking, and to provide content and ideas that they could use to embrace change and take action as soon as they returned to their offices. It was not about Starkey or Starkey’s products. Our theme was “tomorrow starts today”, and we offered more than 60 presentations and courses with topics ranging from research and hearing science, to patient engagement, to best practices for entrepreneurial success, and more. In addition to educational sessions from noted industry experts, we had keynote presentations from former President Bill Clinton; former President George W. Bush; former Fortune 20 business executive Carly Fiorina; as well as authors Simon Sinek, Guy Kawasaki and Dan Ariely; and business magnate Donald Trump.

We had three days of content.  The first day was our technology day, the second day was our market day, and the third day was our business day.  Whether it was general sessions or breakout sessions, they were all designed around looking forward and embracing change to be successful, based on what is going on in today’s market. 

Carolyn: What were some of the highlights from the keynote presentations?

Brandon:  President Clinton and President Bush gave inspiring talks about giving back to our communities, and their efforts of leading with the heart.  They sprinkled in stories from their experiences as president. Donald Trump spoke of his experience getting knocked down and getting back up again during his career.  His message overall was that to be successful, you should not be afraid to take risks and you should never quit. We know that a hearing care practice is no different than other types of businesses, and when times are tough you have to keep the doors open. To stay competitive, you have to take risks. Guy Kawasaki, who worked with Apple, discussed his 10 principles of innovation and thinking in creating a customer experience.  Dan Ariely explained the concept of “predictable irrationality” and gave examples of how this could be implemented to help motivate and influence people. Simon Sinek talked about why we go to work.  His advice was to do what you love and money will follow. Carly Fiorina talked about what it means to be a leader and to make tough decisions.  Hearing professionals get into business to help people, but then they may fall in the entrepreneurial trap of “Now I’m a business owner”.  They have to hone not only their fitting skills and make their clients happy, but they have to hone in their leadership and management skills to run their businesses.

Carolyn:  The Concept Office was a good example of how many of these ideas could come to fruition in a hearing care practice. 

Brandon:  The consumers of today and tomorrow want to come to an office where they feel like it is home.  They do not want to be a patient file or patient number.  They want to come to an office that creates an experience from the moment they walk in the door.  They want to feel comfortable.  People do not want to be sold; they want to be helped.  We are not selling a commodity – we are offering better hearing.  With the Concept Office, we wanted to design the experience of someone going through the process of getting better hearing.  The Concept Office was the result of thinking differently about how we do hearing tests and evaluations, how we demonstrate better hearing, how we counsel, and how we incorporate social media.  It is new, outside-the-box thinking of how an office could be designed around the customer experience.

People want an experience, especially the Boomers.  Our clientele is changing.  They have different expectations than the seniors of 5 or 10 years ago. They are well-educated and they do research on the Internet prior to coming in.  They are looking for an experience whether it is when they go on vacation, when they shop for consumer electronics, when they visit retail shops like Target, and when they come to your office. 

Carolyn:  What has been the feedback from the attendees?    

Brandon: I’ve been receiving emails from attendees since the Expo, telling us how inspiring it was and thanking Starkey for putting on the conference.  It takes us about 18 months from start to finish to plan it.  Attention is in the details and if you have worked with Starkey before, you know that we like to provide a good experience for our customers. We have received overwhelmingly positive reviews from our guests who attended, and we’re thrilled they left feeling inspired and motivated to take action.

Carolyn: Great recap.  Thanks again for your time.

For more information about the Hearing Innovation Expo, please visit the Starkey Innovation-Expo blog.  For more information about Starkey Hearing Technologies, please visit Starkey.com or the Starkey Expo Page on AudiologyOnline.  



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brandon sawalich

Brandon Sawalich

Senior Vice President, Starkey Hearing Technologies

Brandon Sawalich is Senior Vice President of Starkey Hearing Technologies.