I try to keep my kids and myself active in many ways. And even though all three of them are under age 5, we love taking them for hikes, fishing in the river, wrestling, going to soccer games and swimming. Many times, it’s hard to get them all out the door, but we want to instill healthy habits while they are young. It’s important they know we will always be there for them and for any of their special events.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kurt Workman. Kurt is the co-founder and CEO of Owlet Baby Care in Lehi, Utah. He has been an advocate for infant health since starting Owlet in 2013. The venture-backed startup best known for its flagship product, the Smart Sock baby monitor, just recently received its next phase of funding. It has been recognized by Forbes “Next Billion-Dollar Startup” list, Entrepreneurs “100 Brilliant companies” list and a finalist in Fast Companies “2017 World Changing Ideas Awards.” In the past year alone, The Owlet Smart Sock has been awarded by top parenting media including: BabyCenter Moms’ Pick Awards, The Bump Best of Baby Awards, Babylist Best Baby Products, and What to Expect Best Baby Awards. Kurt lives in Lehi with his wife and three children (ages 4 and 2, and 1 month).
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I have always had a love for entrepreneurialism even as a kid. I ran a paintball business out of my backyard when I was 12. Then when I was a sophomore in college, I ran a successful flooring and tile operation. I really feel like these experiences prepared me for what was to come.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
The moment my wife and I decided to have kids, I was concerned about the potential of a hereditary heart condition that could impact our children. When my wife was an infant, she nearly passed away in her crib but my mother-in-law’s intuition led her to check on her. My wife was found lifeless in her crib and was rushed to the hospital for lifesaving, open-heart surgery. I knew I didn’t want to rely on my intuition alone. With the advances in today’s technology, I knew there had to be a better way to watch over our infants while they slept. It blew my mind that we had the technology to tell me practically everything, except for what was most important to me as a parent. Is my child okay? During the last six years, I’ve dedicated my time and energy to creating a safer world for infants and a better quality of life for parents.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
I start my day around 8 am and end at 6 pm. During that time, I’m wearing several hats. I run the company, but in addition to that, I’m acting as assistant product manager on our newest innovation, the Owlet Band, a pregnancy monitor that will be released later this year. I also work with over 20 foundations around the country helping provide our product to parents in need. It’s so important to me that we have as many babies leaving the hospital wearing a Smart Sock as possible. Throughout my day, I’m running meetings, coordinating the team, setting priorities for the business, working on products and most importantly, building relationships. I have a full plate, but I love every minute of it.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
Even though I have a full schedule, I make sure to be home by 6 so I can have dinner with my children and spend time with them before they go to bed. The book, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton Christensen has provided a lot of clarity for me as a father. Many people believe they can and should work long hours early in their career because they think they can make up for that time later. But developmental habits form in kids when they’re young, so I make it a huge priority to make as much time for them as possible. In fact, it’s our №1 core value at Owlet: Family First.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
When they’re little, it’s the time they want you most, plus it’s so much fun. To get to see them grow and experience life is a relationship-building opportunity. I believe it’s what life is all about.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
I try to keep my kids and myself active in many ways. And even though all three of them are under age 5, we love taking them for hikes, fishing in the river, wrestling, going to soccer games and swimming. Many times, it’s hard to get them all out the door, but we want to instill healthy habits while they’re young. It’s important they know we will always be there for them and for any of their special events.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
- Don’t ever miss bedtime. It may seem that it isn’t important, but kids remember when you are there for them.
- Be there when they wake up. Be the first thing they see in the morning and the last thing at night. If they know you’re there, they will feel much more secure and safe to just be kids.
- Attend important events. Schedule your life around their events so your kids will always know they can depend on you.
- Put your phone down. It’s easy to check email or social media when you’re out with your kids, but they notice. Make them the priority, not your screen.
- Muster the energy to play and be present. There are times when I’m just so tired when I get home, but I realize that if I don’t put forth the energy, I could miss building important relationships with them.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
I believe a good parent is someone who gives unconditional love to their children. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes and there will be times when you get upset, but it’s so important to make your children your priority no matter what. I believe their happiness is how you can measure your effectiveness as a parent.
I remember a story about my oldest son Ashton, who is 5. After dinner one night, I couldn’t find him anywhere. I scoured the house and eventually discovered him sitting in his toy teepee. I asked what was wrong and he said he didn’t feel good. After I gave him a hug, he thanked me for being there for him. Even though that’s just one small example, I believe that by looking out for our kids and helping them when they struggle can give them the confidence they need to tackle whatever is ailing them.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
It’s important to let your children learn and grow, but also fail at times. I try and inspire my kids by the things I do. Starting Owlet is one of those things. I want my kids to know you can make big things happen by the little things you do each day. Because my parents supported me, I was able to make my dream of becoming an entrepreneur a reality. I want to give my kids that same opportunity.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
It’s tough balancing work and family, but it’s a huge priority for me and something I strive to do every day. In the book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, it discusses being principle-centered. Principle-based leaders influence the ethical actions of those in the organization by transforming their own behavior first. Sometimes you need to give more to your work and sometimes you need to give more to your kids. There are days when I have an important board meeting where I need to work a little later, but there are days when my kids have soccer games, so I leave work to watch them. It’s all about balance and striving for that stability each day.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
- How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen
- I love this book because it’s provided me guidelines for finding happiness in my life. As a result, this has made me a better parent.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- This book has helped me balance work and home and find ways to produce the best results from each.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“No worldly success can compensate for failure in the home.” — David O. McKay
I love this quote because it speaks volumes about the importance of being there for your family. If your family is struggling, it doesn’t matter how successful you are in your career.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I feel very blessed that the work I do each day is helping children and their parents. I believe that every child deserves to be protected, cared for and loved. I think as a society, we need to strive to put our families at the heart of all decision-making. This, in turn, would make the world a better place.
Thank you for all of these great insights!