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My HR policy has always been, “Family first, Always!” It is a simple policy if you don’t make it complicated. To be fair, it has been my policy since my wife and I started our own family in 2012 with our eldest son’s birth. Thanks to business leaders like Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia, it is now required that employees be provided maternity and paternity leave. Further, employees must take sick/leave or vacation for funerals or ill loved ones. But what about the little things: school performances, morning assemblies, end of year school parades, crazy fun days, doctor’s appointments, or just because days.”  Now in the middle of the COVID-19 concern, we might all be ready to go back to work after three months of “just because days”. At Safe Tech, it is our philosophy that our team members need to be able to take off for family at any time. Big project deadline? Family First, Always. Big meeting with a prospect? Family First, AlwaysWe believe that when people are allowed to ensure their families are cared for, they will provide that preparation is made or certainly work hard to make up for their absence. In my eight years of using the “Family First, Always” philosophy, I have never felt that any of my team members abused this philosophy.    

Coming off Memorial Day Weekend, in the middle of the COVID-19 concern, and protests and riots stemming from George Floyd’s very public and unnecessary death, I believe that bringing our focus back to Family First, Always is timely and necessary. As of this blog, over 100,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, including 111 law enforcement officers and 34 firefighters. At Safe Tech, we mourn these losses and think of their families and those working alongside each of these first responders. Further, we feel so strongly about supporting these families and fellow first responders that our mission includes providing funding for testing and evaluating safe technologies. We also offer technologies to departments that experience line of duty deaths and funds for departments to access technology following line of duty deaths, especially suicides. We are actively engaged with multiple innovative technologies battling COVID-19 and tracking technologies that have been funded by various agencies to enhance diagnostics, testing, prevention, disinfection, and quality of care for patients with COVID-19. Safe Tech is working with companies that are leveraging a TOMS model to help distribute these technologies that will provide them to our nation’s front-line workers: health care, first responders, and our armed forces.  

I believe that we are all born with a moral compass of right and wrong. I know most of us have seen the video of George Floyd’s death, and not one person I know, or anyone I have seen online, disagrees that it was wrong. The subsequent events tied to a jogger’s death in Georgia and a Central Park encounter have been referred to as ‘letting the pot boil over’ across the country.  Processing these events, I recently had the privilege of hosting my two younger brothers and their families and friends for my birthday. These two gentlemen and I have been in plenty of arguments, some boiling down physical wrestling matches with a few punches thrown. For example, my little brother is 28 months younger than me and three years in school. The morning of the first day of school my senior year in high school (his freshman year), for reasons today that I cannot remember, we got into a huge fight before we left for school outside in the front yard. Now we grew up in the Panhandle of Texas, and when I say yard, I am merely referring to the dirt with clumps of grass spotted throughout where most people have grass. In our brand-new clothes, we were down in the earth trying to pin the other down. Our mom came outside, yelled, “Stop!” We stood up, fearing her punishment, but wiped our pants off and jumped in the car. We rode in silence until we arrived at the high school, looked at each other, and just before we got out to go into school, we both explained, “I love you.”

I also believe that arguing is a part of human nature and that it can be a healthy part of life. It is essential to understand all sides, and that your view is not always right. It is also important to realize that sometimes we will come to an impasse. Arguing is intended to make all parties aware of another’s perspective and position on a certain topic. But the point of this topic is to make sure we take a minute and think about Family First, Always. Every single COVID-19 death impacted a family, every single one. Every family should be affected by the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, as their families certainly were. We make some strong assumptions in our Family First, Always philosophy: 

  1. People love their families, 
  1. Parents want the best for their children, 
  1. Parents also want their children to have it better than they were raised, 
  1. All family members should be fed, housed, and safe in their own neighborhoods, 
  1. Families can be extended, separated, and expanded but they are always family 

Lastly, an assumption that I make with our team members is that they are part of my extended family. When you spend 8-10 hours a day working alongside one another, you begin to learn and care a lot about the people you work with. In our businesses, my kids (3,5,7 years old) are frequent guests to the Fab Lab. I believe that in the face of these difficult times, it is critical to remember that we all have families, and as we interact with others, we are mindful that every person has a family. If you are sick or feel like you might be sick, please don’t come around me or others. When I go home, I have four people I have to make sure are safe from COVID-19 exposures and aware of the critical issues in our state and country. I believe we all want COVID-19 to be over, and we all want racism and injustice to be in the past. What I am proposing is not a catch-all solution, but if we are mindful and conscious, Family First, Always can be one of the many solutions to move us forward. 

Caleb Holt

Caleb Holt founded the nonprofit Make Safe Tech Inc. and the for-profit Axle Box Innovations LLC in 2019.