by Scott Parrish

Principles to live by ... and run a business by

Oct. 1, 2011
For many businesses, most days are consumed by simply focusing on running smoothly and productively, with “big picture” thinking left for another time.

For many businesses, most days are consumed by simply focusing on running smoothly and productively, with “big picture” thinking left for another time. But often, that big picture thinking is actually what a business needs in order to differentiate itself from competitors, innovate, and pull away from the rest of the pack. In order to achieve this, determining the company’s guiding principles can be a valuable exercise.

The A-dec Way

When A-dec was founded by Ken and Joan Austin in 1964, they wanted to build a company around both great products and great service, and to create an environment where people would want to come to work. To pursue these goals, the Austins set out a list of guiding principles known as “The A-dec Way.” Now, almost 50 years later, these principles remain a vital part of our company:

  1. Concern for people
  2. Provide opportunities and assist in self- development
  3. Provide an atmosphere encouraging self-satisfaction and pride
  4. Encourage team effort
  5. Maintain complete fairness, honesty, and integrity
  6. Maintain open, consistent, and regular communication
  7. Encourage public service
  8. Encourage creativity
  9. Commitment to productivity and quality
  10. Maintain consistency
  11. Dedication to improvement
  12. Keep things simple and basic
  13. Build on the basis of need
  14. Attention to detail
  15. Conserve resources

Of course, every business is different, but our experience has convinced us that keeping these principles at the core of our business has helped us recruit and retain more talented employees, develop better products, and ultimately grow stronger as a company. Fifteen principles may seem like a long list to remember, but many of the items on this list can be grouped into themes of education, innovation, and quality. We believe these themes can be readily applied to many other businesses, including a dental practice.


Our pledge to provide opportunities and assist in self-development encourages employees to seek ongoing education in order to be more productive in the long run. We understand that employees want to advance in order to earn more money, but we also believe that education can help employees be more satisfied with the company. In a dental office, the dentist can be an important voice in encouraging employees to further their education. Are there opportunities for you to promote CE for your staff? Are you recognizing the efforts of those employees who are already going above and beyond their mandatory CE? There are many ways in which a dentist can help emphasize staff education and development, which not only helps employees grow, but can also improve the strength of the practice.


Our dedication to improvement and our aim to build on the basis of need help us continually develop new innovations for our business. Within the walls of our company, feedback and ideas are sought from all team members on a regular basis. Every employee knows that his or her ideas are welcome, and that everyone’s voice is valuable to help us develop our products. Dentists can easily adopt a similar policy by making it known that all staff members’ ideas will be treated with respect and evaluated carefully. Are there opportunities in your office for the team to brainstorm together? Are there easy ways to share new ideas among the entire staff? This can be as simple as installing a bulletin board for team members to post their ideas on, or as sophisticated as having a formal in-service.


Finally, quality is a factor that is likely already top of mind for dentists. But are your staff members empowered to make it their job as well? At A-dec, we emphasize that quality is everyone’s responsibility. If someone sees an issue that needs addressing, he or she should feel confident in taking steps to correct it or in bringing it to the appropriate person’s attention.

Developing and communicating your own principles can be an important tool in articulating your goals as a business owner. But once your principles are developed, don’t just keep them in a file — post them for your staff and encourage a discussion about what they mean. You may even want to share them with patients. By openly communicating about your vision for your practice and your goals for the people involved, you can set out a plan for the future and also create a shared vision for your team.

Scott Parrish, president and general manager of A-dec, previously served as A-dec’s vice president and general manager. Having held positions of increasing responsibility since joining A-dec in 1985, Parrish’s tenure as vice president of product development oversaw the creation of major product lines, including the flagship A-dec 500® dental solution. He can be reached at [email protected].

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: business principles, staff motivation, practice vision, teamwork, success, Scott Parrish.

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