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Commitment to Core Values Shines Through for Family Company
Founder Dan Fischer, DDS, ensures that Ultradent does not forget what made it successful
Building a 1,500-person operation that does business around the world was not the initial goal of Ultradent founder Dan Fischer, DDS. The inventor of the Astringedent dental infuser first brought the product to several large companies, but when none were interested, he changed course. “I came to realize that if dentists were going to be able to benefit from this unique modality of attaining profound hemostasis quickly, then we would need to make it happen as a family,” Fischer says.
He made the first product on a kitchen table and eventually converted a barn into an FDA-compliant facility. The company’s marketing in the early days consisted of family members stuffing envelopes with samples for 110,000 dentists across the nation.
Fischer has never forgotten those humble beginnings, and much of Ultradent’s success can be attributed to the core values that he has insisted remain in place no matter how large the company becomes: integrity, care, quality, innovation, and hard work.
“When visitors tour our facility, within minutes they comment on our culture and the way our people treat each other,” he says. “We started as a family company and we have remained a family company.”
Fischer says he intends for Ultradent to never be sold or go public. He and his wife of 44 years, Aleena, decided early on that they did not need more money than they could spend. Becoming involved with Wall Street and shareholders forces some companies to focus too much on the immediate bottom line, Fischer says.
“We believe in a long-term plan,” he says. “We have a strong R&D department, which is an area where companies often cut costs when they are bought and sold. We are more interested in expanding our market share and growing for the long run.”
One way Ultradent has accomplished that is vertical integration. The company manufactures 95% of the products it sells, and it sells 70% of its products outside the US. It has its own machineshop, in-house tooling for injection molding, form-filled seal molding, and automation created by in-house engineers.
“We believe in the opposite of outsourcing; we are very proud to manufacture here in the USA,” Fischer says. “We find that when we control more of the manufacturing, we can better control the quality of our products.”
Ultradent also raises the bar with innovation, introducing products from Ultra Etch phosphoric acid etchant to, more recently, Opalescence Go, the first pre-loaded non-custom tray.
“We pride ourselves in not being a ‘me too’ company,” Fischer says.
Bringing revolutionary products to the market creates a need for education on those products, and Ultradent has shown a strong commitment to that as well. Fischer says that is why he prefers to sell directly to customers.
“If we were to sell through distributors, it would put an order taker between the customer—the dentist—and us,” he says. “That concerned me because teaching is required in order to take full advantage of many of our products. Education is paramount. Interfacing directly with our customers allows us to help them with questions, complaints, etc, and it keeps us aligned closely with their needs.”
The company has received a “Golden Hands Award of Xcellence” for ethics and truth in advertising from the California Dental Expo in each of the first two years of the award’s existence, something Fischer refers to as Ultradent’s “Humble Award.”
“It places a significant amount of responsibility on us,” Fischer says. “Trust takes many years to build, but it can be lost quickly. Every one of our employees deserves credit for our earning that award, how they treat our customers and one another, and the integrity that they build into every aspect of our business. It puts a tremendous amount of responsibility on us to never lose sight of what we are known for in the industry.”
While so many of its individual products offer strong value propositions to customers, Ultradent’s company values are perhaps the most important ones.
“Partnering with companies that not only provide good products but are trustworthy is important,” Fischer says. “Dentists need to know the companies they work with will be ethical and stand by them is issues arise with a product.”
Whether the product is created on a kitchen table, in a barn, or in a state-of-the-art facility in 2017, customers can be confident that Ultradent’s commitment to integrity, care, quality, innovation, and hard work will have an impact.
“The keys to our success,” Fischer says, “have been and will continue to be quality values and work ethic.”