Great institutions are created by leaders who have a vision and the passion to see that vision realized. This was the case of Dr. Francis Welch and William Noah Allyn one-hundred years ago. Their invention of the first direct-illuminating, hand-held ophthalmoscope was the result of a vision and belief that they could make our world a better place by providing tools to help doctors, nurses and other care givers better serve their patients. That and the belief that they could make money in the process!
These passionate founders never gave up when faced with challenges. How surprised attendees at the 1920 AMA Convention in New York City must have been to see the Welch Allyn booth positioned right outside the men’s restroom. Dr. Welch and Mr. Allyn believed in their products and did whatever it took to convince medical professionals that their products could help improve patient care.
However, vision and passion don’t last without capable leaders that build teams and a supportive culture, and develop employees to their full capabilities. Welch Allyn has had competent leaders over the past 100 years with strong family values and a steadfast commitment. The company has prospered and the medical world has benefited. The company culture was built around W.G. Allyn’s favorite saying, “Be always kind and true.” This kindness has extended to its now 2,700 employees, and also to the larger community where the Allyn Foundation makes strategic contributions to community betterment.
History reminds us that not all great, visionary institutions continue to prosper. Those that do remain true to their mission create a culture where all employees have a stake in their success and their contributions are valued. It also helps to have leaders that continue to insist on quality and are resilient in confronting both present and future challenges.
I wish Welch Allyn great success in the years ahead and leave this commentary with only one regret: that I can’t buy stock!
Buzz Shaw, friend of the Allyn Family.