Article written by Dr. Jim Greer, a retired orthodontist, owner in White, Greer & Maggard Orthodontics, and founding PepperPointe Partnerships doctor partner to fellow dental colleagues.

We all encounter major crossroads in our careers. Graduation from our specialty program brings about probably the first — a choice between clinical practice, research, teaching, or even a military career. I chose clinical practice and then started down the path of where to practice, and the nature of that practice. We all faced choices in many situations — partnership, group practice, satellite office locations, work schedules, staff structure — all of which are essentially business decisions. But in their simplest form, the choices we make define our career and our future.

Today, you may be facing your most difficult decision. Unfortunately, today some choices are often brought about by outside forces. A major factor in the modern world of dentistry is the entry of corporate America into the world of private clinical practice. It has been around for quite some time in medicine, but it is now a reality in dentistry and all aspects of clinical practice (general dentistry and specialty practice).

I would like to share my own experience to perhaps help in framing the choices you might be facing. I entered into private practice and formed a partnership with my father. Keep in mind, I am a third-generation dentist and have some insight into how the practice of dentistry has evolved over a span of 50 – 60 years. My father and I were a moderately sized practice with a main office and two satellite locations. We had a successful practice together for 20 years and my father was able to sell his shares in the practice to me and retire while still working part-time for another ten years, as was his choice. I was at the midpoint in my career.

I faced a crossroads that included choices of bringing in a partner and changing demographics in my community. Such as the possibility of opening another office in a growing area of our city and merging with another practice in the community. Beyond those immediate choices, I looked at the next 20 years in dentistry and orthodontics. It was easy to see what was happening in medicine, both corporate America and the major universities had their hands and footprints all over the field of medicine. It caused me to pause. In a nutshell, my gut feeling was that my skillset and strengths were insufficient to embrace the future. There would be challenges unfamiliar to the profession and for me in the second half of my career. And for the concept of retirement that many dentists never achieved. I absolutely knew that maintaining the status quo and trusting the ways of the last twenty years would not spell success in the terms I desired. It became obvious to me I needed two things, partners that had greater expertise in the business world, and equally as important, strength in the size and scope of my practice.

It so happens, two forces came together. Drs. Greg White and Brent Maggard were of like mind. We joined forces and merged our two practices. Long story short, Greg had perhaps one of the greatest business minds I have ever encountered. One of the keys to our success is that we absolutely agreed that we were getting in a boat together and we would overcome any adversity together. Like any practice, we had difficulties, but we always agreed to solve them together, never separately. It was a refreshing feeling that “your problems are my problems” and we will solve any issue.

Through Greg’s business genius and intensity — and all of us working very hard — we grew the size and scope of our practice to serve several communities across the state of Kentucky, and to a group practice of some 14 doctors. We had tremendous strength in numbers, marketing, market presence, and outstanding community involvement.

Then, Greg truly had a moment of clarity and foresight. He decided we need to grow this effort beyond our practice and begin to be a force in the profession of dentistry, and the specialties! PepperPointe Partnerships was born. I am not here to educate you on that global concept. Greg and the PepperPointe staff are much more capable. But suffice it to say, PepperPointe represents the greatest force in dentistry to maintain ownership of our practices between us — the doctors — and us alone. It represents tremendous strength in numbers. We are now a true force in competing with corporate intrusion into our profession, negotiating with countless vendors and insurance companies, and making the business aspect of our practices as simplified as it can be, without turning it over to corporate figures that only consider the bottom line, not the patients.

The future is very bright for the entry and exit of clinical practice. We own our own ‘equity’, and we can maintain the quality and integrity of our daily practice. This approach is a grand merger of like-minded individuals to do just what I set out to do for myself — join with better business minds than my own and compete across the board with the challenges our profession faces from corporate America. The key is to do so without selling out to those outside corporate forces. The future is ours to forge — be proactive, not reactive.

I will close, with an idea I described earlier. As we join together, no one can promise there won’t be difficulties or challenges, but if we agree my problems or your problems are our problems, solutions come from our strength in numbers. It is a very good feeling.