Monday, March 29, 2010

Terry Douglass and Provision Foundation

Terry Douglass has been a long time mentor of our professor, Dr. Martin. He holds a Ph. D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee. While working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he helped develop a technology that changed health care call the PET Scan or, Positron Emission Tomography. He founded CTI Molecular Imaging and acted as Chairman and CEO until they were acquired by Siemens in 2005. He now runs Provision Foundation which manages a number of profit and nonprofit healthcare related ministries. Mr. Douglas has been an extremely successful entrepreneur and had some very interesting experiences to share with our class.

The first experience he shared with us was when CTI was able to get approval to commercially use PET Scans in 1997. “In healthcare”, he told us, “there is no such thing as free enterprise.” CTI tried a number of ways to get the technology approved through the EPA and other sources and was never successful. After talking to a friend who worked in government, he tried to get the technology approved legislatively instead of administratively. It was finally passed by congress, tacked onto a bill that was approved in 1997. After this their revenues skyrocketed and many different companies were interested in acquiring CTI, including Siemens. They decided not to sell but instead held an IPO in 2002. I thought this was very interesting because it a real example that there are, as the common phrase goes, “two ways to skin a cat.” It also showed Mr. Douglass’s impressive drive to run a successful business because he never gave up in seeking getting the technology is business hinged on approved for public use.

This brings me to his next experience, running a public company. Terry Douglass is the first entrepreneur we have talked to that has acted as CEO in a public company, he referred to them as “the dark days.” There are many differences in running a public and private company, the first is that you have to start thinking quarter to quarter instead of long term. This was one of Mr. Douglass’s mistakes. He had always looked 5 to 10 years down the road to see what was best for his company, but once you go public, you have to try and act for the shareholders and make sure your quarterly statements are sound. He missed his mark on several quarterly projections and their stock fell dramatically from 2002 to 2004. Eventually, he learned a few tricks of the trade by projecting on the low side so that the company can exceed expectations. The stock started growing and was eventually sold to Siemens for about 3 dollars a share more than what is was originally priced at.

During Mr. Douglass’s stint at CTI, he and a few of the other founders continually put stock of CTI in a trust which now funds Provision Foundation. The main purpose of Provision Foundation is to provide seed Monday and administrative support such as accounting and technology support to small businesses across the southeast, the most notable one being East Tennessee Health Center. He made a point that Provision makes sure to identify a CEO or entrepreneur and let them run their company as they feel called to do.

Terry Douglass is truly a great man who feels called to service. He has helped many, many people, both here in the southeast and also abroad in places such as Haiti. He left us with a few points that, “no matter where you are in your career, there is always the opportunity to support others. Many people think that service only comes from NGO’s and ministries but in fact, everyone has the capability to serve others.”

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