by Christopher Piehler
By the time you read this, the Fourth of July will have come and gone. As I write this, though, Independence Day is still around the corner, and celebrating the birth of our nation has inspired me to ponder that great American trifecta: barbecue, fireworks, and how the concept of federalist democracy can be applied to buying orthodontic supplies.
I made that last connection after reading an article in The Record about the United Orthodontic Buying Group (UOBG).1 According to the article and the Web site uobg.org, about 20% of the orthodontists in the United States and Canada belong to the UOBG, so many of you already know what I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t, UOBG is, according to administrator Jon C. Fisher, DMD, MSD, a sort of farmer’s co-op for the world of orthodontics. Member practices band together (at no cost) to negotiate better prices with major orthodontic manufacturers than they could get if they were acting on their own.
The UOBG gives individual orthodontists a democratic voice in the decisions about which products to buy and which companies to buy them from. Membership doesn’t require any fancy paperwork; practices can continue to buy supplies just as they always did. But most important in an era when the orthodontic supply industry is consolidating at a rapid pace (if you don’t believe me, follow the news section of our Web site for a week), a consortium like the UOBG allows practices to negotiate on a level playing field with the ever-larger companies that provide the brackets and wires that are the bread and butter of orthodontics.
And what does this have to do with federalist democracy, you ask? Well, if you think of each practice as a state, with its own internal laws that are created and upheld by the residents of that state, then the UOBG is the country—a larger body that is governed by representatives from each state, for the benefit of all states.
That isn’t just utopian thinking, it’s smart business. And what could be more patriotic than that? After all, as President Calvin Coolidge once said, “The business of America is business.”
- Orthodontist group a good model for small business. The Record. June 22, 2007. Available online at: www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3Zjc
eTcxNTU2MjYmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky. Accessed June 26, 2007.