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June 05, 2012 | Tom Ballard

Terry Douglass offers insights for entrepreneurs

Terry Douglass is regarded in the Knoxville community as one of its earliest technology entrepreneurs.

He and three partners came together in 1983 to establish CTI Molecular Imaging. The company focused on positron emission tomography (PET) and molecular imaging and later extended its business into research, development and the distribution of PET tracers and probes. CTI PET Systems was formed in 1987 as a joint venture between CTI and Siemens to combine CTI’s expertise in PET technology with Siemens’ global distribution network. Other affiliated companies were created before Siemens acquired the entire CTI family in 2005.

Since then, Douglass, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CTI Molecular Imaging, has been focused on his bold entrepreneurial vision for the Dowell Springs Business Park. recently published an interview with Rick Johnson, Provision Health Alliance Executive Vice President, where the plans for the complex were outlined.

We also asked Douglass a series of questions that aspiring or established entrepreneurs would find useful.

What was the impetus that caused you and your three colleagues to found CTI?  The belief that, with a lot of help, we could develop PET to be an excellent clinical diagnostic solution and that we could sustain a financially viable, growth business as PET was developed.

When you founded the company, did you know that it would be as successful as it was and as impactful on healthcare as it was?  Because of the unique nature of positron emitters, I was not surprised by the impact that PET has had on healthcare.  The surprise was that it took as long as it did.

What were the biggest challenges that you faced in taking CTI from start-up to its exit when Siemens bought the company? How were you able to successfully address these challenges?  FDA approvals and Medicare reimbursement were the biggest challenges.  After being unsuccessful for years with the FDA and Medicare, we finally addressed the regulatory and reimbursement hurdles by Congressional action.  And there are always personal and personnel challenges along the way.

As you reflect on your years at CTI, what are the top lessons that you learned that might be informative for other existing or aspiring entrepreneurs?  There are a multitude of books with great suggestions on how to be a successful entrepreneur; but you really have to develop your own strategy, mission and values based on what you believe will make your dream come true.  Here are the “Mission” and “Values” which guided CTI along the way:

  • Market and Business Mission:  Make Positron Imaging a Widely-Used Primary Clinical Modality and Lead That Market.
  • Employee Mission:  Create a Uniquely Stimulating Environment Which Encourages Personal and Corporate Improvement and Community Involvement.
  • Shareholder Mission:  Sustain a Viable Growth Business

Our Values

  • Market and Customer Understanding and Satisfaction
  • Commitment to the Value of the Individual and to Teamwork
  • Continuous Growth and Improvement
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit, Creativity, and Innovation
  • Technological Strength and Depth
  • Unquestionable Ethical Standards

In addition, I would suggest a couple of other things:  Make sure that the business potential that you pursue is worth the effort that you will have to exert; and remember that businesses do not fail due to mission and values; they fail because they run out of cash. So plan and execute so that you never run out of cash, which is a lot easier said than done, but true.

Fortunately for this community, you decided to be a serial entrepreneur, a rare breed that this region needs replicated time and time again. Why did you decide to pursue the ProVision Health Alliance initiative?  We are all blessed by God with different resources, capabilities, talents, experiences, and circumstances.  Everything that we call ours actually comes from Him and belongs to Him.  Our responsibility is to simply be good stewards, be obedient to the call, and realize that it is not about me.  Provision Health Alliance is simply about being obedient and wisely investing the resources for which we are responsible.

From where you sit and the vast experiences that you have enjoyed, what does the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley need to do to be a technology, innovation and entrepreneurial “hot spot”?  I have been asked that question dozens of times; and I have not come up with what I would call a good answer.  This may mean that it is not so much about anything that we do as much as it is about being gracefully blessed. That’s what happened to me and CTI.

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