The American Dream

The American Dream used to be about anyone being able to come here, let their imagination run wild, give back to their community, and move up the social ladder. We believed in small businesses, in allowing individuals to create wealth and make better lives for themselves. Unlike Old World societies starkly divided between the upper and working classes, we had a large middle class whose culture – going to the movies, eating at drive-ins, using public parks, swimming pools, schools, and libraries – defined the very essence of being an American.

We aspired to avoid the disasters of corporate capitalism and the centralization of wealth. We feared the establishment of an aristocracy in cahoots with state authorities. Over the past few decades, this very premise of the American Dream has crumbled down before our very eyes. Large corporations merge, and antitrust law is applied only selectively. Franchises grow ever bigger and bigger. Corporate monoliths and inorganic businesses respond not to their customers but to shareholders. We find ourselves in a world of oligopolies. The blame is not, in my mind, on the individuals behind these large corporations, but in large part on the federal government and the states that have allowed there to develop an uncompetitive market with a total centralization of wealth by subsidizing large industries and failing to hold large, competition-killing businesses to account while the Justice Department and attorneys general go after small businesses, less likely to be able to afford staggering attorney fees and more likely to settle on unfavorable terms, which they perceive as low-hanging fruit.

Either way, I’m happy that there are still some resilient small businesses around, and I’m proud to call my company Columbia Dental one of them. I started out of a small office and have grown my practice to 13 locations across Connecticut with an implant center in Manchester. I’m the owner and clinical director. Unlike corporate CEOs and managers, I don’t respond to some higher power isolated from the day-to-day operation. I am at work every single day at our main office, right beside my staff. I frequently visit my other offices to ensure they align with the company ethos. We are deeply ingrained in the communities we serve.

Columbia Dental is what I’d like to think of as an organic business. Like organic food, you know where it’s been, how it’s been produced. This is why I don’t have any friends on the state dental board, composed of other dentists, or in state agencies; my model challenges the 9-5 way of doing dentistry that most dentists here in Connecticut engage with. Since we ultimately respond to our patients, we take their satisfaction seriously. This is, ultimately, what I’d like to think of as the virtue of small business: being there with your customers, always looking for ways to expand, and having our patients, not governmental authorities or shareholders, in mind.

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