Justin M. Puckett, general counsel, MB2 Dental Solutions, Carrollton (Mark Graham)
Only five years out of law school, Justin Puckett is already the top lawyer for a company that offers business support services for dentists’ offices. It’s a fast-growing company in a quickly changing industry.
“Every day my learning curve is steep, and it’s great,” said Puckett, general counsel and executive vice president of MB2 Dental Solutions in Carrollton.
The Affordable Care Act includes dental coverage for children and, like many other professionals in the health care industry, dentists are looking for cost efficiencies, Puckett said.
“As insurance costs rise, insurance companies will negotiate lower dental fees and reimbursements, and dentists have to look for ways to save money,” he said.
The privately held company was founded by dentists in 2008 and provides services to 55 dental offices in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and Alaska. MB2 has about 500 employees.
The dentists pay the company a monthly management fee to handle business tasks such as accounting, banking, billing, office administration, business promotion and technology support, while the dentists concentrate on practicing dentistry, Puckett said.
“When you look at a group like ours, we can buy equipment and supplies much cheaper than the guy with his own office; it’s just pure buying power,” he said.
By handling the back office activities, MB2 helps dentists lower their overhead expenses and increase profitability, Puckett said. MB2 is a dental term for a hard-to-reach canal in the molar of certain teeth, the second mesibuccal canal, he said.
“The industry is really so new,” he said. A few years ago there were only three dental practice management companies with more than 50 dentists’ offices, and now there are more than 25, he said.
“We would like to be at 100 offices in the next three to four years,” he said.
Puckett estimated that he spends about 40 percent of his time on day-to-day legal matters with the balance of his time spent managing outside counsel and being involved in the company’s financial operations and expansion strategies.
“I get to use a hodgepodge of my background and get to use a lot of what I’ve learned, which is fun,” Puckett said.
His background includes bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Texas A&M University in 2005 and 2006, respectively. He earned a J.D. in 2009 from the University of Houston Law Center.
“I originally wanted to be in a professional sports team’s front office and work for the [Texas] Rangers or [Dallas] Mavericks when I was grown up,” he said. “I found out a lot of those executives had a J.D. for the business deals. In early middle school I wanted to be in law school but didn’t want to be a typical lawyer.”
He also eventually learned that there are few jobs in the sports industry but many people willing to work for small amounts of money. After graduating from law school, Puckett decided to join a law firm and became an associate with Dallas’ SettlePou in the firm’s business counsel services and real estate group. He said he found the job “through a friend of a friend.”
A call from a recruiter eventually resulted in him joining Andrews Kurth in Dallas in 2011. He was attracted to the opportunity that the large firm gave him to work on a variety of transactions, including mergers and acquisitions and larger health care and real estate transactions, he said.
Ten months later, in 2012, he joined FLOSS Dental, one of his clients, as the company’s vice president of finance and general counsel. At that time, FLOSS did not need a full-time GC but rather someone who could handle both the company’s legal and financial matters. Although Puckett knew he eventually wanted to move in-house, he was reluctant to leave Andrews Kurth.
“I felt I was just hitting my stride at Andrews Kurth,” he said. “I was working on unique transactions and really learning a ton.”
Puckett said that Kathleen Wu, an Andrews Kurth partner with whom he worked, was instrumental in his decision to go with FLOSS.
Wu said, “He knew it was somewhat risky when he did it, but he has such a great skill set, I told him that’s his safety net.” She also said that Puckett would be welcome back at Andrews Kurth at any time.
“Justin went about things with a level of maturity and thoughtfulness in his interpersonal interactions and his approach to problems,” Wu said. “He was a very astute observer of clients, of what clients wanted, of how lawyers approached things and their best practices. There are not a lot of young lawyers that are that astute. It was a maturity beyond his years, beyond what seemed obvious.”
FLOSS grew from eight to 23 dentists’ offices during Puckett’s 18-month tenure with the company.
“It was quick growth,” Puckett said. “I was handling everything from real estate site selection, all financing for expansion and growth, and trying to raise private equity money. It was busy. But really fun.”
One of the equity groups with which he worked recommended him to the owners of MB2 because of his background in legal, finance and operations. He joined MB2 in January as executive vice president and general counsel. He also has an assistant general counsel working with him in-house. Puckett said he turns to Brian Colao, a member in Dykema Gossett in Dallas, for help on local, state and federal regulatory matters.
“What he does best is: He solves problems,” Colao said. “Because the regulatory climate is changing in this industry, you very often have to come up with a unique solution to a unique problem; he does that really well.”
Cola said that Puckett is good at keeping an even-keel temperament and often faces situations where any number of people might be upset, including patients, dentists disputing among themselves or regulators complaining about company actions, he said.
“It’s crucial to maintain a calm demeanor and walk calmly through the program and not get emotional when others get emotional,” Colao said. “Justin does a good job of that.”
Puckett lives in Dallas with his wife, Kiley, and daughter Collins, who was born on April 7.
Besides an infant daughter, what else keeps Puckett up at night?
“The unknown regulatory issues on the federal level, Obamacare for one; it is very uncertain,” Puckett said. “As well I know, this industry is growing at a rapid pace, and if we’re not growing, we will be left behind. This really is a ‘race for the next 10 years’ kind of thing within our industry.”