When Nytarsha Thomas, OD, couldn’t find the right practice to purchase, she decided to move forward and open her practice from scratch. From years of making a full-time schedule out of part-time work, Dr. Thomas says that she was ready to be her own boss and in control.
Dr. Thomas says that her husband and practice CFO, Tobe Thomas, encouraged her, and they worked closely with their consultants from The Power Practice™ to identify potential locations that showed a great deal of growth. “I think I’m a great doctor, but I’m not a business person, and I hired consultants because they know step by step what I need to do,” Dr. Thomas says. That’s when they discovered Zionsville, Indiana. “It started out with nothing here—not even a grocery store—but in the past two years, there have been many stores popping up,” Dr. Thomas recalls. “I said that we had to move out there.”
The Thomases had moved to the state a few years before from California when Tobe Thomas, a pilot, took a new job there. She had found a location for a potential office space, tucked behind a CVS and hard to see unless you were in the parking lot. Dr. Thomas was not fully satisfied, but thought it was the best option available. “We worried the space was going to be gone,” she says. As it turns out, their ongoing house-buying negotiations forced them to wait before entering a lease.
That delay turned out to be fortuitous. The potential landlord was proving to be difficult, and on one visit to the site, they noticed a new strip center under construction across the street. Near the local grocery store, there was excellent visibility. “You can’t miss it when you are passing by on the freeway,” Dr. Thomas says. They quickly changed gears, contacting the builders of the new center.
Dr. Thomas envisioned her office as a place patients come for a unique experience, rather than just a typical visit to the doctor. “We wanted to spoil them from going other places,” she says. Once the office was ready, they worked on the interior themselves to create a modern, spa-like atmosphere, with the help of Eye Designs.
The front is open and bright with lots of light. “I didn’t realize how many lights I was buying,” Dr. Thomas says, laughing, but she wanted a bright space where patients could see the colors of the frames more clearly. “You can see all of the cool details on the glasses.” She also wanted to engage of her patients’ senses fully. So not only is it visually pleasing, the seating is comfortable, there’s music playing and a commercial air freshener dispenses controlled scents.
A high-tech space was also important. “I worked in so many offices where we were always scanning and papers were lost, so we wanted to avoid that,” Dr. Thomas says. Patients can complete paperwork at home through RevolutionEHR, and the goal is to be completely paperless.
Right now, she has equipped one exam lane and a pretesting room, with extra rooms available as volume grows. The lab space is currently being used for adjustments, but Dr. Thomas says that eventually they will offer in-office finishing. She also plans to add a retinal camera, pachymeter and visual field instrumentation.
Dr. Thomas schedules patients every 30 minutes so she has time to answer their questions about their eye health or ocular conditions. “When you address the issues of chronic dry eye patients who are so uncomfortable, for example, patients go out and spread the word about you.”
The practice had a soft opening on Dec. 31, and saw just a few patients per day until the official ribbon cutting on Feb. 1. That provided her and the staff time to put processes in place and develop a routine with her team: her husband, as well as Savannah Zwicker at the front desk and Elenita Blackwell, a self-motivated optician. She kept employees in mind during her planning. “If staff is happy, the patients are happy. We wanted an area for them to relax.” There’s a kitchen area with a full-size refrigerator and dishwasher and a private staff bathroom.
During the time between her graduation from Pennsylvania College of Optometry and her practice opening, Dr. Thomas says that she worked in nearly 20 different office locations including MD/OD practices, independent optometrist offices and corporate-affiliated locations in California and Indiana. “Many places didn’t have a need for a full-time OD,” she explains, so she filled in and covered hours, gaining valuable experiences along the way. She originally began investigating practice ownership while living in California—and had a practice partner lined up—before their move to Indiana. She continues to cover hours in a local Target store as she builds up business at her new office.