Paula Mintchell, OD, had a goal of launching a solo practice before she turned 40, and she beat that deadline by a couple of years when she opened Vision Art Eye Care in Naperville, Illinois, in December 2012.
Meeting that goal was only half the fight, though. She also faced the extra challenge of launching in a place where she had no connections. “I opened cold,” she says. “Our family didn’t know anyone in Naperville.”
Now three years later she has made a home for her practice in the community, with an emphasis on pediatric eye care and vision therapy and a willingness to accept all patients. “If you want to have a good private practice, you have to adapt and do what you can.”
Dr. Mintchell didn’t land in Naperville by accident. Her husband, Derek, is a commercial airline pilot, and the couple previously lived in Melbourne, Florida, where Dr. Mintchell worked for eight years at a multi-office practice.
When her husband’s career offered them a chance to resettle, they scanned the country for places where commercial aviation and optometry thrived: Houston was too crowded with ODs, she says, but the Chicago suburb of Naperville felt right. The couple both grew up in Ohio, so a Midwest home was familiar.
Still, the first year or so for her practice was tough. She had trouble finding staff and patients. “People told me starting a practice was hard, but the hardest part was waiting and trusting your instincts and being patient for people to find you,” she says.
She sought advice from the Williams Group, a leading eye care practice management consultant, a move she says “helped me tremendously. It was worth the investment.” They helped her through the financial decisions she had to make, including marketing and staffing. “I was very careful with working capital,” she says. “I was careful with how I allocated my funds,” from staffing needs to advertising to cost of goods.
Plus, she stuck with her confidence in her skills and her personal approach to patient care. “I trusted my personality and how I generally care about people, and I knew it would translate to good internal marketing,” she says. She got involved with the local Chamber of Commerce and reached out to local primary care physicians. With her emphasis on pediatric care, she relied on word-of-mouth reviews to help build a patient following. “When you see the little ones and treat them well, the families come, too,” she says.
The couple has two children, Wyatt, who is 8, and Arianna, age 6, and they live in Naperville just a few miles from her practice location. “It was really important to me to live in Naperville, and I love seeing children and families from my kids’ school,” she says. “If you live too far away from your practice, you miss out on the opportunity.”
Her affiliation with Vision Source® is “a critical part of my practice,” she says. “I now have a team of partners helping me navigate private practice.” She also likes the savings on product and even services, such as credit card processing that she gets through Vision Source®. “I without hesitation would recommend Vision Source® to my colleagues.”
Today her practice is growing the way she hoped it would. Vision therapy was part of her residency training, and today, these services are provided in her practice. She has two full-time employees and is adding a part-time person. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” she says.
For more information go to VisionSourcePlan.com.