When the Rug Is Pulled Out
Nytarsha Thomas, OD
Visionelle Eyecare, Zionsville, IN
When Dr. Nytarsha Thomas left Pennsylvania College of Optometry she knew she wanted to go into private practice. So when she and her husband settled in California she began working for a great doctor and planning her own business. But when her husband was transferred to Indianapolis for work, it meant she had to go back to the drawing board. Over before she’d even begun?
“When we relocated, I got a full-time position at a larger chain and began the process of starting over,” she explains. “But the hours left me no time to plan my own business.”
Then she met another female doctor who owned a private practice in the Indianapolis area. “She was kind and offered me a part-time position, so that on days off I could work on opening my own business. I told her that it was my dream before she hired me, and she said ‘OK.’”
But the situation was not as ideal as Thomas had hoped.
“I was very transparent with her but as things progressed, she began discouraging me from pursuing it, while chipping away at my hours. She knew that I really needed that job to afford my mortgage and food,” Thomas says. “So I stopped sharing news with her. I got all the way through build-out and hiring and was open a couple weeks when she found out and let me go effective immediately after two years of working there.”
Thomas’ new practice was on the other side of Indianapolis, and she was conscientious about not poaching patients.
“We were not in competition with each other. I even passed on a location because I felt it was too close to her business,” she says. “But the lack of stable employment lit the fire to move ahead and get into gear. Luckily, I had a friend that stepped in and let me work for her once a week to keep the lights on. I worked seven days a week between working for her and trying to build my own practice. It is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.”
Despite the challenges, Thomas opened Visionelle in December 2015. “It’s hard to make a name for yourself in a new place, especially when someone more established is gossiping about you, but our practice is growing.”
Her advice for those looking to start their own practices? “Have a good support system. We were in a new city but if I’d had friends or family here it would have been much easier and people to spread the word. It would have made a big difference,” Thomas says. “Also, know who you’re working with. Find a doctor that is supportive and be upfront. Discuss even signing a non-compete agreement.”
In the end, Thomas’ former employer’s reaction has worked in her favor.
“Instead of seeing her patients while she vacationed, I have a ton of extra time to work on wowing my new patients!”