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Designs on the future

A western Iowa couple builds a new chiropractic office in record time
As a high school student, Nick Holton had an interest in one day becoming a chiropractor. He also had an interest in one of his classmates, Jill Christenson. What Nick didn’t know at the time was that he and Jill would one day work side by side in the same chiropractic clinic. More remarkably, Nick, now a chiropractor, and Jill, now a chiropractic technologist, managed to build their clinic within months of Nick receiving his chiropractic degree.
A chiropractic foundation
Dr. Nick Holton and wife Jill

Nick first became familiar with chiropractic as a teenager when he sought relief from the low back injuries he’d received as a basketball and football athlete. His chiropractor was Scott Zollman, D.C., a 1989 Davenport campus graduate.

“He was very inspirational,” said Nick, who graduated from Palmer’s Davenport campus in 2004. “One day he said, ‘Have you ever thought about becoming a chiropractor?’”

Nick took his chiropractor’s advice very seriously and started preparing for a future in chiropractic. He started this process while attending Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. “In college, I went into biology so that I’d have a good science background,” he said.

Nick then enrolled at Palmer College of Chiropractic’s Davenport campus. Early on, he understood that he wanted to operate his own chiropractic clinic.

Building a future together

About this time, during a philosophy class, Nick heard a presentation on Davenport’s chiropractic technology program. When he talked about this presentation with Jill, whom he was dating long-distance, the two of them soon realized that they could work together not only in the same field, but in the same practice.

With a new career goal in mind, Jill earned an associate’s degree in business administration and sales and marketing at the AIB College of Business in Des Moines, Iowa. She then enrolled at Palmer’s Davenport campus to earn her Associate of Science in Chiropractic Technology degree.

“I chose to do my internship at the Burt Clinic of Chiropractic,” Jill said of the clinic in Walcott, Iowa. It counts among its staff the husband and wife team of Mickey Burt, D.C., Davenport ’73 and Karla Burt, as well as sons Chad Burt, D.C., Davenport ’01, and Brad Burt, D.C., Davenport ’02. Upon her graduation, the clinic offered Jill a part-time position.

“Honestly, if I hadn’t worked there, I would have been completely lost once we opened here,” said Jill, adding that she often finds herself handling procedures at her own office similarly to how they were dealt with at the Burt Clinic.

Nick also sees the value of Jill’s association with the Burt practice. “It was a very good clinic to have as a role model,” said Nick, who also spent time there getting advice from all of the Burt doctors. “It gave me direction to say, ‘I want to be like this clinic.’”

Constructive advice

It was with Dr. Brad Burt, in fact, that Nick discussed in depth his idea of starting a practice of his own, even though he didn’t have any sort of patient base. “I asked, ‘Do you think this is right?’” recalled Nick. “Dr. Burt said, ‘Don’t think of today, think of tomorrow. Think of your future. It’s not about today.’”

Nick started working on his future immediately after he began his preceptorship in Marcus, Iowa. While there, he developed a business plan and acquired a loan. Creating a business plan is something he believes all aspiring chiropractors should do.

When it came time to decide where Nick and Jill’s practice should be located, they decided on the small town of Hinton, Iowa.

“It’s a good place to raise a family,” said Jill, “as well as close to our families.” Hinton is midway between LeMars, Iowa, and Sioux City, Iowa, the towns in which Nick and Jill, respectively, grew up.

Personal benefits aside, Hinton also offered a key economic advantage in that it did not yet have a chiropractor.

Starting a practice from the ground up

The next factor the couple considered was whether to buy an existing building and convert it into a clinic or build an entirely new facility.

“We decided that if we were going to spend money renovating something that wasn’t very visible,” said Nick, “we might as well go a bit further and produce something that’s of excellent quality and visible to more people.”

The location the Holtons selected is situated along U.S. Route 75, a major thoroughfare between LeMars and Sioux City, which in 2004 had a projected daily traffic flow of 16,000 cars. Today, that same road is being widened to handle even more traffic between Omaha and Minneapolis.

Not long after Nick graduated from Palmer’s Davenport campus in February 2004, his business plan had become a reality.

“He graduated in February, we got married in April and we opened the business in June,” said Jill.

Building a patient base

Today, two years after opening, the Holton clinic has nearly 500 patients, due in part to its great location.

And as the Holton Clinic of Chiropractic has found a place in Hinton, Nick has found a place for himself there, too. Along with being the town’s high school football team chiropractor, he’s also been a guest at the school’s annual career day.

During one career day, a student who heard him speak was so impressed with chiropractic that she plans on becoming a chiropractor herself.

From business plans to floor plans Speaking from their own experience, the Holtons advise others who want to build a chiropractic office of their own to stay focused.

“Just have a plan,” said Nick. “You’ll get there if you just keep your vision. Once you’ve reached a goal, set another one. Once you reach that goal, set another one. You just have to keep going forward.”

In the same way, Jill believes that even though it’s challenging to start a new business, the benefits of opening a chiropractic clinic are well worth all of the struggles.

“Keep in mind what you’re in this profession for,” adds Jill. “Keep in mind what you’re going to school for and what you’re trying to do in helping people improve their lives.”

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