Banner img
Banner img

Reflections On Becoming an Independent Pharmacy Owner

Written by Craig Wear

What barriers/difficulties are you experiencing other than those you had perceived?
One difficulty for which I thought I was prepared, but still underestimated, was the cash flow crunch. The fact that Medicaid can lag 3-4 months behind makes things even more challenging. Ironically, the faster you grow, the worse the lag. Another barrier that surprised us somewhat is the potential customer’s resistance to change. Sometimes it is hard to get people to make the leap from one provider to another, even when they see to desire a change.

What goals have you achieved and how did you reach those goals?
We did not hit our goal of $1 million in sales during the first year, but we have surpassed that amount for 2007. In hindsight, we see the $1 million as having been a rather lofty projection rather than as a failure on our part. We were a little naïve when we were making our initial projections. We have continued to meet our goal of growing each month. If we can keep that up for a while, everything else will fall into place.

What new goals have you established for your business since the purchase?
Our goals continue to change. One major goal is to expand to another store within two years. This is obviously contingent upon negotiating a favorable deal and finding adequate staffing. I believe that the staff makes all the difference in the level of success you are able to achieve. Other goals include adding one more nursing home, expanding our compounding business, and making workflow more efficient and systematic.

How have you instilled your mission in your staff and motivated them to help you achieve success?
Our staff is very aware of the goals and mission we have set forth. Our full time technician has been with us since the business’ inception. We are open with our employees and reward them when the business does well. Our goal is for each of our employees to have some aspect of the business for which they are responsible and accountable.

How do you stay motivated in this endeavor?
Sometimes it is difficult to maintain the motivation when things go wrong or you have a bad day. However, all it takes is one complement or one happy patient to put it all back in perspective. I love competing with the chains and grocery store pharmacies. As long as that competition is there, I will be motivated to offer patients another kind of pharmacy services to broaden the spectrum of our industry.

What things would you have done differently in the planning or purchasing process if given another opportunity?
I would have requested a larger space. It is great that we have been busy enough to outgrow our space, but that can only go on for so long. Other than that, I would not change a thing. That is not to say that we have made all the right decisions along the way, because we certainly have not. I believe, however, that the lessons we have learned from those mistakes have been extremely valuable and will continue to be valuable as we build our business in the future.

What other advice do you have for entrepreneurial leaders contemplating a similar venture?
If you plan to be an entrepreneur, you must evaluate yourself first. It takes a lot of confidence, self discipline, and drive to be a successful entrepreneur. The buck stops with you when you are the owner, so you need to be able to make tough decisions quickly and move on. There is some debate as to whether entrepreneurs are born or made. I believe that anyone can do it if they first address their shortcomings and work on them.

What recommendations would you give to other young pharmacists who are considering the purchase of a practice?
The first thing I would tell young pharmacists is to beware of what I call the “trap.” Many companies offer huge sign-on bonuses and very attractive salaries for a particular time commitment, but this is not necessarily the best route for one who wants to open his/her own pharmacy; pharmacists who want to open a pharmacy should learn how other similar pharmacies are managed and gain experience in that area. Another aspect of this is how the young pharmacist uses the money. Often times the money goes toward expensive mortgages or new cars. This trap can prohibit pharmacists from having the option to open/buy a pharmacy. My advice is to live modestly for a few years if you think you may be interested in purchasing a pharmacy, and keep your options open.