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Profile of an Entrepreneurial Leader: Dick Hartig

Richard (Dick) Hartig, RPh, MBA
Chief Executive Officer
Hartig Drug Stores
Dubuque, Iowa

Dick Hartig is the Chief Executive Officer and owner of Hartig Drug Stores, the nation’s second oldest family owned drug store chain. Hartig Drug was founded in 1904 by Dick’s grandfather, A.J. Hartig and subsequently run by Dick’s parents, Ken and Helen. As a third generation pharmacist, Dick was inspired to leave home and continue his education beyond his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy. Fate however intervened after the unexpected death of his father and Dick returned home to northeast Iowa to work in the family’s pharmacies.

With Ken’s passing, Dick settled into the role of dispensing pharmacist, but never gave up on his desire to continue his education. Dick felt his education prepared him well for pharmacy practice but he wanted to improve his skills in business, legal, and payroll issues. At the time, the state of Iowa had two colleges that offered masters degrees in business administration. Since he was working full time Dick knew he would not be able to travel several hours multiple times a week for classes so he took it upon himself to see if the professors would come to him.

After placing an advertisement in an area newspaper, Dick found a significant amount of interest in a Dubuque based Masters in Business Administration program from area men and women. He held an organizational meeting with around eighty people then set out to find a way to make the program happen. Drake University agreed to send professors to Dubuque if guaranteed thirty-five students. The program began with sixty participants, and Dick graduated with his class of forty.

For the first ten years of his career Dick was busy filling prescriptions, making business decisions, and taking classes in the evenings. During that time he also saved every penny he could and eventually was able to buy all shares in the Hartig Drug Stores company.

As Chief Executive Officer and owner Dick has been an entrepreneurial leader in pharmaceutical care. He invested in the Iowa Center for Pharmaceutical Care and developed the Hartig PharmaCare program. This led to redesigned work flow at the Hartig stores which allows the pharmacists to be involved in active patient care. Although Dick says the market was not ready for such innovation at the time, he continues to pursue innovative practice in community pharmacy. Some examples of entrepreneurial leadership at Hartig Drug Stores are the store in Waukon, Iowa which has an anti-coagulation clinic and in Dyersville, Hartig Drug Store houses a Diabetes Education Center.

As a successful entrepreneur Dick’s advice to pharmacy students is, “don’t be a chicken, stick your neck out, just do it.” Having never pictured himself “working on the bench” Dick says his favorite aspect of being a pharmacy owner is the variety of activities he is involved with. 

Entrepreneurial Leadership Analysis:

After Dick Hartig’s purchase of Hartig Drug Stores, how has he displayed entrepreneurial leadership in pharmacy?
An entrepreneurial leader works to advance the profession of pharmacy by proactively identifying and pursuing new opportunities to create value for patients and society. Dick identified the supply of well educated pharmacists in his stores and gave them the opportunity to pursue patient care. Although ahead of the demand in the marketplace initially, his stores are now successfully providing patient care.

Has Hartig Drug Stores completed the entrepreneurial process?
Yes, and they have started again. The original entrepreneurial process started when A.J. Hartig identified the opportunity to open Hartig Drug Stores. Since its foundation in 1904 Hartig Drug Stores have developed the concept, determined the required resources, acquired the necessary resources, implemented and managed, and harvest the venture through selling to Dick Hartig. With the purchase of Hartig Drug Stores by Dick Hartig, the entrepreneurial process has begun again through identifying the opportunity for innovative patient care.