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Specialist Pharmacy Business Mentors

Are you going to be using the ‘f’ word much in 2017?

If you think you might, or you might hear it then go grab a cup of coffee or a nice cup of tea, come back, settle in and read this 10 minute article. It could quite possibly be one of the most important reads of the year and you might be pleasantly surprised with how the ‘f’ word could actually benefit you and your pharmacy.

Our industry has changed. It is under attack and the ‘f’ word could be a key to protect and grow your pharmacy moving forward.

It’s been a tough year for many pharmacies, no question. A rude shock in more ways than one. You actively contribute to your communities’ well being and you deserve better than the uncertainty created by the PBS reforms, the seemingly endless rounds of price disclosures, discounters breathing down your necks and everyone wanting a piece of you or your wallet.

Are you going to take control and lead the change in your pharmacy business instead of letting it happen to you? Is 2017 going to be a repeat of 2016 or- dare I say it- a pale imitation of 2015 (which wasn’t that great anyhow)?

How do you make 2017 the year it all changed for the better? How do you make this year the year you took control and learned to use change and uncertainty to your advantage?

Even if previous years have been good to you- are you ready to protect your business? Are you really ready for the next step? To actually grow your business? If you’re one of the pharmacies that made some progress this year, how are you going to sustain your success?

And for those of you who are a bit more ambitious, who want to take your business to the next level, how can you do it in these market conditions?

In fact, the biggest challenge now is how to protect your business and then help it to grow.

The best way to do that is to nurture your own capacity to adapt. Flexibility doesn’t come naturally to all of us. It is for many- if not most of us- a learned skill. The ‘f’ word, indeed.

And it can be a tough gig. Especially if you’re in regional, rural or remote areas. Now more than ever, being flexible and thinking outside the box is critical to your survival as a service to your local community and as a business.

The 80/20 rule applies here. 20% of pharmacists are going to achieve 80% of the success. They’re going to get the lion’s share of the customers, of the discounts and best prices from suppliers, the most benefit from the government payments and the most engaged, effective staff. Some will be metro- based but many will not.

And how are you going to achieve that? How does any community pharmacist achieve that? Some (the ones who are not successful) put it down to luck, location or good contacts.

They’re wrong. The real secret is this. The pharmacy business with the greatest flexibility, wins.

That doesn’t mean keep trying new things and then rejecting them. There are pharmacies out there ‘trying’ this, ‘trying’ that. (in other words, they put in a token effort- which of course never works- and then consider they’re off the hook. They can say ‘I did it and it didn’t work’).

They’re simply confusing their customers. What does your pharmacy stand for? What are you there to do? Sell toilet paper? Fill scripts? Flog vitamins?

If you want to be part of that successful 20% and make 2017 the year you set your pharmacy on an upward trajectory then the first question you need to ask yourself is: Do I want to be flexible? Am I truly motivated to do things differently?

Because, you know, flexibility can be uncomfortable. It’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes. They can hurt a bit at first….but gosh they look good and you know they’re made of good quality materials. Stick with them and they’ll settle. You can get used to being flexible and become nimble. Not just in your excellent new shoes but in assessing the quality and the time it’ll take you to settle into the next great pair.

The key is finding that great pair of shoes. Recognize them and then you’ll stay committed to them through the initial discomfort.

I guess what I’m saying is you get better at being flexible the more practice you have. Being adaptable stops feeling scary, painful and uncomfortable and starts being part of your reality and actually allows you and your pharmacy business to grow.

To help you start to develop some comfort around the idea of flexibility, think about how being flexible can benefit you personally, your pharmacy as a business and as a service to your community…..and be real too. What are the downsides? Are they surmountable? Compared to letting your business slowly disintegrate, that is.

Just as importantly, ask your best customers some questions to find out what they want. It could be products and services or it could be specific advice. It could be how they’re communicated with, not just in professional consulting or customer service but marketing. How do they want to find out about specials? How do they want you to keep in touch with them. How often and in what format?

Can your staff connect even better with patients and customers so they can also sell more effectively (and always gracefully and with integrity)? Do they know how? Can they learn?

Ignore the nay-sayers who pop up when you start doing things differently – they’re just spooked by anyone moving away from the status quo. Only 20% of pharmacists are the cream of the crop….and they’re successful because they’re flexible, clever and nimble. They don’t conform to the status quo.

Do you want to be part of that 20%?

Then stop conforming with the 80% of old school pharmacists. There’s no future for those pharmacies playing by the old rules and hoping things will improve. The only community pharmacies who will survive the continuing changes are the top 20%.

Competition is everywhere. If you’re city or regionally based, there’s always a competitor breathing down your neck (hello, discounters!) and if you’re remote, there are online competitors to contend with.

If what you’re doing isn’t working anymore, if your bottom line is starting to really suffer, then do something different. Obvious, right? So why do the majority just keep persisting with the same actions and strategies?

The answer is simple. They’re scared.

Fear creates one of 3 responses: fight, flight or freeze. In the real world of business this translates to being persistent in adapting (fight), selling your pharmacy (flight) or inertia, denial or burying your head in the sand (freeze).

And that’s understandable. You didn’t become a pharmacist because you wanted to sell toilet paper, right? You wanted to make a difference, help people and make a decent living doing that. Fair enough. However, someone (the government, competition, the economy, your customers…) changed the rules. They moved the goal posts without consulting you!

So you’re left with three choices: fight, flight or freeze.

If you choose to fight then it’s time to look seriously at what’s out there that can help you. Yes, there will be a period of adjustment when you make that change. But if you can see that initial discomfort as a natural part of the change process and positive proof you’re doing things differently then it will actually lessen that discomfort.

Want to reduce your costs? Want to increase your effectiveness? Serve more customers? Fill more scripts more quickly? Free you or your pharmacists on duty to spend more time in the front of shop (which massively increases customers’ basket size by the way- Pharmacy Guild research shows it adds an additional $14 per customer on average) then why not consider a dispensing robot?

The pain associated with that change? Setting up the payments, installation, managing the change with the staff.

The gains? Efficiency, dispensing speed, capacity to fill more scripts, increased profitability.

Or how about outsourcing all your HR to one central online system? Payroll, rostering, time sheets and attendance tracking, all that gear. Especially if you own more than one pharmacy, using a proven and easy to use service like EasyEmployer could save you heaps of time, make you more efficient and decrease the amount of stress you’re currently feeling.
Sure you need to become familiar with a new system and let go of the reins a bit but it will give you more time to work on your business, manage your staff on the important issues and be there for your customers or family instead of doing admin.

There are some really clever solutions out there that can make your life easier and your business better and more profitable in the coming year…but the ‘f’ word applies- you need to be flexible.

Be brave, be strong, instead of that other ‘f’ word- fearful. If you need to, engage a mentor, someone who can be objective and keep you on track in identifying the best actions and implementing those changes.

There’s no point being a dead hero.

It’s time to take your courage in your hands, stiffen your spine with strength and turn your mind into your strategic weapon. Look at your options. If you want to stay in the game, you need to make new rules. You have to work with what you have, sure, but there’s no reason why you can’t add in your own strategies to make those existing rules and changes work for you. Your customers and your business are relying on you.

Community pharmacy is now a Brave New World. And an exciting one. There are pharmacies out there kicking goals- yes, even now. Do you want to be one of them?
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