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NCPA dishes ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Pharmacy Owners’

At Cardinal Health RBC 2018, Doug Hoey, president and CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association, discussed the “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Pharmacy Owners,” encouraging attendees to be proactive in the marketplace and their communities. After interviewing dozens of independent pharmacy owners to gain their insight, he shared that pharmacists who embody these seven habits are typically on the forefront of pharmacy innovation.

Habit No. 1: Invest time, money and energy in personnel
It’s a people business. That’s as true for the relationship between pharmacist and patient as it is for the one between pharmacist and front-line staff. Highly successful pharmacy owners make a conscious effort to find, recruit, train and continue to motivate their teams. “Training and motivating team members is one of the most important things you can do,” Hoey said. One owner interviewed by Hoey used an “attaboy” box to motivate employees. The box, filled with recent accolades of store employees, is pulled out and shared during team meetings. That practice not only helps boost morale, the owner noted, but also helps reinforce positive, customer-focused behaviors. “What gets rewarded, gets repeated,” Hoey said.

Habit No. 2: Get out from behind the counter
Independent pharmacy owners do not have access to the best corners, nor do they own and operate PBMs to help drive patients through their doors. “[Independents] are starting out at a little bit of a disadvantage,” Hoey said. “Of these seven habits, I would argue [getting out into the community] may be the most important thing you can do for your business.” The leading reason pharmacy owners and operators refrain from personal, hands-on community engagement is cost, Hoey said. Many owners feel that if they’re not behind the bench adjudicating prescriptions, then they’re not contributing to the bottom line. But of the thousands of owners Hoey has engaged with who have made it a point to get out from behind the bench and plug into their patients and their communities, it has become a game changer.

Habit No. 3: Know what’s driving the financials
Knowing is half the battle. Pharmacy owners who have an intimate knowledge of their profit and loss statements, and which levers they can pull to improve those statements, have a leg up on their competitors. “Most of us look at our financials as a lag measure,” Hoey said. “Knowing some lag measures does have benefits, but you want to know what’s influencing those financials before they happen.” According to the NCPA Digest, those independent pharmacists who best manage their cost of goods rank among the top 25% best independent pharmacy performers.

Habit No. 4: Know and understand pharmacy contracts
Highly successful pharmacy owners read their contracts before signing, especially when it comes to pharmacy networks. “Even though [many are] one-sided, take-it-or-leave-it contracts, it’s still your signature on that contract. That makes it really hard to say this is unfair and wrong, even if it is unfair and wrong,” Hoey said. “Know what’s in your contract. You might not like what’s in there, but understanding [the contract] is better than being blindsided.”

Habit No. 5: Embrace innovation
More consumers are using technology to optimize their daily lives. For many of the same reasons, pharmacy owners should deploy technology to help drive efficiencies into the business and to lower operating costs. “Your pharmacy management systems are often an underutilized resource,” Hoey said. “There are so many whistles and bells that are good tools in [a typical] pharmacy management system that pharmacy owners don’t know they exist.”

Habit No. 6: Get in sync with med sync
Medication synchronization is one of those crucial technology tools pharmacists can use to improve patient care, create operational efficiencies and mitigate inventory costs. In other words, it does it all. “Most people in this room, if our surveys are right, are doing some form of medication synchronization,” Hoey said. “But as I talked with the most successful pharmacy owners, just doing it and really doing it are two different things. By really doing it, that means you’ve assigned someone to it; you’ve trained someone on it. It is baked into your business.” On average, independents spend more on personnel than the big-box chains, which means those improvements to workflow driven by med sync represent a greater impact to the bottom line.

Habit No. 7: Understand what makes your community tick
This is perhaps one of the greater points of differentiation independent pharmacy owners can exploit. “This is especially important for independents. What is the heartbeat of your community?” Hoey asked. “You know your community better than anyone else, and when you’re doing [habit] No. 2, as far as getting out from behind the counter, you’re going to know your community even more.”
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