When Running Your Business Is Running Your Life: How to Balance Your Time in the Pharmacy
One experience that rings true for many independent pharmacy owners is “trying to be everything to everybody." At various times, you likely take on the roles of CEO, CFO, HR director, marketing manager, claims adjudicator, customer service specialist, political advocate and more, depending on the most pressing need of the moment.
Despite all good intentions, that approach can leave you feeling stretched too thin—without really establishing sustainable ways to increase pharmacy business over time. Staffing issues, customer concerns, vendor pitches and calls to support community events all seem important when viewed through the day-to-day lens, but their impact on the future of your pharmacy is probably much less substantial than you might imagine.
By taking advantage of some tried and true community pharmacy time savers, you’ll have the capacity to run your business in a more proactive fashion, as detailed below.
Independent pharmacy priorities
So, where to start? Instead of “putting out fires" for an hour or two each day, shift your focus to what you can accomplish that will help you grow your business. Concentrate effort in the following three areas:
- Employee development
Anything you can do to make staff members more efficient and effective will pay off in the long run. Remember, you're counting on staff to ensure that customers have a positive experience. Regularly recognize and reward employees for constructive interactions with customers and co-workers by offering performance bonuses and earned perks such as preferred parking spaces or an extra day off. You'll soon find that what gets rewarded gets repeated.
- Prescriber marketing
Community pharmacy owners excel when it comes to helping their patients achieve their wellness goals, and your potential referral sources need to know that. Your expertise is the key to acquiring new customers. Whether by phone or in person, tell your story to physician groups and make it clear how your pharmacy keeps patients adherent to their prescribed medications and treatments.
Medication synchronization—coordinating medications to be filled at the same time each month—helps patients stay adherent and is one of the best ways to increase pharmacy business efficiency. Tap into your pharmacy's patient profiles so your pharmacists and staff can prepare and process medication refills in advance. Med sync has been shown to increase prescriptions filled per patient over time. Additionally, med sync reduces your cost to fill a prescription and may allow you to carry less inventory. Patients will also appreciate not having to wait for refills and your staff will become more productive as a result of the simplified scheduling.
Independent pharmacy business guidance
Owners often say they would devote more time to focusing on business operations if only they could step away from the bench, but accomplishing that requires a defined plan of action. For instance, calling in a part-time pharmacist to help out only during random busy times doesn't carry much of a long-term benefit. Instead, consider how your schedule would open up with a reliable pharmacist reporting to work every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Through proper allocation of pharmacist owners and your relief pharmacist, you can use these days to hold one-on-one staff meetings and evaluations, follow through on outreach to physician groups, give community talks and work strategically with your inventory/ordering captain.
Of course, adding headcount isn’t the only way to free up your schedule for tackling more of those business-building activities. It’s important to put a high value on your time and eschew tedious obligations that don’t measure up when it comes to the return on investment. Whether it’s tending to administrative duties in the back office or participating in inconsequential events outside the pharmacy, challenge yourself to delegate to the people on your team who are up to the task.
Consider using technology. One independent pharmacy owner deployed Slack, a popular communication app, to handle employee scheduling. He loaded all employee schedules into the app and then empowered staff to facilitate changes amongst themselves. By using technology to engage the team, the owner removed himself from the decision-making loop and created an environment that nurtured problem-solving.
Similarly, encourage employees to take ownership of customer-service issues. They should feel confident in addressing complaints with on-the-spot action (e.g., offering store credit or replacing a damaged package) without having to come to you for approval. Clarify your independent pharmacy’s priorities, set consistent policies, reinforce them when problems arise and otherwise step out of the way for staff to make decisions for the good of the business.
Having a strong team and the right technology in place is ultimately what will help you reduce your stress level and achieve a better work-life balance. The more you can lean on the people and processes around you, the more time you’ll have to focus on what really matters—the health of your patients, your staff, your business and yourself.