Four steps to discovering your pharmacy’s competitive advantage
The desire to provide things for free is a central philosophy of the healthcare industry in this part of the world. As healthcare professionals there’s an inherent tendency towards altruism which puts the needs of patients above all else.
This guest post was provided by Zamil Solanki. Check out his website at zamilsolanki.com
As healthcare professionals there’s an inherent tendency towards altruism which puts the needs of patients above all else. This is a noble goal and there are few who would disagree that everyone deserves access to quality, affordable health advice when they need it.
The trouble with this mindset has little to do with morals and everything to do with business continuity. The idea that healthcare can ever be ‘free’ is something of a misnomer. Someone is footing the bill somewhere along the line and those funds need to come from somewhere.
This is a challenge that is felt by small business owners in the health industry – and pharmacy is right at the coal face of this issue right now as the industry is undertaking some big changes. The ‘ransom note’ of the paper prescription is fast becoming digital and big discounters aren’t going anywhere.
The question you should be asking if you own a community pharmacy isn’t “how do I compete with the big guys?” so much as “how can I carve out my own slice of the multi-billion-dollar healthcare industry in this country?” If you’re in this boat but not sure where to start, here is your launching off point. Below are four things you do to build a sustainable business and ensure that you can fund the fantastic healthcare services you provide to your community.
1. Get deeply familiar with your ideal customers
This is business planning 101. If you want to build a resilient business then you need to have a clear, targeted audience who is at the centre of everything you do. The more specific you can be here, the better. What do your customers want? How do they want to interact with you? What are their interests? Their values? Their demographics?
From experience, it’s a complete fallacy that consumers only look for the best price. If this were true, we would have quickly packed up our doors the moment 2 big box discounters opened up within 500m of us.
While both convenience and price are large drivers for our purchasing decisions, the truth is that people are willing to forgo the cheapest possible price for an experience if they see it as valuable. If you can find a way to build your pharmacy around what your ideal patient wants, you’ll be onto a winner. Your ideal customer is going to look much different to that of a big box discounter – and that’s the whole point. All you need to do is work out who your ideal customer is which is easier said than done. This leads us to point number two.
2. Give yourself time
When I entered the world of ownership in 2011, it took me a while to find our sweet spot. We were one of 13 pharmacies within a three-kilometre radius, three of which were discounters. If we had simply gone through the motions we would have never grown that pharmacy as much as we did.
Instead of following the “how it’s always been” script, I took a step back and spent the best part of 18 months just learning about my business and how it needed to evolve in order to thrive, and not just survive. The key was to get a broad, holistic view of the business and draw on as many different sources as possible. It was a long process, but the rewards were massive, and we exited the business in 2019, having grown it by $4 million, for three times the industry average multiple.
The critical part of that process was setting that goal well in advance. When we refitted the pharmacy in 2014, we knew that we intended to exit the business within the next five years in some form. It would have been pointless to try and get the business ready for sale within 12 months as we just weren’t where we wanted to be. Instead, we gave ourselves a long-term goal and created the space to do what was required to get where we needed to go.
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3. Prioritise the things that matter
Something I hear a lot in working with health entrepreneurs is that there’s not enough time to do everything you want to do with your business. It is true that we each have a finite number of hours each day that we can use. That’s outside of our circle of influence and I have experienced first-hand the challenge that comes with balancing all of the things you need to do with all of the things you should be doing.
That being said, it is always a matter of prioritisation. At the end of the day, if you have a clear understanding of who you are trying to serve with your business then you shouldn’t be working on things that don’t further that agenda. You get to decide how you spend your time.
If you find yourself spending time on things that don’t support the business you are trying to build you should be asking yourself why? Do you need to realign your goals, or is it a matter of choosing to put the highest value tasks at the top of your list?
Failing to prioritise your time is the fastest way to run yourself ragged and risk the future of your business at the same time. A big part of this comes back to having a game plan, knowing what to do, and being held accountable to achieving your goals. This is where point number four comes in.
4. Seek a mastery coach
It doesn’t matter how good you are – the pursuit of mastery is always facilitated by a coach. Often when you’re running a small business, there’s a lot of pressure to be good at everything. You end up struggling away with tasks that you haven’t been trained for with no idea whether you’re doing the right thing or not. Knowing what to do is actually quite easy to work out; it tends to be the how that most business owners struggle to work out.
If in doubt, seek out help with the things that aren’t in your wheelhouse. In theory, you could work it all out yourself. But if you want to perform at a high level, you will never regret getting outside help to “critique your form.”
Roger Federer is undoubtably an amazing tennis player, but he wants to be the best. That mindset requires the humility to seek outside help, to hear from someone objective who can tell you where you’re doing well and where you can improve. More importantly, they can tell you how to improve because they’ve got a different perspective than you.
If you’re serious about growing your pharmacy into it’s potential, these four steps will set you on the path to success – whatever that means for you.
Taking the lessons learned to grow his business by $4 million and sell it for 3 times the industry average multiple, he now works as an entrepreneurial coach, business strategist and consultant, for small to multi-national health entrepreneurs helping them to find their own path to success.
You can connect with Zamil through Facebook, Linkedin or on his website