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Pharmpreneur of the week AJ Asgari, PharmD: “…the most exciting thing about being an entrepreneur is the unknown.”

The biggest challenge being an entrepreneur is the fact there is no playbook. You have to be willing to take a roller coaster ride that doesn't stop. There are no brakes, there's no getting off the ride, and you must commit to every up, down, loop, and turn.
AJ Asgari


CEO/Founder of drugstore2door
Multi-pharmacy owner

What excites you about being an entrepreneur?

I think the most exciting thing about being an entrepreneur is the unknown. Entrepreneurship is a place that knows no bounds. Its creation is completely up to the entrepreneur and its delivery is completely dependent upon the execution of that entrepreneur. This brings both big challenges and big opportunities.  

How has your entrepreneurial career evolved since your graduation?

My endeavours into entrepreneurship began early. Upon pharmacy school graduation I immediately sought out purchasing my first pharmacy while working at CVS. I made my first deal using only my mouth, goodwill, and my work ethic. Mind you, this was while I was covered under more than $150,000 of student debt. This first store led me to begin to buy more locations, start-up locations, and even in some instances buy and sell locations. I've done many things outside of pharmacy including business consulting, real estate investing, business investments, even gotten into banking as a board member and an investor. In the pharmacy world, I started to really see opportunities to help more holistically. The deeper and deeper I got into pharmacy ownership and consulting for pharmacies eventually led to the creation of drugstore2door. We are on a blazing path with drugstore2door to empower independent pharmacies with an online presence that slingshots them into the present future and allows them to extend their stores into the online world where all the consumers’ attention is going. It is where I spend most of my time and energy as I feel it is imperative to get independent pharmacy caught up as quickly as possible!

What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?

My drive to become an entrepreneur almost felt genetic. I know it was most likely conditioning from growing up in a household where my dad owned his own small business, but that’s how early it felt ingrained in me. There was always something intriguing and exciting about everything starting and stopping with me. That was a responsibility I felt like I had to own and I have continued to look through the lenses of an entrepreneur ever since. 

How do you define success?

My definition of success has changed with every stage of my journey. In my early career, success was defined by the money you could make, then it began to transition to the time you could buy back and spend in places you wanted to spend it. I still believe the latter to be true but with a caveat. Anyone in pursuit of greatness who is working to really make a change in the world is going to give up some time in that process. So, where I stand today with my definition of success is … waking up with purpose, with challenges, with the ups, with the downs, with family, and with all of the things life brings. It has become more and more clear that the more at peace you can be with the journey, your ability to be surrounded by the people you love and want to be around will make all of the elements of the journey worth the ride!

As a successful entrepreneur, what continues to drive you?

It really comes down to purpose. When you know you're solving a problem that's going to help many and you are looking for ways to provide that solution to as many people as possible, it drives you far beyond the ability to make money. I have actually found that I am more willing to leave profit on the table in the pursuit of my mission in independent pharmacy. In addition, I had the luxury of seeing hard work and dedication from my father. As a father, I want my daughter to not only hear the words that I say but know that I live them to the fullest every day. I believe family is wrapped up in purpose and together creates a strong force that results in the drive to get up and do! I want to leave a legacy of keeping promises not only to others but those made to oneself. The effort impacts all facets of life.

What are the biggest challenges to being an entrepreneur?

The biggest challenge being an entrepreneur is the fact there is no playbook. You have to be willing to take a roller coaster ride that doesn't stop. There are no brakes, there's no getting off the ride, and you must commit to every up, down, loop, and turn. In addition, there are many parallels between businesses. It is important, in my opinion, to get out of your own echo chamber and learn as much as possible through collaboration and experience shared with like-minded individuals. You will be surprised at the value you can extract from one another and immediately implement into your business. Entrepreneurship can feel like a very isolated and lonely place even though you are surrounded by many. There are entrepreneurs on their own journeys in businesses that share similar issues as you and I. I have found it is incredibly beneficial to spend time within those circles.

How do you manage work/life balance?

The question of work-life balance tends to come up a lot. I'm a firm believer that work-life balance is not a counterweight that balances a scale, but more like a teeter-totter. It is up to the riders of the teeter-totter to continually work back and forth, to shift weight from one side to the other. In my opinion, it will always be out of balance and require the effort of both sides to make sure each gets the attention they deserve. As long as this question always remains top of mind then by default it will bring a conscious awareness to consistently recalibrate.

What books/resources do you recommend for every entrepreneur to check out?

Books and materials change as you progress through your journey. A foundational book that really got me to think at a higher level was “Think and Grow Rich.” I believe once you have the right mindset and unwavering belief that you're going to find a way, then there are many books to learn from along your journey. Those resources will help you to shortcut missteps and increase your probability for success. There are a couple others that sharpen your skillset as you begin to bring on more and more peopleOne of those was “Crucial Conversations” and the other was "Getting More.” No matter what you do in entrepreneurship, I believe one must be able to sell their vision and communicate effectively. I thought these two books did a good job on both topics. 

What advice would you give to colleagues who want to become entrepreneurs?

Begin with self-reflection and have a good understanding of what it is they truly want. If they believe what they want is what they deserve and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get there, then the advice gets more straightforward. There's a huge need for new entrepreneurs to understand the principles of delayed gratification. Almost everything that is great takes time and in that “nurture cycle” there is not a ton of instant gratification. It tends to come much later. The positive side is that most people could easily go back to their previous job if everything failed. I think this is the most profound mindset one could have as it resets your fear threshold. The fact that you're living your potential worst-case scenario now gives you the confidence to go try! I also firmly believe that great organizations not only have entrepreneurs but phenomenal intrapreneurs. This goes back to understanding what environment you would thrive in. I have some phenomenal intrapreneurs in my endeavours who own all the things that belong to them without the weight of the whole! This allows them to really shine in an environment that feeds opportunities that may not have existed for them otherwise. 

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