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So, you want to own a pharmacy, Part 1

As pharmacists at some point or another we’ve all had the thought cross our minds. Is ownership for me? For some people the idea strikes no interest. For others it’s in their blood. They knew the day they got their pharmacy school acceptance letter that this is what they wanted to do.

As pharmacists at some point or another we’ve all had the thought cross our minds. Is ownership for me? For some people the idea strikes no interest. For others it’s in their blood. They knew the day they got their pharmacy school acceptance letter that this is what they wanted to do. Then there are those in the middle. Who aren’t quite sure if it is or is not something that is for them. This series of articles will bring some useful concepts, considerations and decisions to help you understand if ownership, and what type of ownership is for you and answer “Are you fit for ownership?”

Pharmacy Human Resources

Being an owner regardless of what type pharmacy you oversee requires you to be a people person. Immediately you are now a people manager and have to deal with all that comes your way.

Staff Recruiting and Management

There are no direct guidelines in being a people manager like there is in a corporate structure. You are no the Human Resources department and as such you’ll be required to understand staffing your pharmacy. You will need to understand how your pharmacy works. What positions are you looking for and what are the skillsets that are needed by those roles. Do I need someone who has a strong retail pharmacy background? Do I need someone who understands billing and reimbursement? Do I have all these skillsets and am open to training someone with no experience? There are a lot of questions to ask yourself about what type staff you will want as well as how you will get your team to where you want them to be.

Personalities and fit are key when staffing. In a pharmacy the number of staff you have is often small as is the space everyone works in. Besides understanding the technical skills your pharmacy needs it’s important to look at your staff’s soft skills. How will this person interact with my patients? How will the handle difficult/demanding patients? And very importantly how will they fit into the team I am building? Your staff’s soft skills can make or break your pharmacy. It’s important to remember that technical skills can always be learnt but an individual’s soft skills are hard to cultivate. Consider giving scenario-based questions in your interview to determine how your new hire might react. Another good way to see how a candidate will fit in is to follow up on references. Speaking to a previous employer and manager can really give insight into your candidate. Finally consider having a probation period before hiring anyone completely. If you know one of your current employees are headed back to school or moving think in advance and trial out a candidate with that employee before committing fully to see how they fit.

Vacation days and Sick days

As the human resources department, it’s important to have a set of policies in place to help give yourself and all staff guidance. It is not always the case that you end up with staff who easily work well together. Sometimes there needs to be structure to ensure that no one member is taken advantage of or no one member abuses their role.

How will you determine vacation days? Will this be done by seniority or will it be a negotiation? Most staff want long weekends off, December off, and summer off. How can you accommodate everyone. One of the fairest ways to do this is have year start vacation sign ups. Have your staff submit the days they would like to request for the upcoming year, 6 months, or 3 months. You can select whichever block works best for your business. If there happen to be two or more staff that want the same day resulting in the store being understaffed have a lottery. Pick it completely at random by draw to show no bias. It’s important that if you are giving multiple members days off at the same that there is at least one regular staff patient for your patients. Relief staff members may not know all the ins and outs of how things work in your pharmacy.

Relief staff can be great to cover days when there is someone who has called in sick or staff have gone on vacation. But pharmacy is a unique business that requires relief staff to be guided on what to and what not to do. Otherwise you and your staff will return to some unhappy customers and extra work. Try to hire relief staff that you know or from a reputable agency. Also consider having a relief staff guidebook available with instructions on certain things. How you would like staff to send orders, if there are any special billing considerations, how to open and how to close. As well as having an available contact if they have any questions during the shift.

Employee Growth

Employee development can sometimes leave you short staffed. However, it is better to have positives employee growth rather than disgruntled employee complacency. There will always be some employees who will be happy where they are and some who have a thirst to learn and develop more. It is important to foster this drive; in many cases it can be beneficial to both the business and the employee. Start by giving increased responsibility. Allow them to take ownership of certain tasks that they enjoy. Whether this is inventory management, billing, services. Having this employee be a subject matter expert and innovate helps both your business and the employee. If available support additional courses and learning. Perhaps this is the individual who can let your provide methadone services, compounding, additional services or centralize. Providing external resources and having them involved in other parts of the business creates loyalty and recognition of that individual. The old saying that they you will train them, and they will leave is not exactly true. A happy employee does not feel the need to leave a position they are content and growing in, however an unhappy and stagnant employee will.

It’s important to remember that you do not have to go it alone. There are agencies who can support you as well as leveraging some of your more senior staff for help.

Pavithra Ravinatarajan RPh is the founder and principal consultant of Pavithra Consulting Inc

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