From Pharmacist to Entrepreneur: Pursuing a Career in Pharmacy Ownership
As a pharmacy student, it is easy to see yourself working behind the counter at a major chain store when you think about your future.
As a pharmacy student, it is easy to see yourself working behind the counter at a major chain store when you think about your future. While this option puts many graduates on a path toward success, a pharmacy degree can offer graduates a variety of opportunities, including the chance to own and operate their own pharmacy.
Independent pharmacy ownership can be challenging, yet rewarding, and enables you to have a significant impact on your patients and the local community. Pharmacy owners are passionate and resilient; they’re determined to go above and beyond for their patients, and deeply care about the individuals who come through their door.
Are you an aspiring pharmacist with an entrepreneurial spirit? As you prepare to walk across the stage with your diploma in hand, consider these tips on how to one day buy your own pharmacy:
Identify Your Target Location
First and foremost, you should identify where you’d like to open a store. The breadth of your target area and willingness to relocate will impact how long it takes to acquire a pharmacy. Create a list of independent pharmacies within your locations of interest. If you’re not sure where to begin, you can find local pharmacies by reaching out to state pharmacy associations or by doing a quick search online. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you think about your target location:
- How many people live in the town? What is the age distribution? What is the standard income level?
- How large is the pharmacy’s customer base?
- What service does the pharmacy offer?
- What is their competition?
- Is there potential for growth?
In addition to determining your ideal location, begin establishing a connection with professionals in the field who can help you lay the groundwork for acquiring your business.
Get Ready to Sell Yourself
If you have your eyes set on a pharmacy, it’s never too early to start building your credibility and making yourself known within the community. Prepare a one-page overview of your accomplishments, niche services expertise, and personal goals for the future. Similar to a resume, this should be something that you can leave with an owner to help them remember you and your plans for the success of the store.
It’s also helpful to surround yourself with likeminded students, professionals, and coaches who will motivate you throughout the process. By joining an organization or networking with individuals you can relate to, you’ll feel more inspired to pursue your goal of pharmacy ownership. For example, Cardinal Health offers a Women in Pharmacy program that empowers female pharmacists to believe in their ability as a business owner and reach for their dream of being successful, independent pharmacy owners. The program also provides the business resources needed to build your portfolio and enhance your professional experience.
Connect and Build Relationships
Once you finish school, it may be beneficial to work full time for at least a couple of years at either a chain or independent pharmacy. During this time, you’ll gain valuable experience and expertise to position yourself as a future pharmacy owner.
As you improve your knowledge and skillset, focus on fostering a relationship with a pharmacy owner. Introduce yourself to the pharmacist and their staff and ask them about their story, their challenges, and their successes. In addition, you can inquire about employment to work in their store or shadowing opportunities to experience the owner’s day-to-day routine. You should also consider getting involved in a special project that the owner hasn’t had time or resource to invest in yet. This will give the owner the opportunity to get to know you, see your work ethic in action, and build trust.
By building this type of relationship, you’ll not only gain a valuable resource to help you grow, but you’ll also become a trustworthy connection to whom the pharmacy owner may see themselves selling their store one day.
It’s important to bear in mind that independent pharmacists have a strong connection to their community; they value one-on-one interaction with their patients and strive to have a meaningful impact on their lives. If a pharmacist is interested in selling their store, they’ll want to ensure their patients will be left in good hands.
As you enter the workforce, focus on building a credible portfolio. Think about why the current pharmacy owner should consider you to continue their pharmacy’s legacy.
- What is your vision that will drive the pharmacy forward?
- What ways can you help the owner build their business today?
- Is there a particular niche or service you could propose that would be of value to their customers?
Have the Conversation
Once you create a relationship with a store owner, craft a business plan that you can present to them. This will help articulate to the owner how you would take care of their store, their staff and their customers, and ensure their store will grow and remain successful.
Remember, community pharmacy is often a pharmacy owner’s life legacy. Their business is one of the largest facets of their life—both personally and professionally—with a lot of sweat, tears, passion and pride behind it. Be sensitive to the owner’s timing and personal circumstances when engaging in any transition discussions.
As a pharmacy student, you’re able to pursue many exciting opportunities as you embark upon your career in the profession. If you dream of owning a pharmacy, making an impact on a community and providing more personal care, you can make that happen. It’s never too early to start planning for your future; by investing in valuable resources that help you pursue your goals, you can get started on the right path toward independent pharmacy ownership.
A Pharmacy Ownership Success Story
Aimee O’Reilly, PharmD, opened the doors to her first pharmacy, O’Reilly Family Pharmacy, during the spring of 2017 after many years of hard work and determination. She was ready to be one of a growing number of female pharmacy owners in the United States. In her search for the perfect store, she spent her time networking with female pharmacists, gaining experience, and building her confidence to one day become her own boss.
Prior to buying a store, she worked for an independent pharmacy for 4 years and was exposed to behind-the-scenes work, such as setting up a budget and tracking inventory. In addition, O’Reilly was involved with Cardinal Health’s Women in Pharmacy initiative, which ultimately helped connect her to the pharmacy she ended up purchasing from, and offered a community of pharmacists to network with as she prepared for the pharmacy purchase and transition. O’Reilly will be the first to tell you that the path to pharmacy ownership is challenging, but it’s very doable if you have the passion. Through preparation and valuable connections, O’Reilly made her dream a reality.
John Fiacco, RPh, is the vice president of Pharmacy Transition Services at Cardinal Health.