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Ask The Coach
Peter Switzer
The Health Destination Study was something of a call to action – but just what action do you need to set it motion? Leading business coach and our Editor Peter Switzer shares how… 

The Health Destination Study was something of a call to action – but just what action do you need to set it motion? Leading business coach and our Editor Peter Switzer shares how community pharmacies can benefit from a helping hand.

 
Ask The Coach

A clear goal for pharmacy businesses is to maximise efficiency and when the ultimate dividend is a win-win situation of a better service model that better serves the health needs of the community, then this is a serious issue that needs to be tackled in a professional manner.

Could you imagine a professional football team actually turning up to play without a coach? So it begs the question: could a pharmacy go up a level, and would its value to the community be ramped up, if its inputs were changed and improved thanks to business coaching?

The obvious conclusion would have to be ‘yes’ unless you are already a bi-product of great coaching or you have made a relentless commitment to objectively analysing the way you do business. That might mean that you have researched the ‘best of business’ books that tell you how the likes of Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and countless greats of business have stood out from the crowd. And, more importantly, that you have not only learnt from them but you have actually changed!

All of these three great business builders have had a relentless commitment to being first rate and listening aggressively to what their customers want. In turn, listening to your patients – to your community – has to be the starting point of great service.

WHAT DOES A BUSINESS COACH DO?

Matthew Michalewicz, the author Life in Half a Second and the founder of a number of IT businesses, argues a business coach facilitates greater progress in the business and it comes from better decision-making, which often is achieved via less emotion and more logic. "An experienced coach can keep a business owner focused and accountable to the goals they've set, and provide valuable insight and problem-solving skills when the inevitable challenges and obstacles crop up along the way," he points out.

Coaches have the capacity to create the action that will start the ball rolling on effective change, which is something many individuals really have an enormous difficulty with. That’s why if you want to lose weight you sign up with a tough dietician and if you want to get fit you pay a personal trainer to pick you up five mornings a week!

Barbara Warren is a coach who teaches business leaders to get comfortable speaking in public, talking to their teams or stakeholders. At the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), she taught some of the most proficient CEOs, executives, accountants and business owners to get comfortable in their discomfort zone of public speaking. Now in business for herself with Dramatic Difference Training, she thinks coaching actually brings out a whole lot more than what the clients actually think they need to fix and that’s the big pay-off for anyone who engages in it.

Dr Alison Roberts did not mince her words when she concluded that a “new approach to developing understanding of the service business model was urgently needed”.

"Coaching gives anyone the opportunity to clarify, extend and enhance their skills and objectives," she explained. "It is such a broad area of work yet requires very detailed and accurate analysis. A client can describe a challenge but the self-diagnosis is often inaccurate – that's where a good coach can make a huge difference. That's why I love it – people often think they need coaching in very particular areas then through articulating their own brief they pinpoint the very thing that needs addressing. So coaching facilitates open, honest dialogue and when that happens people know what they are truly pursuing.

I believe coaching achieves a broadening of awareness, greater focus, increased confidence, different perspectives and attainment of goals."

Barbara captures the emotional dividend of coaching that translates into an awesome potential for change, not only for the business owner, but for his or her whole team and the infectious positivity can spread to customers creating an unimaginable virtuous circle.

COACHING WORKS – YES EVEN FOR PHARMACISTS!

The business coaching experience was recently trialed in the world of pharmacy in what was called The Health Destination study and its leader Dr Alison Roberts concluded "that community pharmacies may benefit from coaching to provide targeted, on-site support to assist their preparation for change and to integrate new professional programs and services over time".

By adding a business coach to a community pharmacy, who brought targeted education and practical assistance in the development of viable service models, the goal was to show that this would "improve the overall capacity of community pharmacy to make the transition to a business orientation for professional services delivery".

In a nutshell, it means a much better provider of key health services to those who depend on and put so much faith in their local pharmacist.

"A good coach helps beat the obstacles to progress and that’s exactly what many pharmacists have to confront."

The study started with a 10-year-old premise as a motivator: "Pharmacists are being urged to change their practice, but many do not have a clear picture of how the new practice model is to fit into current reality".

However the pressure on pharmacists looks to be at unprecedented levels with change coming from everywhere including PBS reforms, Community Pharmacy Agreements, online services, more educated and arguably more demanding customers and new, emerging pharmacy sections of other bigger businesses that may offer drug dispensing only.

Alison believes that while some first movers are embracing innovation for the larger part of the sector it is 'business as usual'.

The study laid down strong set of beliefs about what is unchallengeable when defining the status quo. They look like this:

• Pharmacists have to fully utilise their skills and knowledge to improve health outcomes for consumers
• Pharmacists remain among the most trusted of all health professionals as well as being the most accessible
• None of this is of any use to consumers, however, if pharmacists and pharmacies are unable to make the necessary changes to their practice
• Finally, and importantly, programs or services that have been shown to have good outcomes for consumers do not automatically translate to being easy to implement in practice

Coaches have the capacity to create the action that will start the ball rolling on effective change, which is something many individuals really have an enormous difficulty with.

Alison did not mince her words when she concluded that a "new approach to developing understanding of the service business model was urgently needed".

But she did not stop there, adding, "... Services cannot just be added as the next 'retail category' ... everything from philosophy of practice and vision, to customer service and staffing, will need to be built from the ground up ... A new approach, developing understanding of the service business model, is urgently required."

You'd have to be unwilling to think outside the square if you could not see the role of a coach to make these requisite changes happen.

Barbara thinks a good coach helps beat the obstacles to progress and that’s exactly what many pharmacists have to confront.

"Usually people who take on coaching benefit from the realisation that we all have to re-invent ourselves and it's certainly an asset to have someone along for the journey who can professionally guide the process,” she says. “The success lies in breaking through those barriers, realising that change is necessary and then having the discipline to put it into action."

Ah, action. It's one thing to talk about success in serving the community better but it's another to change yourself to make it happen. My experience with people who needed to know how to genuinely embrace the change necessary to make their business grow was to be really clear about the goals.

SET GOALS, AND MOVE TOWARDS THEM

"Every business owner should define exactly what outcome or goal they're trying to achieve – whether it be a better service, more work/life balance, etc.," Michalewicz insists. "Success for someone who takes on coaching is the achievement of these pre-defined outcomes and goals."

"Ah, action. It's one thing to talk about success in serving the community better but it's another to change yourself to make it happen."

And in the case of pharmacists there is a dual goal of not only being sustainable, but raising the calibre of the healthcare service delivered to the community. The need to deliver for better health outcomes is so obvious for a community pharmacy but when you look at the best business success stories the founder often has a crusade-like passion for his or her customers and it explains why they do so well. And many of these business greats admit they have had external objective eyes driving them to dream more and achieve more.

THE HEALTH DESTINATION STUDY – FROM A COACH’S PERSPECTIVE

The Health Destination Study was born out of a questioning: questioning just what a sustainable model of community pharmacy looked like. And, once it was uncovered, the tangible steps that needed to be taken to realise it.

While the each of the participants held dear their own specific goals, overall, as Alison writes, the trial group of 14 pharmacies "shared certain goals and these were established with the assistance of the coach. And few things were off-limits."

But was it a win-win outcome? Alison reveals that not only were pharmacists boosted by the outcomes, their customers were too. When asked – and it's key that they were asked– it became clear that the reinvention of the pharmacist as a primary healthcare provider had them on side, as did the repositioning of the pharmacy as a healthcare destination.

A coach – more often than not – is the impetus for asking those questions, for encouraging you to reach higher and to set goals – or, if you prefer, KPIs – that make a tangible difference to the way your community perceives you. And those steps to achieve the goals need to be as specific as possible.

"We can't manage what we don't measure," Michalewicz lectures. "Every business should have KPIs, but so should every employee. How can business owners effectively manage staff if their KPIs are missing or poorly constructed? How will the business owner know who is performing or under performing, and on what metric? Every person in a business needs to have KPIs that are mutually agreed to, and performance should be measured to those."

Of course, a key KPI is the calibre of the service to the customer and that was a central issue in the Health Destination trials.

THE NEXT STEPS – COURSE OF ACTION

Ask The Coach

So, at this stage I suspect some pharmacists mindful of the investment implication of working with a coach might be pondering whether there is a cookie cutter program that could do the job? Well, there can be but they will only do a part of the job. History shows we need people in our life prodding us to try harder, think smarter and innovate better.

"Like any diet or athletic program a person will go through periods where certain things hit the mark and others lead to a place of comfort / plateau, the plan should be organic and a good coach will keep their eye on what is working,” counsels Warren. “What is stretching a client and where to ease up – especially if frustrations creep in – is the role of a good coach. It is also important to exercise agility when learning, as flexibility brings new perspectives and demonstrates awareness to changes that may be occurring and a coach must encourage this flexibility."

I started note talking about the challenges facing community pharmacies and I have argued and shown a study that suggests that coaching could be the answer, but to ram home my argument consider the view of one of the greatest inventor of all time and the founder of GE – Thomas Edison – who advised: "If there’s a better way to do it, find it!"

And let me add, that all business is a people game but few businesses are so person-oriented as pharmacy and that's why you have to develop a winning culture in your people and it will flow through to your customer/patients.

However, the willingness to win starts with you, the leader. With big businesses performing badly and with sporting teams that lose too often, the CEO and the coach are usually the first to go. Most owner pharmacists won’t sack themselves, but with a coach they could lift their game and with the challenges for community pharmacies, that simply has to happen before it’s too late!