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Embracing Entrepreneurialism
Alex Bongers
New entrepreneurial ideas for innovating business can be a dime a dozen – how do you know what will work in your community pharmacy? Asking your community is the logical…

New entrepreneurial ideas for innovating business can be a dime a dozen – how do you know what will work in your community pharmacy? Asking your community is the logical place to start, says Alex Bongers.

Embracing Entrepreneurialism

The main thing I have learnt from working across different pharmacy settings is not to take anything for granted. A pharmacist plays a different role in a hospital compared to a community pharmacy locally, and both are completely different to a pharmacist’s experience in the South Pacific, or probably anywhere else. Why? Because our practice depends on the needs of our community and our willingness to meet them.

Since managing pharmacies and working at university, I have been exposed to countless entrepreneurial ideas for innovating in health and pharmacy practice from other young pharmacists and pharmacy students. I love this creativity but there is little doubt about our limited success in bringing these innovations to reality.

We should continue sharing these ideas, but we should also consider an extra layer to ensure implementation.

LISTEN TO YOUR MARKET

The first question to ask of every idea is about its relevance to your market. How many customers want a particular service offering in their local pharmacy? Please make sure this question isn’t about what we can (or want to) do – implementing a successful service is not about us, it’s about our customers.

I recently spoke to some young community pharmacists who wanted to introduce HIV rapid tests. Great service, great idea, professionally rewarding – fantastic, right? Not necessarily. If someone needs this service, would they feel comfortable coming in to a pharmacy for it? Probably not, so next idea please. What about services relating to eczema, hay fever and travel health? These conditions are our bread and butter, customers expect our expertise in this area and there are no innovative pharmacy services to address the shortfall in their management.

In my last pharmacy we had a three-hour flu vaccination clinic. It sold out the same morning it was announced in an email to our loyalty card members. Its success had little to do with what we did or wanted to do, it was the market telling us they wanted this service. So we had picked the right service, but we had also identified the demand – that is, we needed more clinic sessions so people with different schedules could attend.

The next year we employed our own nurse practitioner and had three five-hour clinics a week for eight weeks. We also vaccinated hundreds of local workers in their workplaces, not the pharmacy – again, responding to our customers’ needs.

FOUR STEPS TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP

For a new service in your pharmacy:

1. Ask 10 customers, 10 local health professionals, a local government member and their staff about the largest health problems in your location.
2. Take the top three, support them with any available data, then find a solution to the problem within your professional scope of practice.
3. Pitch these three ideas to a friend who doesn’t work in health and ask if they would value these services. If they would, you might be onto an unmet patient need – so ask how much!

For existing pharmacy services:

4. Evaluate the services you provide – how frequently they are marketed/accessed, if they address a community problem, and if they make your pharmacy sustainable. If you have services that are not needed, reconsider continuing them.

A mentor once asked of one of my ideas, “What do you win? How much do you win by? And does anyone care?” In pharmacy, ‘anyone’ is our customers and when they win, we win. Considering this and your market will ensure success in implementing change in your pharmacy.

ALEX BONGERS
2013–2015 Team Leader Pharmacist, Priceline Pharmacy Bourke Street Mall, Australia’s largest pharmacy
2015 Winner of ‘Excellence in Business Management’, QCPP Pharmacy of the Year
2012 Pharmacy Advisor, Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development, Fiji
2011 Intern Pharmacist, Royal Melbourne Hospital