Sri Popuri — English Apothecary, Bethel, CT

1. What’s your background as far as school and being a pharmacist?

I attended college and received a bachelor’s degree in India prior to moving to the U.S., where I also attended Shenandoah University School of Pharmacy in Winchester, Virginia, for a traditional PharmD degree. I then went to work at Walmart and moved quickly into management to learn more about marketing management techniques, business operations and customer service.

2. What was your motivation to buy your pharmacy?

I knew I wanted to start or buy my own pharmacy early on and prepared myself by learning the skills needed to succeed in a studied and practical way.

3. Why did you decide to engage McKesson’s RxOwnership®?

I started my research a year before buying my first business. I looked at the demographics and opportunities in the same community as the chain where I worked because I knew I’d be able to provide more comprehensive services for the community. I looked for online resources that could help me start my own pharmacy and came across RxOwnership.

4. What role or roles did RxOwnership play in making this happen? Any service in particular that stood out?

A McKesson representative, now National Vice President, RxOwnership, Chris Cella, contacted me and immediately helped me by providing advice on securing loans, available McKesson financing options, and potential locations for starting a pharmacy. With Chris’s advice, we looked at the potential of a startup versus buying an existing business. I determined that the existing business I found, and partnering with McKesson and the Health Mart® brand, afforded me the quickest path to success. Beyond working with my RxOwnership Advisor, the due diligence and the analytics provided a concrete basis for my first purchase that I couldn’t have found anywhere else.

A standout experience was my first NCPA Ownership Workshop. There, I learned from experts using a step-by-step process, including topics such as pharmacy evaluation and how to finance and buy an existing store. I really appreciated that McKesson offered me a one-stop shop for business advice, including pharmacy operations and products, AccessHealth, purchasing group options, and innovative programs that help me keep up with industry changes. I also like that my McKesson sales manager, Tim Rose, can inform me about other services related to pharmacy, not only ordering and services offered by McKesson.

5. How would your experience have differed if RxOwnership wasn’t there to help?

The only way to start a pharmacy is through McKesson. I don’t know any other way, but to go through the training they offer and learn the steps to understand what is involved with buying a pharmacy.

6. What is the best thing about owning a pharmacy?

I enjoy that I get to run my pharmacy my way. When you work for a chain, you can only do so much for your patients. At my own pharmacy, I can give individual patient care with no limits — you have the freedom you wouldn’t otherwise have.

7. What advice would you give other pharmacists thinking about buying or adding stores?

I was on a six-month to one-year plan for getting a business up and running. You have to know everything that is involved with buying or opening a pharmacy in a particular market. I owned a pharmacy within a year.

You have to introduce yourself to McKesson and industry peers that can provide you a clear picture of all the details involved in buying a pharmacy, including financing options and all the other nuts and bolts that go along with managing a business.

8. What would you say to a pharmacy student about ownership?

Most pharmacy schools don’t teach the business side of pharmacy, so working with an established community pharmacy or chain is a practical route to learning the management and business operations side. I highly recommend the NCPA Ownership Workshops sponsored by McKesson and the Health Mart Town Hall meetings that allow you to gain knowledge and skills outside of school. Get involved in everything from financing and cost analysis to pharmacy staffing and marketing.

9. Where do you see the store or business in five years?

I am always looking at new service offerings such as medication synchronization, patient regime compliance and other proactive solutions so I can stay ahead of this ever-changing industry. It’s no longer about the number of prescriptions I can fill; it’s about ensuring that my current client base is maximized and receiving the proper care. The Medicine-On-Time® program is a great success: doctors like it, our patients are more compliant with their medications, and I can offer fully packaged prescriptions, plus OTC products that seniors can use to improve adherence.

10. As a Health Mart pharmacy, how important do you feel being part of Health Mart is for your business?

Health Mart serves as my marketing hub and provides extensive help in multiple areas. Health Mart has the offers, services and advice for success. I believe you need to belong to a group such as Health Mart where all the costs are easily justified by a suite of marketing services, including online tools and local marketing flyers and programs that work in our community.

11. What specific services/programs have you incorporated into the business to differentiate your pharmacy?

We’ve distinguished our pharmacy as a local information resource for community members’ healthcare needs and we provide answers to their questions whether or not they are customers. We’re fully involved in specialized compounding, immunization and vaccine services, and medication synchronization — this helps differentiate us from our competition.

12. Any additional comments?

McKesson is the only wholesaler with a full-circle solution where you can start with RxOwnership, then continue with financing, contracting, advertising, buying group affiliation, third-party contracts, and the list goes on. You have access to everything you need and it keeps it simple. When I call Tim Rose, my McKesson sales manager, I know I will always get an answer. He goes above and beyond to help us find the solutions we need — from finding out-of-stock items at alternative distribution centers to providing new ideas to help me help my patients.