Norm Talkowski — former owner of Bloomfield Drug, Pittsburg, PA
After more than three decades of dedication to his local community, Norm Talkowski — previous owner of Bloomfield Drug in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — just felt the time was right, both professionally and personally, to sell his store.
A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy (class of 1973), he worked at an independent pharmacy while he was in school. He immediately felt an affinity for the daily operations and patient interactions of the local community pharmacy, which has stayed with him throughout his career as an independent pharmacy owner. In 1979, he was offered the opportunity to purchase the store he had been working for, so he took the leap into pharmacy ownership. During his first few years as a pharmacy owner, he began his partnership with McKesson and says “we’ve been family ever since.”
When he decided it was time to retire, he turned to McKesson’s RxOwnership program to better understand his options. Once he became aware of all of the resources that were available through the program, it seemed the practical choice. Plus, he would be working with trusted friends at McKesson, whom Norm considers a “team of individuals that shared my experiences and knowledge, and had my best interests as their priority.”
He started by extensively reading and using the tools made publicly available on the RxOwnership website (www.rxownership.com), such as the pharmacy valuation calculator. Then he contacted the team directly to review his own calculations of his pharmacy’s value and get their advice for developing a step-by-step plan to make it all happen.
The RxOwnership team possesses specific expertise and knowledge about the complicated and unexpected components involved in the sale of an independent pharmacy. For Norm, their knowledge of today’s independent market reinforced that his decisions regarding the sale of his business, which he spent 35 years building, were sound. Without resources and advice from RxOwnership, Norm felt the entire process would have been “much more stressful, and after it was finalized, I would still be second-guessing my decisions.”
Once Norm put his store on the market, a chain buyer approached him with an offer that was approximately 25 to 30% more than another offer from an independent pharmacy. However, the offer from the chain was for one lump sum at closing, which has high tax implications. Plus, he worried over whether his long-term employees would still have jobs after he sold his pharmacy to a chain, and whether his loyal community would still receive the personalized service he and his staff had provided for so many years. The advice he received from RxOwnership helped him think through all the implications that he wouldn’t have considered on his own.
What he finally decided is that the highest price is not always the best price, and knowing that he would be leaving his employees and the community in a good situation would help him sleep at night. So Norm chose to sell his store to another independent pharmacy, which was the best choice for him. He would be able to keep it all in the same “family” and he knew what he was leaving behind would continue in the same manner he had worked so hard and for so many years to maintain. Plus, he was able to negotiate payment terms that would benefit his individual tax liabilities and that of the buyer. It was a winning situation for all parties involved.
His former store, Bloomfield Drug Store, is now owned by Tasso Liartis and the corporation known as Bloomfield Health Mart Pharmacy, Inc. The store name stayed the same, the employees remained and the wholesaler stayed the same. According to Norm, the advantage of his successor store being a Health Mart pharmacy is that it will carry on for years what he has worked so long and hard to create. Being a part of Health Mart from the early beginnings, Norm says, “I can attest to all the work and enormous expense that McKesson has invested to create a franchise that can help make an independent successful if it follows the franchise steps and tools available for a reasonable cost. If a store is willing to do what needs to be done to beat the competition and create something they will be proud to own, Health Mart is the obvious choice.”
Norm’s words of advice to independent pharmacies that are looking to sell their store?
For starters, do your own homework and be prepared for every aspect of what will be involved, especially all of the hidden costs and all of the people that will be affected by the decisions you are about to make. Then, find and work with experts and others that have gone through the same experience. “RxOwnership is a program that will give you a unique perspective on the world of pharmacy, particularly as an independent,” Norm says. “When the time feels right in your heart and gut, seek out their advice on buyers who share your values and want to build on what you’ve worked so hard to create.” Finally, if and when possible, “You will not go wrong by keeping it in the family, with Health Mart and McKesson.”