Vicki Einhellig, R.Ph.
President, COO
Good Day Pharmacy
Loveland, Colorado (nine locations)

An interview with Vicki Einhellig

What attracted you to the pharmacy business?

Vicki Einhellig: I decided on the pharmacy path when I was in high school because of my love of math and science. It was a very straightforward journey for me. I didn’t grow up in pharmacy but my cousin and his wife were both pharmacists in Colorado. I found a paper that I wrote in my junior year of high school that professed my goal to be successful in pharmacy, just like my cousin. It took me a while to admit that to him.

What career path did you take to achieve your ownership goals?

VE: At age 22, I earned my B.S. Pharm. degree from the University of Iowa, and began practicing through an ASHP accredited Hospital Residency at University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, Iowa. I managed the psychiatric satellite facility following the residency and was very much on the clinical hospital track. I had a job offer in Scottsdale, Arizona, at a local hospital, but knowing that I would gain amazing experience with the intensive residency, I chose to stay in Iowa. Following the residency, I was hired as a clinical pharmacist in psychiatry. I was also able to participate with the college in a rotation site for the Pharm.D. candidates. I loved my position and Iowa City. And I am still a huge Hawkeye fan!

A few years later after I was married, I connected with my cousin and his wife, both pharmacists in Colorado, and we ultimately became partners at Good Day Pharmacy. In 1985, my cousin had recently purchased an independent pharmacy in Loveland, Colorado. It was 1992 when my family moved to Colorado (there was the added draw of skiing and hiking). Since that year, my cousin, his wife, and I bought, started or sold fourteen pharmacies and currently operate nine. The plan was for me to work for him temporarily until I found my “real” position. Ha! I celebrated my 25th anniversary with the company this year. Unbelievable.

For most of my 25 years practicing pharmacy, I have been in community pharmacy. My experience is extensive and includes compounding, long-term care, DME and consulting. My primary role with Good Day Pharmacy is managing the operations for our nine pharmacies. For the first nine years with our company, I spent most of the time working as a pharmacist, building a foundation for growth with our team, patients and communities. The second half of my tenure has been spent identifying and developing areas to improve and expand our market share. I am innovative in my professional and personal life and approach challenges with energy and optimism. I have a strong operational sense and a direct, yet equitable style. I feel it is crucial to be engaged as a pharmacy owner to be responsive to the changing industry. Women bring considerable value in management teams and their lens provides a unique perspective. I am a strong woman and am not afraid to take a leadership role with my peers.

What characteristics proved most helpful in developing your career?

VE: Curiosity has been important, really trying to learn as much as possible from both experiences and other pharmacy owners. I also value collaboration, empathy, sense of humor, resilience, passion and problem solving. At our company, as partners, we have compatible skills that benefit the business overall.

Early in your career, how did you prepare for a leadership position or business ownership?

VE: The time spent as a resident at University of Iowa offered an environment to develop leadership skills. I worked with various positions in the teaching hospital, managed projects and presented to our staff pharmacists. It was an accelerated path to gain exposure to both the clinical and administrative side of pharmacy. APhA offered a week-long management program in the late 1990s that I participated in right about the time I became a partner in our four-pharmacy chain. Both of these structured opportunities helped create a foundation for both leadership and ownership. The rest of the preparation was just working in the pharmacy and on the business every day. My cousin and partner David Lamb has been a generous mentor over the years, especially on the business side. I also participated in a PDS leadership program that I recommend for the quality of the sessions as well as the valuable networking with others in the same role.

What is your experience with mentors, influential leaders or others who inspired you to reach for success?

VE: I was fortunate to be able to initially work with my cousin and his wife. RxPlus is our local Networking/GPO, founded by independent pharmacists. They were an invaluable resource early on, allowing me to learn from other pharmacy owners. We also belong to a couple of small networking groups in which we can share ideas in a non-competitive setting. Our team inspires me on a daily basis. The work they do for our customers and each other is remarkable and humbling.

What advice can you give to women entrepreneurs entering the field?

VE: Begin connecting as soon as possible — even as early as student rotations with local pharmacies or hospitals. Connect with pharmacists, wholesalers, NCPA and others. Pharmacy is a small world and there are plenty of resources and mentors looking for pharmacists focused on independent pharmacy. There are many in the field willing to help those on their way up in the industry. Plus, with all the changes in community as it is practiced today, it’s as exciting as it’s ever been to be in independent pharmacy today.

What are the primary barriers to female pharmacy ownership?

VE: I don’t really see barriers to ownership. There is still a belief/evidence to suggest that the corporate world may have barriers to women reaching top positions. In terms of ownership, as long as you have the drive, save your money (or have access to some resources), and work hard, it is available to you. I know three female owners that have been incredibly successful.

As a successful independent pharmacy owner, how do you manage a work/life balance?

VE: Intention. It is easy to work 12-hour days because there is just that much to do and more. And, it can be done by prioritizing and training your team. I am fortunate to have had an infrastructure of support throughout my career allowing me the flexibility to have kids in school and balance my work responsibilities. It is also an advantage to be part of a multi-owner business. Pharmacy ownership definitely offers more flexibility than working in a traditional position at a larger organization or major chain.

What are the challenges and advantages for women in pharmacy?

VE: Challenges might include learning to delegate as some women tend to try to “do it all,” and leaning on others is extremely helpful and necessary. Empathy can be a strength and a weakness but is essential to leadership and connecting with patients. I believe men and women are equally capable of success in independent pharmacy, though it is difficult for me to compare. I live by the motto: “I’m capable of doing anything that I put my mind to.”

Are there any organizations or events you recommend that could help women entering the business?

VE: McKesson RxOwnership® programming and annual McKesson ideaShare conference, and the IPC annual meeting.

How did you find location and financing to open your pharmacy?

VE: We consulted the services offered by RxOwnership and took to heart their message that to be successful you need a roadmap for your business. One of our junior partners attended one of their workshops to learn more about ownership and to find the right resources we needed. It was the right support for him to break out on his own at the right time.

What would you like to see pharmacy schools teach about owning your own pharmacy?

VE: Business courses aren’t really a part of earning a pharmacist’s degree, so you really need to develop those skills outside of a typical pharmacy school curriculum or partner with someone who has that experience.

What would you like to see pharmacy schools teach about owning your own pharmacy?

VE: Business courses aren’t really a part of earning a pharmacist’s degree, so you really need to develop those skills outside of a typical pharmacy school curriculum or partner with someone who has that experience.

8 Questions

1. Best career advice: Follow up and follow through.

2. The three qualities that got me where I am today: Optimism, resourcefulness and sincerity.

3. What made me want to be an entrepreneur? I fell into it, and stayed with it because I love seeing my ideas through.

4. Change I’d like to see in my industry: Provider status for pharmacists.

5. Favorite quotes:

  • Whether you think you can or you can’t you’re right. — Henry Ford
  • Don’t let your inability to do everything, undermine your determination to do something. — Cory Booker

6. Favorite perk of the job: Flexibility.

7. Your career in five years: I will have developed my leadership team enough that they won’t need me.

8. Who you most admire and why: My mom. She is the strongest person in my life and where I get my drive. And she is hilarious.