Key considerations for opening your store
- Assess the design of your pharmacy
- Create a professional and welcoming environment
- Evaluate your pharmacy’s automation and security needs
- Determine your product mix and other business needs
- Create an operations manual to guide your business
- Build a team of talented, trusted employees
- Develop a proactive marketing plan
Assess the design of your pharmacy
If you are purchasing an existing pharmacy, evaluate the store to determine the specific design and layout improvements that should be made. For a new building or refurbishment of an existing space, you can design your store from the ground up.
Here are a few steps to opening a pharmacy:
- Lay out the pharmacy behind the counter for maximum workflow efficiency
- Configure the front end of the store for proper product adjacencies; proximity to the pharmacy counter of products that require patient counseling such as diabetic supplies, analgesics and vitamins; and ability to see all areas of the store and detect theft
- Make your store accessible and inviting to patients with disabilities by planning to accommodate walkers, wheelchairs and other mobility aids
- Evaluate existing space or create appropriate space for sponsored clinical services, immunizations, counseling, etc.
The Health Mart® website has many additional resources to help with your store setup.
Create a professional and welcoming environment
Ideally, you’ll want to select environmental and décor elements that make your pharmacy an easy and inviting place to shop.
Brand identity, including both exterior and interior signage and décor, are important ways that your pharmacy communicates with patients. The brand positions you, the pharmacist, as an important community healthcare resource.
Above all else, the environment you create should convey trust, personal service, and the overall feel of a progressive, contemporary pharmacy.
Health Mart provides helpful tools, resources and support to help independent pharmacists create a professional and welcoming environment.
Evaluate your pharmacy’s automation and security needs
The right technology systems can help you run a more efficient, cost-effective pharmacy business. You may want to start by evaluating your short- and long-term automation needs. For example, if you are purchasing an existing pharmacy that is filling 150 or more scripts per day, you may want to request an automation study to determine the financial savings possible with automation.
Security is a component of automation systems that few pharmacies can do without. If an adequate security system is not already in place, you will want to carefully evaluate and select a security system that meets the needs of your store.
You may also need to select the on-hold music and messaging that will be played in your pharmacy and on the telephone. Choose music and messaging that meet the ambiance you want to create in your pharmacy and for your patients on the phone.
McKesson Pharmacy Systems (MPS) offers a range of highly functional products and services to support the automation and management of independent pharmacies.
Determine your product mix and other business needs
As a pharmacy owner, you are part pharmacist and part retailer. As a retailer, you may need to review systems and pricing matrices to determine what products to stock and how to price the merchandise. That includes evaluating the best mix of private-label products and brand-name products for your store. Visit the NCPA Ownership Academy to learn more.
As a retail business, you’ll also manage the sales operation and acquiring the proper business systems and services, such as:
- Point-of-sale system
- Fax machine
- High-speed Internet
- Bank courier service
- Cleaning and maintenance service
- Telephone service
- Office supplies
Joining a franchise program such as Health Mart gives you the tools to create a retail environment that is attractive and shopper-friendly. From customizable décor to professional merchandisers, Health Mart can give you the competitive edge right from the start.
Looking for a comprehensive approach? McKesson’s Pharmaserv® point-of-sale system is an integrated solution for streamlining front-end and pharmacy processes.
Typical policies you are likely to need include:
- Professional liability
- Property and casualty
- Key man insurance
- Life insurance
- Healthcare insurance for you and your employees
- Disability insurance
- Car insurance if you have a delivery vehicle
Create an operations manual to guide your business
As a pharmacy owner, you can’t be in all places at all times to answer questions about the way your business should run. That’s why many owners create an operations manual to reflect the pharmacy’s policies and procedures. Alternatively, many owners choose to join a franchise like Health Mart that provides an out-of-the-box operations manual to get you started.
Whatever format you choose, set up your manual in a format that can easily be updated as your business evolves. Discuss any changes you are considering with your fellow managers and staff. Your state board of pharmacy may require that certain policies and procedures be documented. Check with the board of pharmacy in your state for more information.
Your operations manual can include information on the following:
- Days and hours of operation
- Dress code
- Staff responsibilities
- Frequently asked questions
- Opening/closing processes
- Safety procedures
Build a team of talented, trusted employees
Determine your staffing needs before you take ownership of your pharmacy. Your business plan should outline your staffing needs based on the services offered. If you are taking over an existing pharmacy, evaluate your staffing needs and the current staff to determine if changes will be required.
Employee benefits are an important aspect of staffing and, if not carefully considered, a serious drain on your profitability. You’ll want to determine what benefits you will be offering to your employees; communicate these benefits clearly and in writing to avoid miscommunication. Your insurance broker can help you select an affordable, appropriate benefit package.
If you’re taking over an existing pharmacy, meet proactively with the employees to alleviate any fears they may have about your new ownership. Enlist their help and knowledge of the business to help ensure a smooth transition.
Implement an employee manual and utilize the operations manual to establish policies and procedures to help you manage your business and train your employees. You have a clear idea about what you want your pharmacy to feel like for patients and customers. Convey that philosophy to your staff. Give them tangible actions to take, such as answering the telephone with, “How may I help you today?” and greeting each customer as they enter the store.
Develop a proactive marketing plan
Marketing involves promoting your business, services and products to your customers and the market at large. The best place to start is with a comprehensive marketing plan. Like your business plan, your marketing plan will change over time. You’ll want to begin your marketing activities before your pharmacy actually opens.
Once you’ve opened the doors of your pharmacy, you may want to hold a “grand opening.” Plan for this event to occur several weeks after you have actually opened to ensure that things are running smoothly.
Start spreading the word that you’re opening right away. Contact your local referral sources by reaching out in person and/or by letter to local physicians, hospital discharge planners, senior centers, hospices and so on to let them know that you’re in business. Encourage them to support the pharmacy by offering discounts on products or some other enticement.
Advertise your pharmacy
Your store display signage and use of banners, balloons and other promotional tactics to announce the opening of your pharmacy all help. You may also want to consider holding a wellness screening event to alert new patients and customers to your pharmacy and the services you provide.
Marketing should be an ongoing process of communicating with customers and prospects as often as possible. So, once you’ve established your presence in the community, continue your marketing efforts in order to keep your business “top of mind.”
You’ll also need an online presence to attract new customers searching for pharmacy services on the Internet. Start with services you are comfortable with such as a custom website, Facebook page and similar social media accounts. Consider monitoring consumer rating sites such as Yelp or other local referral sites that could affect how new customers find you. Most offer a way for you to address any negative comments.
Health Mart can help you plan and execute effective marketing programs for your independent pharmacy.