Tania Rotoli, President, T&F Drugs, Inc.
Burgio’s Pharmacy, Totowa, NJ

President Tania Rotoli’s story of how her company, T&F Drugs, Inc., recently acquired Burgio’s Pharmacy is a classic one of continuing a local pharmacy tradition, succession planning, and discovering the unique situations that occur when acquiring an existing store. T&F Drugs, Inc. is set up as a corporation with Tania’s brother, Fabian Marcos, who is vice president. Tania is the pharmacist-in-charge at De Blieck’s Pharmacy and Fabian is pharmacist-in-charge at Sicomac Pharmacy, and together they share management duties and progress at all stores.

An opportunity to acquire Burgio’s, a nearby pharmacy in Totowa, New Jersey, presented an intriguing option for the company. “One of our staff pharmacists had worked at the pharmacy in the past and already knew the customers and the details about how the business was run,” said Tania. “When I heard that the store owner was retiring, it was really of matter of asking if we had the operational and staffing capacity to expand the business and time to evaluate the value of Burgio’s Pharmacy.” After contacting a McKesson RxOwnership Advisor, who told her about the services that could help make this opportunity a reality, the wheels began to turn.

The company needed more information to make this new significant investment. “The valuation tool on the RxOwnership website was critical to our final decision to proceed with the purchase. We were able to plug in all the stats we had found to assess profitability, evaluate the local market, and see what other similar businesses in the region were worth,” said Tania. Using the tool, the company was much more comfortable with the price and felt assured that they were not overpaying.

At the same time that the financing options were approved through contacts received from RxOwnership, the unexpected happened: The retiring owner passed away. This event both expedited the transfer of ownership process and created challenges with transferring over all the required licensing and losing the ability to complete the knowledge transfer from the legacy owner at such a critical stage. That’s where pre-planning for operations, staffing and research paid off.

The siblings’ personal experience was a key factor in the decision to acquire another pharmacy for the company. “As an independent pharmacist, I am able to follow my vision for patient care, run the business my way, and that makes it all worthwhile,” said Tania. “While there are obvious frustrations — from the mail-order services to lower reimbursements compared to large chains — it is still very rewarding to know and understand our own business, build personal relationships with our customers, hire and train our own staff, and be ahead of the curve in managing operational and clinical performance.”

Tania’s advice to students and potential new pharmacy owners is to find a mentor. She suggests learning from a veteran of the business with an established pharmacy to gain knowledge about retail operations, patient interactions and working with physicians. “Starting a business requires knowing you have the right staff and the right systems in place before buying,” Tania added, while emphasizing that moving too quickly can be a disaster. “New owners need to have marketing plans in place far in advance of a grand opening.”

For the company’s future plans, they don’t want to get too big, too fast. The team is focused on gaining familiarity with local markets and the potential customer base. Tania noted that it isn’t prudent to grow too fast when there is a need to ensure that their recent acquisition has the best systems and people in place to focus on patient care, community outreach, medication reviews and other interactive programs to grow a successful business.

As a Health Mart pharmacy, Tania recognizes that building brand recognition, including front-end products such as vitamins, is important along with adding available programs offered by Health Mart. The group differentiates itself with medication synchronization, vaccine and immunization programs, limited compounding, and 24-hour delivery service.

In all, the acquisition of the new pharmacy took just over six months, even with delays. Tania reminds prospective buyers that “there will be hurdles to overcome and difficulties that come with starting any business, but when you stay positive and a couple steps ahead, the end results of expanding your business can be very rewarding.”