When Pam Marquess, owner of Marquess Group, which operates 11 pharmacies in Georgia and Tennessee, was asked when she knew she wanted to be a pharmacist, she said, “When I was seven years old.” Pam had been taken to a pharmacy and thought the pharmacist she met was the most intelligent man ever and asked, “How does he know all those big names?” From then on, Pam set out learn what he knew.
Her dream never wavered, and now after earning her Doctor of Pharmacy at Mercer University in Atlanta, and with 23 years in the business, she shares the same aspirations with a new generation as a leader and mentor.
Following graduation, Pam joined a chain pharmacy as an intern, and 90 days later a professor friend connected her with an independent pharmacy owner who was ready sell. At 25, she had landed an owner-financed deal and didn’t think twice about jumping in head first.
With the help of local mentors in the industry, Pam and her husband chose a wholesaler and learned the basics of the business and how to operate a retail pharmacy. She formed relationships with other owners in the region and attended county and state pharmacist association meetings to learn all aspects of the business. “I coupled my degree with an MBA program that gave me grounding in business. I also encourage others to find a mentor and learn what has been successful for that person; it should be someone they can call to get feedback on ideas and who will hold them accountable to established goals,” said Pam.
Compared to the early days in her career, Pam said, “It was rare to see female owners or women in national leadership roles. Now there are many and we are able to help one another.”
For her business, Pam likes to approach it in thirds: 1/3 earning, 1/3 learning and 1/3 giving back. She also works to balance time to play and raise a family with time to learn — setting up all elements of her life for success. “It’s important to build a team that supports me with balancing children and home life as well as supporting the business,” said Pam. “Being able to rely on my team allows me the freedom to devote more time to other things.”
Pam is also involved in local, state and national business pharmacy associations, including a term serving as president of the Georgia Pharmacy Association. In addition, Pam works closely with local pharmacy schools and provides internships for students in their final year.
“I coupled my degree with an MBA program that gave me grounding in business. I also encourage others to find a mentor and learn what has been successful for that person; it should be someone they can call to get feedback on ideas and who will hold them accountable to established goals.”
— Pam Marquess
In a rapidly changing industry environment, “I need to be able to respond quickly to changes from insurance networks and patient options to navigating how we compare and compete with the competition,” said Pam. “I look to leaders in the industry for aligning my goals with national trends and working with organizations such as McKesson, which encourage entrepreneurs and those who inspire women in business.”
The demands on independent pharmacies to evolve is always present. “Niche services are essential to survival,” said Pam. “The more niche services, the better to be well-rounded and provide for the needs all potential customers.” The Marquess Group provides a host of value-enhancing services, including long-term care needs, compounding, compliance packaging, immunizations and weight loss programs.
Room for expansion
The Marquess Group has a history of success in expanding its regional footprint and has grown to 11 locations, with more planned in the future. Pam relies upon several channels for identifying new potential locations and financing options. Half of her acquisitions came through working directly with McKesson’s RxOwnership® team, while others were initiated as a result of contacts with local store owners and through contacts with the Academy of Independent Pharmacy. She secured financing primarily through RxOwnership and a combination of previous owner financing and local banks.
Pam’s advice for pharmacy students and schools is to seek ways to cover the business and regulatory aspects of ownership. Key areas she notes that would help graduates include:
- The process of opening a pharmacy
- Front-end retail operations
- Financial management
- HIPAA regulations
- Drug Enforcement Agency regulations
- Local and federal agency regulations
Health Mart partnership
The Marquess Group coordinates all their marketing efforts through the tools provided by its affiliation with Health Mart®. Using resources on Connect Community and the Health Mart Operations Toolkit, Pam has been able to leverage materials for postcards, car wraps, local advertising, and Facebook and Instagram social media marketing.
Q&A with Pam
Q: What is one skill that was most helpful to your career?
A: I have been given many opportunities because I was media trained early on to present or become an interview resource for television, radio and print publications.
Q: What three qualities have contributed to your success?
A: Persistence, a positive attitude, and that I never considered failure an option.
Q: What was your best career move?
A: Running for president of the Georgia Pharmacy Association.
Q: What change would you like to see in the industry?
A: Recognition of pharmacies as healthcare providers and increased transparency of PBMs.
Q: Favorite quote?
A: “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” (Nido Qubein, businessman, speaker and president of High Point University)
Q: What’s on your bucket list?
A: A trip to the Mediterranean.
Q: What’s one quality that has helped you most?
A: Being compassionate for both hands-on patient care and employee relationships.
Q: What has helped you in management?
A: Formal business education, participation in conferences such as PDS, and I am a life-long student of management techniques.
Q: What’s your favorite perk of pharmacy ownership?
A: Freedom to make your own decisions and schedule, and ability to make things happen without constraints of anyone higher up the ladder.
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: My husband Jonathan, who is positive and kind. We have a tradition of pharmacy in our family and enjoy working alongside one another.