Dunes Family Pharmacy
Dakota Dunes, SD
Q: What attracted you to the pharmacy business?
A: My interests have always been in the healthcare field. My parents owned an independent retail pharmacy while I was growing up. As I got older and looked into the field of pharmacy, I was drawn to the diversity of pharmacy. I was drawn to the options of retail, hospital, compounding, long-term care, etc. I recognized that even if I started in one field, my degree would allow me to change to many different fields if I wished.
Q: What career path did you take to achieve your ownership goals?
A: I started working in Redler’s Professional Pharmacy, owned by my parents, when I was in high school. I went to the University of Nebraska for undergraduate studies and was accepted to the University of Nebraska Medical Center after two years. I attended the pharmacy school another four years. After graduating with my Doctor of Pharmacy, I worked with my parents for a year at their pharmacy. During this time, I became very interested in learning about the business aspect of pharmacy and how to manage a pharmacy. After a year, I opened Dunes Family Pharmacy, which I have now owned for 13 years.
“To be a leader, you need to be a good communicator, be open-minded, be enthusiastic, take initiative, be proactive, be flexible, and be organized.”
— Teresa Orlando
Q: What characteristics proved most helpful in developing your career?
A: In order to be successful I learned to adapt. I was persistent and always looked for ways to provide for the needs of my patients. I was approached to be the director of pharmacy for the Siouxland Surgery Center about two years after opening Dunes Family Pharmacy. I kept an open mind and realized this was one of my niches in the community and have been director for the surgery center for 11 years. This has provided additional income as well as allowed me to hire additional employees. We relocated the pharmacy to allow us to be only a short distance from the surgery center so I am able to manage both the hospital and the retail pharmacy. I have developed important professional relationships with the doctors in our area so we are able to help each other, and in doing so, help our entire community. To be a leader, you need to be a good communicator, be open-minded, be enthusiastic, take initiative, be proactive, be flexible, and be organized.
Q: Early in your career, how did you prepare for a leadership position or business ownership?
A: During the summers while in college I worked with the Southwestern Company. I ran my own business selling books door-to-door on the East Coast. This experience proved to be valuable in so many ways. It taught me that it takes a lot of hard work to be successful. I also worked on 100% commission, so if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. I dealt with a lot of rejection and learned to not take it personally. But most of all, it made me a great pharmacist by developing all the skills I needed that I wouldn’t learn in pharmacy school.
Q: What advice can you give to women entrepreneurs entering the field?
A: A strong personal support network is key. Looking back, I realize that the biggest support I could rely on is my husband and family. If you plan on raising a family while owning a pharmacy, it takes a lot of support and help from those closest to you. I am on call 24/7 while raising four children. My parents, independent pharmacy owners for 35 years, also gave me a great deal of practical and valuable advice.
Q: What are the primary barriers to female pharmacy ownership?
A: It is challenging to learn to balance family life with work life. I have to be there for my family but also realize that a work situation can arise at any time. Making sure you have a support system in place to help out with both family and work is essential.
Q: As a pharmacy owner, how do you manage work/life balance?
A: I am able to balance work and family by working smart. I leave for work early in the morning and start an hour before we open the store. I am able to answer all phone messages and process all prescriptions in a queue. By the time we open, I have given us a head start. Because of this, I am able to leave work around 4:00 p.m. to attend our kids’ activities and help with homework as well as make dinner. My husband works at the pharmacy until 6:00 p.m., so he is able to help at work while I am home with the kids. We also have short hours on weekends, which allows us to spend time as a family. I encourage all my employees to do the same.
Q: Are there any new challenges you face as a pharmacy owner?
A: One of the newer challenges I face is the declining reimbursement from insurance companies. Payroll costs are increasing while reimbursement is decreasing, and numerous fees, such as DIR fees, are being developed as another way for insurance companies to make more and the pharmacies less. Because of this, I realize that each pharmacy owner must find their niche in the market.
Q: What is your experience with mentors or others who inspired you?
A: My parents were very influential in my decision to open my own independent pharmacy. They encouraged me along the way and were invaluable in providing information and sharing past experiences in their own journey of ownership. They were and still are my mentors in pharmacy.
Q: Are there any trends in your current business that may help others succeed?
A: As an independent pharmacy owner, the only thing that is for sure is change. Be ready to adapt when change is needed. A retail pharmacy used to be able to survive on retail sales alone, but now it seems that another niche is needed. Whether it is compounding, long-term care, diet management, diabetes care, etc., something more is needed. In order to be successful, you need to grow and adapt to change.
Q: What are the challenges and advantages for women in pharmacy?
A: Along that same topic of balancing work and family life, a woman may have to deal with pregnancy and maternity leave. With one of my four children, I was put on bed rest for a few weeks. This was an unplanned situation that required some quick decisions to assure the business was well cared for while I was off. Also, after my second child was born I had a relief pharmacist cover for me. After one week, he informed me he took another job and could no longer help. I had to come back to work after two weeks and had no day care until our baby was six weeks old. I brought her to work with me for four weeks. Thankfully, my husband also works with me and he was a tremendous help.
There are, however, many advantages that come with owning your own pharmacy. I am able to plan my schedule around my kids’ special events to assure I am able to attend most of them. In the beginning, I rarely ever took a vacation because I couldn’t afford to hire another pharmacist. Now, I have three other full-time pharmacists so vacations are much easier to schedule and the business is still making a profit while I am away.
Also, the relationships that are developed with your patients make your job very rewarding. After owning my own pharmacy for 13 years, I have seen children graduate, get married and have children of their own. Your customers become part of an extended family.
Q: Are there any organizations or events you recommend that could help women entering the business?
A: I would recommend joining organizations that can help you to network. The annual McKesson ideaShare event allows business owners to come together and brainstorm. Chances are, if you are struggling with an issue, another business owner is as well. I would also recommend the state pharmacy association meetings each year. They help to keep us informed and networking with each other.
Q: How did you find your store location and financing to open your pharmacy?
A: I found my store location through a suggestion from one of the local family practice doctors. The area I chose had no pharmacy in the Zip code and at least 70 prescribing doctors within six blocks. It was also an area that was quickly growing and there was an apparent need. My parents helped to finance the pharmacy. I was able to pay them back in about five years.
Q: What would you like to see pharmacy schools teach about owning a pharmacy?
A: I would like to see future pharmacy owners taught about the real life of pharmacy. Insurance companies seem to be the least rewarding and most frustrating part of my pharmacy day. Reimbursing below the cost of a medication and prior authorizations, which delay treatment of the patient, are among the types of situations that should be discussed. Also, seeking out what niches are appropriate for your location and population to better prepare a person for ownership. Pharmacies that are not adapting to change combined with the further decline of reimbursements are those most likely to sell or close. Finally, owning a pharmacy comes with the responsibility of employing others and managing those people. It would be helpful to have future pharmacy owners prepared and trained in employee management. Even if you have done everything else successfully, you need great employees to have a great business.
Q: What are three qualities that got you where you are today?
A: Passion, integrity and open-mindedness.
Q: What made you want to be an entrepreneur?
A: You get out what you put in. I believe that if you work harder and give more of yourself than a person in the same career, you should be rewarded for it.
Q: What’s on your bucket list?
A: Visiting Australia.
Q: What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?
A: Opening my own independent pharmacy.
Q: What’s one thing you’re exceptionally good at?
Q: What’s your favorite quote?
A: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” (Henry Ford)
Q: What’s your favorite perk of the job?
A: Being my own boss.