Survival in a changed world


What will you need to do to ensure your pharmacy can recover in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic? Bruce Annabel & Mal Scrymgeour describe some of the steps to consider now

This is the second of a two-part series. Click here for the first article

Change on steroids

Having responded to the challenges of fear driven demand, surviving the hangover and kicking the tiger out of the bathroom it will be time to recover and carefully consider the implications for the future.

Recover

Whatever way you look at it, this crisis is unlikely to be short lived and when we emerge through the other side the world will be a bit different to what we have known.

The travel industry will obviously be different, we will be hugely dependent on technology and probably become quite adept at using it plus home deliveries will be an even more important patient service channel. The shape of industries will change.

Recovery is unfortunately, going to be a medium-term play. What do you need to do?

There are six areas you will need to address:

  1. Management team. For smaller businesses, this is often the owner or a couple of partners making the decisions. For the larger businesses these teams may largely be in place. Our very strong recommendation is to get a core group of executive level advisors, often this means getting expert help. You’ll need financial advice (typically your existing provider/bank/accountant). Strategic advisors/industry experts. Working with your Doctors will be more critical than ever. What shape does this take? It will need to be much more structured than the previous low-key relationships most of us have had in the past. Operational expertise – often this comes from you. As you’ve seen with many larger businesses already, hard decisions might need to be made. Often you’ll need support in making those decisions.
  2. New skills. The existing skills you have employed in the business might not be what you need moving forward. Digital might suddenly be critical and that might mean you need to onboard that expertise either internally or externally.
  3. Financial continuity. This will be crucial as inventory and wages costs are likely to increase, your pricing will need to move. With a jump in prices due to short supply, you’ll need to remain competitive too. Staying on top of costs and adjusting pricing will be absolutely critical for your businesses to survival. It’s now a weekly task as a minimum. It’s not going to be an easy road ahead. External advice would be smart to get. And now.
  4. Supply Chain. Work closely to fully understand the supply chain issues with your wholesalers and suppliers. Networking with pharmacies in your trade area to swap stock may need to be broadened well beyond the existing network
  5. Customer engagement. Suddenly email groups, marketing, advertising, phone lists, social media and community engagement become critical. The old product and price advertising catalogues aren’t quite so relevant. Expertise, advice and product availability will be the new black. Have you noticed price is no longer the big issue it was? It has been replaced simply being in stock.
  6. Digital capabilities. What has been seen as nice to have suddenly becomes a must have. We recommend investigating Microsoft Teams as an option for communicating with others in a business context. We’ve found it to be excellent.

The focus right now is maintaining the business, responding to the crisis and then recovering. Changes resulting from the SARSCOV2 will be very fast and fundamental to how pharmacy operates and interacts with its patients and the market generally.

This period, not unlike the world wars, will experience change on steroids in technology improvements and ways of doing business. Successful pharmacies will observe these and also not regard them as purely representative of the times.

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