Why you need to look beyond pharmacy


beyond pharmacy: group of business people

It’s all too easy to forget that in business, there’s a whole world outside pharmacy, writes Samantha Kourtis

If you own a pharmacy, or you’re a pharmacist manager or pharmacist in charge, your physical ability to get outside your business and connect with other people, even inside your industry, is really hampered by the nature of our industry. I’d say that pharmacists spend 90% of our time in our business, and on our business – physically inside our business.

Trying to remove ourselves from that pharmacy to connect with other people is difficult. And because of our CPD criteria, when we do get out of the business we want to get as much value out of that time as we possibly can – so we spend that time with other pharmacists.

But there’s a lot of value in looking outside community pharmacy for mentoring, networking and inspiration.

Over the last two years, I’ve had more support from peers in different industries than I’ve had from my peers in the community pharmacy industry, and that’s because to a pharmacist’s eyes, their ideas are fresh and different.

Maybe it’s because we’re all so busy working on our own businesses, but I think pharmacy is a really challenging industry in which to run a small business. Pharmacy has unique challenges because of the various legislation which govern us, from the Community Pharmacy Agreements to the location rules and the way in which we face competition.

Sometimes I am very disappointed by the lack of generosity and collaboration I experience within community pharmacy, and I feel that in many cases owner pharmacists suspect that if they share ideas, somebody’s going to steal business from them.

Maybe that’s what’s great about talking to someone outside the industry. If you’re talking to a hairdresser, they’re not going to be afraid you’ll take their business.

It doesn’t matter where you live: wherever you are, you will have access to networks inside of your general community that facilitate networking. The ones I’m most familiar with are the Canberra Business Chamber, Canberra Women in Business, Business Chicks, the Commonwealth Bank’s Women in Focus, and Business in Heels, but many other networking opportunities can be found easily on social media and in business journals. Corporations like Telstra have the Business Awards and Businesswoman of the Year.

You could even speak to your bank manager and see what networks they have as well – they probably have their fingers in a lot of pies!

By networking outside your industry, you might find yourself talking to a hairdresser, or someone who has a recruitment agency, or who is an engineer, or has a business they run from home.

Business owners all share exactly the same problems with the hours we work, with stock control, with finance and budgets, with how to raise equity, with dealing with banks, with work-life balance and in how to connect with people: it’s all the same, even though the game you’re playing is different.

I have found that the people I connected to had solutions to problems I faced that I hadn’t seen solutions to before. Connecting with them, I was able to shift my perspective.

Pharmacists need to plan this time connecting with others. For example, once a week I have a breakfast time slot spent with people who will lift me up – I create an opportunity in my schedule to have breakfast with people who 95% of the time aren’t pharmacy people. They’re mentors, role models and peers and their perspective is refreshing.

When I won the Telstra Businesswomen of the Year ACT Award for 2014, I felt that I was standing with my ladder, all alone in the community pharmacy sector, and by entering the awards and winning, I had leaned that ladder against the trunk of a magnificent tree that was home to a multi-storey treehouse.

No longer was it a ladder standing all alone, with 10 rungs on it that led straight upwards. It’s become a meeting place where I could go sideways, diagonally, up and down and feel like my business and I are part of a bigger picture.

 

Samantha Kourtis’ pharmacy, Charnwood Capital Chemist, was the 2014 Pharmacy of the Year. Kourtis was also named ACT Telstra Businesswoman of the Year 2014.

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