Behind the scenes

The Wanni White Coats backstage. Photo: AJP

AJP goes backstage at APP2017 to chat with the winners of the Pharmacy Guild awards

Owner Lucy Walker and her team from Lucy Walker Chemmart Goondiwindi in QLD say they are thrilled to have won both Pharmacy of the Year and the Community Engagement award.

And this enthusiasm is shared by the rest of the team and their family members back home.

“We were so happy that they were live streaming the announcement, so back in the pharmacy, all the girls were there, my mum, all the owners round the computer if you can imagine,” says Ms Walker.

“So they got to see it in real time and they were so excited. And then since then on Facebook, phone calls…. And even in the community, our patients were all on board. I think they’ll be very proud of us.”

The Capital Chemist Wanniassa team aka the “Wanni White Coats”, and winners of the Professional Services Innovation category, are planning a party back at home.

“We’re feeling so excited!” says managing partner Elise Apolloni.

“We’re very proud of our team – only a small smidgeon of us are here today – but there’s a whole cohort of us at home too and we are just so thrilled to be recognised and so proud to be held in this regard and to hear about the other pharmacies that were involved as well.”

Louise McLean, partner at Capital Chemist Southlands in ACT and winner of the Business Management category, says the feeling will sink in once they get back home.

The Capital Chemist Southlands team, and winner of the Business Management category.

“We’re yet to make a lot of phone calls but we’ve received lots and lots and lots of text messages of congratulations, but I think we’re not really going to see the true impact until we get back to work,” says Ms McLean.

“The support of our customers wanting to be involved on the day of judging and on our video day, they all wanted to come in and join and be there on the scenes,” adds Stacey Fuller, Capital Chemist Southlands partner.

“To them it’s ‘this is my pharmacist, this is my team’.”

“If we didn’t have customers we wouldn’t have a business. Without them we wouldn’t have any of this,” adds Ms McLean.

These pharmacy teams are on top of the world right now, but what challenges have they had to face along the way?

Ms Walker says there have been “so many”.

“I remember going to a conference once organising a business plan and the presenters of that conference actually said to me: ‘You’re trying to do too much, you’re trying to do a major renovation, brand your store, train your staff up’ … and I was also heavily pregnant at the time.

“They said, ‘no way, you just can’t do it’, but I think when someone tells me I can’t do something, that’s when I go, ‘yeah let’s give this a good go’, and through that process just leaning on everyone around us that was helping so much made everything possible.”

The team at Capital Chemist Wanniassa are no strangers to hardship.

“We’ve had a number of challenges over the years, including within our team after tragically losing one of them to suicide, so that has been a big challenge,” says managing partner Honor Penprase.

“That is definitely our biggest challenge,” says Ms Apolloni.

“You can’t quite prepare yourself that, as an owner, that would be something I would ever have to deal with. And even in our personal lives that’s not something we’d ever had on the cards. …It’s been a good opportunity to take something so awful and transform your business around that into something that’s stronger than you could’ve ever imagined. That’s really been a defining moment for our business, to be able to grow from that.”

“To make our team stronger has been one of the things that we’ve taken away from this,” says Ms Penprase.

And Capital Chemist Southlands have also been through much over the past few years, which Ms McLean says may in some way have contributed to their win.

“I think honestly the last two years we’ve gone through a huge amount,” she explains.

“With our community involvement we do masses and masses of that as well. But I think a lot of it is just what we’ve actually gone through with merging two stores and chuck a couple of floods in there – which I didn’t mention – which meant we had to do a second refit because we had to replace the whole dispensary area, counter and all of that as well. So I got good at doing refits,” she says.

“And we have a lot of ups and downs. We’ve got lots of downs at the moment at work with family members who aren’t well, so we just all pull together and say… we’ll just make it work.”

“It’s not just a team, it’s a family. We socialise outside of work, so that’s a good indicator that we like each other,” says a fellow team member.

Lucy Walker Chemmart Pharmacy team accepts their Pharmacy of the Year award at APP2017.

So what’s coming up next for these high-achieving pharmacies?

“We’ve just been working so hard and I’ve been pushing everyone so hard, I think it’s just time to take stock and enjoy for a while,” says Ms Walker.

“Then we’ll regroup and we’re going to be listening and talking to so many other people here at APP and getting inspiration from them all. And from there we’ll go on our next journey together – take on the next challenge.”

Capital Chemist Wanniassa have a busy year ahead.

“We do have some new projects,” says Ms Apolloni.

“Tomorrow we hear we’re getting our flu vaccines, so we have a very long video that will be posted tomorrow – a musical number! – so that’s a new project.

“We have a few new professional services we’re working on. A few of us are going to uni this year, upskilling… I’m training to be a counsellor to further our mental health/first aid aspect, and we have another person coming on board with diabetes education, we started sleep apnoea last month… it’s an exciting year. We have a few things up our sleeves,” she says.

And Capital Chemist Southlands are hoping to just take time to breathe and enjoy the moment, says Ms McLean.

“I think we’ll just get through, celebrate and then decide what’s next!”

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