‘Pharmacist switch’ pays off

Karen Brown and Tim Siv

When two Chemmart owners took time out to work in each other’s pharmacies, the results for their businesses were “phenomenal”

Karen Brown, owner of the award-winning Samford Chemmart Pharmacy, caught up with friend and colleague Tim Siv at the Australian Pharmacy Professional conference earlier this year – and the two started talking about the challenges involved with bringing the “conference vibe” back to their teams.

“When you go to conferences, you bring back the vibe and try to instil it in your team,” Brown told the AJP.

“Tim and I were talking about how you get a lot of great theory in conferences like APP and the Chemmart Masterclass, but sometimes it’s putting it into practice that’s the difficult part.”

Siv, who owns the Clare Chemmart Pharmacy in South Australia, says, “As a board member I remember visiting pharmacies on Chemmart board visits and thinking there are so many of our stores that do things well. I thought, imagine if we can share it with each other.  

“So Karen and I came up with the concept to switch pharmacists so that they could get ideas and bring them back to a store level.  

“Instead we decided to do an owner switch and work together in each store. I think this was the best combination on how this switch worked.”

In August, Siv visited the Samford Chemmart in Queensland for four days, working as a pharmacist on the floor.

“We sat down beforehand and talked about each other’s strengths and weaknesses – for example one of Tim’s best qualities is being on the floor, talking to people, he’s got a real way with words,” Brown says.

“When it was quiet, he did a lot of roleplaying with my team. They thrived on it and our average retail sale has grown by $3 since the time he spent with us.

“We used to struggle with getting our MedsChecks done; Tim showed us a simple way of putting the suggestion to customers and now we do them all within the first two weeks of each month.”

Siv, who has since done something similar with Birkdale Chemmart, says that during his visits to the stores he felt real pressure to perform, “in a good way”.

“The staff got so much out of watching me work my magic as a professional care pharmacist on the floor,” he says. It was a case of “teaching by showing”.

“When Karen visited my store, the staff were so excited that they had the store looking better than I had seen it before. They tried to impress Karen.

“Allowing them to work with a pharmacist who had so much community engagement enabled them to talk through ideas, plan and implement the possible changes.”

“Store blindness is a massive problem for pharmacy owners,” Brown explains. “Every day, you see the same thing. In just a few hours, I was able to ask, ‘Why is that gondola there? How does it affect flow?’ and point out that if we turned the gondola 45 degrees, it would improve traffic flow.”

While it’s not a program that Chemmart currently plans to formalise, Siv and Brown did present on their experience at the recent Chemmart conference and received a great deal of interest and positive feedback.

The benefits to their own stores are ongoing.

“The results have been phenomenal,” Brown says. “This is by far the best thing I’ve ever done, for me as an owner, for my team and financially for my business.

“A big part of it was the vibe. As staff members, you all lift your game because you want to show your visitor how good your pharmacy is.

“The next step is to switch our staff. Our professional care pharmacists will switch next year; we’ve both got operations managers, but my operations manager is quite new to the role and Tim has had one for some time. So I picked her brain too.

“Interns are another great example. How great would it be, as an intern, to learn from another pharmacist in your intern year who does something differently?

“We’ll take a week out of our business to go to a conference, but to go to another store makes such a difference. You see your own pharmacy through a totally different set of eyes.

“My staff still talk about it. It’s priceless.”

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