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What's it like to own your own pharmacy? Glad you asked

“So . . . What’s it like?” The question is always delivered softly, with a tinge of hope. “You really bought your own drugstore?” I can hear them thinking. “Can pharmacists really own their own pharmacies in this day and age? After all, Rite Aid has over 4,000 of them, and the last recession it was within a whisker of a date in bankruptcy court. Can one of us really pull this off?”

“So . . . What’s it like?” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked, I’d have so much money I wouldn’t have had to buy my place at all.

What it’s like

I’ll tell you what it’s like. Imagine you’re standing in front of a mountain of paper. You have a pen and a vague set of instructions. Your task is to fill out every page that makes up that mountain - correctly - or hire someone who can.

You know what? I take that back. It’s more like a river. Think whitewater rafting in a river of paper, while holding a pen and filling out every page that goes by. And every time things start to calm down, someone asks about a form that was briefly mentioned long ago but is evidently very important and must be completed tomorrow.

In other words, it’s a lot like pharmacy school. And same as with pharmacy school, when you successfully navigate your way through the ink and paper rapids, your reward is . . .

. . . the opportunity to start. By the way, that last form needed to be notarized. And you’ll have to submit your passport photos again, something was wrong with the first set you sent out.

Imagine that being your day-in, day-out routine for around three months, and you’ll have a little idea what it’s like to get started owning your own pharmacy.

But then, when you’re done, you might have a customer who regularly brings you eggs from his farm for no other reason than he’s a nice guy. I have such a customer, and those eggs are worth more to me than any bonus I ever got killing myself for the chains.

What it’s not like

I also can’t count the number of times people have shaken my hand and welcomed me to town. Even my boss never shook my hand at my old chain gig. My boss did smoke though. She could have bought her cigarettes right in our store, and that says volumes about corporate pharmacy’s commitment to its patients’ health. I don’t sell cigarettes, and I never will.

And I will never, ever, get a memo like this ever again:

Subject: Pharmacy Service real time update *URGENT*

Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2011 10:20:12 -0400

From: XXxxxx@xxx.com

To: ;

Team 4,

· We are self destructing this week on rx service!!!! 84.7; two days left let’s pick it up TODAY!!

· 59.2 on addressed by name, 63.6 on wait time- Are we serious??? Do you think I will accept results like this?

· Wake up and start delivering excellent service results NOW!!! You’ve worked too hard this month to throw it all away

· If you’re not able or willing to lead your team to deliver excellent service to each patient each time please let me know so we can discuss your exit strategy- one thing I won’t accept are poor service results &; neither should you

That was an actual memo. Its recipient, who worked at another chain, forwarded it to me awhile back. And I know the only people who are surprised by the tone taken with professionals with doctorate degrees are people who have never worked in a chain drugstore.

You’d like it too

So what’s it like? To try and navigate a whitewater river of paper without a guide or map, to wake up to a new list of problems large and small each and every day that you can no longer kick upstairs? To have people’s paychecks dependent on your making the right decisions?

It’s . . . the most awesome feeling I’ve had in a long time. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Don’t think you can’t get that feeling as well. 

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