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What can a business coach do for your pharmacy?


The answer, it turns out, is "Plenty." Just ask Topeka Pharmacy's Tom and Morag Miller.

The answer is plenty, according to Topeka Pharmacy, one of the 3,200 pharmacies in AmerisourceBergen’s Good Neighbor Pharmacy network.

Pictured above: Topeka Pharmacy's Tom and Morag Miller worked with Good Neighbor Pharmacy's business coach to stay on top of changes in industry practices and plan for transition. (Image courtesy of AmerisourceBergen)

In a small rural town in northeastern Indiana, Topeka Pharmacy is a destination for its Amish and English population of about 5,000. Tom Miller, RPh, president and owner of this 27-year-old drugstore, and his staff offer patients and customers pharmacy services, clinical consultations, immunizations, diabetes and weight management classes, and a whole lot more. The full-service pharmacy also has a fabric shop, catering to the Amish, who make up 60% of its customer base, a flower service, a traditional soda fountain, and café.

“We try to make the drugstore so that any patient, whether they are driving a buggy or a car, can come to Topeka and get all the things they need and not have to make several trips,” said Miller.

About three years ago, Topeka Pharmacy decided to take advantage of Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s business coaching program to keep abreast of industry changes such as those connected with Medicare Star Ratings and the push for better patient outcomes. Even though the pharmacy’s overall business was strong, its coach, Jason Montgomery, suggested hiring a pharmacist who could perform medication therapy management (MTM) and a diabetes educator.

“We couldn’t really afford an MTM pharmacist or a diabetes educator, if you look at the bottom line based on last year’s numbers. But you have to be either green and growing or you are dead,” Miller said, appreciatively noting “the help of AmerisourceBergen and the business coach keeping us up to date on what’s coming.”

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One-on-one coaching

Jen ZilkaThe stage for success is set with an intensive one-on-one in-person meeting between the business coach and the pharmacy owner and staff. The coach works to earn the trust of the pharmacist and gathers and validates da Tom Miller, RPh, president and owner of Topeka Pharmacy, Topeka, Indiana, and his wife, Morag Miller, worked with Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s business coach to stay abreast of the changes in pharmacy practice, asking a lot of questions, according to Jenni Zilka, Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s national director of business coaching and pharmacy ownership.

“Once we get into the monitoring stage, we will lay out where we see opportunities and we will tackle them one at a time,” said Zilka, who manages 18 business coaches nationwide who serve about 640 pharmacies in the Good Neighbor Pharmacy network. “Each week my coaches receive a weekly dashboard that shows them how each store is faring, so if the drugstore has implemented anything such as prescriber marketing, they can see that trending and tracking, and the business coach can pick up the phone and call the drugstore.”

Topeka Pharmacy appreciates input from its business coach, because the advice is based on real metrics and benchmarking against similar pharmacies. The coaches use true system data, including every claim that is adjudicated, profit-and-loss statements, balance sheets, and payroll from the pharmacy.

“We are able to benchmark Topeka Pharmacy against other Good Neighbor Pharmacies in his market that are of a similar size. We have over 1,500 pharmacies in our database. With this solid peer group, we are able to identify the opportunities, and Jason, the business coach, can take it a step further,” Zilka said.


Prepare for the future

Topeka Pharmacy, this year’s 2015 Good Neighbor Pharmacy of the Year, is getting ready for its next big transition. Miller is working his business coach to seamlessly shift ownership to the next generation - a young pharmacist interested in independent pharmacy. When Miller and Montgomery met recently with the potential buyer, Montgomery was able to provide him with solid business numbers compared with those of other peer Good Neighbor Pharmacies, giving the buyer some perspective.

See also: New pharmacy ownership program helps independents

“It was really insightful and good to hear from a third party that is not trying to sell him something. We wanted to give him information from a neutral party, and that is the value that we have seen from the business coach,” Miller said.

“We want to make this a seamless transition, based on what we think is the right thing to do, which is a three- to five-year period of time where I go out the door and the new owner comes in,” Miller said. “It really matters that Topeka pharmacy survives, and we want to be prepared every day and make sure we have good metrics.”

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