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7 Common Growing Pains Independent Pharmacies Suffer

7 Common Growing Pains Independent Pharmacies Suffer by Elements magazine |

May 30, 2019

Inside: Discover how to navigate the likely speed bumps your pharmacy will encounter as it expands.

As your pharmacy grows, you’re bound to experience some pains. But these pains aren’t necessarily symptoms of a problem. For humans, the pain is an essential part of good, healthy growth. They’re a natural result of developing the bones and brain and muscles into their full potential.

Treat your pharmacy growth pains—which include everything from hiring great new employees, to setting goals, to keeping up with the competition—as opportunities to reach your full business potential. If you’re suffering them, it means you’re progressing. Get control of them to prevent setbacks and keep the pace.

Here’s a look at seven common growing pains experienced by independent pharmacies and insights into how to manage them effectively.

1. Not enough employees to keep up

Your team of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and front-end employees are a critical asset for your pharmacy.

In your initial growth stages, you might find yourself desperate for a bigger team, but rushing through the hiring process and bringing in the wrong people for the job could end up costing you.

Someone might have all the qualifications on paper, but you should also think about how they will fit into the company culture.

Employees who don’t fit into your pharmacy’s culture can create disruption, affecting everyone’s productivity—not just their own. They are also more likely to leave the job, and that turnover will cost you money.

In order to make sure you’re hiring the best, create a list of traits and values that an ideal employee should possess as a guideline for the candidates you’re considering.

Conduct a behavioral interview to assess how candidates view things like teamwork, conflict, and other kinds of problem-solving, and see if their answers align with your stated values.

Another way to ensure you’re hiring the best is to involve your current team members in the hiring process. Giving them a say in their new co-worker will prevent future conflicts.

RELATED: How to Hire the Best People for Your Pharmacy

2. Communication struggles

As your pharmacy grows and everyone gets busier, it can be difficult to get all of your employees on the same page. If you don’t keep everyone in the loop, mistakes happen that can cost your pharmacy.

Develop a clear and consistent system to pass along information. Holding all-team meetings can be an effective way to communicate, but only if done the right way and only for certain kinds of information. The Productivity Institute notes that nine out of ten people admit to daydreaming during meetings, and having too many meetings is viewed by team members as a waste of time.

RELATED: How to Make Pharmacy Meetings Twice as Effective in Half the Time

Only call a meeting when you have a clear objective. And when you do, keep it brief and to the point. Other ways to communicate include shared calendars, emails, and face-to-face.

While issuing clear directives is important, listening is just as important. Open communication means being receptive to your employees’ opinions and concerns, and not getting defensive about the feedback you receive.

When your team feels comfortable talking to you when there are problems, and you are proactive about implementing solutions, your whole team will be stronger.

3. No clear goals

A Staples Small Business Survey revealed that more than 80 percent of small business owners don’t keep track of their business goals.

Goals give your pharmacy a destination. They also provide the tracks to travel on, so you always stay in line with your vision as you grow. And they give you a way to measure the progress of your independent pharmacy business so you can evaluate your growth.

Your goals should encourage team members to think big, but they should also be SMART. Instead of setting a goal to continue gaining new patients, for example, make it to “gain 10 percent more patients each quarter.” That’s specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

And make sure to implement systems to track these goals and reward progress.

4. Overworking

Keeping up with the to-do list as your business grows can be overwhelming for both owners and employees.

While it’s admirable to have a team dedicated to the pharmacy, working too much can lead to burnout, which can have some serious consequences. According to the Mayo Clinic, burned out employees can suffer from:


This kind of stress can hinder your growth in the long run, so it’s important to take steps to respect the health and wellness of your employees.

Don’t model overworking behaviors. Employ a strict work-life balance for yourself and your employees.

If stress in the pharmacy is a habitual problem, sit down and reassess the business’s priorities. Try to streamline your process to reduce the workload for team members and decide where you can let things drop if demands on individual employees are still too high.

And of course, let your team members know how much you appreciate their hard work by celebrating wins.

5. Not maintaining a competitive edge

In an industry that’s always changing and evolving, keeping a competitive edge is vital.

But with everything else going on day-to-day in your pharmacy, it can be difficult to stay on top of what your competitors are doing and continuously innovate.

To stay on top as you grow, identify your competitive advantage—that is, what you offer that your rivals don’t—and lean into that in your marketing.

Another way to stay competitive in the market is simply by talking with your current patients. Ask them what keeps them coming to the pharmacy and make those strong points a consistent part of your service.

Loyal customers can also become brand ambassadors, encouraging other members of the community to visit your store. Exemplary customer service can be the first line of defense in remaining competitive among your peers.

6. Missed opportunities

Pursuing your goals is essential for growing your pharmacy, but a single-minded focus on goals might mean you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Take a step back from short-term goals and assess the big picture of your business—where it’s been and where it’s headed. The cost of missed opportunities for sticking too closely to your action plan could be immense.

Be prepared to take the occasional risk. Sometimes, they might not pay off, but they could also differentiate your pharmacy from a crowded field.

7. Not streamlining your workflow

As you gain more patients, it will become harder to keep up with their increased demand on your time.

If you get stuck in an old routine, it could result in longer wait times, bottlenecks, and other frustrations. Over time, these inefficiencies could cost you between 20 and 30 percent of your potential revenue.

Combat these potential losses by streamlining the workflow within your pharmacy. This could mean rearranging your physical space so that everything is moving in one direction or implementing a color-coded priority system.

Once you’ve established a system that works, strive towards perfection. Tweak processes as needed to maximize your time and space.


An Independently Owned Organization Serving Independent Pharmacies 

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is an independently owned pharmacy services organization based in Kansas City, Mo., that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, distribution services, and more.

PBA Health, an HDA member, operates its own VAWD-certified warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.

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