Here’s How to Foster Innovation in Your Independent Pharmacy

Here's How to Foster Innovation in Your Independent Pharmacy

As a small business owner, you’re no stranger to the concept of entrepreneurship. To keep your pharmacy afloat, you have to be passionate, motivated to succeed, and think outside the box to stay one step ahead of competitors.

These traits are critical for an owner, but when your employees have the same can-do attitude, it can have a positive effect on your business.

Employees who work towards innovation are sometimes called “intrapreneurs.” Gmail — a tool that has become integral to so many workdays — was invented by an employee during their downtime at Google. The near-ubiquitous Post-it note was invented by a 3-M employee who wanted to leave notes in his church hymnal.

Intrapreneurship happens when employees think outside their job descriptions and find ways to make the business better. If your pharmacy policies and initiatives only come from the top of the hierarchy, you could be missing out on insights from the staff members who have boots on the ground every day.

Those frontline staff members probably have some ideas for how to make the pharmacy better — like how to improve wait times or where to shelve products to increase impulse buys. By fostering intrapreneurship, you’re encouraging employees to speak up and empowering them to act on their good ideas to improve the pharmacy.

Some people are more suited to intrapreneurship than others — they’re often the go-getters who seek out mentorships and education opportunities — but you can create a workplace environment that encourages all your employees to get in an intrapreneurial state of mind.

Here’s how you can inspire your employees to go above and beyond to innovate in the pharmacy.

Keep employees engaged

For staff members to innovate on the job, they have to be engaged with their work. Do what you can to keep your employees keyed in to what’s going on in the pharmacy.

This means setting goals that everyone is aware of. When staff members have that end goal in mind, they may come up with some new and innovative ways to accomplish their part.

You can also encourage engagement by fostering friendly relationships among your staff. Individuals shouldn’t be siloed, only thinking about their specific job duties. Instead, create opportunities for people to work together. Two heads are better than one, and when employees see things from each other’s perspectives, they may come up with new ideas together.

Grant autonomy

No one likes a micromanager, but the practice becomes even more harmful if you’re trying to encourage intrapreneurship. If you’re always looking over your staff member’s shoulders, triple-checking their wor, and pestering them for unnecessary updates, they aren’t going to have the energy or motivation to think outside the box. They’ll just stick exactly to protocol in order to keep management from breathing down their neck.

Watch out for these common signs of micromanagement:

  • No delegation
  • Constant meetings
  • Correcting employees’ work without explaining why


Resist the urge to stick your finger in every pot and give employees a little breathing room to inspire creativity.

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Foster idea flow

In a traditional business structure, the people at the top will come up with all the big ideas, then communicate those ideas to employees, who will then do the work to make ideas into reality. In a work environment that prioritizes intrapreneurship, ideas should come from people at all levels of the pharmacy — from the owner to the stock clerk.

Chat with your employees regularly about their experiences on the ground and ask them what they think could make the pharmacy better. When you hear a great idea, praise it publicly. When staff members see their peers getting rewarded for thinking creatively about the business, they’ll be more likely to share their thoughts, too.

Sponsor new initiatives

When an employee comes to you with a good idea for how to improve the pharmacy, don’t just praise it — put your weight behind it.

Ask what kind of support they need to make their idea into a reality. That may mean allocating some extra funds or recruiting another employee to help see the project to fruition.

Before you invest time and money into an employee idea, be sure to vet it. Ask employees for a concrete plan that details how they intend to accomplish their idea, help them revise it if you see any potential roadblocks, and then give them the go-ahead.

As they pursue their initiative, be available as a mentor to help them tackle any problems that may arise.

Establish your risk tolerance

You have patients’ health in your hands, so there are certain areas — like preventing medication errors — where you always want to work to minimize risk. But there are other areas of the pharmacy where you can afford to take the occasional leap.

If your employee has an idea for a creative way to market the pharmacy, let them give it a try. You may risk losing a little money, but you could also end up reaching a whole new demographic and increase awareness for pharmacy services.

Letting employees take the occasional risk can help them feel more committed to the pharmacy. They want to see their idea succeed, so they’ll put their all into it instead of working for the weekend.

Fund education opportunities

Your pharmacist and pharmacy technician employees will attend continuing education courses every year, but if your employees to be intrapreneurs, encourage them to seek out more than the required learning opportunities.

Create a fund for employees who want to expand their skills and knowledge. These opportunities might not directly relate to a staff member’s job duties, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be worthwhile.


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 member-owned company serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited (formerly VAWD) 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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Elements is written and produced by PBA Health, a buy-side solutions company.

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