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Managing Multiple Pharmacies: Lessons From the Nation’s Most Successful Franchises

Managing Multiple Pharmacies

June 23, 2020

Inside: Learn to improve your pharmacy from these successful multi-store business giants. 

McDonald’s hasn’t sold 100 billion hamburgers by accident. Their success is the result of smart business decisions that helped them expand from one restaurant in Illinois to 38,000 locations in 100 hundred countries.

While you might not be striving for world domination with your pharmacy locations, by paying attention to the strategies of McDonald’s and other successful franchises, you can ensure that your pharmacy operation can keep thriving in your community.

These methods have allowed franchises to expand across the globe — here’s how you can implement them in your pharmacies.

McDonald’s: Consistency Is King

When customers walk into a McDonald’s, they know exactly what to expect. It doesn’t matter if the restaurant is in New York, San Antonio, or Tokyo, customers have nearly the exact same experience: the golden arches, service with a smile, and Big Macs.

Consistency has always been part of the McDonald’s formula. In 1961, McDonald’s owner Ray Kroc founded Hamburger University — a training program for his franchisees. The curriculum at Hamburger University teaches franchise owners how to run a McDonald’s restaurant, using Kroc’s philosophy of “Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value.” That way, no matter who is running a McDonald’s location, the customer experience is the same.

Although you may not have the resources to set up an entire “university,” you can still use the McDonald’s model. Create clear rules and procedures that are followed by all of your locations, and make sure your managers go through all the same training. Invest in your branding so that you have a recognizable logo and each pharmacy location has a similar look and feel.

Carry consistent merchandise from store to store, so if a customer usually visits one pharmacy and buys a particular brand of shampoo, they know they’ll be able to find it at another location if they need to.

Ace Hardware: Customer Service Creates Customer Loyalty

Box stores like Lowes and Home Depot may have larger product selections and marketing budgets, but Ace Hardware’s commitment to their customers has turned them into a power player in the home maintenance and repair industry.

With the slogan “The Helpful Place,” Ace makes it easy for customers to come into the store, find what they need, and get started on their home improvement projects. Each of the chain’s locations has an intensely local flavor, and merchandise is tailored to what people in the community need.

Ace uses a combination of online and hands-on training to ensure their staff members are knowledgeable and confident. Having highly engaged employees in turn creates highly engaged customers who show loyalty to the brand.

Your multiple independent pharmacy locations can take a cue from Ace by tuning into the needs of your community. Listen to patients when they give feedback in-store to make sure you’re keeping the things they need in stock.

Train your pharmacy employees to provide top-notch, attentive customer service. When a patient asks a question, staff members should know the answer without having to check with someone else. And of course, assistance should be delivered with a patient and friendly demeanor.

Like Ace, you can even reward your regular patients with a loyalty program.

Chick Fil A: Invest in Employees

Chick Fil A realized that employees who feel supported by their workplace are more engaged in their work. Because this leads to happier customers and greater profits, the chicken chain has found creative ways to invest in their workers.

For one, they make sure workers are prepared for the jobs they are hired to do. It’s not just the run-of-the-mill orientation: they hire actors and run simulations so that employees are ready to deal with any problem that comes their way.

They trust their employees with more decision-making power than your standard fast food joint, and they’re encouraged to try out new things based on their experiences in the restaurant.

Chick Fil A also invests in employees’ futures, offering perks like scholarships and tuition assistance to help them advance their career goals, even if those goals don’t involve working at Chick Fil A. It’s a show of faith that makes employees want to do their best.

The lesson you can learn from Chick Fil A is to not take your employees’ hard work for granted. Conduct thorough training for new hires so they feel ready to take on the world instead of like they’re being thrown to the wolves.

While you may not have the resources for a program like tuition assistance for all employees, you can still take an interest in their career development. If a front-end worker shows an interest in becoming a pharmacy tech, you can guide them through the process or even help offset the cost of the program.

Orange Theory: Gamify the Experience

For its most loyal members, Orangetheory isn’t just a gym: it’s a lifestyle. In the past few years, the fitness chain has become almost ubiquitous, and that’s because it has tapped into its customer’s competitive nature.

Orangetheory takes a task that many people consider to be a tedious obligation — exercise — and turns it into a game. When visitors come in for a workout, they’re challenged to keep their heart rate in the “orange zone” and when they do, they earn “splat points.” These points are concrete proof for customers that they are meeting their fitness goals, which is something that they can feel good about. Even though the reward of splat points is abstract, it keeps them coming back into the gym.

As a center for health and wellness, you can tap into those same impulses. Turn the services you already offer into a game. If you offer a smoking cessation program, reward participants for sticking with it some pharmacy discounts. To encourage patients to stick with a multivitamin regimen, create a stamp card. Every time they come in to buy vitamins, they get a stamp, with the reward of a small pharmacy freebie when their card is full.

By gamifying your services, patients feel like they have more control over their health and are more likely to stick with good habits — both for the small reward and the sense of accomplishment.

Re/MAX: Be Adaptable

Good times don’t always last, but savvy franchises are able to power through and keep their businesses afloat even when the economy doesn’t favor them. When Re/MAX was faced with downturns in the housing market, chairman and co-founder Dave Liniger said the attitude was, “We just have to put our nose to the grindstone, put our plan together, and work the plan.”

Being ready to pivot can get businesses through tough times. During the housing crisis in 2008, that meant that Re/MAX agents who were previously making their living selling million-dollar homes changed their approach and started working foreclosures.

Pharmacies are facing challenges in dispensing like never before, with PBMs running the show and without any signs of that changing any time soon. Smart pharmacies are using the Re/MAX’s philosophy of flexibility and adapting to a new kind of pharmacy — one that can survive poor reimbursements and rising DIR fees. Pivoting away from a dispensing-only model, pharmacies can offer more preventive care and enhanced services to drum up new revenue streams and make their business more resilient.

The UPS Store: Lead with Integrity

Tim Davis, president of The UPS Store, has used lessons from his time in the United States Marine Corps to become a more effective leader.

Leadership means letting go of control and trusting others to do what they are best at, especially when you’re running multiple locations. “If you’re good at developing ideas and turning those into products or services, that’s one thing; but you may not be good at payroll or marketing,” Davis told CNBC’s Make It.

He also recognizes that even though he’s at the top of the organization, that doesn’t mean he’s always right, and by being willing to acknowledge mistakes, leaders can cultivate trust from their staff.

As a pharmacist, you are probably used to being on the pharmacy floor and dealing with problems in a hands-on fashion. But as a leader, you have to learn to let go of some of those responsibilities.

Hire pharmacy managers that you trust, and train them to take care of problems instead of bringing things up the chain. If you give into the impulse to micromanage, you’ll end up exhausting your employees and making them feel like you don’t trust them.

Additionally, make time to listen. Since you can’t be in every location at once, you’ll have to rely on your pharmacy managers’ reports. Take their suggestions seriously, because they have firsthand experience to back up their opinions.

Follow the Series

Managing Multiple Pharmacies: Creating Formal Policies for Every Location






This blog series is all about the unique aspects of managing more than one pharmacy location. Follow along as we discuss how to improve efficiency, productivity, and profit across multiple pharmacies.

Part 1: Key Factors to Succeed With More Than One Location

Part 2: How to Create Consistent Results Across All Your Locations

Part 3: Creating Formal Policies for Every Location 

Part 4: How to Manage Managers

Part 5: How to Build a Loyal Following With a Unified Brand

Part 6: The Key to Consistent Communication

Part 7: Lessons From the Nation’s Most Successful Franchises


An Independently Owned Company 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 a member-owned organization that 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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