Owning an independent, community-based pharmacy can be a rewarding career choice for a pharmacist, both for financial and professional gains. Many pharmacists may feel that employment with a major chain is the easiest or only viable career option, but pharmacy ownership should not be forgotten.
The regulations for pharmacy ownership differ worldwide according to the governing bodies responsible for pharmacy practice in the region. Independently owned pharmacies are estimated to represent approximately 40% of all retail pharmacies in the United States. The majority of these are in rural or urban areas of the country, rather than metropolitan centers.
Qualities of pharmacy owners
There are several core values that most community pharmacy owners tend to share. These include:
- Desire to have a meaningful impact on their patients’ wellbeing
- Determination to control their own career
- Willingness to run their pharmacy to meet the community’s needs
Benefits and challenges of owning a pharmacy
There are many benefits for pharmacists who decide to own and run their own pharmacy. These include:
- Increased time for one-on-one interaction with patients
- Opportunity to foster trusting relationships with patients
- Ability to become a valued asset to the community
- Increased financial rewards
However, there are also several challenges that come with owning a pharmacy. Many owners find it difficult to balance the many roles that they need to fill, both in serving patients as a pharmacist and in the operations of the store. There is often a significant learning curve associated with the initial years of a pharmacist becoming an owner.
Owning a pharmacy is not the best option for every pharmacist, but the benefits certainly outweigh the challenges for those individuals who are passionate about owning and running their own business.
Pathway to ownership
It is usually preferable for pharmacists to gain some experience working on the field in a chain or independent pharmacy before making the leap into ownership. This can help in improving the pharmacist’s professional skills and gaining insights about how other pharmacies are run, which will help them when running their own pharmacy.
Additionally, as there is a significant financial barrier to buying an established pharmacy, it is usually necessary for a pharmacist to work for several years for the down payment on a pharmacy.
Most pharmacy schools do not provide adequate foundational studies about finance, accounting and marketing to equip pharmacy students with the core skills needed to run a successful business. Therefore, it is useful for pharmacists to take extra-curricular business classes while at university or while working, before pursuing ownership.
It can also be useful for aspiring or new pharmacy owners to seek mentors or guides who can help them lay a strong foundation for acquiring and running a pharmacy. Those who have experienced the same struggle are often able to provide the most insightful advice.
Key education areas for pharmacists considering to become owners
Few pharmacy schools offer adequate training and education to equip graduating students with the skills required for successful community pharmacy ownership. The following topics are key areas that may need to be studied by pharmacists looking to become owners:
- Creation of a business and growth plan
- Development and maintenance of pharmacy practice
- Understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the business owner
- Creation of a financial strategy
- Creation of a marketing plan
- Assessment of technology needs
- Acquisition of legal advice
- Acquisition of accounting advice
- Pricing strategies, product placement and floor planning
Experience and knowledge in these areas can be acquired through experience or formal education settings. The pathway for the new pharmacy owner will depend on their personal situation, opportunities and needs.
Reviewed by Afsaneh Khetrapal BSc (Hons)