You have invested significant time, energy and money in a professional career. Are you getting your Money’s worth in return?
- Do you possess all the skills you need to maximize your earning potential?
- Are you prepared to handle management responsibility?
- Are you comfortable marketing your professional services without sounding like a salesman?
- Are you working for a living or investing in your own future?
- Are you building debt or building wealth?
- Are your hopes and dreams strategically aligned with the the reality of a global economy and a Post Affordable Care Act world?
- Are you 100% certain that your job can not be outsourced or re-engineered to no longer need you full time?
- Are you in the top 15% of all practitioners in your profession?
The Decay Rate of Knowledge
Most formal education is focused on the development of the foundational knowledge that has been used in the past. While this is clearly important the modern internet age has accelerated the pace of change in the knowledge base to the point that the vast majority of information taught in school may be obsolete only a few short years after graduation. What this means is the the skills required to become an expert in your field may not be adequate to ensure that you are continually employed over the roughly 40 years you are likely to practice your profession.
The three essential skills you must master if you hope to thrive in the future are:
Learn to create value in the marketplace.
Learn how to successfully market your value.
And learn to sustain that value over the life of your career.
Technology changes the way business is done daily.
The most important question that you have to consider is,
What am I going to do to be worth the money I want someone to pay me?
Having a degree and a license is no longer enough. Having a marketable skill that generates real value in the marketplace is the only long term strategy that will succeed.
Are you prepared to manage the people,problems, numbers and strategy necessary to provide for your family and fulfill your healthcare mission? If you are great. If you are not then spend some time on this website to get yourself educated.
There are two kinds of people in the world:
Folks who are perfectly happy working for other people and those who are not. Everybody who has the itch to work for themselves or start their own business should definitely enjoy the stuff I talk about even if you are not ready to pull the trigger yet. And people who want to work for someone else still can learn how to make sure that you are the one who gets promoted or at the very least is not the one who gets layed off when a downsizing occurs.
The Basic Value Creation Skills are Universal
Whether you are a college kid trying to start a business from your dorm room, a single parent trying to earn money from home, an employee looking to improve your standing within your company, an older person looking to retire to a home based office, or a seasoned business owner, you will find a lot of useful information here.
To decide whether or not you are interested in my opinions let me explain my background because it has dramatically impacted my point of view.
I have seven brothers and sisters. My parents raised us to be independent, self reliant and distrustful of government programs. My Dad always called Government employees “trough feeders” who mostly absorbed dollars out of the economy.
I am not telling you this because you need to agree with his opinion. My point is simply that where you end up in life has a lot to do with how you were raised. And I think that it is no surprise that all five of my brothers own and operate their own businesses. And both of my sisters have had very successful business lives inside private enterprise businesses. We were bred to be entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneuship is a mindset
Entrepreneurship has been percolating around in my head for since I started my first independent business at the age of 10 with my newspaper delivery route for the Sacramento Union newspaper. I had to get up at 5:30 am everyday to fold papers, load up my bicycle and hand delivery newspapers before breakfast to 100 clients in my neighborhood. Starting from that humble beginning that earned me about $40 per month I have gone one to own or operate several retail businesses and have written purchase orders for well over $1 million dollars for a single order from a vendor. I have supervised thousands of employees and functioned as everything from the delivery boy to the CEO. I have worked for some amazing leaders and I have worked for some Total BossHoles. So I have spent the last 50 years working, watching, listening and learning how to do things the right way.
Because believe me there is a right way and a wrong way to do business.
I am finally at the age where I can stop working the 100 hour weeks. So now I want to help you learn this information a whole lot faster than I did.
As an author, pharmacist, businessman, educator and entrepreneur I will attempt to shine the light of truth on some foundational business concepts so that you can make a difference in your community. Now here is the thing. There are a lot of books, and programs that purport to teach business skills. There are College courses and MBA programs every where you look.
Here’s the thing.
I do not claim to be a genius, a guru, an expert or even close to the best at anything I have ever done. But there is one thing I am incredibly good at and that is strategic thinking and business development. I have started, run and managed businesses since 1977 when I got out of Pharmacy school at the University of the Pacific. I have applied this strategic thinking to everything I have done. This drive has led my on a wild ride through a fun and amazing career.
I began my career as a Pharmacist working in a Chain Store. Within 18 months I was a pharmacy manager back when that was unheard of. Less than one year later I was promoted to the headquarters as the first training manager for the professional division. About a year later I was promoted to be the marketing manager for the professional division.Within another year I was hand picked by the Jewel Companies management team to get fast tracked to executive management. They took me out of the professional division and moved me in to general management as a buyer for seasonal goods. They sent me to University of Michigan, University of Colorado and other venues for advanced management training. Unfortunately Jewel was dissolved when American Stores bought them and my life path was altered.
My Retail Empire
I bought a junior partnership in a large 18,000 square foot drug store, started a chain of Halloween Shops called Draculas Castle and ran those for years. I then returned to Chain Drug management and was a Regional Pharmacy Manager for Thrifty Drugs and eventually became the California Regional Manager for Smith’s Food and Drug. But I wasn’t done. When Smiths sold out to Ralph’s grocery I elected to stay in Southern California and started Best Pharmacy and Medical Supply. As that business grew I eventually added GLAD Medical Billing and out internet Marketing arm GBS Corp. I recently returned to Academia as the Assistant Dean for Assessment at a School of Pharmacy. After a long career of starting at the bottom in each new organization and working my way to the top I thought I would try something different in my academic career and start at the top and work my down.
The Value Strategy Simplified
Now I am not suggesting that all of you want to go on such a wild an exotic journey as I have but here is the truth. I looked for opportunity and took it. I found a way to make myself valuable to each organization. I have made quite a nice living. And I have never missed a paycheck. But more importantly when bad stuff happened in my career such as getting my company sold out from under me four different times, having my first drug store customer base wiped out by Managed Care before any willing provider laws kicked in, and having Medicare Oxygen pricing virtually shutter a thriving DMA business, I was able to redirect my energy and keep moving forward.
I don’t know what the future holds but I know that it won’t go exactly as you have planned in your head. The critical skill you must have is the ability to create value in the marketplace so you can always keep yourself in a position to be providing for your family.
The Pharmacist Advantage
Now being a pharmacist has had one tremendous advantage for me for the past 38+ years. Pharmacists make good money, we are in the top 5% of all US wage earners. So when I decided to start my own business, I had a tremendous fallback position. I had the luxury of knowing I could still feed my family even if the business I started failed miserably. And you have this advantage too!
But having that luxury also created a problem. I knew that I could recover fairly easily, so I was able to take on more risks than I should have. Consequently I have tried just about every type and style of business with varying degrees of success.
I have gotten involved in a lot of business adventures that sounded really good at the beginning but turned out to be less than ideal. Some of them sucked cash, some took way too much time, some started out okay and the fizzled and some just annoyed my friends and family by trying to sell them stuff.
Trial and Error is Very Expensive
After years of trial and error I finally figured out the secret formula for success. I have been teaching this formula now since 2007 and every time the student has followed my advice they have been successful. And more importantly every time they have not followed my advice they have not. I have taught some really smart highly educated graduate students these techniques and one thing has become obvious. If you follow the formula it works. If you ignore the formula you pay for it. Every year I get calls from former students updating me on their experiences. Some have gone on to launch highly successful companies and others have used these same techniques to get promoted and launch lucrative careers. And still others tell me how they ignored my teaching and suffered as a result.
The Key to Success in Business is Getting the Dollars to Make Sense.
Regardless of the practice setting in which you work as a pharmacist your career has been and will be altered by the business of pharmacy. I believe that our schools of pharmacy have done an outstanding job developing the clinical skills of our young pharmacists. However, I also believe that an unfortunate side effect of the expansion in clinical education since the 1970’s has been an erosion in the business skills of our profession. The question is what does it take to become a good pharmacist?
Clinical Talent is not the Same as Business Skill
Year after year I meet bright, enthusiastic pharmacists with amazing clinical talent but no practical ability to monetize those skills. They graduate confident in their ability but quickly become disillusioned when the working world won’t pay them for what they want to do. They frequently end up working for an organization because they need the job rather than because they love what they do. It is difficult to be a good pharmacist when you feel overworked and under appreciated.
The reality is that there is a simple fix for the root cause of this dissatisfaction. The fix is to learn how to manage the business of pharmacy to either:
Start your own traditional pharmacy business
Start your own new clinical service business
Position yourself to succeed within your existing company or
Position yourself to succeed at a new employer
Independent Ownership is One Option but Not the Only One.
If you want to learn how to run your own independent retail community pharmacy I can teach you because I owned and operated my own highly successful drug store for more than 15 years. If you want to know how to succeed within a large corporate pharmacy organization , I can teach you that because I worked my way up from pharmacy intern to Regional Pharmacy manager with a few different drug chains for about 15 years. And if you want to know how to succeed in developing new clinical services I can teach you because I have successfully developed multiple services over the past 35 years. And if you want to take your hopes and dreams in a new directions I can advise there as well because I have made quantum career shifts several times during my long career.
Business Decisions Will Trump Clinical Decisions
The key tool required for success is to understand the business side of healthcare and how it is the driving force underpinning our profession. It is the business side of things that determines your salary, the amount of support staff you enjoy, the quality of technology you work with and your access to other critical resources.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that only store owners need to understand business. All major decisions are influenced by the financial impact they create and if you aren’t willing to learn how to make things better you just might find yourself looking for a new job.
So if you are interested in learning how to use my formula to launch your own successful business, or energize your chosen career, or to better run an existing business, then welcome aboard.
Dr. Greg Alston PharmD
Author, Educator, Pharmacist, Entrepreneur, G.W.K.S.