Speakers at last month's Numark conference in Vietnam reveal their advice for contractors
1 Understand your business
It may sound like the proverbial teaching your grandmother to suck eggs. But, says Numark director of marketing Lynne Armstrong, too many people focus only on reviewing their business's financial performance and not other influential factors such as its internal (staff, premises) and its external environment (competitors, customers).
"When we talk about a business review people think about where we're losing or gaining money from," she explains. "A business review is so much more than that."
Numark director of commercial operations Raj Nutan suggests that getting a fresh pair of eyes to look at, for example, your premises or your workflow, can be invaluable – could you ask a friendly fellow contractor, for example?
And Quantum Pharmaceutical commercial director Brian Fisher advises contractors to identify their strengths by coming up with a list of 10 things that are unique to you, that make your business strong or that differentiate you from your competition.
2 Get to know your competitors
Send your staff out on mystery shopping trips, advises Mr Nutan.
3 See yourself as a leader
Think of five leadership attributes you need to develop, advises Mr Fisher – and then identify how you can do so.
4 Inform, involve and use your team
"You might own the business but you're not the only person the business is important to," says Ms Armstrong of the need for contractors to make better use of their staff. And, say the Numark conference speakers, that doesn't mean just delegation but really involving your team in the development of your business.
"Are your team part of the business or just a spare pair of hands?" asks Ms Armstrong. "If this was your business, what would you do? – that's what you should be asking your staff."
Mr Nutan suggests holding 10-minute weekly team briefings – and before long, he says, staff will be coming to you with ideas. Mr Fisher agrees: "If you can find two or three people in your teams who are prepared to back you and come with you on this [business change] journey it's going to be far more powerful than doing it on your own."
5 Set yourself (and your team) targets
Mr Nutan advises contractors to have a set of KPIs (key performance indicators) against which you can measure success. Examples include waiting times, prescription returns and repeat prescriptions.
6 Stand united
Could you team up with other local businesses to mutual benefit, asks Mr Nutan. Set up an informal retailers' forum, he advises, and offer joint promotions such as Mother's Day specials or Bank Holiday offers.
7 Hone your image
Don't forget about retail, says Lynne Armstrong – it may be only 7 to 15 per cent of your turnover, but it's 100 per cent of your image. "Your pharmacy environment... is the best marketing tool you have." Yes, it's an area where your team are very important but, she cautions, "you have to delegate, not abdicate".
The average pharmacy stocks 6,000 retail lines, Ms Armstrong adds – but the optimum is 2,500. "Does your stock holding depict pharmacy or does it depict jumble sale?" she asks.
8 Tell people what you do
"There's no point doing any of this stuff if you don't tell people about it," says Ms Armstrong of the importance of marketing.
9 Make change routine
"People should expect change in your organisation, says Mr Fisher. "People should become bored and restless when change and innovation is missing from their day."
Indeed, says Mr Nutan, change should not only be expected – it is absolutely necessary. "The way community pharmacy currently operates needs to continually change to be able to sustain a profitable revenue stream."
10 Take action
There is no time like the present, say the Numark conference speakers – if you are going to change your business for the better you need to start now. As Mr Fisher says of the need for a sense of urgency: "Nothing kills change like apathy."
Numark director of professional services Mimi Lau urges contractors to start by committing to doing just one thing differently or better – plus, importantly, how and by when.
How the Numark conference unfolded on Twitter
@CandDJennifer: GPs&pharmacists in same boat as small business owners,says Petre Jones-both need to deliver quality&efficiency to survive
@CandDJennifer: Pharmacy is in a sandwich and the two bits of bread are changing rapidly - classic John D'Arcy soundbite
@MedsManPharm: S'times feel like jar of meat-paste, thinly spread across cheap bread
@MedsManPharm: We are wafer-thin ham, when we need to be thickly-carved, off the bone