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How to break into senior management at a multiple

The Co-operative Pharmacy’s operation director Tim Davies shares his tips for making it to the top

Ever wondered how to rise through the ranks at a large multiple? The Co-operative Pharmacy's operations director Tim Davies, who oversees 800 pharmacies and has previously worked at Assura and Boots, shares his advice for breaking into senior management.

What made you decide to work in senior management and what steps did you take?

"Well you don't decide you want to work in senior management. You decide you want to work in management, and then you may be able to move up from there. It's about spending time with people you look up to and learning from them. Think about what inspires you and what inspires others. You should maximise your exposure to new things and make sure you get out of your comfort zone. And you have to be able to look at the big picture."

What challenges can aspiring managers expect to face?

"You're accountable for making the right decision, even if it's not the most popular decision. That can be very hard. You need to remember to work on your own skills – the more senior you get, the more responsibility you have. And you have to be comfortable with ambiguity. Things are rarely black and white."

Is there anything they should avoid doing?

"You need to think about how you lead and how you're perceived by other people. To do this, you should ask for feedback from co-workers. Emotional intelligence is important – you need to understand it and develop your own. That's something most people don't think about."

Would you suggest that a pharmacist stay with one company for a long period of time, or experience working at multiple companies more briefly?

"Most people value a breadth of experience. I think it's good to experience different work cultures, but I do want to stress that you need to stay in power when you're considering new positions. You also need to be able to demonstrate the ability to stay at one company."

What words of advice would you give to a pharmacist looking to get into management today?

"I think you have to create the opportunity to get the experience. A lot of local pharmacists think they can go get their MBA and then sort of leapfrog into management without getting the experience, but I don't think it works that way. There's no shortcut through experience – that's a key point."

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