It’s important that every business has a written strategy, suggests Alliance Healthcare’s Chris Martin

Putting together a strategy, or reviewing one, for any business is an important step in making decisions, setting direction and giving the company or organisation a working plan. I’ve discovered that this doesn’t need to be a long and involved document. A strategy described on just one page is, in fact, a very useful tool.

As well as being a proud pharmacist and non-executive advisor with Alliance Healthcare UK – alongside P3 columnist Mike Smith – I have the privilege of being chairman of Milford Haven Port Authority, the largest energy port in the UK. While the two roles are very different, I am often struck by the similarities, and I’d like to share some ideas from a recent strategy session we held.

The Port Authority board met to develop our so-called ‘strategy on a page’. This document, in an easy-to-use format, succinctly clarifies our vision, core values and strategic direction, along with a more detailed plan to deliver these aims. The exercise was prompted by significant business challenges for the port around global liquefied natural gas supply (over which we have no control) and reduced profitability, coupled with a diversification strategy that was proving more difficult to deliver than we had originally envisaged.

Do these issues sound familiar? We could have been talking about community pharmacy in the current climate.

I’m a great believer in sharing best practice and getting involved to help tackle a common challenge, so here is what we produced from that meeting. I hope it proves useful and sparks a few ideas.

This is what we discussed for Milford Haven:

Our vision

To build the Haven’s prosperity. We are a ‘trust port’, which means that, while being a commercial organisation, we have no shareholders but many stakeholders who need to buy into our vision and support our sustainability for future generations.

Our core values

  • Safety – this comes first in all we do
  • Collaboration – great things happen when we pull together, draw on each other’s strengths and give it our all
  • Excellence – you can count on us to keep our promises and always strive to better ourselves and our business.

Now let’s look at the same in relation to community pharmacy. You will notice similarities:

Your vision

To build up the prosperity of your business. You also have a huge number of stakeholders who are key to the success of your business. Have you mapped out who they are, and do you have a strong relationship with them all? Do they understand what you do, and how your unique role is an essential part of a vibrant and thriving healthcare system? Do they realise all the services you provide and how you deliver them with great integrity and professionalism?

Your core values

  • Safety – the safe supply of medicines; an essential part of medicines management to improve the health and wellbeing of the local population
  • Collaboration – an integral part of the healthcare team in the community that you serve
  • Excellence – continuous improvement and efficiency, coupled with high quality services and offerings to local citizens.

Our strategy and your strategy

I think that both of our sectors have a great deal of common ground:

  • Targeting and securing long-term sustainable income streams
  • Building strong partnerships
  • Understanding our customers
  • Managing and maintaining our property, land and equipment.

The strategy on a page that we produced for Milford Haven has really captured everyone’s imagination in the organisation. It is clear, concise and deliverable.

When did you last visit your own business strategy? Do you have one written down?

We have also produced a plan to deliver our strategy. As with all plans, we all need to ensure we are nimble and flexible, adapting to the challenges our businesses face. Investment in your pharmacy business will ensure you are fit for the future, with, for example, things such as the Falsified Medicine Directive just around the corner.

When I ran my own group of pharmacies, we used to spend some time working with our teams to develop and deliver our own strategy and business plans. Doing this together with your team is really worthwhile. It can help ensure ownership, as well as sharing the challenges and successes along the way.

It’s so important that all of us in the pharmacy sector make sure we speak with each other, as everyone continues to learn along the way. I encourage you all to develop your own strategy on a page, and start to put it into action.

When I ran my own group of pharmacies, we used to spend some time working with our teams to develop and deliver our own strategy and business plans

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