New year, new opportunities

With Christmas just around the corner and the start of the new year in sight, workers around the UK will be looking forward to a well-deserved holiday break. But for community pharmacies, there’s still some important work to be done to prepare for a busy year ahead.

Farah Ali, general manager at Warman-Freed, will be spending this month looking closely at five key areas to identify where improvements can be made to help the business prosper in 2019. 

These are analysing how the team operates across all sections of the pharmacy; assessing the impact of the changing NHS financial structure on the business; looking at how Warman-Freed can improve its revenue from core sources; researching the changing needs of the local community; and quantifying the impact of competitors on trade.

Ms Ali explains: “We’ve had to look in detail at these points to really understand how each challenge or change will impact us. In 2018, we monitored and controlled costs, while tracking sales on a daily basis. We’ve had to make some difficult choices to maximise revenue, but it was essential for us to deliver the sales and profit we need to in order to survive.”

Balancing act

One area Farah is particularly keen to focus on is how Warman-Freed responds to a number of pressing financial challenges. She says: “The NHS funding cuts have led to reduced revenue.

“We’ve looked at elements that are within our control in NHS services and our prescription business to allow us to map which ones will have the most return for us and can be managed without additional investment. We’ll also look at which ones are not right for us due to time or financial constraints, or don’t fit within our community.” 

Farah and her team have gone through the pharmacy’s profits and losses “with a fine tooth comb” to pinpoint exactly where the business could cut costs and make profit: 

The team is paying close attention to the changing needs of its customers and looking into new ways of providing the services and goods they need, while at the same time saving on costs. Focusing on operational efficiencies, as well as paying close attentuion to merchandising and product positioning will also play a big role in plans to improve OTC and beauty sales and grow awareness of the pharmacy within the local community.

“Consumers are more demanding and the way they source services and products is evolving; bricks and mortar businesses are being increasingly challenged by online businesses. Consumers want things immediately without having to wait or spend unnecessary time inside the store and we need to facilitate this.

“We have reviewed the cost of goods, services and supplies, which are costs that we have little control over, but there are ways to make efficiencies to try and make as much of a saving as possible.”

With a wealth of potential changes to Warman-Freed’s operations on the horizon, Farah believes it is vital that the pharmacy team is kept up to speed on how the business is performing. 

Team effort

Staff members are being given the opportunity to provide input on any new ideas to drive the business and are also provided with training in line with the business focus.

cIt is then important to share as much relevant and necessary detail with the team as possible so they are aware of what is happening and why. Without everyone aligned to where we need to be and responsive to any changes, we will be unable to thrive as a business.”

By investing the time and effort to review these business areas, the team has been able to prioritise the most relevant and pressing issues that need addressing immediately, which in turn will ensure Warman-Freed gets off to a quick and profitable start in the new year. 

“Instead of simply reacting to circumstances, we are being increasingly proactive to ensure the team is focusing on the most important elements affecting the business. We’re constantly reviewing and course correcting the plans based on experience and while some initiatives have been put on hold, others have come up as new opportunities for us to take into next year.”

Staff members are being given the opportunity to provide input on any new ideas to drive the business and are also provided with training in line with the business focus. "It is important to share as much relevant and necessary detail with the team as possible so they are aware of what is happening and why.

"Without everyone aligned to where we need to be, we will be unable to thrive as a business."

By investing the time and effort to review these business areas, the team has been able to prioritise the most relevant and pressing issues that need addressing immediately, which in turn will ensure Warman-Freed gets off to a quick and profitable start in the new year. 

“Instead of simply reacting to circumstances, we are being increasingly proactive to ensure the team is focusing on the most important elements affecting the business. We’re constantly reviewing and course correcting the plans based on experience and while some initiatives have been put on hold, others have come up as new opportunities for us to take into next year.”

Lessons learned

  • Assign a sum to planned initiatives — work out what is worth going after and what may demand a lot of effort for little return
  • Consult staff and customers for ideas on how business could be improved. What brands, products or services would they like to see introduced?
  • Review staff tasks and responsibilities; offer training to help staff achieve new goals
  • Use sales data to highlight less profitable  products and services. Consider changing or removing them to improve your bottom line

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