What Motivates You?

As I’ve said before, I’m still a bit of a newcomer to this side of the profession. John and I have been working together for a little over a year now, and he knows more about running the business side of an independent pharmacy than I could ever hope to. I’m learning more every day, but some concepts remain a challenge.

One thing that I’ve always been able to wrap my puny little brain around, though, is math. Numbers have always made sense to me so necessarily as I’m trying to introduce myself to you, I find myself leaning on a somewhat mathematical approach to running your pharmacy as a business. Obviously, profitability matters, as the power company has a nasty habit of turning off the lights whenever you don’t pay your electric bill. Certainly, you can even say it’s a motivating factor for John and me, and you wouldn’t be wrong. What it is decidedly not, however, is our end goal. It is simply a means to an end. So what, you ask, exactly IS this end? To answer that question, I want to direct you to one of my tangent stories that fervently hope comes back around to making a coherent point in a few minutes.

A couple of days ago, I was at the store that we can consider my home base. I had been traveling to some of our other locations to work a previous couple of days, so naturally, I had some catching up to do with some of our patients. The first day back after helping out at other stores or even doing what I’m doing today, which is sitting by a pool in Florida preparing for a leadership seminar (it’s a hard life, everyone) is always hectic because these people matter to me. I’ve developed quite a strong bond with my patients, and I’m deeply grateful to them for choosing me over some other pretty good options in our town. I spent my day there crying on the phone with one of our patients that had suffered a deep emotional loss. I answered questions my patients were waiting on me to be in the house to ask because they respect and value my opinion. I spent ten minutes sitting in the lobby catching up with one of our favorites.

The word “favorites” in this context should be a bit of a red flag to you, right? We shouldn’t play favorites, and we should give each and every patient the same level of care, even if they might also be nearer the exact opposite of a “favorite” (and we’ve been over difficult patients on this site before). Lord knows I try to do just that, but am I successful? Almost assuredly not. We DO happen to be human, after all. We hopefully do indeed try to treat everyone that dots our door with as much care, respect, empathy, and love that we have. However, it isn’t always easy. It isn’t always convenient. Bless our hearts – sorry, I’m a southern boy – we’re busy, and one of our GOOD ones just walked in, and I missed her the last time she was in, and I’d really love to catch up…

Let’s think about ourselves and what we project here. Do we expect care, respect, empathy, and love from our patients as well? Do we expect them to understand that we don’t have an unlimited drug budget and if we didn’t KNOW their physician was going to prescribe that less common medication there’s no way we’d have thought to loan our wholesaler money interest-free simply for the ability to have it taking up shelf space? Do we expect them to appreciate the fact that to give them our undivided attention, we have to get the call that’s been on hold for 8 minutes? Of course, we do. You didn’t come wrapped in a protective covering of cellophane when they walked in.

Neither did they. Use your own care, respect, empathy, and love as a fishing lure. Cast it out the moment your front doorbell rings. Positively chum the waters of your lobby with it. All your fish have the potential to be keepers. I assure you that your patients will love you all the more for it, and you will love what you do even more. However, while you’re beaming your happy, lucky, and blessed attitude out into the world, do me and do yourselves a favor. Ask yourselves these questions: Am I a good steward for this profession as a whole? Am I a good steward for this community? It is vital that your answer be yes.

Which I hope brings us full circle to what motivates us. What is our end goal? We want to be that steward. By running a financially sound business, we can be those good stewards, or at least we try to be. We don’t have to worry if we can afford to sponsor this event at the elementary school. We don’t have to obsess over the bottom line when someone says “the transmission went out in my car and I had to have it repaired, would it be too much to ask if I could pay you Friday when I get my paycheck?” We try to run solid businesses because that allows us to take care of the people who take care of us. That’s one of my dad’s pet phrases, by the way. Never forget to take care of the people who take care of you. He has another one, too. “If you CAN…(and even though I’ve heard it dozens of times in my life, he without fail pauses here for a couple of seconds for effect) you OUGHT to.” I can’t agree more.

I want to leave you with one thought and two challenges. If your business is struggling…if it’s a new startup or reimbursements tanking is squeezing your belt believe me you aren’t alone. We have some stores that fit those molds too. However, if yours fits it…are you doing what you CAN? Are you volunteering time in your community? Are you donating five bucks to one of your patients’ elementary school kids doing a walkathon for the March of Dimes? Investing in your community, regardless of what actual type of investment you make, is going to pay handsome dividends for you in one form or another. If your business is thriving, on the other hand…are you doing what you OUGHT to?

My challenge is this. Think back to our conversation about the patients we gravitate toward. Think about those patients that you always get flat out excited when they come in. Now think about the opposite patients. Summer doesn’t officially start for another couple weeks, but functionally summer is upon us, so please play along with me, here. This summer, think of a handful of your patients that are always a problem. Think of the patients who have the dumb luck of bringing you a script for something you don’t have a disproportionate amount of time, or maybe the ones who always seem to be abrupt and gruff. Make it a point to treat THEM with as much care, respect, empathy, and love you have. All summer long, treat every trip they make to your practice with the same importance you’d treat the Pope, George Clooney, or Rihanna or whoever would give you stars in your eyes and butterflies in your stomach. You’d be shocked how big those fish can turn out to be.

Keep on reelin’,