As the world of community pharmacy continues to grow and evolve, pharmacists have an exciting opportunity to open up their own practices. Instead of working alongside chains or underneath other professionals, pharmacists can branch out and advance their careers on their own. Whether you are a new graduate, a practicing pharmacist, or a seasoned professional, starting your own pharmacy and becoming a business owner can be a career-changing opportunity. It can grant you independence, give you new responsibilities, and allow you to serve your community, your way.
The process of actually opening up a pharmacy, though, can seem daunting. With so many steps to take, regulations to meet, and requirements to check off, you may find it difficult to get started. Luckily, our comprehensive guide to opening up a pharmacy can help to simplify the process. We offer step-by-step instructions on what to do and when to do it — providing you with the information and resources you need to build a successful business.
Our guide to opening a pharmacy breaks down into 3 overarching phases:
The first step in undertaking any project is to do your research. Opening up a pharmacy business is no exception, as it requires a thorough understanding of the ins and outs of pharmacy — not just as a clinical setting, but as a business. Before you make any decisions or consider the matter any further, take the time to do some thinking.
First and foremost, decide if starting a pharmacy is the right choice for you. Pharmacy ownership isn’t for everyone, but it may be for you. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if you are prepared to take the next step:
Once you feel confident about your answers and are prepared to move forward, do your due diligence in researching the details of owning a pharmacy. Important considerations are start-up costs, anticipated time to open, and expected profits.
While it varies by area, most owners can expect to pay between $400-$600,000 to open a pharmacy. From start to finish, you can expect the process to take 1-2 years. And, despite the high start-up costs and time commitment, you can expect your investment to pay off if you have the right business strategies in place. In fact, the average independent pharmacy sees a profit margin of 21.8% — one of the highest of any industry.
Other matters to research are pharmacy demand in your area, patient demographics, and small business data and trends. Doing your research will give you a better understanding of the industry and how your pharmacy can fit in. To help you get started, read articles online, watch informational videos, and most importantly, talk to current pharmacy owners in your area.
Although you are starting an independent pharmacy, it doesn’t have to be an independent effort. Any business venture requires teamwork, so surround yourself with people who can teach you, advise you, and help you as you become a business owner. Consider consulting the following people:
With the help of your advisors, begin to draft a comprehensive business plan. Your business plan should lay the foundation for your pharmacy and help you to establish your long-term trajectory — so give it the necessary time and attention that it deserves. The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends including the following details in your business plan:
Starting your own pharmacy is an expensive venture, but it is also a valuable investment. When deciding on how to fund your business, there are several options to choose from. As you consider each option, make sure to consult your team of advisors (particularly your financial advisor) so that you can make the right choice for your pharmacy.
With your financial matters out of the way, turn your attention to finding the right location for your pharmacy. Whether it be a stand-alone store in a small town or a clinic in a big city, picking the right location is essential to running a successful business. With this in mind, you should spend time researching your area, visiting potential sites, and considering which area would best reach your patients. As you start your search, consider the following factors:
Before you can open a pharmacy, you will have to complete a fair share of behind-the-scenes work: filling out paperwork, applying for permits, and perhaps most importantly, completing licensing and legal requirements. These requirements can be confusing, so call on your advisors to help walk you through them. Here are just a few that you will have to meet:
The most important piece of technology you can buy is a pharmacy software system. Your software system manages every aspect of your business — from patient care to workflow to finances — so it should be as innovative and industry-changing as your new pharmacy. Above all else, your pharmacy software should simplify your work while allowing you to provide the most comprehensive patient care possible. Visit our Comparing Software Page to find out which software is right for you. For more information, read our blog on How to Choose a Pharmacy Software System.
Once you have finalized your pharmacy business plans, picked and purchased your ideal location, and met all of the necessary requirements to start your business, you can begin the hands-on work. When you move into your new pharmacy, begin by buying all of the necessary supplies and equipment to get up and running. Then, move to setting up your store. To help you get started, here are some of the things you should include on your shopping list:
Once your supplies have been purchased and delivered, set up your store in a way that works for you. Experiment with workflow in the back and decide how to make transactions in the front. Set up your equipment, install your technology, and hang signage to get started. Then, organize your dispensing area, optimize your clinical area, and stock your shelves with the necessary OTC products. However you choose to go about it, make sure that the setup of your pharmacy enables you to work effectively and efficiently.
One of your final — but most important — tasks is to hire a team of pharmacists, technicians, and other pharmacy staff who can help you create the pharmacy you dream of. To start the process, consider how you want your team to run. Generally, it is best to appoint a pharmacist-in-charge (who can be you, or a hired professional), along with pharmacists, technicians, and clerks. Think about how many team members you want in your pharmacy, how much you are willing to pay them, and how you can attract them to the positions.
Once you decide to start hiring, let the community know: list openings on job-hunting sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor; advertise on social media; contact local pharmacy schools; and spread the word in your day-to-day conversations with other professionals.
When interviewing candidates for the job, don’t just look at their education and experience — but consider their knowledge, their warmth, and their passion for advancing the field of pharmacy. In addition, think about how they will fit in with your pharmacy, interact with your patients, and help you fulfill the mission you have set for your business. Ask the following questions to help you decide:
As you put together your team, make sure to set aside proper time for training: generally, starting several weeks before you open offers time for new staff to get to know you, your pharmacy, and your expectations. During training, make time to connect with your team and strengthen your pharmacy from the inside out. It will make a difference.
With all of the decisions made, the details decided, and the team assembled, your final step before opening up your pharmacy is marketing to your community. In this final step, your job is to spread the word about your up-and-coming business, get the conversation going, and make potential customers excited about the future. As you work to create buzz around your business, try incorporating a few marketing tips:
After many months (or even years) of hard work, your pharmacy is finally ready to open. Congratulations! Take the time to recognize your accomplishments and celebrate with your team — and then get ready for opening day. For best results, host both a soft opening and a grand opening.
To work out any kinks in your system, and to ensure that your grand opening runs as smoothly as possible, first plan a soft opening. This opening should happen several weeks before you officially open your door to customers. For your soft opening, invite a few patients — including family, friends, and other community members — into your pharmacy to test things out.
Operate your pharmacy as you plan to in the coming weeks: fill prescriptions, offer clinical services, and sell OTC products. Give your patients time to get to know you, your team, and your services. Give advice, answer questions, and most importantly, ask for feedback. Use the suggestions that customers give you to help prepare for your official opening.
The final step is also the most exciting one: opening your doors. On the day of your grand opening, be excited and be enthusiastic — at long last, you have reached your goals and achieved your dream. Your grand opening is a celebration, so treat it like one: buy snacks and refreshments, bring in live music, and set out games and activities for your patients to enjoy.
Up to this point, you have done your fair share of preparation: preparing your business, preparing your team, and preparing your customers. Now, though, it is time to prepare yourself to be an owner. For your patients, prepare to give high-quality, personalized care. For your team, prepare to offer leadership and encouragement. And, for yourself, prepare to have the day — and run the pharmacy — you have always imagined.