Pharmpreneur of the week Chris Gardner: “It is easy for an entrepreneur to get out of balance.”
What excites me about being a healthcare entrepreneur is the opportunity to help grow great Canadian organizations that make meaningful differences in the health and well-being of the communities they serve.
By Sherif Guorgui
Former CEO of Neighbourly Pharmacy with a wealth of healthcare experience, having worked in pharmacy retail for over 28 years.
Neighbourly Pharmacy is a leading pharmacy operator in smaller, often underserved communities, hospitals and medical buildings across Canada and was founded in 2015. It grew from a single location to just under 300 locations by 2023.
Chris served as the President, CEO, and board member for Neighbourly Pharmacy until January 2023. He joined the company in 2017 and led the company from 2018 from its early stages to becoming the fastest-growing network of community pharmacies in Canada and the third-largest national retail pharmacy network in Canada. Under his leadership, Neighbourly grew over 600% through acquisitions and organic growth and has a national footprint with pharmacies in virtually every province and territory across Canada (excluding Quebec). It was recognized as the fastest-growing company in Canada in 2020 by the Globe and Mail and has twice been recognized as one of the Best Managed Companies in Canada by Deloitte.
Chris guided the company through its growth and initial public offering in 2021 and continues to provide support and counsel as a strategic advisor.
Before joining Neighbourly Pharmacy, he spent 23 years at Shoppers Drug Mart working across Canada. He held various leadership positions, including overseeing in-store merchandising, district operations, and optimization projects, with his last role being vice president of national operations.
Former CEO, Neighbourly Pharmacy. Currently serves as a strategic adviser to Neighbourly Pharmacy and sits as an independent board member of Corus Orthodontists.
What excites you about being an entrepreneur?
What excites me about being a healthcare entrepreneur is the opportunity to help grow great Canadian organizations that make meaningful differences in the health and well-being of the communities they serve. Private and public companies often provide unique ways to improve access to care. Whether it is providing access to life-saving medications, vaccinations, access to healthcare services or helping unleash great smiles at Corus Orthodontists, it is hard not to be excited about being an entrepreneur whose industries do so much good in the communities they serve.
After Neighbourly was recognized as the fastest-growing company in Canada in 2020, I had the opportunity to meet with many other Canadian entrepreneurs, overcoming the many challenges created by the global pandemic. It was inspiring to see the strength and resiliency of entrepreneurs across Canada, and it is essential for more healthcare professionals to seek entrepreneurial opportunities.
Opportunities will continue to be created due to Canada’s growing and aging population and the unique challenges that it will create. Entrepreneurs will continue to be essential to redefine better access to care and help solve the future challenges facing our healthcare industry.
How has your entrepreneurial career evolved since your graduation?
My entrepreneurial career has undoubtedly evolved over time. Having worked at a well-established large pharmacy network with a significant support structure, it was a learning curve to start working in a healthcare start-up and an early-stage company. The opportunities created when you can move quickly and find rapid solutions to some of the many challenges mature healthcare industries face are unique. I have enjoyed the opportunity to help build leading healthcare service providers.
How do you define success?
I define success in many ways. The first and most important is to ask yourself if you are making a difference and if that difference is having a positive impact. Having the benefit of having worked in several healthcare businesses, you get to see your hard work impacting patients, communities and your teams in many different ways. Being successful can be realized by finding ways to both do good and help build a sustainable business while you are doing it.
How do you manage work/life balance?
Entrepreneurs can find balance in many different ways, and finding the solution that works for you is critically important. It is easy for an entrepreneur to get out of balance, and one of the ways I have found to help prevent that is to ensure that you surround yourself with a good team with a similar vision and passion. Another critical way is to find time to prioritize your family, friends, physical activity and maintain a focus on your health. I always found it valuable to hold to a schedule and prioritize those things outside of work that bring you balance. Being disciplined in prioritizing these things helps you find that balance and will ensure that you can be successful in the long term, not just the short term.