Pharmpreneur of the week Peter Namis: "... the post-2010 pharmacy era has forced many pharmacists and business owners to pivot and adapt."
If you have an idea, something that will make life better for pharmacists, or patients, or both, explore it at all costs. You never know when your idea might change the way we practise. After all, a better future for all pharmacists is a safer future for all patients.
By Pharmacy U
B.Sc Pharmacy, Ahram Canadian University, with clinical training completed at the University of Alberta and internship at the University of British Columbia
Owner/Manager Chancellors Way Pharmacy & Kohler Drug Store
Co-CEO PharmaCon Ltd. (Pharmacy Consultants Ltd.)
CEO Photography by Namis
BioAdvance Coordinator Janssen Pharmaceuticals
Has your entrepreneurial career evolved since your graduation?
Immensely! When I first graduated, I used to think the epitome of entrepreneurship was to own a pharmacy, or even multiple pharmacies. Pre-2010 era of pharmacy in Ontario would have been an incredible place to start building that “empire” financially speaking, of course. However, the post-2010 pharmacy era has forced many pharmacists and business owners to pivot and adapt. In actuality, owning a pharmacy is the least of the accomplishments to which I attribute my personal success. My first exposure to post-graduation entrepreneurship was buying my first store, then building my second, within a six-month period. I used to think this was the dream, and having made it, I could finally rest. Only then did I realize the goalposts were too close and I was not mentally stimulated enough.
As many pharmacy owners learn, having great customer service, quality of care and a multi-award-winning store are not as important to certain customers as pricing. We were definitely not the cheapest, and did not engage with the nickel and dimers of value prescription shoppers. This mentality for us ultimately would work in our favour, but was painfully slow for growth at the beginning. To overcome this, I had to offer services that were not available at every pharmacy. Eventually, I was introduced to a medically supervised weight loss program that personally changed my life. Using my passion for this program, I implemented it in both of my stores in Canada and began the process of my expansion into the USA. Not sure if this will be my happily ever after, but with Covid dwindling, I would like to diversify my portfolio further. Regardless, I starred in a commercial for that company, and oddly enough, in a few other companies' marketing campaigns, like PrescribeIT (pilot site).
How have you pivoted?
Speaking of Covid-19, during the pandemic my pharmacy, which was located in a large medical centre in Guelph, was stretched thin as the building’s walk-in clinic was forced to shut down and patients were not being seen in-person by their doctors. My partner and I decided to get into Covid testing and vaccinations to keep afloat. When we received the initial training, I was shocked to see how poorly prepared I was to offer these services to the public. Born out of necessity, along with an equally motivated close friend and colleague, we decided to rewrite how the training is taught, streamline the onboarding process with labs, and utilized our clout in the medical supply industry to allow ill-prepared pharmacies an option to not just stay afloat during those difficult times, but actually turn a profit. This was the beginning of PharmaCon Ltd., short for Pharmacy Consultants Ltd. During peak pandemic we had onboarded approximately 50 pharmacies within a short period of time across Ontario. Thankfully, I was newly wed to Nassim Give, a corporate lawyer who burned the midnight oil with us, drafting contracts to protect us and our partner pharmacies. We provided virtual and in-person training, onboarding with labs, essentially a turnkey business opportunity for any willing participants. We were also able to acquire and distribute rapid antigen test kits, and personal protective equipment when many big players were not able to source them. We further leveraged our shipping contacts to get these products out to our clients quickly across North America.
Lastly, I have an intrinsic curse which forces me to learn and understand different facets of healthcare. In my current role as a BioAdvance Coordinator for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, I am being exposed to different aspects that I had not been exposed to in my role as a pharmacy manager for all those years. I do not know what the future holds for me, but I do know that my time, as valuable as it is, will not be spent only in a dispensary.
How do you define success?
First, do I enjoy what I am doing? Currently, yes! Money comes and goes. More so the latter in this current economy. Success for me is not loathing the job that I go to day in and day out. My days, while not always exciting, are at the very least not dreadful. I enjoy the pharmacies that I have built, the staff that I work with, and my amazing patients who show us the same respect that we show them. This was a big change for me from the days of working relief in my earlier career. Some shifts were good, others bad, and some bad enough to make me walk away from pharmacy practice for an entire year to pursue professional photography, which I still enjoy doing to this day!
How do you manage work/life balance?
This is a tricky one, because I haven’t figured this one out. I can’t even count how many sleepless nights I’ve had over the last five years or so. Business ownership, especially in new fields for me like consultancy and wholesale distribution can be incredibly taxing and even debilitating. This is further complicated as I am recently married to an entrepreneurial corporate lawyer, who is as driven as I am, if not worse! Burnout is real! Always remember it is ok to not be ok. Take care of yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. As the saying goes, the journey is more important than the destination. That destination will come in due time, but take it from me personally, let yourself every once in a while stop and smell the roses.
What advice would you give to colleagues who want to become entrepreneurs?
Owning a pharmacy is just one of many avenues where you can define success. Having work-life balance is something owners, especially at the beginning, don’t have. We glorify pharmacy ownership, putting it on a pedestal when in actuality there are so many fulfilling roles that will utilize your knowledge and be exciting to do daily. I aspired in my early career to own multiple pharmacies. Having accomplished that, it was not fulfilling for my personal growth. I’m focusing on consulting, wholesale distribution, working for large pharmaceutical companies and even international opportunities in weight loss and cosmetics. A few short years ago, these wouldn’t have even crossed my mind as being potential pathways for my career. My mind is opened and free from the constraints of colouring inside the lines. My purpose and ethos are driven when I think outside the box. If you have an idea, something that will make life better for pharmacists, or patients, or both, explore it at all costs. You never know when your idea might change the way we practise. After all, a better future for all pharmacists is a safer future for all patients.