You’ve heard of Intel®, the company that makes microprocessors. A few decades ago they were the dominate manufacturer of memory chips, until the Japanese began selling high-quality, lower priced chips – and they sold a lot of them. Intel reacted slowly, thinking it would innovate its way out of the problem.

It soon became clear that wasn’t working very well. One day, then-President Andrew Grove and Chairman Gordon Moore met to continue their long discussion of what to do. Both men believed the board would soon bring in new management to turn things around.

The breakthrough came when Grove asked Moore what a new CEO would do if they both got fired and a new leader replaced them. Moore quickly responded that the company would get out of the memory chip business. Grove answered that maybe they should be the new leadership team and do the same thing. That was the decision that saved the two men’s positions and Intel as well.

Is It Time for Big Change in Your Pharmacy?

What about you? You may be a senior manager or even an owner of a long-term care pharmacy that’s facing a major challenge that, if it remains unsolved, could overwhelm your business. For some of you this isn’t theoretical.

Most of you know what isn’t working: staff turnover, slow-paying customers, customer attrition, or costs climbing faster than revenue. But most of us resist change. Change is difficult, even when we know it’s necessary. You may know exactly what you need to do, but the thought of expending the energy to begin just seems overwhelming.

Consider this: If you had to start from scratch, what would you do differently? To help get started, imagine that the U.S. long-term care system had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Would you build it the same as it is today? Of course not! You recognize what doesn’t work, and your experience would give you hints at how to improve nearly everything.

Change Before You Are Forced To

Particularly hard is change needed as a matter of survival. Decisions have to be made without time to consider all the options. Better to change while you still have time. While some of us believe we perform better under pressure, we probably don’t. Whatever you decide to tackle, make certain it is the most important problem to solve. (Try this article on a four-step process for defining the problem to create a shared understanding of why and how to tackle it.)

Imagine the biggest challenge facing you is recruiting and retaining qualified pharmacy technicians. If the current situation doesn’t change, you foresee that you won’t be able to serve the customers you currently have, and you certainly won’t be able to expand market share to new accounts and new lines of business. You have no reason to expect the situation to change, so action is required.

You’ve now overcome the first hurdle: inertia. You have committed to act, so what’s next? You may believe the next step is determining how to increase compensation for pharmacy techs. That might be the right answer – but only if you’re certain employees leave primarily for higher pay. Thankfully, you haven’t waited until a crisis arrived, so you have time to confirm your hypothesis – perhaps by performing stay interviews in which you meet with your pharmacy techs individually and let them know how valuable they are to the pharmacy’s success and solicit feedback on how you can help them create a career right where they are.

Confirm and Manage the Change

Perhaps your interviews reveal that yes, the techs would likely leave for a better-paying job, but they also would be more inclined to stay if they had access to a career path and training that would qualify them for more responsibility. So far, you’ve identified the key problem and have an outline of a solution. But before you go further, go back to your technicians and ask them to validate what you think you know: that they would be likely to commit if they got a reasonable pay boost and an opportunity for professional development and advancement.

Only when you are satisfied that you have a confirmed objective does the real challenge begin. How do you find the resources to accomplish it? Can you better manage expenses or make efficiencies that free up some cash? What training options are available and realistic for your pharmacy?

Just remember not to be discouraged when this is difficult. If it weren’t, you would likely have solved it long ago. You chose this problem because you are convinced it is the single most important thing you can do for the success of your pharmacy. This is your Intel moment!

X-Factors for Revitalizing Your Pharmacy

  • Determine what your replacement would do first to make your pharmacy more successful.
  • Focus your attention exclusively on the one issue that will make the biggest difference.
  • Once you begin, don’t let up until you have solved the problem. Your team needs to see you act.

What’s the one thing you’d absolutely get rid of – or create – for better long-term care pharmacy, if you were starting all over? Share with your colleagues!

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Written by: Paul Baldwin, Baldwin Health Policy Group
Paul’s pharmaceutical industry experience in public and government affairs led to becoming Executive Director of the Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance, helping lead the industry through the Medicare Modernization Act and creation of the prescription drug benefit. Paul was VP of Public Affairs for Omnicare before founding Baldwin Health Policy Group.
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