What to Know When Making the Jump from Pharmacist to Pharmacy Manager

“They didn’t teach me that in pharmacy school.”

Chances are you’ve said or thought this very phrase when working in the pharmacy industry. Pharmacists often aren’t shown the ropes, especially when it comes to taking on leadership roles.

This is especially true when pharmacists become pharmacy managers. Assuming the position of pharmacy manager goes beyond managing the daily operations of an independent pharmacy.

Pharmacists are hired to do a job, answering and reporting to a higher up.

As a pharmacy manager, you are the higher up; you are the one who hires and assembles the staff; you essentially answer to yourself — all parts of the job that likely never got addressed when taking your classes.

Nonetheless, operating an independent pharmacy requires a leap of faith and betting on yourself.

Here are four ideas to consider when making the jump from pharmacist to full-blown pharmacy manager.

Building Relationships

As an independent pharmacy manager, your job duties extend past customer relations or other momentary tasks. Independents don’t get to coast on the comfort provided by big-name chains.

You’re making a name for yourself within the community, and you likely want that to be a good name.

It’s easy to feel like you’re stranded on an island as an independent pharmacy manager, but there are countless ways to build strong, valuable relationships in the community.

Get to know the local doctors in the area, establish a comfortable dynamic with them, and assure them that their patients are in safe hands at your pharmacy.

Check out this clip from the Beyond the Scripts Podcast where Amina Abubakar, CEO of Avant Pharmacy and Wellness Center, explains the art of building a healthy relationship with providers:

A doctor’s opinion holds great power, and for them to endorse your pharmacy to their patients will go a long way in developing your business’s success.

Even city officials are worth contacting. Learn about local events where you can promote your pharmacy to further expand your outreach.

Who knows? You might end up as a city council member if you play your cards right. For now, let’s get your managing skills up and running.

Leading the Leaders

As a pharmacist, you’re already making in-the-moment decisions with colleagues who are looking to you for guidance. Pharmacy techs and clerks depend on you to steer the ship on whatever storm you all find yourselves in on a given day.

Pharmacy managers do that, plus leading pharmacists. Directing other fellow pharmacists adds a whole new dimension to pharmacy work.

You both have gone through the struggles of undergrad, you both survived the gauntlet of pharmacy school, and you survived your residencies.

You both know the feeling of pride and accomplishment when attending your white coat ceremony. You both are equals and contemporaries in every way — except you’re the one who’s calling the shots.

The dynamic between a pharmacist and a pharmacy manager can be a tightrope act, as you don’t want your colleague to think they’re somehow beneath you. This relationship flourishes when both parties have mutual respect and understanding for each other.

Though there is no place for egos in the pharmacy, they’ll need to know you’re ultimately calling the shots. Likewise, make it a point to hear your pharmacist out and take their thoughts and suggestions into careful consideration.

Achieving this kind of synergy will make the team dynamic flourish even more and your independent pharmacy will be operating at peak efficiency.

Finding a Mentor

Remember, you’re never on an island, even if it feels like it sometimes.

As a pharmacy manager, chances are you look up to certain figures in the industry, people who have proven themselves in a field that requires both grit and integrity.

Remember that no one is above learning new and valuable skills. Though you are in a considerably high leadership position, never hesitate to seek guidance or help when you need it.

Having a mentor can give you some much-needed clarity and perspective on situations that initially seemed impossible to overcome.

Preferably find a mentor within the pharmaceutical industry since they’ll relate to you more and give suggestions that are tailor-made to your profession. Mentors don’t have to be a kind of emergency glass to break in times of peril.

Ask them questions regularly, give them scenarios to work through, and pick their brain regarding an industry that seems to change with the tide.

Your mentor has gone through the long weekend shifts, lines of restless customers, and everything in between, and they’re likely more than happy to share their hard-earned wisdom with you. Just make sure to pay it forward when it’s your time.

For more inspiration and advice from some of the industry’s best, check out our Pharmacy Leaders page to see how you can blaze a trail in the independent pharmacy world.

Managing a Legal Tidal Wave

As you probably figured by now, you have a ton on your plate as an independent pharmacy manager. With all this focus on leadership and financials, it makes certain important things falling through the cracks dangerously easy.

It’s great if you’re meeting your vaccine quota, if your profits are through the roof, and if your staff is effortlessly in-sync with one another — but it will all be for nothing if you’re not following legal standards.

Make sure your independent pharmacy is legally compliant with your state Board of Pharmacy regulations, DEA rules, and other store-specific policies that your pharmacy needs to abide by.

Don’t get too comfortable to the point where you think your pharmacy can work like clockwork. Rules and regulations change all the time and one little slip-up can spell disaster for you, your independent pharmacy, and even your future as a leader.

To stay up to date on the latest legal changes in your state, follow our Pharmacy Laws & Regulations page.

Do You Have What it Takes?

Do you have your own ideas, methods of leadership, and a clear vision of what an independent pharmacy would look like with you at the helm?

If so, you might have what it takes to make it on your own, to be an independent pharmacy manager. It might feel daunting, even intimidating, to just think about managing a pharmacy — but it might be a risk worth taking.

Though you’re venturing into the unknown, there are always those who will help guide you through turbulent times so never hesitate to ask for guidance or assistance from your mentors.

For guidance on how to open your own independent pharmacy the right way, check out our How to Open a Pharmacy page for detailed tips on how to get started.

No one truly achieved anything worthwhile on their own. Having the humility and knowledge that it takes a village will make you a strong leader and exceptional pharmacy manager.

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