It can be incredibly gratifying to open your first independent pharmacy and finally see your hard work being rewarded. As you start to hit certain milestones and levels of success, it’s only natural for an entrepreneur to begin thinking about a second location or beyond.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Many obstacles and challenges can come with opening a second business location, and it’s also going to be much more difficult from a management and logistical perspective. You should make sure that you have enough money to open a second pharmacy – but what else should you be thinking about? Here are some things to consider regarding how to manage multiple business locations.
No entrepreneur can be in two places at once. If you are a business owner that often finds yourself micromanaging everything, then opening another location may have to wait for a while. Entrepreneurs should always be prepared to delegate more as they expand, and this logic also applies to independent pharmacy chains.
Your employees have to feel like they can be trusted, and micromanaging employees can be exhausting for you – and damage employee morale. You won’t be able to monitor every employee at any given time, and you should be okay with “stepping back” a bit and letting your hand-picked management team take the reins. However, it’s essential to set clear expectations with your managers so that they understand their roles, as well.
Some business owners end up thinking about their business every hour that they are awake, and it’s easy to “burn out” after some time. Clearly, you won’t be able to manage your time as you did with only one location. If one location is already stressing you out and you aren’t ready to delegate because you haven’t found the right people, then you may want to rethink opening a second pharmacy.
The Right Timing
One of the most important aspects of opening a second business location is when and how you plan on opening it. For example, if you have a small pharmacy in a quiet part of town, you may have thought about expanding to a more populated location – but have you established that there is a demand? Have you done your due diligence and determined that the location could potentially be a success? What about competition in those areas from big box stores or other community pharmacies? Are the demographics for customers similar to who you serve at your first location or will you have to rethink what you offer for services and products – or even the hours that you might be expected to have the business be open?
There may be other challenges. You may find that you have to spend more money on permits/licenses than you thought, or a need to upgrade equipment at your current location may upset your cash flow.
Timing also isn’t just about money or cash flow – it’s also about the people around you. Have you hired people you can trust and are willing to define their roles and delegate to them? Can you trust them to maintain your customer and business standards at your current location? If yes, then you have more of an opportunity to focus on opening a second location.
If you open a second location at the wrong time, it could disrupt the success you’ve already earned. Talk to your trusted financial advisors about whether it might be a good time to expand – or if better to wait until you’ve achieved other milestones in your plans before adding to your empire.
Improving Processes and Systems
You will now be dealing with more customers and employees than ever before, so it is also time to start thinking about how your business operates on a fundamental level. Part of your business plan for expansion should examine how your business operates and have allowances for updating or investing in infrastructure to scale with your business. Systems and processes can help grow your business by enabling your people to focus on what is most important – customers!
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider another location:
- Is your pharmacy management system equipped to handle two locations?
- Are you investing in supporting systems to help ensure that prescriptions are filled quickly and efficiently?
- Is your information securely stored in the cloud, or are you relying on a computer system tucked in the back room of your current location?
- Can data be shared quickly with a second location to ensure a superior customer experience?
- Is your software updated regularly and at a recent release level to help protect against malware?
It’s good to know at the beginning of your planning process the state of your tech infrastructure so that you can incorporate any necessary changes in your expansion plan.
When you only have one location, it is easy to do “MBWA” (Management By Walking Around), but once you expand, you’ll need more formal communication processes established. Regularly scheduled communications with your management team; clearly communicated ways to escalate urgent questions from your pharmacists and techs; establishing internal resources for answering frequently asked questions – and more. If reasonable, you may want to consider scheduled group meetings with employees from both locations, either in person or via web meeting. This can help to build a sense of teamwork, improving employee morale. At the very least, you should have quick touch base calls with your pharmacy managers often to help keep you in the loop. You’ll still want to do MBWA when at each store, but in between, an internal communication plan can help you know what’s happening even when you aren’t there.
As you ask yourself the tough questions, you will start to get a clearer picture of what is possible. Work with your trusted advisors to help you assess your readiness to take on that next adventure – and how to do it successfully.