Before speaking to a few hundred of tomorrow’s pharmacists about the pros and cons of independent pharmacy ownership, Bill Altland took advantage of the motorcycle ride from Alaska to Philadelphia to gather his thoughts.
Altland is a community pharmacist and proprietor of Whale Tail Pharmacy, though he is currently on a one-year sabbatical. He stopped in on community pharmacy owners, particularly in rural areas, along the way to NCPA’s 112th Annual Convention and Trade Exposition.
Altland asked them what they’d tell students considering a career in independent community pharmacy. His advice?
- Work for a chain pharmacy first. You can learn a lot, both good and bad, about merchandising and pricing, he says.
- Work for a “Mom and Pop” pharmacy. In particular, find a pharmacy owner mentor who’s been in business for a while. Altland says it can provide excellent training in reviewing contracts, dealing with wholesalers, etc.
- Get involved in your community. Pharmacists have an opportunity to make an impact, especially in a small town like his. Altland’s wife, Sarah, is president of the local school board. Altland’s served on city council. The couple hosts book group discussions in the pharmacy after hours once a month. The pharmacy features a “kids corner” with toys for visiting children to play with. While he didn’t plan it as a marketing strategy, he thinks it helps their business.
- Dream big and start early. The sooner you start, the more time you have to learn from your experiences.
And marrying a pharmacist doesn’t hurt either, he jokes.