Q&A with Bob Graul: Promoting independent pharmacy ownership

LAS VEGAS — Pharmacy ownership was once again a key aspect of McKesson ideaShare, as McKesson hosted its sixth annual RxOwnership program on June 29 to help advise independent pharmacy operators that are looking to buy or sell an existing store. Always well-attended, there were no empty tables at this year’s ownership transfer luncheon, which created an interactive environment for attendees to one of three different case studies: one in which a new pharmacy owner was looking to fill the void left behind in the local community by a retiring pharmacist; another involving a large chain prescription file buyout; and another focused on the sale from mentor to protégé.

DSN caught up with former pharmacy owner and national VP RxOwnership for McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical Bob Graul to discuss how McKesson’s RxOwnership program continues to evolve to better serve the needs of both new and seasoned pharmacy owner/operators.

DSN: What do you hope attendees get out of the annual RxOwnership luncheon?

Graul: It’s the sixth annual luncheon. We’ve changed the format over the years, but what we decided is we really wanted an interactive experience at this year’s ideaShare. What we were looking for was dialogue. It’s a chance to hear the customer’s opinion on these subjects. The outcome of that is stimulation. It’s getting owners thinking about different opportunities, whether it be to buy or sell or do a start-up — we have a lot of start-ups, we did 375 start-ups last year, and it looks like we’re going to be doing even more.

This was an opportunity to get owners to walk out of here thinking about not only “should I?” but also “how can I?” and “what are some of the issues I might encounter?” And then obviously tee up the fact that McKesson has people to help them; they don’t have to do it alone. We have a terrific team, including VPs Jim Springer, Kim Diemand, Karen Schmidt and Chris Cella.

DSN: How would you define the independent pharmacy landscape today?

Graul: As I mentioned during the luncheon, NCPA predicts that 10,000 stores will be up for sale in the next 10 years. There are a lot of opportunities despite the challenges community pharmacy faces. The two obvious challenges are declining reimbursements and increased cost of doing business. We’ve gone through these cycles before in which margins shrink dramatically, but independents seem to have a way to adapt and take advantage of opportunities.

DSN: What’s driving growth among independents?

Graul: Multiple store owners are growing their own practices — that’s a factor. And the surplus of pharmacists has driven a lot of practitioners into the independent segment that may have not gone that route before.

DSN: What are the RxOwnership tools independent owners have at their disposal?

Graul: One tool that is very useful is our web site [rxownership.com]. The site has a lot of valuable information, including a valuation calculator. We also have three checklists — they’re tri-folded pamphlets, one is for buyers, one is for sellers and one is for start-ups. These checklists guide the independent owners through the phases of the transfer process, keying on what they shouldn’t be missing in each of those phases. And we have the regional sales managers and RxOwnership team consultants on hand who are trained to discuss an owner’s transition.

DSN: You had mentioned RxOwnership’s services are available without charge. Why is that?

Graul: It’s a value-add for McKesson. McKesson’s heritage started in the independent segment, so it’s a natural to want to support and try to maintain that segment. It fits quite nicely with McKesson’s overall focus — promoting better business, better results, better future and “better together” through Health Mart. McKesson has chosen to accept the expense, because we think it’s so important that this consultancy should be available to our customers. McKesson’s making an investment to keep independents independent. I believe firmly that chains, and independents are two different business models delivering the same services and both are needed to ensure every customer can get the services they need and want.


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