It’s hard to maintain a positive outlook while living and working through a pandemic. Adapting to a new normal can be a real challenge, even on the best of days.
But for some gifted people – those that always see the glass half-full instead of half-empty – there’s always an opportunity to grow and learn, and for which they’re grateful.
It’s a true gift and one that Nick Knowles from Pharmacist Advice at Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands of NSW has in abundance.
“I think the biggest thing has been to look at the positives,” he says of coping with the difficulties this year has brought.
“It can be very easy to be consumed by all the negativity out there, but it’s amazing what the right perspective can do for your frame of mind.”
He recognises that two positive outcomes of Covid-19 are the ability to work more cohesively with his team and being grateful to be part of an industry that, unlike so many others, is financially stable.
“We’ve bonded together a bit more and we’re working a lot better as a team than we ever did before,” says Mr Knowles.
“As a business we’ve been busier than ever, so there’s that financial reward. A lot of people have lost their jobs or businesses, and we’re not in that situation. Financially, our business is quite strong, and that’s a real benefit.”
For Mr Knowles, having a strong foundation from the beginning has helped him, the team and the pharmacy to weather the Covid-19 storm.
The systems and structure he had in place have allowed him to continue providing valuable services to his community.
When he and his pharmacist wife bought the pharmacy five and a half years ago, it was already a Pharmacist Advice store.
“The brand was something that really appealed because of its professional service emphasis,” says Mr Knowles.
“I think what we did well from the beginning was to try and put out a really strong retail offer that complemented the dispensary and the shift towards professional services and advice.
“We’re always adding things to the business to help differentiate us from our competition. We’ll always give new things a go.”
For example, with mental health issues on the rise during Covid-19, the pharmacy now has a dedicated area to make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for.
“We have a dedicated OTC category that covers problems such as sleep, mood, reduced energy levels, stress and anxiety,” says Mr Knowles.
“We really strive to help our customers find solutions to their health issues.”
For Mr Knowles, the immediate response to Covid-19 was, like so many other businesses, to deal with the challenges at hand, such as remaining open while keeping staff and customers safe, and maintaining essential medicines and items in stock.
“In the beginning, the biggest challenge was working through what we need to do to keep our staff and customers safe,” he says.
“The amount of information was simply overwhelming. We were very fortunate to have the help of the Pharmacist Advice brand, instigo and the Pharmacy Guild to help us navigate our way through. We developed a Covid-19 action plan that helped us focus on what our main priorities should be and to come up with the strategies to address them.
“We’ve had times of stress, but I’ve been really happy with how my team has handled the higher demands placed on them.
“Our community has been very accommodating for the most part, too. Particularly in the pharmacy setting: we’ve seen very little aggression or agitation with the changes we’ve put in place. We’ve been lucky in this respect compared with [behaviour in] other parts of the country.”
Pharmacist/owner, Nick Knowles.
How long have you been a pharmacist?
How many staff do you employ?
How long have you operated your current pharmacy?
Five and a half years.
Do you offer professional services?
How can you not? Vaccinations, wound clinic, DAAs, blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring, MedsChecks, stop-smoking support, inhaler technique checks, COPD screening, opioid treatment program, needle and syringe program, compression stockings.
What kind of customers do you attract?
We have a pretty broad demographic that has a solid proportion of older customers, but we have a lot of young families as well. We have a psychiatrist next door, so we see a fair number of patients with mental health issues.
What is the philosophy of your pharmacy?
We want to help people find solutions to their health problems. Addressing our customers’ health needs is our number one priority.
What size is your pharmacy?
What is the most successful OTC category in your pharmacy and why?
Vitamins would be our most successful at the moment. We’re seeing people spend on multivitamins and immune-support products, as well those for stress and relaxation. I think that’s a good reflection of how people are feeling with all that’s going on, that they’re putting value on their health and wellbeing. We’ve always had a preference for professional brands, such as Ethical Nutrients and BioCeuticals, because of their quality and effectiveness. When something works, people come back.
Describe your day-to-day challenges and how you overcome them.
Most of my day-to-day challenges are to ensure that we keep our core business ticking over amid the mayhem. We achieve this by having a weekly target sheet that helps us track things such as loyalty sign-ups, scripts on file, app sign-ups, new DAA patients and MedsChecks.
What has been your most satisfying moment in the pharmacy?
We did a refit in our dispensary a year ago and it’s the best thing we’ve done. It improved our workspace, workflow, and how we interact with customers.
To read the feature in full, as it appears in this month’s issue of Retail Pharmacy magazine, visit: retailpharmacymagazine.com.au/magazine