What was the toughest lesson you have learned in Pharmacy?
The toughest lesson I learnt was that it is not enough to be the best pharmacist you can. It is important but it is also necessary to work in a way that is commercially successful. It is not a bad thing to think about making a fair return and not something to be ashamed of. A lot of our young pharmacists, myself included 20 years ago, enter the profession with an idealistic view of what it will be like and how they will practice. For many, the loss or weakening of that view as commercial realities hit can be a difficult time. The best pharmacists I know go on to combine the two objectives and practice pharmacy with the highest standards while making fair remuneration for that effort.
Pharmacy is an ancient and proud profession and I am equally proud to be a small part of it. Now that I have explored the world of design and marketing I appreciate my place within it even more. It has led me to believe that at times we can be guilty of not appreciating what we have with our professional status. We grumble about this, that and the other while many people struggle to put food on their table and a roof over their heads. Of course, we made the decision and did the hard work to become pharmacists so it is a choice. We should, however, respect and cherish the profession a little more than we do at times. It is immensely valuable to us as pharmacists as well as to the patients we serve. Pharmacy is the people who work in it each day, right now. We are pharmacy, to borrow the new Royal Pharmaceutical Society strap-line. No matter what our predecessors did, whether it helped our cause or not, it is our job to nurture the profession, enlighten society as to the contribution we make and can make and pass it on in good shape to the next generation of pharmacists who are eagerly making their way in our direction.
I am Founder and Managing Director of DOSE Design and DOSE Publishing. I work with a small number of trusted associates on client work, however, I personally produce most of the deliverables as I like to guarantee the highest possible standards. Customers satisfaction is absolutely key and by being directly involved in every project I can strive to deliver that. Within DOSE Design I work with clients to understand their organisations, help them to learn more about their target markets and to develop a brand identity that communicates their positioning and key messages. The difference between a brand and a commodity is meaning. There is plenty of space for meaning in the pharmacy market to help differentiate you from your competitors. That is where I work. Within DOSE Publishing I started with the desire to help pharmacy people understand marketing and began by writing chapter one of the Pharmacy Marketing Formulary. The skills I have learnt during my pharmacy career and at DOSE Design have enabled me to build the business platform myself which has been really interesting. A friend recently told me about a book he was reading where the author described what happens when a person with a particular technical skill sets up a small business because they are passionate about it. They think they are going to liberate themselves from something but really they gain an extra five or six jobs. Strategy, finance, marketing, operations etc. That definitely rings true.
A little however I think I was overconfident due to my experience in pharmacy. I was lucky enough to find success in most things and was unwittingly protected by my professional status and the income that affords. When thinking about setting up a new business now I am far more nervous! Which is a good thing.
In a nutshell, I really believed in what I was trying to do. Pharmacy does need to manage it’s brand far more successfully than we have done and are doing now. That still drives me on now.
No. Everything I have learnt has been useful in one way or another. Some learnings have superseded others but I try not to forget lessons of the past.
What do you love about it?
For me, pharmacists are the medicines experts. It’s a common phrase but one that I think we can do more with. More in terms of our vision for what we can achieve and more in terms of how others perceive us. During my initial research into the brand of pharmacy and when carrying out market research on behalf of clients more recently, it is clear that the majority in society see us as people they can trust with regards to supplying medicines and providing advice about those medicines. That is fantastic and is exactly what we do well. However, we have been innocently trying to promote ourselves in other areas in recent decades with limited commercial success and even less success in terms of making a lasting impression on how society views us. For all the right reasons we have talked about diagnostic testing, long-term condition management and yet we are still seen as an expensive supply function by many stakeholders. We are, in my opinion, a little guilty of neglecting that which we are known and respected for in pursuit of other seemingly more attractive goals. A big branding mistake. If we were managing the brand of pharmacy excellently and built an unassailable position of strength around our medicines expert position then with the right understanding and actions over a prolonged period we might be able to extend peoples perceptions of our contribution further. It would also help us to resist technological advances that others think can replace us as they only view the logistics function that we provide. Now, how can we really become medicines experts? We are already on the way with GP pharmacists and many becoming independent prescribers. We have a broader and deeper education about medicines than any other profession. What we are missing is a lifetime of observing, recording, learning from and sharing with each other the outcomes of those pharmaceutical interventions in patients lives. That experience and the collective knowledge gained could help to transform perceptions of pharmacists, where and how we practice. That is what I love about pharmacy. It is yet to happen.
Gavin and DOSE publishing recently published the Pharmacy Marketing Formulary. To buy your copy click on the image below.