I’m a beast at what I do because mediocrity bores me. As a new Pharmacist and Manager, I made up for my lack of experience with energy and enthusiasm.

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I literally had an agility ladder on the floor of my pharmacy because the stresses of work weren’t quite enough.

Pharmacy Strategy #1: Skip verification in the morning and go straight to production. With each ten minutes uncontested, I could knocked out 20-30 prescriptions.

Pharmacy Strategy #2: Acknowledge every single patient by name. Don’t know their name? Listen to the technician ask, then show up at Pick Up pretending like you remember them.

Pharmacy Strategy #3: Type and adjudicate all prescriptions using multiple screens. Each step takes the computer about 1.5-2 seconds to load, so I can start on the next prescription while I wait.

In the beginning, I was the beast of all trades. My patients knew me, wanted me, and trusted only me. I could literally run this pharmacy by myself.

What other way was there to work, except to give it my all? I love the feeling of exhaustion after sprinting across the finish line. True corporate athlete right here.

“No one can equal me,” I would think to myself.

Pride Cometh Before the Fall

All was good, until the days grew longer. The work and the patient foot traffic grew, along with problems and complaints. So, I did what I knew best: muscled it even harder.

I found ways to dash around the pharmacy, saving a few seconds between each prescription. I learned shortcuts and SIG codes so I could be even more productive at Drop Off. To ensure my patients received the very best care, I made appointments with them so they could speak and interact only with me.

Being an A-Player became so important to me that I lost sight of the bigger picture: the health of my pharmacy business and the culture I was creating.

Missing business deadlines, promise times, and the thousands of managerial responsibilities on my plate, this Pharmacy Manager met the end of his tether. He didn’t realize it yet, but these were all signs of corporate burn out.

Corporate Burn Out

The corporate system is quite ingenious, really. The retail pharmacy business is built on the premise of massive growth programs and structured protocols to ensure that profit grows and risk is managed. In other words, there will always be work to do. 

Like most managers, we want to succeed because it’s in our blood. We push, sprint, and sweat in order to win, achieve, and receive recognition. Nothing can get in the way of fame and glory.

But that all comes at a price. Heavy exertion, increased cortisol levels, and never-ending demands tax our bodies. The corporate business system is designed to outgrow any one person’s capacities to maintain.

That’s because at headquarters, they literally have dozens of teams who brainstorm, create, and implement hundreds of programs that translate to metrics, corporate initiatives, and computer prompts that govern the way we do work every day.

Trying to win and be the best at everything is like spinning plates on sticks by yourself. Once you get good, more plates get added. The harder you work, the higher your capacity. Some call us clowns and puppets because we do this without even knowing.

However, in Corporate Pharmacy we call this phenomenon “increased bandwidth,” and this is a good thing. But all humans have their limits, and the Retail Pharmacy Manager is not supposed to increase their capacity for work. This only leads to faster Corporate Burn Out.

Ignore the Glass Ceiling

Despite what your District Supervisor might say, there is always a “glass ceiling” effect that keeps us from reaching the peak of success. No matter how hard I type, produce, and verify, the work and stress will never go away.

Striving to do more for the first two years as a Pharmacy Manager only yielded me minimal results and recognition. I was clearly more than mediocre, and my patients adored me. But aside from stellar customer comments, I had very little to show for all my hours spent slaving after the pharmacy doors were closed.

I hungered to break that plateau, be Number One in my district, and attain Pharmacy fame and glory. But the harder I tried, the harder I fell.

Then, it dawned on me. I was approaching the problem the wrong way. I was working harder, not smarter.

Feeling the draining effects of Corporate Burn Out (fatigue, dispensing errors, cynicism, and negative thoughts about my career), I decided to give up on the Do It Myself mentality.

Sure, I physically do the very best job and produce the highest quality work. But I had to remind myself that this was not part of my job code.

In a sense, my primary job as manager was to make my job easier. I realized that I needed to increase my bandwidth and capacity for leadership duties.

“Forget the glass ceiling that keeps me trapped,” he said.

Build a Foundation, Then Move Up

It took a lot of failures and hard falls before I realized that I needed to stop shooting for the stars without the proper foundation. I needed a plan, and I would eventually call it:

Operation Corporate PharmD

Strategy #1: Duplicate myself and build a high-performing team. Coach, develop, mentor every single day. No exceptions.

Strategy #2: Build and implement systems that will persist in my absence. Delegation, protocol, and accountability. #1 Priority.

Strategy #3: Grow my team faster than my pharmacy business. Do less, so I can do more. Build a circle of winners and leaders.

I spent the next few years doing the hard thing: stepping back and letting go. I learned that failures were necessary to my team’s growth. My “do and fix everything” attitude became band-aids that prevented my team from leveling up.

Focusing more on my managerial duties, I realized then I still had trouble keeping up with everything myself. So, I built systems ranging from calendars and schedules to pharmacy protocols and best practices. It was hard to manage at first, but routine and consistency dominated over time.

Whatever I could do to take something off my plate, I made my responsibilities into living, breathing entities that everyone could see. Pharmacy Manager duties were not just mine to own anymore.

Over time, my days off truly became work-free, and my business became more successful than ever. Finally, I had reached Retail Pharmacy Nirvana

The final step in my mission was to create a self-renewing system that outpaced the growth of my pharmacy business. The only way I could make my job easier was to continue growing my technician team of leaders. Hiring, onboarding, and developing talent is the name of the game.

And although some technicians would go on to move up in their careers or pursue life-long dreams, the succession systems keep our pharmacy at the top. No longer do I look inward to make leaps and bounds in the business place.

The only way we would reach the peak, love our jobs, and protect our futures would be with my dream team climbing together, hand in hand.

And with that sentiment, I said farewell to beast mode.

An Ode to Beast Mode

Thrills of metrics crushed, my heart and dream,

Praise, recognition, and pride, my fuel and steam.

But that pride and thirst for glory, I worried,

For my fall cometh and keeps me down and weary.

Strength from my purpose, I use to stand and plan

My vengeance for the corporate game at hand.

Where I used to cry, for no one equaled me,

We now stand elevated, as one team, one pharmacy.

Business Tips for The Corporate PharmD[sta_anchor id=”biztips26″ /]

  • Everything has a limit, including beast mode
  • Relying only on yourself creates a “house of cards,” i.e. weak foundation, that will burn you out
  • Pool your resources, create a strategy, and build systems that will make your job easier
  • Duplicate strengths from all team members, not just yourself