Being an entrepreneur is no cakewalk. Although, it is a bit addicting!
Here are 7 Lessons I’ve learned by being a serial entrepreneur. I originally shared these thoughts during Kimber Boothe’s Pharmfluencer summit with pharmacists who are considering becoming entrepreneurs. These lessons are suitable for solopreneurs as well as seasoned pharmacy owners alike.
I graduated with my PharmD at 22, opened my first business, a used car dealership, at the age of 23, and my first pharmacy at the age of 26. Fast forward to today, and I have started 10 businesses in almost 20 years.
I love being an entrepreneur! I’ve been bold going into business adventures based on the idea that I can live through the “worst-case scenario.” When I evaluate an idea, I think of the absolute worst that can happen. If I can make it through that, then it’s a GO. Being an entrepreneur runs deep in my blood. I’ve been starting businesses for almost 20 years, dipping my toes in various ventures along the way, such as paintball, youth sports, movie producing, pharmacy, car sales, and other consulting gigs. These 7 lessons apply to all types of business, not just pharmacy. Let’s go!
Entrepreneur Lesson 1: Cash Flow Is Oxygen
If you’re starting your first business, you may not understand the concept of accounts receivables. You can be highly profitable and still wholly run out of cash and be forced to close your doors if you don’t have the proper cash flow. Not everyone will pay their bills on time, or even sometimes pay them at all. In the pharmacy world, too fast growth actually spells doom because of the drain on cash flow.
In my first pharmacy, I almost grew out of business several times because of struggles with cash flow. This can happen because you buy all your drugs upfront, bill to the insurance company, and get paid 30, 45, or 60 days later. If you have a big boost of business, more money is going out than is coming in. Check out this blog post about quick fixes for pharmacy cash flow if you need to improve yours.
I have helped many pharmacists start a pharmacy. The most common mistakes made are that pharmacy owners don’t budget to pay themselves, and revenue collection is overestimated while underestimating expenses. Many new pharmacies are undercapitalized. New owners can significantly downplay the amount of marketing and sales expenses the business will incur. It is essential to understand financials and how cash flows through your pharmacy.
Entrepreneur Lesson 2: A Business Plan Is A Must
Many entrepreneurs don’t do a business plan because they are not getting a loan. A business plan is not for a bank; it is for you, the business owner. You will develop marketing plans and the pro forma, which is a fancy way of saying financial predictions. You’ll understand your break-even point and your target market. Having a well-done and thorough plan will do more for your pharmacy than anything else because the effort and lessons learned while creating it give you the critical skills to ensure it succeeds.
Regardless if you are getting a loan, I highly recommend completing a well-rounded business plan that includes marketing, competitor analysis, SWOT analysis, and financials so that you are indeed the king of your castle when it comes to your business. If you ever need to get a loan or a line of credit in the future, they will ask you for it. So, finish it in the beginning, and you’ll already have it.
If you started your business already and didn’t complete a business plan, you can still do one. It’s not a one-and-done because it should be continuously updated. I personally love Business Plan Pro to help me build a business plan. Still, you can use other online software to help you guide you through creating a business plan for your pharmacy, so definitely use your resources and don’t bypass this critical step.
Entrepreneur Lesson 3: Marketing Is Your New BFF
Congratulations, you just became a marketer! Like it or not, you must dive into the world of marketing. Website conversion, graphic design, social media, advertising, and all kinds of other marketing tactics and tasks. Marketing is a whole new world. You should understand it even if you may not create your own marketing. You don’t want to get taken advantage of, and no one knows your business quite like you.
Learn to love marketing and become a savvy marketer. The biggest problem for most new businesses is traffic, which is a fancy marketing word for visitors. These visitors are people going to your website or your physical location. There are so many strategies you can dive into to help increase potential customers coming into your pharmacy. Check out our marketing blogs HERE.
Years ago, I was fortunate to spend time and become friends with Tom Feltenstein. Tom was the guerilla marketing guru. Guerilla marketing is a low-cost, networking style of marketing that works very well for independent pharmacies. Marketing is more than just paying for an ad somewhere. It is a comprehensive strategy to increase your market share. You need to get educated and learn more about marketing staples. Join marketing Facebook groups, check out marketing podcasts, talk to experts in marketing, and read marketing books. Contact me if you’d like a reading list. I’ll be happy to share it with you.
Marketing is now your new BFF so get ready to tell your current BFF to step aside, so you can really spend time to focus, to learn, and to love it – this will be a key to your success.
Entrepreneur Lesson 4: Taxes Are A Whole New Ballgame
As a business owner, a new part of the tax code is now open to you. Gone are the days of completing taxes like an employee because now you’ll need a CPA who works with entrepreneurs. There are many new tax advantages from R&D tax credits, to depreciation, to expenses – your taxes will change dramatically. One of the great benefits of starting a business and becoming an entity is tapping into awesome tax benefits – it’s like a whole new ballgame.
I highly recommend you work with a bookkeeper and accountant that helps pharmacy owners like Rx Advisors. Once you start working with a pharmacy tax accountant, taxes might become “fun,” – but I am a numbers nerd. Don’t forget you can go back three years and ask an accountant to review your taxes, make corrections, and possibly get you more of a refund. Pharmacy-specific tax professionals know the cool tricks like employing your children or how to handle your inventory for the best tax outcome.
Entrepreneur Lesson 5: Work-Life Balance Is A Myth
I believe that work-life balance is a myth. Your entrepreneur life is not a nine-to-five Monday through Friday job anymore; it’s heavily intertwined in your personal life. I opened my first pharmacy when I was pregnant with my first child and have been a mom and an entrepreneur for over 14 years. Believe me, there’s no such thing as a balance. People have a perception there is a separation between work and life, but I see no proper separation. Once you become an entrepreneur, they blur together.
You need to be flexible to get things done. For example, my second oldest child is 11 and competes in water polo. I always bring my laptop with me to check emails, take phone calls, create social posts when he is not in the pool. When he’s in the pool, then all eyes are on him! Even though I am swamped, I rarely miss an activity or event with my kids because I can be flexible. It is essential to have realistic expectations of yourself and to give to your family.
Entrepreneur Lesson 6: Don’t Do It Alone
I made the mistake of doing things alone when opening my first pharmacy, mostly because I didn’t know anybody who owned a pharmacy before. I didn’t have a mentor or experience and didn’t know other pharmacy owners. It was stressful and caused me a lot of extra (preventable) problems.
You don’t have to do it alone.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness and doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough. It takes time to overcome this mental lie some of us have in our heads. Ask for help early on to help avoid costly potholes and undue stress. Learn from those ahead of you, and pay it forward by helping those behind you, like a never-ending stream of support. Get a tribe locally, join a Facebook group, do something where you lean into each other, so when the dark times come or when awesomeness happens, you have somebody to share these experiences with.
Being independent doesn’t mean being alone.
Entrepreneur Lesson 7: Enjoy The Ride
This lesson has been the hardest for me – to enjoy the ride as an entrepreneur. It’s in our blood, in our DNA to keep looking forward and what needs to get better. You get so caught up in the day-to-day operations, putting out fires, kicking ass (which is all required at your pharmacy) that you forget to enjoy it. You forget to have fun and forget to turn around to see how far you’ve come.
One of the best lessons I learned from a business coach was to take a moment to look back and acknowledge how far I’ve come and appreciate where I am now. It’s great to have goals and strive for more, but stop and smell the roses, as they say, and enjoy the ride. It is fun!
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