Pharma Execs Need to Think More Like Entrepreneurs
By Kevin Meuret, founder of Mantality Health
Walk into a local chain pharmacy anywhere in the country, and you’ll be greeted by the same store layout and identical products. Modern pharmacies have lost the personal touch that ma and pa shops once had as they grapple with a growing patient volume. Pharmaceutical executives would be wise to abandon their struggling system and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset.
Most pharmacies focus more on insurance companies and doctors than customers. That’s not the way medicine works today.
Many patients educate their own doctors about prescriptions and what they need. A person might go to his doctor and say he doesn’t like a certain diabetes medication because it causes fluctuations in his blood sugar. The doctor then has to find a medication that will meet the patient’s needs without the adverse side effects. Pharmacies need to get on board with this approach and recognize the wants and needs of their actual clients.
The marketplace is changing, but pharmacies are not adapting quickly enough to meet the shifting demands. Consumers seek convenience above all else, but most pharmacies don’t offer home delivery or an automated prescription renewal process. The population is aging rapidly, and people will be less willing to drive to their corner pharmacy to pick up medications over the next 10 years. Those same pharmacies will lose many of their customers if they are unable to deliver more convenience.
Many pharmacists still want to offer personalized medicine and look their clients in the eyes, but this approach is something consumers no longer desire. As the market shifts, many patients would rather use technology to get instant orders delivered directly to their homes.
Follow the Market
The pharmaceutical industry is no different from other trades — market demand drives business. As pharmacies pivot to address the concerns of patients rather than doctors, an entrepreneurial mindset can help pharmaceutical leaders grapple with their new client base.
If executives don’t change their mindset and start thinking like entrepreneurs, pharmacies will be stuck in an outdated model without ample time to adapt. Pharmaceutical companies must prepare to face increased competition because of deregulation — patients will soon be able to get medications from manufacturers domestically and abroad.
Entrepreneurs build for where the market is headed rather than grasp at the threads of yesterday’s trends. They drive innovation and welcome it.
Dollar Shave Club provides a great example of this entrepreneurial approach disrupting an established industry. The company’s founders observed consumer trends and worked to create a new business model. Dollar Shave Club shaped the retail experience of buying razor blades into a customized, individual interaction. The market, customers, and investors have embraced Dollar Shave Club, with Unilever shelling out about $1 billion to buy the company.
Taking Pointers From Entrepreneurs
Change is inevitable in every industry. Pharmaceutical executives must recognize the shift in their clientele and begin to appeal directly to patients rather than doctors. The pharmaceutical industry would benefit from adopting a few traits common among successful entrepreneurs:
- Destroy what works today to build for tomorrow. Clever entrepreneurs know the importance of going directly to the source. Pharmaceutical executives must craft accurate profiles of their ideal customers, asking patients what they want in products as well as experiences. Patients are becoming more self-aware and taking controlof their own health, and the pharmaceutical industry must evolve along with them. Executives should be comfortable abandoning their existing approach to appeal to customers’ changing needs.
- Find your audience, and listen. The pharmaceutical industry must start educating end users and listening to their needs. Industry leaders must also consider different ways to enhance the experience they provide. They should work to find something else to add to their purchases and scale the process, enabling them to do more business with existing clients. For example, pharmacies might implement personalized follow-up messagesthrough phone calls or emails.
- Fearlessly pursue your market. Entrepreneurs know the importance of being the first to go after a particular market. They aim to educate the new clientele and acclimate them to their business model. Similarly, pharmaceutical executives should analyze their market to determine the percentage of users who are ready to shift to a new model. They should then relentlessly market their services to this portion of the audience.
These new clients are going to be individuals in their 40s and older Baby Boomers who have embraced technology and the mobile lifestyle. These companies don’t have to oppose local pharmacies, but all of their services should be mobile-friendly. For example, the industry lacks apps centered on patient needs— pharmaceutical companies can easily meet this demand.
- Form a team that can execute. Pharmacy executives should look outside their industry to build the best team. They need to search for experts in other industries instead of constantly tapping the same people who provide technology to pharmaceutical companies. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are great avenues to reach these new team members, who will offer a unique point of view and a different take on the industry’s issues.
Entrepreneurs build for where the market is moving. They look three exits down the highway instead of staring at the hood ornament. The pharmaceutical industry might be trailing behind right now, but an entrepreneurial mindset can reinvigorate the business and prepare it for decades of success.
About the author
Kevin Meuret is the founder of Mantality Health, a Missouri-based medical practice dedicated to the treatment of low testosterone in men. Meuret has volunteered with a number of entrepreneur-focused groups, including Junior Achievement of Greater St. Louis Inc. and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.