Sanders Pharmacy | A winning strategy to business growth

This article was written before the August 2021 Covid-19 outbreak.

Gemma Perry doesn’t believe in sitting on her laurels. Owner of Sanders Pharmacy in Te Awamutu, and a former New Zealand Young Pharmacist of the Year, Gemma and her team were named Community Pharmacy of the Year at this year’s Primary Healthcare Awards.

She says benchmarking her business against others was a great way of assessing whether what she and her team were doing was innovative and “top of the class”. Completing an entry took a lot of work and thought but it helped to drive a new path, identifying how to do things better, she says.

The award judges commented that Gemma showed “great innovation…strategic direction and leadership though COVID, which was clearly backed up by an engaged and highly capable team. Most will never fully understand the efforts that their community pharmacy team went to during this time.”

The pharmacy’s response to word of the looming pandemic was to close the doors 10 days before the Government’s lockdown announcement to develop a barricaded walk-in zone with Perspex screens to protect staff, their families, and patients. The pharmacy’s staff of 20 was split into three teams and opening hours were extended.

The pharmacy shares a building with the Mahoe Medical Centre and Gemma worked closely with its management to ensure Te Awamutu and the surrounding region was well supported during the lockdown and since.

One joint initiative is a private Lifestyle Medicine coaching service, through PreKure. Sanders team member Vicki Macky, along with two medical centre staff, are trained to provide a Type 2 diabetes reversal clinic.

The pharmacy team has spent the last year planning a store-wide refit, which was being implemented in July this year. And if that wasn’t enough innovation, Gemma is also planning to open a second pharmacy next year in a new health hub in nearby Cambridge in conjunction with a medical centre to be opened by Mahoe Medical.

“We’re aiming to repeat our magic formula,” says Gemma. “We love helping people and we know we can make it work for everyone’s benefit.”

Running all these ideas past Moore Markhams advisor, Atul Mehta is a given for Gemma and her husband, Lester, Markhams has been part of her team from the start.

Initially Gemma met with former Markhams director Geoff Hatten when she was first offered the opportunity to buy into a business in 2010. Originally in partnership with her former bosses, she and Lester purchased Sanders outright in 2014.

“Markhams advice from the get-go has been invaluable,” says Gemma. “Geoff went through my career options and gave me invaluable advice on how to structure my personal and business affairs. Then when I bought the pharmacy fully, Atul Mehta was there to support me, giving me good timely advice.

“As a pharmacy owner, I have no business degree, so I surround myself with the best. Having Atul and his team onboard is an incredibly worthwhile investment. The Markhams pharmacy team has the premium insight and opinions in the pharmacy world.”

And Markhams was there with Gemma through the Covid period. “We worked hard to be sustainable as a business, while prioritising what was important, that being the health of our staff and our patients. It was a juggle, but we had a clear strategy.”

This clarity has seen the pharmacy drop cosmetics and change up its retail offering. The new refit is also geared to improve service, reduce inefficiency, and provide a closer patient-pharmacist experience.

“Essentially we want to make our service as easy as possible, putting our patients first and foremost, providing a holistic approach so patients can select what they want for their health – lifestyle coaching, natural health, and pharmaceutical options.”