Not Just Pills and Potions


Most of the company’s outlets – the group has around 60 in total – are grouped around the state capital itself, with one in Port Augusta, another over east at Waikerie, two in Murray Bridge and two on the south coast, at Normanville and Victor Harbour.

Chemplus came into existence in 1989 when a group of forward-thinking pharmacists broke away from another grouping. Government regulations prevent major ‘chains’ from forming, so the individual pharmacies themselves remain independent, standalone businesses, but they are able to form alliances for the purposes of improving their buying power – which benefits the consumer through improved price competitiveness – and marketing.

Chemplus’ Chief Executive, Nick Tsamaidis, told us that very few of the group’s outlets have started up in order to trade as Chemplus, not least because it is not possible to simply make a case for a pharmacy and open it up just like that. There is a process with the government that must be followed, key criteria in place for a new pharmacy. “We have been involved in greenfield sites over the years, but certainly not many because it just doesn’t happen,” he explains. “Here in South Australia I can count on one hand for the last ten years the number of greenfield pharmacies that have opened, and that is part of the consolidation that the government is seeking.”

Likewise, the inclusion of a pharmacy in the group tends to demonstrate that pharmacy’s business ambitions, typically because the pharmacy approaches Chemplus rather than the other way around. Almost all the new pharmacies that have been accepted for membership of the group have been existing independent pharmacies that have observed the progress of the brand and are interested in joining in. “I could probably count on one hand the amount of times we have actually sought people out,” says Nick. Rather, the company believes it is beneficial if a shop approaches demonstrating a desire to join in. “So it is a bit different to how some of the other groups might approach it.”

Nick is himself a pharmacist with two of his own retail outlets, so he practises what he preaches, which is that business must be run as a tight ship. Many very good pharmacists (as is the case in many areas of the medical profession) have limited business acumen, but in today’s commercial environment, pharmaceutical expertise alone will not cut it. Thus Nick and fellow directors put in place what he described as “checks and balances to drive good, sound business structures and ventures, but also having an insight into opportunities, for example with doctors and collaborations, that can only come from a tight setup like we have. The company’s aim is to be the first port of call to health,” leveraging the size of the group, which is considerably larger than its immediate (local to metropolitan Adelaide) competition. “We are in most locations and a third of those are regional,” Nick explains. “That allows us to have good pricing and the other benefits you get from a large group.”

In addition, Chemplus has developed Good Health Choices, a programme aimed at helping customers get more information on the products available to them and the options they might take for optimum treatment of their conditions. This is an important step toward providing more than just a dispensing function in the stores and engaging more with consumers; medicine and health care (the two are not synonymous as the latter includes prevention as well as cure) have moved on from the time when there was a set, single treatment option. People’s personal conditions or symptoms can be best met by one of a sometimes bewildering variety of products, not all of them directly related to the TGA register.

Thus Good Health Choices promotes individual thinking, with the pharmacy acting in an advisory and informative capacity rather than simply doling out prescriptions. As Chemplus explains it, Good Health Choices recognises “the value of health and wellbeing in our community and will encourage customers to take the first step to taking their health more seriously and facilitate the necessary behaviour change to attain better health. For added customer comfort and privacy we have introduced dedicated consultation areas at every location. This will allow pharmacists, staff and nurses to provide personalised attention and guidance.”

To this end, Chemplus has established partnerships with three professional organisations (please see sidebar for further details) that share the company’s view that it has a “responsibility to invest in South Australia, our future and our community.”

According to Nick, the focus of Chemplus’ pharmacies remains not so much on pure profit, but on service. It’s about “caring, the community, and the patient. People expect it and we want the consumers to demand more from their pharmacies. It is not just a commodity; come in ask the questions. We are there to support you through the journey.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

January 18, 2019, 3:33 AM AEDT