Not your typical drug store chain, this company has with a variety of services and never stops innovating. The drug store industry has changed a lot in the last 30 years or so, as Lynn Morris knows. He and his wife founded Family Pharmacy in 1977, when patient profiles were recorded by hand, prescription labels were typed on a typewriter, and generic drugs were rare. But what hasn’t changed for this Ozark, Mo.-based company is the values the Morris family founded it on.

“Our mission hasn’t changed, but we’re able to fulfill it better now with more efficient tools,” said Morris. “We still discount all our prescriptions and we try to know all our customers by name.”

Family Pharmacy has dedicated employees to visit or send flowers to hospitalized customers, and to call customers who start certain medications to check on them. Each location has private counseling rooms for pharmacists to administer vaccinations or cholesterol screenings, answer sensitive questions, or teach customers how to use certain kinds of medical equipment, such as a diabetes monitor.

The company also sends letters to each new customer thanking them for their patronage, and each customer that transfers out, asking if there are any problems he or she had with Family Pharmacy and if there is anything the company can do to help.

Adding branches

Morris said those values and services will continue to guide the company as it expands into new fields. Family Pharmacy is launching a prototype store this year that focuses not only on medical services, but also general nutrition. The store will have a health food section with organic dry goods, refrigeration units for fruits and vegetables, a variety of skin care products, and oral supplements.

The store, slated for the lakes region of Missouri, will have specially trained employees to act as healthy living consultants to customers. Morris said these services are a natural extension of a pharmacy, which has always had the goal of making people feel better.

“Chains like this are popping up out west in California because the customer is more educated about their choices and looking for places to find products that will help them enjoy their life better and live longer,” Morris said.

Another innovative branch of Family Pharmacy is also growing this year: its chain of bargain outlets. The two locations the company already operates are popular, according to Morris, warranting more openings in the future. The idea came from Morris’ distaste for boxing up seasonal items in storage, where they can be lost, broken, or forgotten.

 

Instead, the company moves them to these outlets, which also feature a dollar store section. That means everything Family Pharmacy has in stock is on a shelf for sale somewhere, a strategy that helps turn over merchandise faster.

Keeping tabs on all that stock used to be a huge challenge for the company, but a new inventory system will certainly help. Currently, Family Pharmacy is at the end of its testing phase for RX30, a program that will link all the company’s locations. In about two months, Morris at the corporate headquarters will be able to change prices or instant message all his mangers with a single click, as well as track sales and expenses with easy to use reports.

Growing services

That’s good, because bargain outlets and health food pharmacies are just the tip of the iceberg for this company. Family Pharmacy also owns a photography development facility, a photography studio, and a home medical equipment (HME) sales and service department.

The HME department has been growing within Family Pharmacy for a long time, and Morris predicts it will become an even more important part of the company as the population ages. “These customers trusted us with their prescriptions in 1977, and today they can trust us with their changing medical needs,” said Morris.

The department repairs nearly all makes and models of wheelchairs, crutches, and respiratory devices and has specially trained employees to deliver, install and maintain the products in a customer’s home, as well as help with safety checks in a bathroom, for example.

Family Pharmacy serves its community through its convenient photography services. It opened a photo development center to provide better service to its customers when third- party developers continued to lose or damage film. Each of the company’s locations has a developer kiosk for regular sized photos, and the larger photo center handles customized jobs and specializes in photo restoration.

Soon, that center will launch an online photograph sharing service: customers can bring photos in, have them scanned and uploaded to the company’s Web site, and share photos with friends and family around the country.

At the Family Pharmacy photo studio, which opened just over five years ago, professional photographers for hire shoot weddings and graduations, and produce photos for the company’s promotions and circulars. And as of two months ago, the studio began hosting a monthly Focus on Art event to feature the work of local artists. Customers can visit the studio, buy artwork, and enjoy refreshments, all thanks to their neighborhood pharmacy.

Morris explained that Family Pharmacy is able to handle so many disparate branches because running the company really is a family affair: all of his children and their spouses have some role in the company, which, he said, creates a warm atmosphere for people to work.

As part of every employee’s benefits package, Family Pharmacy has always offered an education stipend. The stipend doesn’t have a limit, so any cashier, pharmacist or pharmacy tech can apply to attend a class, for example, and the company reimburses them.

“We invest in our employees because they are our most valuable asset in upholding the values that have made us so successful,” said Morris. “We know a certain number of employees are going to leave us, but they are more than just employees, they are our neighbors and are like family. So while we want them to grow and stay with us, we promote their growth and development no matter what they choose to do.”

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