Multiple divisions haven’t weakened the vision of this Nebraska pharmacy. If you’re looking for a growth strategy that’s off the beaten path, you’ll be interested in this 60-year-old pharmacy: it adds divisions, ranging from hormone-replacement drug therapy to general contracting, rather than adding locations.
Kohll’s Pharmacy & Homecare has been family owned since 1948, but is much more than a typical pharmacy. It has had the same number of locations in Omaha, Neb. for the last 20 years, but its 18 divisions offer complete solutions to its customers.
“The country’s aging population has so many underserved needs we can integrate into our base, and we can offer many of them nationally,” said David Kohll, president. “We might have customers that start coming to us for arthritis medicine, and then they need a walker or a wheelchair, and then a wheelchair van or a new accessible bathroom for their house. We can provide them with all of that.”
Kohll’s offers typical pharmacy services such as prescriptions and health screenings. It also has a travel vaccination clinic, offers fertility medication, and most recently, a nurse practitioner to see and evaluate people regarding customized hormone-replacement drug therapy.
But that is just the beginning. Kohll’s also makes custom medications to treat racing horses around the country, and it has a call center that reminds nationwide patients when their medical supplies or prescriptions should be running low and ships replacement supplies directly.
Three years ago, Kohll’s launched an auto dealership and began selling wheelchair vans in addition the wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, lift chairs, and other medical equipment it already provides. The company, as of last year, can also add to and modify its patients’ homes to accommodate limited mobility.
Kohll explained the company looks at what its customers are buying and tracks new sales to determine what they will need next, and it looks at how its existing services can be expanded into other fields. Kohll’s was already the leading regional administrator of flu vaccinations, so it expanded that into a travel vaccination company about four years ago. The pharmacy already had the capability to make custom medications, so it expanded into a custom drug company for racing horses.
“This strategy allows us to grow much faster than if we were opening up new locations that offered the same services and products as any other pharmacy,” Kohll said. “Instead of losing money for a few years with a new brick-and-mortar location, we add a new service to existing locations and meet an immediate demand.”
The company makes minor adjustments to one location to accommodate a new division of the company, and then advertises that service at all its other locations, tapping into each store’s daily traffic and word-of-mouth advertising.
That alone has worked so far. The general contracting division has grown 100% in the last year, and the nurse practitioner running Kohll’s hormone-replacement drug therapy program has been booked solid since she started three months ago.
Kohll, who said he remembers messing up and reorganizing shelves at the family business as a three-year-old, said he and his brother made this the pharmacy’s strategy because it is gratifying to help people improve their quality of life.
“Our goal has always been to do whatever we can to improve our patients’ quality of life. Often, a doctor tells someone they need a wheelchair, but that person has no idea how much independence they can still enjoy. When they come to us for that wheelchair, however, they see what we can do to their homes or cars to preserve their independence,” he said.
The next level
Kohll has a few more ideas for new divisions, such a weight loss program, but said that right now, his strategy is to allow the the current divisions to mature.
“Typically, a retailer opens in a new location and works on maxing out the population. When that happens, he or she opens another store. In our case, we have 18 divisions that are nowhere near their size potential, so we are figuring out how to mature each one before we add any more,” Kohll said.
Kohll’s Call Center already operates nationally, and although several other divisions do, too, Kohll said expanding the reach of every division is his ultimate goal. The challenge is figuring out how to allocate resources where they are needed most and marketing each division equally to fuel growth across the board.
“We’ve grown significantly over the years, so now we have time to reinvest in our marketing efforts, which we have neglected.” Kohll explained that the company already puts out specialized, monthly newsletters to the various industries it serves, such as veterinarians that mainly treat race horses.
Kohll cited the call center and hormone-replacement drug therapy as divisions ripe for growth, but added that some are more natural choices than others for nationwide expansion. Travel vaccination and general contracting are two more challenging examples, but Kohll said the company would take one division at a time and find creative ways to expand it, such as through a franchise system. A crucial advantage for Kohll’s is its operational fitness; the company has had so much success integrating new divisions, its management team and operational systems are now very strong.
“Nothing is impossible. All we have to do is break down our larger goals into bite-size pieces and go one day at a time. Everyone here has one goal: to take care of our patients as best we can. Everything we do is aimed toward achieving that, and as long as we retain that focus, we will succeed,” he concluded.