Thinking like a startup

Steven Anderson, President of NACDS

Having just returned from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Annual Meeting, I want to share some of the thinking that is guiding NACDS, and that is transferable throughout the retailer and supplier ecosystem. What matters most now is the constant transformation of a business, of an association, and of an industry — because the consumer is under constant transformation, too.

In his new book, The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage, Daniel Burrus presents helpful perspective on the need for transformation and the practice of creating it.

Burrus says that agility is not enough in times of rapid change. He says it is possible for organizations to anticipate the future, to develop strategy, to execute, and to win. This book is about identifying things that are nearly certain to happen — the “hard trends.”

To state the obvious, one of the hard trends in retail today is the need to satisfy the consumer’s desire to obtain the products that they want and need — and in the way that they want to receive them. This involves a mix of technology-enabled processes, as well as vibrant in-store experiences.

From the standpoint of public policy, which is one of the primary areas of focus for NACDS, one hard trend is that some of the greatest opportunities to advance pharmacy patient care result from demonstrated effectiveness in meeting public health needs. That was the case with the expansion of pharmacist-provided vaccinations following pharmacy’s success in helping to prepare for flu outbreaks in recent years. That is the case now with developments in point-of-care testing for flu and strep.

This discussion of “hard trends” can be highly effective as individual companies chart their course, and as retailers and suppliers collaborate on programs designed to meet consumers’ needs together.

Another author provides interesting perspectives on how best to develop strategy, and how best to execute, in light of these “hard trends.” Jim Collins, the author of highly actionable books, including the iconic Good to Great, published a related monograph titled Good to Great and the Social Sectors — Why Business Thinking is Not the Answer. Its perspectives are informative for associations and businesses alike. Collins urges that “we must reject the idea — well-intentioned, but dead wrong — that the primary path to greatness in nonprofits and associations is to become ‘more like a business.’” He reminds us that not all businesses are great. He says that discipline in planning, people, governance and resource allocation is a greatness concept, which applies to associations, too.

NACDS has chosen to use some new words and guiding principles to talk about its role, and they relate in many ways to the thinking of Burrus and Collins. NACDS is committed to acting more like a startup, and a think-tank. Both are big on collaboration and listening, which make it possible to solve problems, and meet needs. Retailers and suppliers must collaborate, and they must listen to each other and to consumers, to survive and to thrive.

One of the ways that NACDS acts as a think tank and as a startup is through our “Access Agenda” — which encompasses our government affairs and public policy work, and our thought leadership on how best to address complex and related societal issues.

Here is our case: Pharmacies provide access to better healthcare every day; and we are here to provide access to health and wellness policy solutions. The Access Agenda is about taking the accessibility and the trust of pharmacies and pharmacists, and putting them to work even more for the American people.

The Access Agenda has three parts: tough defense, aggressive offense, and working as partners for stronger and safer communities. Tough defense refers to preserving patients’ access to pharmacy care. Aggressive offense refers to enhancing access to newer pharmacy services. Working as partners for stronger and safer communities refers to serving as part of the solution to the opioid abuse epidemic, and engaging in communities to help solve societal needs.

The Access Agenda is how NACDS has chosen to position itself to confront the “hard trends” described by Burrus; to pursue the “greatness” described by Collins; and to listen and collaborate like a think tank and startup.

This approach is quite similar to the service standards and credos identified by retailers and suppliers to unite team members — and partners — for the common pursuit of satisfying the wants and needs of today’s changing consumer. Whatever the vision, the key is to harness change and translate it into a strategy for transformation. RL