Anthony Yap was just 23 when he decided to open his first pharmacy. Together with his wife, Yap spent $50,000 of his own money to open the first Good Price Pharmacy store in Deagon, Queensland.
Fast-forward 13 years, the now 36-year-old Queenslander leads a $230 million discount pharmacy retail chain, which employs more than 800 people in 47 company-owned and franchise stores in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.
I graduated from my pharmacy degree in 1998 and did my pre-registration year in 1999. I registered as a pharmacist and took on the manager role at a Terry White pharmacy.
During that time I learnt a lot about running a small business. I took the opportunity to learn about stock control, retail management and being a manager.
From that point on I wanted to own my own business. Owning a company was something I really wanted to strive for because I could see if you put in a lot of effort and you are passionate and persistent, it can generate good rewards.
In 2001 we bought our first store, which was a small traditional pharmacy. I had a $50,000 deposit and a big bank loan. It was a leap of faith, as it is for many small businesses. You have to have faith in your skills and your ability to make something out of the business.
We more than doubled the equity in that store in the first 12 months. We bought our second store six months after opening, and the third 18 months later.
It wasn’t until 2003 that we opened our first warehouse-style pharmacy. We looked at a lot of different models and the big box retail model was doing well in the hardware, consumer electronics and furniture industries.
We thought: why not apply the same principles to pharmacy?
It was an immediate success. Our big range and low prices really seemed to resonate with customers. We knew this would be the model of our business in the future.
Between 2003 and 2009 we tried to open as many company stores as we could. The logical next step was franchising.
There are a lot of rules and regulations in the pharmacy industry around who can own a pharmacy and where. Franchising was a natural fit as we were able to leverage off existing pharmacies and provide them with a model to compete with other retailers, including supermarkets.
Chemist Warehouse was established around the same time as us but in Melbourne. As the industry has evolved we are probably the two biggest discount pharmacy players in Australia.
A pharmacy degree itself doesn’t focus on business management but that’s where I saw an opportunity. I’m more passionate about retail and running a store, so I tried to focus on that in my learnings.
It gives me an edge over traditional pharmacies because I think a lot of people resist change. Big box retail and discount cosmetics and medicines were very innovative for our industry and there were some people who didn’t want to make that sort of evolution.
We were the ones who embraced change and because what we did was so different, it resonated with people.
Over the next 5-10 years we want to build Good Price Pharmacy into a national network. One of our franchisees recently purchased two Oze Pharmacy stores in Sydney and rebranded them as Good Price stores. It gives us a good presence in the Sydney metropolitan area and a foundation for even bigger growth.
Two months ago EBOS Group took a strategic 25% investment in Good Price Pharmacy. They are a $1 billion company that is listed on the Australian and New Zealand stock exchanges. They had a belief in us that we can take the business national and their investment will fuel further acquisitions.
The investment by EBOS Group is a big step for us because we know we can grow the brand together. We want to make sure we use their resources and expertise in retail, logistics and wholesale to further leverage our network.
When we started Good Price Pharmacy I had a 10-year business plan that I kept to and ended up being one year ahead. Every single year we review the strategic direction of the group. We revisit what we put down and whether or not we have achieved it.
A business plan gives everyone a direction and a vision you can sell. You need to set goals to be able to deliver what you promise, according to a timeline.
What keeps me up at night is the next thing, the next evolution of the Good Price Pharmacy brand. That’s the exciting thing. Our brand and network is constantly changing as we increase sales, reduce costs and produce efficiencies.
Consumer tastes change constantly and you have to be on the edge of that or you become irrelevant. The day you stop changing is the day you become irrelevant.
My business life to date has been all about Good Price Pharmacy and I can’t see anything in the future that would consume the same time. Every waking minute that I think about business I am thinking about how to make it better.
The pharmacy industry has a lot to offer and a lot of change still to happen. I want to be in front of that because there is more I can do.