First Time Pharmacy Buyers in Focus – Joey Habak  

Over the coming months AP Group will be unwrapping a series of articles charting the journey of some of the brave souls that have entered the world of pharmacy ownership for the first time. We’ll ask them to share the key things that helped them succeed as well as some of their harshest learnings. Article one features Joey Habak who started his pharmacy ownership journey in 2016 with the purchase of a 33% share of the then Boronia Discount Drug Store. 

Pharmacy ownership has been a wild ride in 2023. But the truth is, the past decade has been no less of a rollercoaster. From navigating price disclosures to battling fierce competition, and even grappling with the curveballs of a pandemic, pharmacy owners have had to embrace change to succeed. Our aim with this series of articles is to show aspiring pharmacy owners what is possible when starting from the ground floor.  

Over seven transformative years since the purchase of then Boronia Discount Drug Store, Joey’s first pharmacy investment has flourished, and he has added a second pharmacy to his portfolio. Critical to Joey’s success is the strong bond he has formed with his business partners, Thai Truong who has been there from the beginning, and more recently Kevin Tan and Daniel Cheung. We sat down with Joey to talk about what has driven his success and what have been some of his toughest learnings along the way. 

Joey’s first pharmacy Boronia Discount Drug Store, now Terry White Chemmart Boronia, was purchased in equal partnership with fellow first-time buyer Thai Truong and another established pharmacy owner who filled the role of advisory partner. Having an established owner on the team provided an experienced and steady hand, while Joey and Thai got their hands dirty, immersing themselves in the day-to-day of the pharmacy operations. In time, Joey and Thai built the necessary experience to operate the business without a senior partner in the mix. That 33% share was sold to new partners Kevin and Daniel, who were able to offer hands-on support to continue to grow the pharmacy. The original partnership provided a valuable platform to build commercial and operational skills and was a win for all parties.  

Terry White Chemmart Boronia has significantly increased in value since it was purchased in 2016, no small feat for an already established and well-run business. When asked what has driven the success of the pharmacy, Joey cited a focus on four key areas. 

  1. From day-one Joey made nurturing existing customer relationships a priority, providing quality customer service and good healthcare advice. Maintaining the existing customer base has provided a solid platform for future growth. 
  1. Knowing each partners role – with transparent communication and defined responsibilities, each partner was well aware of what was expected of them. This transparency not only kept the team on track but also ensured that every aspect of the business had a dedicated champion. 
  1. Building a competitive advantage – one key strength of the pharmacy is the relationships it holds with local Aged Care facilities. Recognizing this strength, Joey and his partners fortified it through the addition of software, dispense machines and sachet checking capability – complemented by in-house expertise. The intention is to build lasting relationships with aged-care facilities by delivering a high-quality healthcare experience for their residents. The pharmacy is constantly looking to improve and evolve and as a consequence it continues to acquire new aged-care business. 
  1. Finally, Joey and the partners have taken a proactive approach to building relationships with local healthcare practitioners. By recognising and respecting the vital contribution of General Practitioners to patient healthcare outcomes they have been able to develop trust and mutually beneficial relationships with many of the local Doctors. 

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Joey describes the early months as a baptism of fire, enduring the steepest of learning curves with cost control, cashflow management, turnover growth and people management – all being learned on the fly. With the added pressure that dropping just one of these balls can have a dramatic impact on business viability. In times of doubt, Joey’s approach was to revert back to the strategy and back the process. 

Joey is a big believer in surrounding himself with quality people. The business relationship built with Thai has not only provided a foundation for growth but has also provided a friendship and partner in crime to share the successes and trials of running a pharmacy.  The addition of Kevin (an already established pharmacy owner) and Daniel Cheung (an emerging and highly talented pharmacist) has rounded out the partnership and given the breadth of expertise needed for expansion. The four partners recently acquired Bronte Pharmacy in the eastern suburbs of Sydney and in the first 18-months of ownership have been able to execute a rebrand to Terry White Chemmart and grow turnover in excess of 20%. 

This article is part one of our journey into the universe of first-time pharmacy owners. Stay tuned for more tales of successes, challenges, and the unyielding spirit that’s shaping the future of pharmacy. 

Written by Andrew Whelan, General Manager – AP Group 

AP Group are the leading pharmacy experts in Australia and specialise in helping first time buyers find the right pharmacy and secure the finance to support their purchase.  

We connect existing owners with over 5000 ready and eager investors via our cutting-edge online Data Room. Our Data Room keeps confidential listing data secure and allows buyers to make informed decisions on each of our pharmacies for sale.  

AP Group have built connections with all the major banks and a host of smaller lenders, ensuring that first time pharmacy buyers find a better deal.  

About the Author: 

When Andrew Whelan is not out pedalling his bike or looking after his two marvellous kids, he’s pedalling through pharmacy finance and strategy development.   

 Having been with AP Group since the beginning, Andrew has more than a decade experience in pharmacy and is an asset to the sales and finance division. He’s a numbers wizard, people person and sustainability champion — leading AP Group to achieve official Carbon Neutral Certification with Climate Active. 

Before AP Group, Andrew spent more than a decade in the telecommunications and media industry including 7 years at Telstra in a variety of senior management roles and 3 years in the United Kingdom managing the commercial function for the British Sky Broadcasting — a time where it was the fastest growing broadband provider in the UK.  

So it’s no surprise that he is well equipped to help customers with some of the biggest decisions they will ever make — buying a home or investing in a pharmacy — and helping to show them what’s truly possible. 

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