Small businesses make world of difference

Published 2:39 am Tuesday, July 26, 2016

By B. Douglas Hoey

Frank Capra produced iconic films that influences the movie industry even today. One of his famous movies was, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed about the difference one person, George Bailey played by Stewart, made in the lives of the people in his community. Even today, small business owners like George Bailey have major economic and social impacts on the communities throughout Alabama and the entire country.

There are more than 22,000 independent community pharmacies across America and more than 600 serving Alabama, many in underserved communities. In fact, according to the 2015 NCPA Digest, Sponsored by Cardinal Health, 70 percent of independent community pharmacies are located in towns with populations of fewer than 50,000. These pharmacies help patients achieve better outcomes and are actively involved in their communities.

The National Community Pharmacists Association recently channeled the spirit of Capra’s films through an online video produced for NCPA by the videography team from Live Oak Bank. It tells the true story of Danny Cottrell, the owner of the Medical Center Pharmacy in Brewton, a town of fewer than 6,000 people. Cottrell believes in serving each individual patient and uplifting the surrounding community, which mirrors the way independent community pharmacies throughout the country operate.

The video highlights Cottrell’s business model of creating strong pharmacist-patient bonds, differentiating him from large chain and mail order pharmacies. For example, the video features a cherished initiative Cottrell started 27 years ago to incentivize young students with prizes for good behavior every nine weeks called “Brewton Elementary and Me” or BEAM.

Cottrell also generated local and national inspiration during the ‘Great Recession’ that began at the end of 2007. At the time, Brewton was hit hard by the economic downturn affecting America. To address the issue, Cottrell came up with his own $16,000 stimulus program. He provided his employees with $2 bills, but with two caveats. First, they had to spend the money locally and second, they had to donate 15 percent to charity or someone in need. The distinctive currency showed up in small businesses throughout Brewton. The campaign garnered attention from CNN, NBC “Nightly News” and National Public Radio and others. That was his small, but powerful way of putting his community first, because he views his patients and their families as neighbors and friends that are inextricably linked together.

The video encourages viewers to visit and find a local independent community pharmacy through the pharmacy locator. Most patients are free to choose their pharmacy, but patients who use independent community pharmacies often benefit the most by the high level of personal care.

Cottrell’s one man economic stimulus effort is extraordinary but is consistent with the impact that small businesses have on the national economy. Small businesses provide 55 percent of all jobs and 66 percent of all net new jobs since the 1970s, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Check out the J.D. Power annual survey on pharmacy customer satisfaction. It finds that independent community pharmacies consistently lead their peers in customer satisfaction. Independent pharmacists like Cottrell demonstrate that their small town values of caring deeply about the well-being of their communities still stand out like a Capra movie.


B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA, is CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).