Community pharmacist and founder of DOSE Design Gavin Birchall tells C+D what moment changed his career path and why Damien Hirst’s pharmacies inspire him
- Who in community pharmacy has taught you a lot?
I learn something from almost everyone I come across. If not how to do something, then often how not to do it. But there are a few key people [that I’ve learned a lot from].
My first area manager at Lloydspharmacy, Chris Pearson, taught me about the importance of good management.
My boss at Medicx Pharmacy [an independent chain that was taken over in 2015], Steve Jeffers, taught me about strategic thinking, leadership, and confidence.
The principle associate of training company Pharmacy Complete, Michael Holden, taught me to think big and then take it a step further.
The managing director of Pharmacy Complete, Deborah Evans, taught me the value of positivity, and to aim to do good things for the right reasons.
Lastly, Cormac Tobin – the former managing director of Lloydspharmacy’s parent company Celesio UK – taught me to say what you mean even if it might be unpopular.
- Who outside community pharmacy has been a source of career inspiration?
My wife works as a medicines optimisation pharmacist for the NHS. At a pivotal moment in my career she asked me one single, blunt question that I can credit with placing me on the path towards my current role:
“What do you want to do?”
It brought me to a standstill. I’d never really thought about it. To my great surprise I answered almost instantly, and reflexively: “I want to design.”
I began to think about how I could contribute to the pharmacy profession through design. I started my Masters degree in graphic design, and my company DOSE Design, soon after in 2016.
If you can ask yourself the same blunt question and answer honestly without worrying about how you would do it, you are a step closer to achieving what you want to do than before.
Beyond medical professionals, the artist Damien Hirst inspires and frustrates me in equal measure. I have been inspired by the way he looked at pharmacies [in his 1990s installations representing them], and saw something that no one else was seeing.
Mr Hirst’s work highlights the cultural significance of pharmacy. There is an aesthetic richness unique to the profession that we as pharmacists don’t appreciate enough, which we could use to our advantage.
- What is the secret to a happy working life?
Doing what you do as well as you can is important: as well as having a level of control over what you choose to do and how you do it, that brings satisfaction.
Having a wider purpose and moving gradually closer to realising it, no matter how slowly, can bring happiness. Feeling like you are making a difference by doing something worthwhile also helps.
- What are the most enjoyable things about your role?
I get to work with real pioneers in the profession, and more often than not develop productive long-term relationships. It’s exciting to work with some of the best minds in the business. It is quite common that I am almost insourced as a marketing director into a client’s team.
- And the least enjoyable?
I picked the worst time to do this! It’s easy to say with hindsight but we all know times are challenging. While design and marketing might be low on many pharmacists’ agendas right now, it is actually the perfect time to focus on them and win some much needed market share.
Around 90% of my clients are in pharmacy, which really makes us the specialists, but does also mean we are tied to the profession’s ups and downs.
We are in it together, and we will be successful together. So perhaps I picked the perfect time to do this.
Read Gavin Birchall explain why he moved from leading a rapidly expanding pharmacy group to found a company that specialises in pharmacy branding.