Business and management
The entrepreneurial optimist
Pharmacist and entrepreneur Jonathon Clarke explains what led him to create his own business — and why he didn’t give up.
Source: Courtesy of Jonathon Clarke
Jonathon Clarke co-founded Locate a Locum, a company designed to help locum pharmacists find community pharmacies to work in.
How did you decide you wanted to be a pharmacist?
This decision was easy — I wanted to work in a healthcare profession because I have always been passionate about helping people. The sciences were my strongest subjects at school so pharmacy allowed me to link my ability and my passion. The business element also attracted me — the thought of owning my own pharmacy and being my own boss one day was appealing.
What is your current role and how did you get there?
I am currently the chief executive of Locate a Locum, an online platform connecting pharmacists with employers (www.locatealocum.com), which I founded in 2014. I decided to set up my own business because I became frustrated by trying to source work as a locum pharmacist. The process of getting locum work felt dated to me — I had to have business cards printed and travel around different pharmacies to deliver them. I had also explored using locum agencies but I did not feel that they had the locum pharmacist’s best interests at their core and caused obvious time delays when I tried to negotiate work with an employer.
I knew there had to be an easier way. I paid for a small website to advertise myself as a locum and then had the idea that this could work for all locum pharmacists. That small website has grown and now has more than 700 pharmacists signed up, with work available from some of the largest chains, small multiples and independent pharmacies across the UK. Locate a Locum allows pharmacists to communicate directly with employers, removing inefficiencies with the agency ‘middle man’ model.
What was the hardest part of setting up your own business?
In the beginning, it was difficult to persuade other people to believe in me. Putting myself out there by advertising my business to people I went to university with was not an easy task — there were people who doubted me and openly told me it would not work.
The next challenge was having the confidence to leave my full-time permanent hospital pharmacist job. I knew I was taking a huge risk by leaving a job that other pharmacists would have been itching to have but I had to give my company my full attention in order for it to stand a chance at succeeding.
What does a typical day in your current role look like?
I am usually in the office by 8am and the first thing I do is plan what needs to be achieved by 6pm. This helps clear my head and gives me motivation for the day ahead. I am then able to brief my team, which consists of the co-founder, an administrator and two developers, so that we are all working to the same goals.
Following this, it is on to meetings — these could be with external developers working on updates to our website or pharmacy chains who want more information about using our platform to connect with locum pharmacists.
After lunch, we focus on the permanent recruitment side of the business. This includes assessing the credentials of pharmacist candidates who have applied for one of our posted jobs and liaising with pharmacies regarding permanent positions they want advertised. I dedicate at least eight hours per week to social media to ensure that we are connecting with locums on a daily basis.
What do you enjoy most about your work at the moment?
It has been rewarding to see my dream become reality. I started as a guy working from a laptop in his bedroom and now I am working from an office with a growing team of people working alongside me.
When I successfully match a locum to a job I get job satisfaction because I am doing the very thing that made me want to be a pharmacist in the first place — helping others.
What is the most challenging part of your current role?
There are many ups and downs in business. One day I will feel on top of the world from signing up a new pharmacy chain to use Locate a Locum; the next day I will feel down because a locum phones to say they cannot complete the remainder of their shifts. Keeping a positive attitude can be challenging at times.
I also find it hard to switch off. When I came home from my hospital pharmacist job I was able to forget about work until 9am the next morning. Running my own business means that I am thinking about it for most of the day so it can interfere with my home life – I am currently trying to find a better work-life balance.
What is the best piece of advice you have received during your career?
Personal development books have been a major influencer in my decision to become a pharmacy entrepreneur. This quote in particular confirmed that my decision to leave my job to follow my dream was the right one: “The most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later,” Randy Komisar.
I could have listened to that person who told me that Locate a Locum would not work. For me, the risk of not knowing and living a life of “what ifs” was bigger than the risk of trying and failing.
Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201641
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