Pharmacy U

Ian Lording. Paying more than lip service


Ian Lording is a seasoned pharmacy business leader and strategist with more than 12 years’ retail experience in merchandising, operations, and information technology. In his current role, he is responsible for developing new, innovative, and holistic pharmacy programs and strategies within the Loblaw pharmacy group. Ian oversees 17 different banners and more than 400 stores across the country. “Complexity defines the job,” he says.


Education: University of Toronto (Pharmacy)

Current role: Senior Director, Pharmacy Programs and Pricing, Loblaw Companies Limited, Brampton, Ont.


What qualities are needed to run a successful pharmacy?

You need to be patient-focused and business-oriented. You must understand what the customer truly wants, and you must continually innovate. This requires that you differentiate yourself and your value proposition. In my role, I must understand customers who are grocery shoppers and those who are pharmacy customers. They may be one and the same, or not. While data can enhance this insight, much of what we learn is through the relationships we develop at the counter, in the pharmacy and with our partners in healthcare, government, and the community.

What are the important lessons you’ve learned as part of a national business?

Each and every province and market is unique. You can’t necessarily take an Ontario solution and run it across the country. While that sounds obvious, it is easy as a pharmacist, and a profession, to get siloed. When you work across Canada, it is important to listen to your customers in each market. It is equally important to listen to the frontline pharmacists in each of those stores. Those are the people who are in direct contact with customers every day. When we really listen to our colleagues, our patients and our partners, it makes us better informed and more responsive. This, in turn, makes us better pharmacists who operate better pharmacies.
Why is it important to you to establish partnerships during these changing times?

Partnerships are more important than ever. You can always do more together than separately because you leverage each other’s strengths. Working together with other organizations such as patient groups or non-profit organizations, you also build credibility. Your partner says something about you as a pharmacy and as a company.

What is essential to ensure a successful partnership?

Successful partnerships must also be more than lip service. A collective approach to attaining goals should be an inherent part of the way you work. We need to hold each other accountable and be transparent. This includes measuring outcomes, whatever they may be. There is an opportunity to document a lot more of what we do and the impact we have on the health of Canadians within pharmacy.

Is pharmacy a profession that naturally gravitates to forming partnerships, or are pharmacists more used to working independently?

Pharmacists do gravitate toward partnerships. There is a recognition that we are part of a healthcare team. We know that the best care involves more than one person or one organization – and that care should be seamless. Part of our role is to help fill in the cracks. Expanded scope brings more demand for effective partnerships because of our ability to intervene and to spend more time with patients. In the end, it is patients who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the partnerships we form.


Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by Pfizer Canada.