The great thing about having a full line of services is that it provides companies with a diverse portfolio, giving them the ability to weather storms. When one product or service is in low demand, the others can provide such a steady revenue stream that a change in one service may not even be noticed. But that also means there are more trends to stay abreast of and more competitors to contend with, which creates its own organizational conundrum.
At Kohll’s Pharmacy & Homecare, third-generation co-owner David Kohll, Pharm D., says the best way to manage the complications of a diverse portfolio is simply to be better than your competitors. The way you do that: Don’t pay attention to the adversaries; pay attention to the customer.
“I have 15 different categories of competitors,” Kohll says. “But I’m really so busy trying to come up with what advantages we can give our customers that I don’t even have time to look at what our competitors are doing.”
Kohll’s has been a trusted name since it was founded by Louis and Leona Kohll in 1948. The Nebraska-based chain now operates 10 locations: eight in the Omaha metropolitan area, one in Boulder, Colo., and a recently opened pharmacy in Malvern, Iowa. The newest location opened this July at the request of Malvern citizens, including a community physician, Thomas Baer.
The group approached Kohll three years ago to express the need for a quality pharmacy in the small town. “We know how hard it is to be without a local pharmacy,” Baer stated at the store’s summer opening. “Not only will this be good for Malvern, but also southwest Iowa because of all the diverse medical equipment Kohll’s offers, from mobility and respiratory equipment to diabetes care.”
Baer’s advocacy for a Kohll’s in Malvern is similar to the recommendations the chain receives from other pharmacies and physicians in its Nebraska homestead. The reason for this word-of-mouth praise is because within its space, Kohll’s seems to do just about everything, and well. “The most common comment I get from pharmacies and physicians in the Omaha metro area is how unique we are,” Kohll explains.
Kohll’s covers general prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical needs and all locations carry basic mobility devices such as walkers, scooters and wheelchairs, as well as respiratory devices. The company even offers an affordable prescription healthcare plan to corporations, and it has offered all vaccinations since 1992.
Kohll’s is also experiencing growing demand for many of its other offerings, which is why the company has recently relocated one pharmacy and expanded another to create more space for some of its popular services. “We don’t make a habit of adding additional locations,” Kohll explains. “We are more focused on adding services or building services up within a location. We did add Malvern in July and the Colorado pharmacy is a few years old, but besides that we concentrate on bettering what we already have.”
It uprooted operations at 114th and Dodge streets in Omaha and moved to a larger building across the street. The new building better accommodates the custom compounding lab, which manufactures custom prescriptions for people and animals.
However, its most dramatic expansion is at its Millard location, also in Omaha. That Kohll’s location sits in a strip mall the company owns. Kohll’s will take over the entire 22,000-square-foot strip mall to make more room for its most unique services – transportation and home mobility. Kohll explains that the company has sold wheelchairs since the late 1970s, but got more active in the industry in the early 2000s. It became known for carrying basic to high-end wheelchairs and scooters and custom fitting them to the patients. Once the company mastered this service, it noticed another need in the mobility space.
“We became the largest provider of custom-fit wheelchairs in our areas, but we noticed patients were having a difficult time using them outside their home,” Kohll says. “So we started modifying people’s SUVs and vans so they could get in and out themselves and transport their chairs with lifting devices.”
But the pharmacy didn’t stop there. Around 2005, Kohll’s acquired its auto dealership license to sell customized vehicles for scooters and wheelchairs. “If somebody really wanted the best and most independent transportation, then purchasing a customized van rather than modifying one would be the optimum choice,” Kohll explains.
But again, the pharmacy didn’t stop there. Kohll’s added services to make it easier for patients to get around town, but some patients felt trapped even in their own houses. So in 2008, Kohll’s opened a general contracting division that fits houses with wheelchair-accessible features such as hand bars, elevators, ramps and doorway lighting. The expanded store on Park Avenue will house the general pharmaceutical services and preventive services.
Kohll says it’s definitely a new kind of pharmacy, happening right in middle America. “We are unique in the United States,” Kohll says. “You can go to Chicago and New York and any other city and you’ll have a hard time finding somebody who does what we can do.”